Learning From Others Blog

Learning From Others

This morning I received an email from the Orange County Safari Club International Chapter.  I get these emails regularly trying to cajole me to actually attend a meeting, but I rarely, if ever, go.



This is by no means a negative reflection on the club.  Sadly, the meetings usually tend to coincide with a program we are putting on at Artemis.  Being at two places at once is still a skill that sadly eludes me.



Once again, I am prevented from attending due to a scheduling conflict.  This particular missed opportunity to dine with fellow hunters and talk of time afield really does sadden me.



My good friends, Lisa and Tom, returned from a hunting trip to Tajikistan where they took Marco Polo sheep.  They are slated to give the club a debrief of their adventure.



If you have ever been in my office and seen my Texas Dahl sheep to the right of my desk… that is like the miniaturized version of a Marco Polo.  The curl spread on my sheep is about 18 inches; the Marco Polo spread is damn near four feet.



I have never been to Tajikistan.  I have never hunted the magnificent Marco Polo sheep.  Yet, I know many of the experiences the two of them had.



This empathetic ability comes from a unique combination of personal experience and access to literature.



We all have it.  It is a gift that, like all gifts, needs to be nurtured and exercised… but it is unique to the human condition and, in fact, might actually be the defining characteristic of being human.  Through the experience of others, filtered through our own foundational knowledge, we gain an efficiency of understanding that is unique among the species.



I know the quickening that occurs within the heart when, in the distance, the quarry is spotted.  I know the painful feel of blistering morning wind, and the unique light as the sun creeps up over the horizon.  I know the exhilaration that comes when you shoulder your rifle and see the image of the animal in your scope, and instant crisis of conscience and creeping self-doubt that occur as you ponder if you have the skill necessary to make the shot.



I know these things because I have experienced them.  Yet, even if I had never hunted, I can still appreciate them.  To have existed at all means to have experienced both transcendent success and abysmal failures.  Each imprints a memory indelibly upon our soul; a memory, even on a subconscious level, establishes an architecture for us to incorporate the memories of others.



Long before I had ever traveled to Africa… I “knew” Africa.



In a cartoonish way, I “knew” Africa from my experience working in the faux wilds of Anaheim on the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland.



More importantly, I “knew” Africa from reading Rourk and Capstick and Hemingway.  Their experiences retold more eloquently than I could ever hope to achieve, in their works of literature paved my understanding of what a hunt in Africa would be.



And when I was on my first safari it was exactly what I had expected, and not… both at the same time.  A paradigm existed and was confirmed at certain points, and yet wholly surprising in others.  This “uniqueness” and “singularness” of the experience is precisely what makes our lives so exciting.



Each time I speak publicly to a group, to a judge in a courtroom, or to a class, I am hit with the same trepidation and nervousness I get when I shoulder my rifle.  “Will I be good enough?”  “Will I hit my mark?”  “Will my audience connect with me and agree with my position?”  (The butterflies that live within my stomach have become so familiar that each has been given a specific name.)



The paradigm always sets the guardrails for my experience, but each hunt, each trial, each speech, has a uniqueness that cannot be predicted or defined.  It is, in a sense, the je ne sais quoi that makes our existence so utterly mysterious and exciting.



We train in development of mastery at skill-at-arms to satisfy the ethical responsibilities that come with exercising our right to bear arms.  We ponder the moral ambiguity that comes with the potential taking of life in self-defense, the impact we have upon others through our own actions (and inactions), and the deeper philosophical implications of carrying weapons.  We ponder our own commitment to professionalism-at-arms.



Much of what we learn and seek to master is not a result of our own direct experience.  We rely on the adventures of those who have come before us.  We stand on their shoulders and we avoid their misfortunes.  We seek to forego the catastrophe of Napoleon in Russia by reading about Napoleon’s catastrophe in Russia.  Experience is a wonderful teacher, but I suppose it is far better to learn from the failures of others than to do it ourselves.



This is, as you might suspect, incredibly important when we talk about surviving a deadly encounter.



We are often admonished not to live vicariously through others.  Nonsense!  Embrace the experience of others!  Learn from their mistakes, relish in their victories, incorporate them into the corpus of your own experiences and become richer for the exercise!



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Comments (2)

  • Alyson Rutledge Reply

    My husband and I “you tubed” a marco polo hunting trip and WOW, they are enormous! We would love to take a hunting class at artemis, we are just getting our feet wet with hunting!

    05/29/2024 at 15:01
  • Norm Ellis Reply

    Nicely said!!!

    06/02/2024 at 15:15

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