How to Behave Like an Elephant (& Live a Happy Life)


elephant-lead
photo credit: DocChewbacca See you Space Cow-Boys via photopin (license)

So, elephants.

I’ve sat on this one forever. Not an elephant. I have ridden one before. It was like being on a second-story leather couch. Kind of stinky. No, I’ve been sitting on this post, one I wanted to write about elephants – and not their couch-like qualities and aromas.

Months ago, I wanted to write about elephants and the lessons we could learn from them.

Life got in the way. Coaching, deadlines, commutes and being a dad. Time spent confused and busy and resentful for not being able to be here. Those days are gone for now, and even though I’m a day late on this post, it’s live, isn’t it? (Two days, technically.)

It’s an homage to a mammal high on intelligence and low on sports mascot recognition.

Alabama’s Crimson Tide has Big Al, a lumbering pachyderm mascot. (Back in the day, a fan yelled “hold your horses, the elephants are coming” before the Tide took the field, and the mascot was born. Lucky for ‘Bama fans he didn’t reference muskrats or guinea pigs.)

Also, I can’t say in a friendly voice to a cashier that I don’t want my jug of milk bagged in plastic, let alone double bagged, and then it still happens. Anyway …

The elephant in every room

The Oakland A’s also sport a logo patch with an elephant balancing on a baseball with three legs while wielding a baseball bat. New York Giants manager John McCraw purportedly disparaged the Athletics by calling them “white elephants.”

The sentiment stuck (although the logo is green.) Here are three traits of elements humankind should consider adapting.

1. Thick skin

elephant
photo credit: Elephants never forget via photopin (license)

It’s thick in spirit only. The African elephant’s skin can be as thick as 1.6 inches, which isn’t a lot, for a soul that weighs as much as 13,000 pounds. It just means the skin has lots of work to do.

We should develop such thick skin in spirit. We’re quick to be offended. We listen for words, markers of behavior that we’re convinced stem from an intolerance or hatred of who we are. We also allow pointed criticism to derail us when the time calls for strength and endurance.

2. Padded feet

elephant-feet
photo credit: valentinastorti One foot in front of the other via photopin (license)

An elephant walks on tiptoes under a fleshy foot that includes a fatty, connective tissue. The pad serves to quiet an elephant’s approach while providing sure-footedness on its journey.

We should develop a similar approach to life. Enter into conflicts and developments and our everyday with humility and strength. I’m reminded of the Alabama football player who hoisted a championship belt on the sideline – in the third quarter of a seven-point game. That’s neither humble nor strong.

3. Sensitivity

elephant-sensitive
photo credit: Mahesh Telkar Untitled via photopin (license)

Elephants possess keen senses. Their hearing range far surpasses that of humans. They can sense danger coming through their feet and seem to have a better general awareness than we do.

Sensitive doesn’t mean easily bruised, physically or otherwise. It does mean altruism and compassion. It does mean feeling grief, a desire to play, and self-awareness. How many of us read posts on The Elephant Journal to find just those coveted attributes?

4. Hear more

It’s like the elephant in the room: Elephants’ ears. They’re – huge. They’re used as a cooling device when fanned, and to intimidate adversaries when fanned out. Most of all, elephants can hear so much because of their size.

We’re given two ears and one mouth for a reason. Humans trail in the listening category. What if we weren’t thinking about what we would say next when people talk to us? What if we took out our earbuds and listened to the sounds around us, natural and man-made?

5. Greeting ceremonies

Check this out:

How many times in the past week have you passed someone at the store or at work, or had a co-worker or family member sit down near you, and you didn’t even look up? In hospitality, there’s something called the 5 and 10 Rule.

It states if another person comes within 10 feet of you, you greet them with eye contact and a warm smile. If they come within 5 feet, you add a sincere greeting to the eye contact and smile. I’m not suggesting we rub trunks on a friend’s eye like these elephants do …

But acknowledgment of people around us? Is it that hard? Is it too torturous to extend that kindness to people whose paths cross ours? To smile and say good morning when they get there, God bless you when they sneeze, and let’s go to lunch as early as 11:13 a.m.?

I won’t soon become fox- sly, owl-wise or oxen strong. I can, however, borrow a few noble traits from a few of my tusk-wielding, ear-flapping, friend-greeting pachyderms, and that sounds pretty slick to me.

elephant life quote.jpg

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42 Replies to “How to Behave Like an Elephant (& Live a Happy Life)”

  1. I love elephants! I think they are magnificent creatures! We CAN learn A LOT from them. There are some very cool stories about them also.. including this one I posted on twitter a while back. http://www.beliefnet.com/inspiration/home-page-news-and-views/wild-elephants-mourn-death-of-famed-elephant-whisperer.aspx It is a beautiful tribute. It is instinctual for me to greet people I come into contact with. I always talk to the people who check me out at the store or wherever. I ask servers their names and I smile at everyone I make eye contact with even if they do not smile back. It’s just plain rude not to.. I was raised in the South y’all and that’s what we do! 🙂

    1. What’s not to love, right Courtney? So majestic, too. I’ve batted this topic around for a while, as I mentioned. Honestly, I think that post inspired me to think about elephants this way.

      I love that you greet people instinctively. So many of us wander through life without that. I’d like crossing your path.

  2. Fantastic post Eli. Elephants are amazing. Seems we’re on the same wave length again too. I’ve been sitting on a post as well for a few months called Lessons from a Lamb. It’s still in my drafts box but one of these days …

  3. Is it too torturous to extend that kindness to people whose paths cross ours? To smile and say good morning when they get there, God bless you when they sneeze… One hundred and ten percent right, Eli.

  4. Ah, elephants. You how to get right to my heart. There is much to be learned about these beautiful, sentient beings.

    Sending love and well wishes for you and yours in 2017. 🙂

  5. What a beautiful post, Eli. I found you through Miriam’s blog. The more I learn about Elephants the better I like them. I thought Alabama’s Roll Tide was about tigers, though. Not being from SHA, but only reading an occasional FB post encouraging them on I never heard about elephants. I learned more than elephants on this post. I’m sure you’ve read The Elephant Whisperer – http://wp.me/p2jC53-18V but I’m a teacher, and I found this one excellent as well – Entertaining an Elephant. http://wp.me/s7tP3I-elephant, which refers to some of the qualities of an Elephant and is more philosophical.

  6. I could watch that video all day long!! Look at them!!! So beautiful. And to think people actually travel to Africa to hunt and kill this gorgeous animal. I watched a poaching documentary and was amazed at how “feeling” they appear to be. Like they celebrate births and mourn deaths together. They visit the bones of their ancestors. They remember!!! It’s utterly amazing.

    1. Aren’t they cool, Les? I wish we had them wandering around North America. I’d brake for Elephants.

      I couldn’t pull the trigger. It’d be hard for most animals, but especially to kill an elephant.

      Elephants are better than people kind of.

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