Elephant Dung and the Quest for Vocation

I took this photo without using zoom. Don’t worry I was well protected- hanging out the window of a ’95 Nissan Sentra

In Parker J. Palmer’s book Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, a book so good and small that I’ve picked up and re-read a handful of time, Palmer compares the soul to a wild animal:

The soul speaks its truth only under quiet, inviting, and trustworthy conditions. The soul is like a wild animal — tough, resilient, savvy, self-sufficient and yet exceedingly shy. If we want to see a wild animal, the last thing we should do is go crashing through the woods, shouting for the creature to come out. But if we are willing to walk quietly in the woods and sit silently for an hour or two at the base of a tree, the creature we are waiting for may well emerge, and out of the corner of an eye we will catch a glimpse of the animal we seek.

I really like the wild animal metaphor for the soul. So I carried on the metaphor for an animal I’ve seen in the wild a time or two- the African Elephant. Yup, when I lived in South Africa, I lived an hour’s drive away from Addo Elephant National Park, a park about half the size of Rhode Island that is home to the highest concentration of wild African elephants. Each time I visited Addo, I had similar experiences which went something like this:

Drive through front gates. See elephant dung all over the road- must be elephants near by! Don’t see any elephants. Continue driving. Keep looking for elephants. Keep just seeing elephant dung. Mind you, there are no trees, just bushes, and we are looking for the largest living land animal.

An hour passes. Still driving.

Fresh looking elephant dung! But no elephants around. Still looking. See warthog – sing Hakuna Matata. See ostrich and monkeys. No elephants. Still driving. Decide to get out of car to stretch despite signs warning us not to leave our cars because of lions. Take a picture standing next to that sign so I can post on facebook and look like a total badass to all my friends at home. Back in car. No elephants.

Keep driving. Then…

Smell elephant dung. That fresh. This is it. Turn the corner and, bam!, a herd of elephants.

That, my friend, is what it’s like to go to Addo Elephant Park. My point? Searching for your soul can be a long pursuit, but you know you’re close when you smell shit.

It’s only figurative shit, of course.



3 thoughts on “Elephant Dung and the Quest for Vocation

  1. hehe, I'm trying to think of this in terms of elephants being your soul. Or perhaps elephant dung being my soul's product. Not sure I can do the allegory justice, but your post is another great one, Cortney! I'm so glad your blog is my homepage 😀 🙂

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