ZOO as Simulacrum

Let’s consider an animal zoo. It is an amalgam of enclosures, each of which seeks to emulate a reality for the enclosed creature. Many years ago, such efforts were perfunctory, and have since lost favor. Modern zoos seek to approximate the intended reality with more sophistication and sensitivity. Walls and bars are replaced with dry moats and glass. Size is expanded. More effort goes into the artistic replication. Kindness and verisimilitude for the inhabitant is at the forefront. Does it succeed? Can it succeed?

As we discussed in the two previous posts, CGI can do it, but can the mere artisan’s hand do it within the confines of physical reality. Fair to say….NO! No matter the expense or effort, zoo enclosures always finally still look fake. So now we have this dilemma: environment is fake, animal is real. The issue that many animal advocates voice: Is this acceptable? Is it humane? Is it morally right? Do we have the right to contain the beasts in these artificial display cases? Not too long ago, that trade off of showing children the wild beasts of the world in their local zoo was considered educational and parent worthy activities. Not so much anymore.

From angry Orcas to pacing neurotic cats and gorillas, we are beginning to doubt our good intentions. Leaving all this to the animal activists to sort out, I return to our issues here. Our evaluation of pretend environments, of simulacra, has evolved and demands better mimicry. It is not to be. Can’t be done. The enclosure, no matter the effort to mime, remains ultimately an enclosure. When the simulacrum fails, do we create a neurotic inducing environment? When a human being lives in a failing simulacrum does it also induce neuroses? When the simulacrum is in-authentic, does neurosis and pathology follow? I would say yes on both counts, in zoos and in life.

I have often maintained in these pages, that inauthentic living is dangerous to the mind and soul. Take heed and lesson from the zoo analogy. If you find yourself nervously pacing…..if you find yourself pounding at the invisible glass…. you are trying to exist in a false world. The walls, moats and glass in the human world are all built by ourselves, our families, our society. They are scripts. Scripts that wall, confine, limit, constrict so that we often take to menacing behavior.

Scripts are mental constructs. To that extent, they are more vulnerable than concrete walls. Your own mind and actions can undo them. You can be a Super-Hero amidst your own confining scripts. Whatever the Super-Hero’s power, it emanates from within. You need to seize that courage against the confining simulacra of other peoples’ scripts. You must escape the zoo enclosures of your existence.

How to go about that is too long for these short posts. See my book
see my book” for longer chapters on the process of shedding unwanted and confining scripts. We are many in zoos of our own making. But we are also in zoos like the lions and tigers, man-made by others. We can now see zoos as failed simulacra. Seeing your own life as filled with failed simulacra is a step toward well-being and liberation. Building an authentic living environment of your own making is difficult. Others constantly seek to do it for you. Parents, friends, siblings, schools, media, advertisers, issue groups all seek to sway you. Finding your own authentic self is your dutiful odyssey.

Embark now upon those wine dark seas.



2 thoughts on “ZOO as Simulacrum

  1. Yes, Its true , Zoo’s always seem like a sad place. The conundrum continues especially as highlighted in the Documentary Blackfish that seemed to shake Sea Worlds bones. I think we obviously feel bad for the trainers that were killed; but also feel no surprise this doesn’t happen more. You are right about living in a false and restrictive surrounding can certainly lead to madness such as what happened with these poor whales that are cooped up in tiny enclosures for their whole lives.
    As Humans I suppose we have more liberty in the type of false world we create around us. For instance most of us know or know of an example like.. the straight father of 4 kids who was married to his wife for 35 years and suddenly comes out of the closet. Living within those kinds of false enclosures would certainly drive one mad; although as a human most of us have the chance and choice to consciously jump the moat or climb the glass wall to our own freedom. However, I guess the question is why some of us put up more of a false life around ourselves than others and that it is in fact thought of as “selfish” or being an outcast from what society wants you to be. I recall in your book you address these typical life paths and why we feel the need to travel them and reluctant to take the path less travelled.
    Another interesting question though is that as a society we have to subject ourself to a degree to these “enclosures” otherwise the would the world run amok with living our authentic selves? Would the good outnumber the bad. Apparently 1 in 25 people is some degree of a sociopath. Where do we draw lines between authentic self and just doing what one wants to?


    1. Hi A.S. ….thanks for an insightful and intelligent comment. Several of your points led me to add to my post. (see the revised) In other content you keenly anticipate my next post (still in draft form). And Yes….in my book I do caution on perhaps too much “authentic self” for the good of society as a whole. Thanks for your provocative and helpful comment.


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