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When animals attack

March 1, 2010

(Courtesy of Colin Burnett under a Creative Commons License)

Large-animal trainers, together with mountain climbers, astronauts, and certain X-treme sportspeople, have the rare, but not necessarily desirable privilege of dying fully intelligible deaths. There is shock and grief as always, a search for ‘what went wrong,’ but no real mystery, no sense of chaos in the world, not, at least, beyond the brain-scrambling pain of personal bonds severed too soon. Admirers and critics alike say ‘really, what else could we expect given the nature of their chosen pursuits?’ Here death steps out of its normal role: it doesn’t refute what we already know–it confirms it.¬†This is not just an actuarial matter of the mathematical risks being unusually high or something. It’s more that death, if it still lives anywhere in the rational, padded world, lives on mountaintops, in the almost electric field around intelligent, dangerous animals, and on top of rockets going 18,000 miles an hour. There are almost certainly statistically more dangerous activities, but few in which the dangerous element is so concentrated and primal, and fewer still in which the greater, more outrageous and criminal the danger, the more they seem worth doing.

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