Bring back the Tiger

Spirit of a tiger

“Do you know the difference between a tiger in a cage/zoo and a tiger in the wild?” the question in the middle of a conversation that got me thinking differently about my life. A tiger in the wild has fight and verve. It is full of the vitality that makes the majesty of the big cat iconic in that striped-prancing-pride manner. It is gorgeous and dangerous, exhilarating to face and challenge. But when the tiger is moved into captivity, be it a cage or enclosure the fight gradually vanishes. The spirit of a tiger dies with time as the tiger remains confined. The tiger gradually loses its touch for hunting and slowly the “tigerness” vanishes. All that’s left is a shell of a tiger, enough to please onlookers but not to fool nature. Because when that tiger is sent back into the forest it usually struggles to make it, and more-often-than-not it dies. Nature cannot be fooled, one can only pretend for so long before the façade comes crashing.

I reflected on my “tigerness” as I wrestle with a world that is ever-changing and so far from ideal. I thought of myself spending time at a wonderful “homegenously-heterogenious” liberal arts college. Diversity in thought was freed up as much as it was confined to a text, an author, a philosophical school of thought. And with time I think I lost my “tigerness”. That ability to thrive in a world where some people don’t care about the author and think outside the text. I lost the fight inside of me that allows me to find worth in many a mundane activity or conversation. I found humanity trumping nationalities making it difficult to identify with my country of origin. And humanness took a prime spot ahead of identification with any faction in the world making my loyalty to a brand, a team, or a slogan challenging. None of these are wrong in themselves, only wrong in as much as they dulled my tiger-senses. I slowly became a relativist and lately, all I do is sit back and relax and find errors in arguments for and against with none of my own since I can see its flaws before I even speak. Questioning how much any word or action is worth uttering or applying.

I remember something in “Notes from underground” by one of my favorite authors – Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The world’s heroes are many a foolish person because they are willing to act and make mistakes. The ones a little more qualified sit back and consider pros and cons ad infinitum till paralysis. And so I wonder if I have reduced myself to paralysis and if I am qualified. It is interesting, to be thrust into the world and have no choice but to survive and to explore the skills you have to offer in order to contribute and thrive. You got to bring back the tiger, I need to.

But above all the hope is that everyone else remembers their tiger. Not the job they are passionate about, or the task they love the most or a cause out there to support. But the motive force that powers their motor of life within, waking them up each morning to face an ever-changing jungle called the world.

And for Zimbabwe, for Africa…we have long been caged by our own mental models, by dictators who force us into enclosures and gradually kill the vivacity of a resilient and resourceful people. Bring back the tiger within.

Will it be easy?  – No.

Will it be worth it? – Yes.

Bring back the tiger.

Allen Matsika

Born and raised in the small town in the land of milk and honey in south central Africa, I moved to the USA to study philosophy. The hope was to understand where humanity had lost its way. I took a historical perspective on the trajectory of western thought and was especially struck by Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War. The memorable description of human nature in that book contributed greatly to my understanding of the human condition.

Life is a misery to be endured until we die. Even those with terminal illnesses find times of respite and laugh and enjoy their lives. So too is mortality a terminal illness. We will all die, I for one am glad this is so. But before that day I will define myself, I will not go without giving everything I have got, and I will love with all my heart.

I am proud to be an Afropolitan; a world citizen of African descend. I am called Allen and I love writing, eating, and singing in the shower!

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