I drew inspiration for this painting from my previous blog post exploring where creativity and imagination come from. It brought to mind Jonathan Haidt's metaphor from his book, The Happiness Hypothesis, about the rider and the elephant. Our mind and reason is the rider, controlling our desires, which is embodied in the elephant. The rider can control the elephant's movements, but if the will of the elephant takes over, the rider is no match against the elephant's power. I started wondering, what if the metaphor was changed a little. Instead of a rider controlling the elephant, what if instead, we walked in tandem with the elephant. Would creativity flourish if reason and passion were equals? Not one controlling the other?
As I began painting the elephant, I started getting excited about seeing real herds of elephants on my upcoming trip to Africa with my husband. As you can deduce by now, I love animals. They bring me immense joy. Thus, I feel a responsibility to protect them and advocate for them. I have read countless books about animals in nature and devour National Geographic documentaries. The beauty and majesty of these animals remind me that we live in a bigger world than ourselves. However, seeing the brutality against these beautiful creatures so we can indulge our own desires for glory and vanity is heartbreaking. I will keep this short as I know I can get on my soap box about this issue, but I believe the first step to stopping the illegal trade of exotic skins and ivory is from the demand side. It starts with us. If there is no demand, there is no supply. Laws and policies can be put in place to limit poaching and illegal imports, but the trade will always continue if there is money to be made. And we, the consumers, can control that. Next time you see an ivory trinket, think how much more beautiful it is to see the elephant instead.
The world would be such a sad place if elephants no longer roam, but we build up ivory treasures that will eventually rot away.