My Misunderstood, Wonderful Warthog

When I visited Kenya last year, I had the great pleasure of meeting more than a few Warthogs.

The locals were humored at what they thought was my disproportionate appreciation of these animals.  I suppose it’s similar to someone having a fascination with squirrels or rats in Chicago. They’re everywhere, and so people sort of stop taking notice.

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This little guy visited me at the pool.

Warthog just doesn’t get much respect. Aside from his particular brand of handsome, Warthog is often characterized as dumb or absent minded.

The character of Pumbaa in “The Lion King,” for example, was lovable because he was completely forgetful. The goofy sidekick. Big flatulence problem.

Pumbaa is the Swahili word for the Warthog. As a verb in that same language, pumbaa means “to be foolish, weakminded, careless, negligent.”

How’s that for the meaning in your name? Yikes.

Turns out, this reputation for foolishness comes from our human misunderstanding of Warthog behavior. No surprise there, right?

When Warthog senses a predator, you see this little tail go strait up in the savannah grass and she takes off. I mean, they are so fast. It’s incredible. And apparently they are pretty delicious, too, because they are the target of many a chase. Every. Single. Day.

Here’s the seemingly bizarre part. When Warthog is running, literally for her life, sometimes she just stops. Dead in her tracks, and looks behind her with this expression that reads as “why am I running again?” There is this moment when she seems to have forgotten that she is in hot pursuit by a very hungry lion.

If she needs to fire up the engines and keep running, she certainly will. But it’s this moment, when she stops running that brings to mind Byron Katie’s “The Work.” The essential question we must ask: “Is this true, or am I making it up?”

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You see, most of the time, we’re making it up. The stories in our heads are not the truth, but they sure cause fear that feels very, very real. We go about our days with hearts racing, focused on rushing through – as if there is an actual predator on our tails. Guess what? There isn’t. Not in the grocery store aisles, during our commutes, getting the kids to practice, or in the ass-busting work of making sure everything gets done “just right.”

Not Warthog. Even in legit fight or flight, she stops to reality check the situation. They are wired to make sure they conserve their incredible speed and energy for the tasks that really require it. And that’s what keeps them alive.

Brilliant.

What if we made it a practice—in the midst of our craziest, heart-racing daily panics about life not happening in the way we “intended” it to—to stop and check. Is there really something to be scared of? Right in this moment? I know for me, the answer is no. And I’d really like to work on using all that energy, instead, for something that makes a difference…and really keeps me alive. So thank you, wise Warthog.

I’d even go as far as Warthog for President 2016.

-Jess

“I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer, and that this is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that. I found that suffering is optional. I found a joy within me that has never disappeared, not for a single moment. That joy is in everyone, always.”
—Byron Katie

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