James Galvin

When you walk into a stand of old-growth redwoods, when you walk into Sainte Chapelle, when you encounter Bernini or Michelangelo or Caravaggio, when you see a wolf pack or hear their haunted song, it touches an ancient place in the psyche, a place that was made to receive it, a place at least as old as the cave paintings in the south of France, a place called awe. You don’t even have to believe in anything. You have that place. If you don’t have it, you should seek help immediately because awe is the only thing that makes life worth living. Making life worth living is conducive to survival. A wolf’s gaze, that deep, steady knowing, is all you need to know. To quote Victor Hugo, “We are all under sentence of death but with a sort of indefinite reprieve.” To save the old-growth redwoods we turned to the spotted owl. It was a legal argument. But it wasn’t the real reason. Those trees are sacred. We would be impoverished, spiritually, without them. Same with wolves—just knowing they are there. Why would you want to fell a redwood? Money. Why would you shoot a wolf? Economics, if you are a rancher (but really, the government has you covered). To destroy its grandeur and feel superior to it? A trophy? Like a Vietnam­ese ear? And let’s face it, if you are not going to eat it, which in the case of a wolf you are not, you have come to a place where you identify slaughter with pleasure, the ethos of genocide (the destruction of a tribe). Why should we not genocide wolves? Same reason we should not throw stones at the windows of Sainte Chapelle. Same reason we should not take a hammer to Michelangelo’s Pietà. Same reason we should not shoot Martin Luther King (wasn’t his fearless grandeur fearsome to some?). Same reason the caves of Lascaux need to be closed, so they don’t disappear. We need to know they are there. Walter Pater says, “… we have an interval, and then our place knows us no more…. For our one chance lies in expanding that interval, in getting as many pulsations as possible into the given time…. For art comes to you frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass, and simply for the moments’ sake.” The presence of wolves comes to you professing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass, and simply for those moments’ sake. We need their song, an occasional sighting. We need to know they are there.