Robert Ardrey’s Message of the Penguins
Introduced by Kevin Alfred Strom
THERE IS MUCH of Nature’s wisdom in this passage from science writer Robert Ardrey’s landmark book, The Territorial Imperative: (ILLUSTRATION: Emperor penguins march into the looming night)
“No natural hazard which this planet offers can rival those circumstances assaulting the life expectancy of the emperor penguin’s young. The emperor breeds only on the ice of the Antarctic continent. And he breeds in winter. When March comes, and the southern Autumn darkens, the emperor and his wife and his friends conduct their grave march inland across the ice to that place where tradition dictates that they must breed. There will be no nest of stones. She will lay her single egg on ice of fathomless depth, and he will pick the egg up on his foot. Then she will go away, back to the sea and their only source of food. He will remain with the egg on his foot. The perpetual night will enclose him. The Antarctic winter will blow, shudder, sigh, snap, crush, torment the present as it has tormented all ages. He will stand with the egg on his foot. He will stand very close among his friends as shoulder to shoulder they preserve their heat. There will be no argument, disputes over property, dominance, borders, prerogatives. On rare occasions the night will clear to reveal the Southern Cross in cruel arrangement. The southern aurora will in ironic delicacy display its gentle, faraway veils, shifting, impalpable, tantalizing, rewardless. More often the storm will close down. All will vanish. There will be the wind and the cold beyond calculation. There will be the horror of nature’s racket, and the horror of nature’s silence. There will be the terror of nature’s incredible blackness. There will be the terror of nature’s soft illumination. And all the time the emperor penguin and his friends will be standing in a dense, unarguing mass, each with an egg on his foot, while slowly they revolve, presenting to this one the periphery of Antarctic hostility, presenting to that one a respite, a moment of comfort and warmth in the heartland of the social body.
“For two months, this will be their dispensation. Then their wives, fat and hearty, will return from the sea. The males will surrender their eggs, themselves seek the succor of wide-open waters, the freedom, the succulence of life. When they return, the chicks will have hatched. Springtime will be on its way, and the sunshine, and that most favorable season for the survival of young. This, after all, was the whole evolutionary point, the reason for the time of winter trial.
“Brooks too broad for leaping divide us from animal agony. Walls too tall for weeping contain our sympathies. We cannot, with prescience human or divine, apprehend the living moment in a mass of male emperor penguins revolving each with an egg on his foot in a dark, frozen, endless Antarctic night beneath frigid, withdrawn, uncaring stars. You do not know, nor will you ever. I shall not know, nor shall I ever.”
Observe Nature With New Eyes
There is a very deep meaning and an important lesson for us in Robert Ardrey’s true story: We too, like the emperor penguins, are the guardians of our genetic heritage, a heritage passed down to us by the successful survival of our kind from the beginning of organic life to today. Our genetic heritage is a heritage of intelligence, physical strength and beauty, creativity, and a capacity for an ever-expanding consciousness and understanding of the universe. If at any stage in the hundreds of millions of years of biological evolution, our ancestors had failed to keep their blood pure, or had failed to secure the survival of the next generation through stupidity or folly, we would not be here today. It is easy to become absorbed in the many avenues of money-making, pleasure and distraction available to us in our modern world. It is easy to forget the fact that we, too, have a responsibility to future generations to pass our race’s genetic heritage on undiminished. In a sense, we, like the emperor penguin, have an egg on our foot – that egg is the future of our race – and everything – EVERYTHING – depends upon our cooperation, solidarity, and determination to protect and defend that genetic future against any who, whether out of malice or stupidity, would destroy it.
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Source: National Alliance