December 7, 2019

Ripple Effect: Safari as a Way of Life 

Dan Eldon was an extraordinary human: an artist, activist, and incredible visionary. He was tragically killed in Somalia while working as a Reuters photojournalist.

One of his many mottos was, “Safari as a way of life.” His brilliant sister and mother have founded an organization called Creative Visions, a center and movement based on Dan’s legacy, his huge heart, and his commitment to creating a better world.

I adore these people more than words can express. Their work is so very important.

At a recent conference at the center, one of many I have had the good fortune to attend, I was gifted a bracelet that says on it, “Safari as a way of life.”

I deeply believe in Dan’s many messages; I actually try to live by them. I realized looking at the bracelet that my life right now is as bumpy as a safari. Mind you I have never been on an actual safari, but I’ve heard so much about it that I’ve started to paint a picture in my head.

In the safari you take risks. There is loyalty. There is compassion, bumpy, winding roads, and constant danger. There is also boundless beauty, a feeling of freedom, and endless possibilities.

I think that on many days in my life I spring back and forth between the bumps and the endless possibilities.

Recently in class a student asked me, “Ms., what does that bracelet mean? What does it mean to live ‘Safari as a way of life’? I’m trying to get my ass out of the jungle (he refers to his former neighborhood as the jungle). Why the fuck would you want to be there?”

I tell him about Dan. I tell him about the center. I tell him about the hundreds of people that are trying to do good and are inspired by him. I think for a moment. I tell my student that “Safari as a way of life” is taking the good from the jungle and celebrating it. It is looking at life as an adventure and making sure to see the beauty of it all, because it’s really easy to see the shit.

“Ms.,” he says to me. “The jungle is dangerous and sometimes the shit is so deep it’s not about not seeing it. It’s figuring out how not to sink into it.”

I wasn’t exactly sure what to say. I paused for a minute and then said: “Does my bracelet say, ‘Jungle is a way of life’?  It says, ‘Safari as a way of life’ and although I have never gone on a safari,” I tell him, “what I know is that on the safari you’re safe. You’re in a car with a guide. You see the animals in their natural habitat. It could be a little dangerous. If you respect the animals and do what you are supposed to do, you are okay. From what I have heard, it is exhilarating. We should not let the shit or fear rule our life. We can let the beauty and the moments of exhilaration rule.”

My guy smiles, “I’m happy to have exhilaration,” he says. “Except I don’t know what that is. It just sounds good to me!”

“Exhilaration,” I say, “Is a few notches up from happy. It’s a lot of happy combined with excitement and awe.”

He laughs a big laugh and says to me, “Basically, it’s a motherfucker high. Right, Ms.?”

And this is why I write this blog. The things I hear and have the privilege to be part of in my work are so good I have to share them.

I laugh. We both laugh. “Yeah, I guess,” I say. “Exhilaration is a kind of high. Sometimes when you feel the high, even if it’s natural and not from drugs, the low afterwards can be debilitating. That, too, I guess, is part of the safari.”

“Ms., you’re throwing an awful lot of big words at me today. What is ‘debilitating’?”

I look at him and say, “If you choose to live your life taking risks, and enjoying beauty and having hope in things that seem unrealistic, you will have super, amazing, natural highs and then, sometimes, you’re going to come down and feel like crap. Debilitating is when you feel weak and helpless.”

I see his mood shift, so I add, “It’s okay. You can’t always be high.”

He looks at me as his eyes start to fill with tears and he looks away a little embarrassed.

“I am in the debilitation right now, Ms.”

“I hear you,” I say and I am quiet ‘cause unwanted tears are swelling up in my eyes.

“You got debilities, too, Ms.?” he asks.

I can’t correct him because he looks so concerned and the way he asked me was so authentic.

“Sometimes,” I tell him. “Lately I feel more debilitated than exhilarated.”

He wipes his tears and he looks at me.

“Ms., Safari as a way of life,” and he points at my bracelet.

“I think, Ms., that ‘Safari as a way of life’ is being excited for every turn about to come, even if sometimes it feels a little debilitating. Aren’t we supposed to be a little debilitated on the safari and accept nature as is? Isn’t that a little bit the point?”

“You are absolutely right,” I say. “That’s so smart.”

Although I didn’t know Dan in person, I feel him in the room smiling.

“I want to go on a safari some day,” he says to me.

“Me, too,” I say. We share a hug and go on to continue our day.

As I am walking to my car, the sun touches my bracelet and it shimmers a bit.

“Thank you, Dan,” I say. “I get it.”


Naomi Ackerman is a Mom, activist, writer, performer, and the founder and Executive Director of The Advot (ripple) Project a registered 501(c)3 that uses theatre and the arts to empower youth at risk to live their best life.