The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival - by John Vaillant

When Russians wax eloquent about their homeland, they will often invoke Mother Russia, but Mother Russia is not the nation, and She is certainly not the leadership; She is the Land. The deep Russian bond to the earth--specifically, the soil--transcends all other affiliations with the exception, perhaps, of family. Likewise, the forest and its creatures--plant and animal alike--have a significance that most of us in the West lost touch with generations ago. It is a connection--a dependence, really--that exists in stark contrast to the State's willful, capricious, and alarmingly comprehensive destruction of the environment.

"The most terrifying and important test for a human being is to be in absolute isolation," he explained. "A human being is a very social creature, and ninety percent of what he does is done only because other people are watching. Alone, with no witnesses, he starts to learn about himself--who is he really?" "Once you have passed the solitude test," continued Solkin, "you have absolute confidence in yourself, and there is nothing that can break you afterward. Any changes, including changes in the political system, are not going to affect you as much because you know that you can do it yourself."

Jakob von Uexküll introduced the concept of Umwelt to the world. Uexküll is considered one of the fathers of ethology, which is also known as behavioral ecology. It is a young discipline whose goal is to study behavior and social organization through a biological lens. "To do so," wrote Uexküll in "A Stroll Through the Worlds of Animals and Men," "we must first blow, in fancy, a soap bubble around each creature to represent its own world, filled with the perceptions which it alone knows. When we ourselves then step into one of these bubbles, the transformed." Uexküll called this bubble the umwelt, a German word that he applied to a given animal's subjective or "self-centered" world. An individual's umwelt exists side by side with the Umgebung--the term Uexküll used to describe the objective environment, a place that exists in theory but that none of us can truly know given the inherent limitations of our respective umwelten.

In order to succeed, predators must actively--and consciously--contrive successful hunting scenarios by adapting to, and manipulating, random events within a constantly shifting environment. This, as any hunter or business person knows, is hard to do, and these conditions favor the prey almost every time.

Clark Barrett, a professor in the anthropology department at UCLA and an expert on predator-prey dynamics, describes the deer's advantage as the anywhere but here principle: all a prey animal needs to do is be anywhere the predator isn't--it doesn't matter if it's a foot away, or a hemisphere--and it will live another day. The predator, on the other hand, must be exactly where its prey is, and at exactly the same moment, or it will starve. Thus, for a predator, mastery of both time and space--in addition to a thorough understanding of terrain and prey behavior--are crucial.

Very young children, regardless of culture, learning, or living conditions, understand fundamental rules of predatory behavior, even when they have never seen a live lion or zebra and know nothing about life in sub-Saharan Africa.