Tigers roar, tigers rule

By: Michael L. Tan - @inquirerdotnet February 02,2022 - 08:39 AM

Entrepreneurs get rich peddling information and calendars and almanacs built around Chinese astrology, offering all kinds of predictions and advice. From a social scientist’s perspective, astrology — whatever culture it comes from — uses familiar metaphors like animals to prepare people for a new year, dealing with the uncertainties of life, and the many crises we face or about to face.

The Chinese zodiac animals are prime examples of how astrology might help people. Notice I use “might” because there’s also a tendency for people to become obsessed, even paranoid, with all the dos and don’ts prescribed, from lucky colors to lucky lovers (you’re supposed to check if his/her zodiac animal is compatible with yours).

Let’s take a more rational, lighter approach to all this animal zodiac talk by focusing on the tiger, the zodiac animal of this lunar new year.

On New Year’s eve someone sent me a poster from Fo Guang Shan, a humanistic Buddhist group. It had Chinese calligraphy that translates as “May all beings live without fear and coexist in peace,” so appropriate as the new year is ushered in with so many places facing wars and conflicts.

Curiously, at the bottom of the poster were graphics showing a tiger with two children playing at its side. The message and the graphics were definitely oriented to dispel the fears people have for a year of the tiger, given that tigers are associated with ferocity, even violence.

I could imagine how in ancient times, with so many wars and feuding between tribes and villages, the tiger’s fierce image was in fact promoted, a call to arms to people to defend their villages from enemy attacks, as well as to take the offensive at times.

Times change, and so do social meanings.

If I might shift my hat now from astrologer, oops I meant anthropologist, to veterinarian. Compared to lions, tigers remind us more of our domestic cats and that’s where we might look for social metaphors of our times.

Lions are pack animals. Tigers, like our cats, tend to be more solitary, although they can live as well in groups. We need to be more like these cats, tigers, or the meow-meow variety.

Which takes us to cats’ sounds. Lions roar, and just reading “roar” you can hear the lion that opens an MGM movie. Tigers roar more gently, not quite signs of aggression. Their roaring is part of a wider repertoire of sounds, including very low-frequency sounds that only fellow tigers can hear, used more for communications.

Then there’s purring which is still being studied but we do know domestic cats purr to communicate with other cats and their favored cat-humans. Usually the purring means happiness and contentment, but cats purr as well to calm themselves down in times of stress or when they’re physically injured. Let’s learn to purr more in our human ways, a metaphor for comforting others and comforting ourselves (but mindful of social distancing when needed).

More tiger lessons. Tigers sit quietly almost like they’re meditating. They know where to sit, their stripes blending into the natural vegetation, rendering them practically invisible. No wonder a group of tigers is in fact called a stripe, or an ambush.

Another Chinese tiger saying: be careful when you ride the tiger, an expression used for politicians who try to use the military for their vested interests and end up being unable to control the tiger. It was used to describe Marcos and martial law. It’s a temptation we see again with some of our politicians.

Maybe with time, politicians will learn as well to respect citizens as the tigers.

There’s a Chinese expression used as greetings for the year of the tiger: rú hu tiān yì, which means may you be like a tiger with wings. Sounds like the oil company Esso’s very effective slogan in the 1960s: “put a tiger in your tank.” That was a marketing research coup. “Put a lion in your tank” would have fallen flat but a tiger fits perfectly, with connotations of agility, a term popular in business and referring to the ability to be calm yet always ready to respond quickly, accelerating and taking off.

Let tigers with wings soar, and roar.

Let tigers rule, agile, gentle, mindful.

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TAGS: animals, entrepreneurs, Tiger

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