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On my recent safari in the Kruger National Park a simple statement: “I’m going to sit at the dam and recapitulate today’s events!” became a four-minute obsession between one person who knew exactly what she was saying, and two other people who fell straight into life’s little abyss of inadequacy called ‘Oops!’

The word that caused all the strife was ‘recapitulate’ and those that dropped into that dark place called Oops did so by immediately referencing that word to mean ‘capitulate again,’ sadly dumping the two vociferous straw men into a newly formed mire of literary scantiness.

Struggling to find a way out, but recognizing that I may be wrong in my assumption, I happily left the other person to continue the argument unassisted – and quickly jumped out of the discussion. I continued my game drive in the Kruger National Park past the elephants and mumbling something about how they’ve been on this planet longer than we have.

Our hero later turned to a wonderful electronic dictionary to put an end to any remaining obstinacy.

So straight to the definitions, and I’ll try and be as unassuming as I can, then please allow me my minute of glory as I try to appease myself in interpretation.

Capitulate –verb (used without object), -lat⋅ed, -lat⋅ing. 1. to surrender unconditionally or on stipulated terms. 2. to give up resistance: He finally capitulated and agreed to do the job my way.


1. To repeat in concise form. 2. Biology: To appear to repeat (the evolutionary stages of the species) during the embryonic development of the individual organism. v.intr. To make a summary – or ‘recap’ (how foolish of me not to recognize the abbreviation..)

At some point in my scrabble dabble through the online references I remember something about ‘reviewing the terms of surrender, creating headers outlining the terms of surrender,’ which pretty much means that what I am doing on the keyboard right now – is recapitulating!

So you can recapitulate the day’s events…but what follows is my interpretation of what you actually end up doing in a place as magnificent as the Kruger.

You cannot practically scale down our solar system accurately on a piece of paper.

You cannot assume that science is accurate because a majority of mathematic illuminates, philosophers and ecologists subscribe to the same theorem.

You cannot interpret life by using yourself and your views as the starting point.

You cannot predict the future – ask the weatherman, economist or even your shrink! (All of whom, by the way, will charge a fortune to tell you what you already know.)

…and love cannot logically be explained. Nor can life, the way it started and the way it will end.

But you can surrender yourself to the bigger picture (even if you don’t know what it is!). And you can, if you are that way inclined, recapitulate those terms of surrender by allocating ‘headers’ or your salient points regarding the surrender to remind you (or recap) your reasons for surrendering to it in the first place!

I prefer bumper stickers to philosophy. They are short, to the point and often extremely relevant. Car bumper stickers are accessed by far more people than Plato or Socrates, or Oprah Winfrey. Stuck in a traffic jam, you get the headlines by reading bumper stickers and not the volumes! And you rarely have to recapitulate because humour is already bulleted in a single sentence. It’s a bit like turning 40 – hectic, (ie. you have to negotiate your terms of surrender), but turning 41 is simply a review of those initial terms of surrender.

I know all this because it is what I have to do every minute of my day as a professional field guide in the Kruger National Park. Simply ask the rhino that charged me. He didn’t have to read the same behavioral books on rhinos that I had to read to qualify as a professional field guide. In review, I should have read the books that rhinos read to qualify them to become professional rhinos…

Life is not about finding answers, it’s about asking questions! That’s my bumper sticker and now, I think, I’ll need to recapitulate my initial terms of surrender.

By the way what’s the difference between a leopard’s claws and a comma?

Neil Heron

Answer: A leopard’s claws are at the end of its paws and a comma is a pause at the end of a clause!

Please note: Names of people and places have been withheld to avoid further surrender.

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