I had to devise a training program for Richard Parker. I had to make him understand that I was the top tiger and that his territory was limited to the floor of the boat, the stern bench and the side benches as far as the middle cross bow.
Survival had to start with me.
Now we were two. In five days the population of orang-utans, zebras, hyenas, flies and cockroaches had been wiped out. Except for the bacteria and worms that might still be alive in the remains of the animals, there was no other life left on the lifeboat but Richard Parker and me.
For the first time I noticed—as I would notice repeatedly during my ordeal, between one throe of agony and the next—that my suffering was taking place in a grand setting. I saw my suffering for what it was, finite and insignificant, and I was still.
You may be astonished that in such a short period of time I could go from weeping over the muffled killing of a flying fish to gleefully bludgeoning to death a dorado. I could explain it by arguing that profiting from a pitiful flying fish’s navigational mistake made me shy and sorrowful, while the excitement of actively capturing a great dorado made me sanguinary and self-assured. But in point of fact the explanation lies elsewhere. It is simple and brutal: a person can get used to anything, even to killing.
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