Is the zoo for you?

People have been holding and exhibiting wild animals privately for thousands of years, with royals and others keeping menageries of exotic animals. The modern public zoo got its start a little more than 200 years ago as scientific study about animals accompanied the Age of Enlightenment. What we think of as a modern zoo opened in 1793 in Paris.

Variations on zoos include wildlife parks and game reserves, which offer more open area for animals to roam and may allow members of the public to drive through on their own or with an escort. Some locations rehabilitate sick or injured animals for release back into the wild or a home if they are not able to be released.

Zoo websites allow people to “visit” a zoo virtually to learn about animals and see pictures and video. Click on the picture below to see a video of a jaguar cub at the San Diego Zoo, the largest in the United States.

Want to learn more? Visit the website for the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Its virtual zoo includes pictures and facts about animals, and a search function allows you to locate zoos and aquariums for an in-person visit.

Zoos are not without controversies, which range from concern about the physical and psychological stress of keeping animals in enclosures, issues of how they are cared for and fed, and what happens when more animals are in captivity than can fit available space. Zoo proponents argue that the locations provide a safe environment and enhance public knowledge and action while offering efforts to research animals and promote conservation of species and habitat that is or may become endangered.

Secrets shared, secrets kept

What if you could share a secret that has been bothering you? What if you could do it anonymously? A community art project built around people sharing secrets has grown into a vehicle for discovery and support.

The site PostSecret, which weekly publishes postcards sent to founder Frank Warren’s Maryland postal address or by email, has gathered more than 667 million views. The idea was first inspired by a dream in 2003, he explains on a related website where visitors can communicate, find out how to attend one of his events, learn about his books, and connect with wellness resources such as hotlines for abuse and suicide prevention or eating disorders. Since the secrets are anonymous, it isn’t possible to know how many of the half-a-million things sent in are true, but he shares some follow-up stories about how lives were touched by a sharing a secret or reading someone else’s secret.

Sometimes, taking the time to write down a secret or create an artistic postcard about it can help the person lay claim to a truth that has lingered inside, unclaimed. By reading others’ secrets, people can learn that they are not alone in their feelings and actions.

Revelations shared on the site range in intensity from what some might not consider a reason for secrecy at all — personal habits or tics — to life-shaking fears about love, work, school, and the meaning of life. Some are confessions of actions traditionally thought of as immoral or illegal, such as deception and theft. Others express regret or hope.

Secrets contain power. They can draw people together through intimacy and trust or breed destruction through self-criticism and unresolved emotion. Secrets are kept for a reason, such as fear of expected consequences such as social isolation and loss of connection, possessions, or freedom. While some secrets feel like an honor to keep — being trusted with a loved one’s email password — others can gnaw at a person. The desire to share a secret may be an important indicator that the weight of carrying it may be too heavy to continue bearing. Keeping the secret may come with the high price of rejecting your yearning to be heard and accepted for who you are or may prevent you or someone else from connecting with help to reach a place of greater happiness and fulfillment.

Whenever you carry a secret, it’s wise to examine the reasons behind not telling and to weigh the feared consequences against the power of liberation. Some secrets are worth keeping. Some secrets seemed necessary to keep at one point, but the reasons are no longer valid. Some secrets can be shared with those who have earned the right to hear them. Others are secret more because of the keeper’s fears than the actual consequences, as some find once they have shared.

What if you could share a secret that has been bothering you? What if you didn’t have to do it anonymously?

Want to read more about the potential impact of secret-keeping on individuals and relationships? Check out the Psychology Today article “The Power of Secrets.”

Snopes.com: Urban legend database

Can you really get a job as a secret shopper? Is a serial killer luring women by playing a recording of a crying baby? Did someone really win the lottery using numbers from a fortune cookie? One of the best places to check out rumors is Snopes.com, a collection of myths, urban legends, and sometimes true stories.

One of the problems with the ease of sharing information through email and social media sites is that you could become a partner in spreading untruths. You see something that sounds like it could be true, something that fits your perspective of the world or that outrages you, and you want to share the information with your friends. You want to be helpful by sharing tips or to provoke reflection and discussion.

Protect your integrity by making sure what you’re sharing is true before you share it. Snopes is an easy way to check out some common claims floating around the Internet.