On September 21, 2012, twenty-five year old David Villalobos purchased a pass for the Bronx Zoo and a ticket for a ride on the Bengali Express Monorail. Biding his time, he waited until the monorail was just near the enclosure of a four hundred pound Siberian tiger named Bashuta before leaping into it. They spent ten long minutes together in the tiger’s cage before nature took its course, with one exception: The tiger did not kill him. David’s only response: “It’s a spiritual thing. I wanted to be at one with the tiger.”
One with The Tiger: Sublime and Violent Encounters between Humans and Animals uses David’s story, and other moments of violent encounters between humans and predators, to explore the line between human and animal. Exposing what the author defines as the “shared liminal space between peace and violence,” Church posits that the animal is always encroaching on the civilization —and those seeking its wildness are in fact searching for an ecstatic moment that can define what it means to be human. Using examples from Timothy Treadwell to Mike Tyson, or such television icons as Grizzly Adams and The Incredible Hulk, Church shows how this ecstasy can seep its way into the less natural world of popular culture, proving time and again that each of us can be our own worst predator.