This phrase is from the below paragraph in the book Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Robert M. Sapolsky.

The book has a number of personal roots. One is that, having had blessedly little personal exposure to violence in my life, the entire phenomenon scares the crap out of me. I think like an academic egghead, believing that if I write enough paragraphs about a scary subject, give enough lectures about it, it will give up and go away quietly. And if everyone took enough classes about the biology of violence and studied hard, we’d all be able to take a nap between the snoozing lion and lamb. Such is the delusional sense of efficacy of a professor.

  • Welcome to the community, @sb1 I hope you find it enjoyable, interesting and valuable! – TechnoCat Oct 7 '19 at 13:55

It's a lovely turn of phrase, invented by the author but (as noted in the comment by @Hellion below) with a biblical reference.

The phrase signifies the author's wishful thinking about a world free of violence and aggression.

In that imaginary world, a gentle little lamb could play safely in a meadow while a big lion snoozed nearby, with no intention of attacking the lamb. Meanwhile, we could drift into a light sleep on the grass in between the two, unconcerned about the lion's aggression or the lamb's vulnerability.

In the real world, of course, a lion on seeing a lamb (a totally vulnerable creature, having no capacity for either aggression or flight) would race towards it and pounce! The lamb would be an ex-lamb in mere moments. We would be (at best) mere silent witnesses; at worst we would be caught up in the aggression.

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    It's also a reference to Paradise as seen in the Old Testament (apparently a misquote/paraphrase from the book of Isaiah); "then the lion shall lay down with the lamb, and a little child shall lead them". See wikipedia. – Hellion Oct 7 '19 at 14:49
  • @Hellion - Thanks! That's an excellent point. I had suspected there was an intertextual reference in the phrase, and of course that's the one! – TechnoCat Oct 7 '19 at 14:58
  • @Hellion - And I've just edited my answer to make a reference to your comment. – TechnoCat Oct 7 '19 at 15:16

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