Wednesday, April 14, 2010


I had to slow down on the curve, which was why I noticed the monkey.

It was that curve behind the school, where the road turns sharply to the left on the way down to the station. As I slowed I observed a youngish monkey sitting alone atop the red roof of the school. The solo part was unusual, especially for a youngster, but even stranger was the way the monkey was sitting, as though in complete dejection; didn't even lift his head to look at the human passing by not so far away on a motorcycle. His pose was part Rodin thinker and part the guy sitting there head down, with right leg extended and left arm flung straight out across his left knee in a kind of exhausted despair.

In the simian part of myself, I took a good measure of delight in this. Seeing monkeys in unpleasant situations is a form of pleasure for a mountain gardener. But then my higher faculties jumped in with their righteous batons and moral direction signs and I felt the stirrings of sympathy, because perhaps I was beholding an early version of we humans ourselves, as the proto-human first raised his or her head to look upon at the world around and thought... Hey, I just had a weird experience in my head! What the hell was that? as the first iota of memory found its place, held on, stayed there, and knowledge was born in us: lo, we had perspective - time perspective, emotional perspective - there were tangents and pathways, there were decisions... and so the path led on, to roads, schools, motorcycles...

But this monkey hadn't reached that point yet, he was an early branch of us sitting up there alone in simian despair, perhaps hungry in a way he could not fathom; perhaps he had looked in the school windows yesterday and seen all those furless kids eagerly poring over books and symbols, learning about everything around them, but it wasn't even Greek to him; he thought what are they doing in there, why can't I do that and why would I want to-- then perhaps came the realization, in some proto-human way, that he could not get in: he did not have whatever qualifications were.

Monkeys can raise their eyes and behold the land and its character all around them, but it has no meaning, for they know nothing of topography, have no inkling of geography, history, biology, mathematics, all the human labels for humanly organized categories of monkey-useless things (no doubt an instantly sapient monkey would come up with completely different categories that better suit the simian mindset). The world that monkeys see is just as it is, without heuristic depth or duration, for they cannot build upon memories the way we do (to whatever end), not only because they don't desire to, but mainly because they don't need to. Which was our own status at one time, until it changed for reasons that can only be approached mythologically.

Sitting up there alone the young monkey looked as though he had just beheld for a brief moment what we call The Light, and then had lost it, could not hold onto it, as may have been - indeed, likely was - the case back at our own beginning, so as I passed on by I could not but commiserate, a little bit.

Hang in there, buddy; no matter what happens, just stay away from my onions.


Maggie said...

Thanks for the well honed words to start my Tuesday.

Tabor said...

So you are telling me that another generation of homo sapiens can yet evolve? I hope that get here before we destroy this planet.