The Wisdom of Monkeys

A friend of mine sent me a video clip of a young girl who asked her mother “Where did we come from?” The mother replied “we were created by God”. Then she went and asked her father and asked the same question.  He replied “Due to evolution over millions of years  we evolved from monkeys”.

The little girl was confused by these two answers so she got both parents together and she said “Dad says we evolved from monkeys and mom says we were created by God”. To which her mother quickly answered “your father’s side of the family evolved from monkeys, but my side of the family was created by God”.

This is not a debate about creation versus evolution, but I came across an interesting quote from a website,  “Experts are in awe over the social attributes of monkey groups. The primates are very in tune with each other and what is going on around them. They often help each other with finding food, caring for the young, and staying protected”.

Most people think that we can’t learn anything from monkeys, other than observing them through the study of zoology. We may also think we are vastly superior to monkeys in that we can:

  • rationally think and make decisions
  • imagine the future
  • analyse the past and
  • improve, using the scientific method.

But there’s one thing that the monkeys may have developed more than most human beings, which is being in tune with each other and with what is going on around them. That is a natural wisdom that they have developed.

In the lockdown time we are having to get back in tune with ourselves so that we can then be more in tune with other people and in tune with spirit. In the modern world it is easy to get busy and race around trying to achieve so that we find ourselves out of tune and experiencing a loss of power. When one is out of tune one’s relationships suffer and one becomes oblivious of the environment.

There is another monkey that we are to deal with. This is the monkey that Tim Urban spoke about in a Ted Talk in 2016, which is the little monkey that we have inside ourselves called the instant gratification monkey. This ‘monkey’ comes at a great cost. In seeking immediate gratification, we do things that lack wisdom and understanding, that are irrational and self-destructive.

Through instant gratification we may sacrifice:

  • our future
  • our ability to be creative,
  • our ability to complete projects or get anything done,
  • our caring towards other people;

because we are so ruled by the monkey inside us. Often in seeking instant gratification we:

  • don’t do what we should do
  • don’t do the things that would create connection
  • don’t express care
  • don’t do things that enhance community
  • don’t the things that uplift our spirit.

During lockdown we are having to fight our need for instant gratification – binge watching TV – or just doing nothing, losing our energy and zoning out. Instead, we have an opportunity to be more spiritually and creatively engaged during this time of socially distancing.

The lockdown gives us more time to reflect because we are no longer socially active and there is nothing going on out in the world for us to attend to. It’s not a time of socializing, attending events or parties. Rather, this is a time for wisdom, to consider how to be of service, to be strong and to find one’s spiritual authenticity.

Trevor Noah, the host of The Daily Show, now called The Daily Social Distancing Show had a conversation with actor and comedian Ricky Gervais who said: “Some things are more important than being smart and clever, like being kind.” I thought this was particularly interesting coming from Ricky Gervais who specializes in nasty and cringe-worthy comments in his humour. It’s a break-through that he now realizes the importance of being kind.

It’s good to think about being kind when we are isolated and have limited options. This applies not only with the people who we come into contact with daily when we are isolating, but will also to apply it when we get out of isolation. Even the monkeys have figured out the importance of being kind to each other!

Ricky Gervais also said that the lockdown “is making people think what the most important things in life are”. He went on to note that he appreciates some of the “mundane things, in that you want your life back”. We routinely do activities which we don’t regard as being important, like cooking a meal or going to the shops or taking a walk, but in the Covet-19 phase they have become more special.

I recently watched a programme about the life of Pavarotti on TV. One of the characters he played was the clown was from an opera, Leocavallo’s Pagliacci. This was a role where the clown has to amuse people despite suffering a loss. The clown sings “Laugh about the pain that poisons your Heart”.

The Kubler Ross Grief Cycle is a five stage model of dealing with loss, the stages being denial, anger, bargaining, sadness and acceptance. We may feel pain or suffer during the lockdown. But from a higher perspective one can look at one’s suffering, one’s isolation or grief in a different way by being a friend to yourself, rather than thinking there is something wrong. You will thereby be more in tune with others and what is going on around yourself as you move past the grief and isolation.

People are experiencing a loss of the way of life that they had, so they may feel a sadness or a loneliness until they come to an acceptance of the new situation. Then we can laugh about the loss of our old life, because we are moving into a new life. This attitude releases one into an acceptance of the situation. We may need to let go some of the old ways of thinking, living and how we experienced our life and it is good to do so with a sense of humour and a lightness of spirit.

Although it may seem inauthentic to laugh about the pain-and even to be in denial about it – if one is in alignment with spirit rather than one’s pain, then this is a victory that brings enlightenment.

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