This morning I was watching a D News video on Youtube where they discussed how taking photographs affect our memory (http://youtu.be/D4xU-_oHa2M) and one of presenters commented that we “aren’t just big naked monkeys” and I’m here to disagree.
I am a big naked monkey. You are a big naked monkey. And that is just OK.
I’m terrified of monkeys (as anyone who’s ever seen me cry during “The Wizard of Oz” will know) and I’m still saying it’s ok. Here’s why: when I was younger – which admittedly sounds ridiculous coming from me seeing as I’m twenty-two, but roll with me, people – I was obsessed with the concept that we were these grand intellectual beings. I thought that with knowledge and understanding we could grow beyond our animal origins, mostly because all I had going for me at the time was a big brain and a bigger attitude – I was pretty much an extra from “Revenge of the Nerds.” Our decisions could be rational. We could rise above impulses and emotions. I tried to meet this ideal and assumed that when other people did or said things, it was because there was some reasoning involved. And when there wasn’t I got angry and frustrated.
Now, dear reader, if you are also – as I suspect – human, you’ll know that I probably spent a lot of time angry and frustrated because nobody makes reasonable or rational decisions. It took a while, but I realized that I don’t either. And that’s alright.
I had my moment of clarity when I read this great book about traffic. It’s called “Traffic.” Seriously, it’s a great read and it totally changed the way I drive. One of the ideas in the book was that we get road rage because our brains aren’t made to process interactions with machines. We want to see body language and the normal human signals that help us understand why someone is doing something. So when another driver cuts us off and the car doesn’t shrug its shoulders or smile apologetically (because, to the best of my knowledge, cars can’t do these things) our little monkey brains freak like it’s the Mesozoic up in this b****. Someone has entered our personal space/territory and we don’t know why and there’s this awful, impulsive little part of our brains that, like, literally can’t even.
But you know what? That’s ok. I’m not saying that the commentator I mentioned at the start of this rant is totally wrong. We are creatures of symbolism and meaning. But we’re like that because our brains are designed to recognize patterns to better aid in our survival. If we couldn’t put together that all the cavemen who died frothing at the mouth also ate the weird purple berries on the other side of the hill, our species probably wouldn’t have progressed enough for me to be philosophizing at you from a MacBook. Our actions aren’t that much more purposeful, important, or impact-ful in the grand universal scheme of things than a chimpanzee building his nest for the night, or a fox digging her den, or a bird singing in the tree. But they are no less beautiful or moving. And, frankly, since I started looking at the weird little things we humans do as just the rhythmic, patterned behaviors all animals display, every action holds more wonder and significance for me. Rather than my life and actions feeling meaningless, I feel more connected to the world around me than ever before.
Also I’ve chilled out. A lot. Instead of becoming stressed and confrontational when a situation arises with another person, I try to look at why both of us are behaving and feeling the way we do. This doesn’t mean i don’t get pissed for no reason or lash out when I’m stressed, but I can recognize when it’s happening, I can recognize when other people are doing it, and I can let it go rather than beating myself up about it or holding a grudge.
One of my theories on why I’m so terrified of monkeys is that I didn’t want to acknowledge that I am one. This truth was a little too big and overwhelming. The other theory is that it’s a repressed memory of howler monkeys smashing through the glass doors of the hotel my family was at when I was a toddler. But who can tell.
Listen, I know I’m 22 and not exactly brimming with life experience, but adding this understanding to my list of mottos to live by (including such time honored standards as “never be the weirdest person in a public park,” “you can’t fix stupid,” and “don’t spit into the wind”) has really revolutionized the way I interact with the world. I am monkey and so can you!