I believe in a Chimpanzee
Elias J. Rodriguez
I remember a physical anthropology class where we watched a video of a monkey set in front of a mirror. The monkey saw its reflection, although it scratched, bit, and clawed at its reflection, nothing happened. They then set a chimpanzee in front of a mirror, and although it bared its teeth at its reflection, jumped up and down in front of its reflection, and offered its reflection to play with it, nothing happened. It was then in my logical mind, when I had decided that nothing significant would arise from this, that something did happen. There was a moment in its frustration, that it made a realization, a fundamental burst of insight. It was not another chimp that it was looking at, playing a clever game of, “are you mocking me?” but rather, it was looking at itself. I couldn’t see the firing of neurons in the brain of that chimp, but yet slowly there was a wash of recognition, a change came over it, a transformation that brought self-awareness. It was then that I realized my own self-awareness.
I believe in that chimp, and in that moment when it made its most fundamental discovery. How long have I lived my life, taking my own reflection for granted? I believe in myself, but only because I was handed that sense of self, yet I never earned the discovery of self, for myself.
I believe that we are torn between two worlds, one is a world of the what’s, the other, the world of the who’s. I believe that what we are is easily attained, I am a student, I am a person, I am a musician, I am a bouncer at a bar, I am this, and I am that.
Yet who am I?
I believe that the world of the who’s is as mysterious as the origins of the universe. They are like ideas, bodiless bodies, without weight, nor substance, yet in their meaning, they have both weight and substance. I believe that ideas of all things are the most elusive things, like trying to nail down the wave of an ocean with a stake.
I believe in a who, and who that is, is somehow me, yet I do not understand whom that who is, or how it is me. Like a lotus who’s pedals open in slow motion, revealing scent, color, and all the characteristics of a flower, yet withholding the core of its essence to the mysteries of what may lay beneath it.
I believe that in that moment, for that chimp, a new world was born. I believe that I saw myself in that chimpanzee, or better yet, I saw humanity within it, with all the questions that delicately rest upon the head of the needle that we call sentience.
I believe in the gift that chimpanzee gave me…
I believe in who I am,
Whomever that may be.
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