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The Alphabet Series 2000: M is for Monkey Business
Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
June 14, 2000
"No more monkeys jumping on the bed!" — [Robert Tjaart Nanninga]
"Idle hands are the devils tools" is an old cliche that is as wrong as it is damaging. Without going into a huge dissertation about the devil existing only in the minds of Christians, if there was a devil it makes more sense that busy hands would be the devils tools. How else would you explain, nuclear weapons, bulldozers, and automatic weapons? It is my belief idleness is a virtue, and doing nothing is the perfect endeavor. Cats understand this.
What is it about human beings? Exactly at what moment in time did the human animal decide life was all about staying busy? I'm not talking about feeding the tribe, making babies sort of thing. I'm talking about pyramid building, industrialized, running to stand still sort of behaviors. Why is ours the species that always has to be doing something? And to what end? World domination, and it's ultimate demise?
"Why all this busy work?", is a question I've been wrestling with ever since I started contributing to local publications. Up to now I have yet to receive an answer. Another way of posing that same question is why is man so manic ? I ponder this issue, as a way of making sense of why we seem culturally inclined to seek comfort in time-consuming labor. Why is it that human beings always need to have something to do?
Intelligence is not what separates us from the beasts, work is. Humans work, animals don't. That is unless you count the other species unlucky enough to serve man. Some people might enjoy a 40 hour work week, but that is their decision. Given the choice, does anyone actually believe dolphins would choose to spend their lives confined to a chlorinated swimming pool, or an elephant to a circus. Thinking that animals forced into human service are not slaves is delusional. In an anthropocentric world everyone works to serve the human gods. Free willy? Hell I say save the humans!
At this point in our very sorted history, I can't think of one thing that does not carry an environmental price tag. Our culture has been designed so that everything we do involves destroying a little piece of the planet. Every human effort detracts from other life-forms in some way. Breathing comes close to being environmentally benign, but considering the things humans do while they breathe, that mindless task is guilty by association.
The manic behavior of the human species wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't so invasive. Walking is something most mammals do, some swim, others climb. Humans do all of those, yet make it increasingly more difficult to do so. Our activity creates so much pollution, tending that pollution has become a profit generating activity in itself. Thereby prompting even more activity. Even walking has become an energy draining business as multi-national rob from the planetary ATM so as to sell you the perfecting walking shoe.
Business is a term that applies only to humans. How could it not be? So the term "Monkey Business" can refer only to the things humans do, and that other primates do not. First and foremost on this extensive list is the ability to manipulate the environment in such a way as to risk it's total collapse. Manufacturing is also high on the list, as is malice and money making. Let's face it folks, although an overachiever, we are the dark child of the Hominidae family. A bad seed if you will.
Even play has become a something to "do" and not something that happens. When young chimpanzees entertain themselves they require enough room to tumble and their mother's protective eye. Here in Southern California, child's play requires soccer fields with parking lots, automobiles to get them there, soccer balls, uniforms, shoes, trophies for the winners, and counselors for the losers. Instead of encouraging play, American parents teach their children play is structured, and best reserved for manicured lawns with rules and referees. Is this how we prepare them for the working world?
If Western Culture is about finding work, I vote we find a new culture. Life should be spontaneous. Having to work makes you a slave to someone, or something. Keeping busy is just another way to avoid that truth.
Why not create a world in which humans are as free as the humming birds now flittering about our gardens. There was a time when we where.