All my life I've been able to handle sad movies and stories. Never been one to require happy endings to every story; a sad story doesn't bring me down. Sad is as much a part of our wholeness as happy. It's much more common and familiar. Maybe the rarity of happiness motivates a need for happy endings. Whatever. Today I saw a movie so sad I could hardly stand it. It took me way down into gloom and despair. It was the story of taking a baby chimp from its caged mother after two weeks, major trauma for both of them, the baby given to a human family for a 'sceintific" experiment. The family raised the baby chimp like a human child, and worked with teaching it language by sign language. It was a happy, beautiful story, the chimp growing up with a couple of kids, a dog and a cat and the woman the chimp took for its mother. All was wonderful until the chimp began to mature and become much stronger than a strong human. When it became a problem to keep Nim with the family is when the hell began.
I'm fairly in touch with pre-human consciousness by way of dogs and cats, primarily. I started out with pets according to the cultural belief system about them. It's just a cat. It's just a dog. It's just a horse. Along my way with dogs and cats, I slowly learned throughout my lifetime that the cultural (Christian) belief about pre-human life forms is ignorance itself. It's the same with Muslim and Jewish beliefs about the pre-human life forms, except they don't seem so fascinated with killing everything living as the Christians are. Recalling an old preacher I used to know, whose solution to the Arab world problems was "nuke em." Once, for the fun of it, knowing I couldn't change his thinking and not wanting to, I mentioned that if he nukes everybody that displeases him, he'll end up the only one left. His immediate answer, "That'd be all right." I knew him well enough to know he meant it. I came to a place eventually where I realized that kind of mind is not one I need to pay serious, or any attention to. By the time he died of old age, very few people would have to do with him. He was a good man, just intolerant with an ego he equated with God. His God was intolerant of all around him. His brother told me once that all women are whores but one, his mother. Both believed the earth flat as a table top. If a ball can't float in space, neither can a square flat surface.
The film today was PROJECT NIM, raising the baby chimp as an experiment to find likenesses between humans and chimps, and differences. The woman who raised him, Stephanie, said when he was taken away from her to pursue language studies, "He was less with language than he was with his unique self." Saying he was less with language, she was meaning his personality, his spirit, his play was less after he was learning a vocabulary of sign language. His "unique self" was who she came to know in raising the new baby. He was taken away from the family to pursue language studies like a kid at school. His spirit of life was trained out of him, no more jumping, rolling, playing, running, swinging in trees. Eventually, after some time with teachers and trainers, Nim started biting. He bit a trainer's face. He was then put in a cage in a room with several other chimps in cages, all of them screaming their distress, crying, the spirit of life draining from them. Conditions went worse and worse for Nim, until he was taken by a rescue operation, taken to a big ranch for horses and kept in solitary confinement in a cage. Finally, someone thought to at least bring him a friend to live with after a year and more in solitary. By this time, the life spirit in Nim was about out. He'd fallen so deep into despair without hope, he couldn't come out of it.
Tears ran down my face for this charming, charming little chimp twisted emotionally and mentally into knots by humans thinking it's just an ape. Finally, Nim was brought a male friend and a female friend. The three of them lived a long number of years together on the horse ranch with next to no human communication. Toward the end of the film, in the time when Nim was in solitary at the horse ranch, the initial family that raised him wanted to visit him. He was mature, and he was big. Stephanie, after several years, stepped into the room-sized cage with him. Nim went into a storm of rage, took her by the leg dragging and slinging her around on the concrete floor. He never hurt her, though he could have easily killed her. They realized that he was acting out his rage toward her for giving him a happy life then giving him away to the misery he's known ever sense, deep, anguishing misery. Once he had explained to her through fully physical sign language that he was really mad at her, he forgave her. A guy who was with Nim enough to become his friend, who was also taken away from Nim, said Nim and other chimpanzees were always forgiving. Like dogs in that way
Still, hours later, I continue to feel the grief in my heart for that poor soul. Humans are so good at killing, they'd have done best to kill him and be done with it. He wasn't fit to let loose in the wild. Raised as a human, then the life of a laboratory ape. It would be exactly like a human child put in among the chimpanzees and regarded as an object without a soul or personality or even a sentient life, not only for a year or two, but all the rest of your life. This is one of how many million such sad stories. In my very early years I developed a distrust of science. Much of it came from the fundamentlist preacher who preached against science and Communism. I grew up wary of science without even knowing what it was. In the 4th or 5th grade a girl I knew at school and church killed a wasp, tore its wings and legs off, and head, taped them to a 3x5 inch note card, and labeled them; leg, wing, head. She said it was science. Teacher at school told the class to do this to start learning about science. It seemed totally stupid to me to kill a thing to study it. I was far more interested in the living wasp, not at all in the dead wasp. It never occurred to me that I knew a leg from a wing better when they were torn off and taped to a piece of paper and labelled. It didn't compute. I tried it later, on my own, to see if there was something to it I was missing. No.
In my early years seeing tv about Sputnik, dogs in space, monkeys in space, monkeys used for research. I saw video on tv of labs with a monkey whose top half of his skull was cut away, brain exposed and wires sticking in different places that make his arm jerk when activated here, a leg jerk activated there. I could not tolerate such as that. I didn't have very clear thinking in that time, but couldn't stand thinking and seeing pictures of what they did in laboratories. I hated biology class, dissecting frogs, etc. Therefore, I failed it over and over, having to take it 3 times to pass. It was three years of torment having to do biology lab. I hated it more than anything. My problem was irrational mental wranglings believing preacher that science is evil, and the (then) recent example of Nazis. I equated science with Nazis in my subconscious and had no intent to become a Nazi by learning science. That thinking was with me all the way through college. It wasn't until some years later that I came to understand what science was and its value. I'd never been taught any of that in school. Possibly, first day of class a teacher will talk about the importance of science. But I don't ever remember any. I only remember looking at essay test questions with no idea what the questions meant. Even when I'd figured out what the question meant, or maybe close, I still couldn't answer it. First semester of biology, the final exam was 5 essay questions. I didn't even attempt a first sentence on any of them. Anything I might write would be evidence I don't know the answer. Blank paper told it best.
I've known my cats and dogs well enough to see they are not only sentient beings, but also capable of thought to a certain level, and their capacity for love is far greater than ours. It's love that we lost when we got the forebrain. Because we have mind, we need God to take human form to help us, to guide us, to tell us the secrets of living and dying, to raise our consciousness. Love and foregiveness don't come automatically to us like they do in the pre-human forms. I think of my dog and cat friends of the past and sometimes weep for them, because I didn't understand what I see now, that they loved me so much more than I loved them, they surely must have felt frustrated all the time. I know dogs that are madly in love with their humans, who give them food and shelter and figure that's a good life for a dog. They want to know us. They want us to notice they can think and understand too, and for sure that they can feel. They have hearts, they have love so huge it dwarfs what we have for love. We have heads full of language, words, worries, fears; our hearts are so clouded in such a fog we don't notice that the dog that has lived with us for its lifetime loves us so much it would lose its spirit just like Nim did if abandoned. This chimpanzee has had me weeping within all afternoon into the evening for all my cat and dog friends along my lifetime, how long it took me to realize their love. Now I'm ashamed it took so long. I still have time to show Caterpillar that my love for her is perhaps near equal her love for me. I have to tell myself, at least I got it.