Friday, July 17, 2009
Monkeys in the Forest
Rudyard Kipling turned me against monkeys long ago, when I was reading The Jungle Book to the children. As I recall, all the other animals of the jungle despised the monkeys for being foolish and emptyheaded chatterboxes. Add to that the rumors (as I’ve never known a monkey firsthand) that they are in real life dirty and infested with vermin, and the result was my assignment of them somewhere around the level of cockroaches.
Perhaps 15 years ago I took one of the first of the quizzes that have since become ubiquitous on the Internet. This one had you rate animals according to how much you liked them, and at the end you were told in turn something about your character or personality. I think it was based on some Oriental tradition and valuation. My results came back with the assessment that I disliked children. Oh, I’m sure there were some other points to my identity, probably equally misread, but all I remember is my horror at being so unfairly pegged in regard to that one aspect, I who was joyfully homeschooling my several children and praying for more. I figured out eventually that it was the dismissive attitude toward monkeys that did me in.
You know how children behave like little monkeys much of the time? I guess I never thought of mine as resembling monkeys, but if I had, I’d still think that educating them, training them to be grown-ups with good manners and character, would transform them from monkeys into human beings. In my last post I shared “A Psalm of the Forest” with you, with its descriptions of trees and monkeys honoring and delighting in the Lord with whatever gifts and personality they have. In the scene described, the monkeys can’t be considered foolish, as they are giving glory to their Lord. The fool says in his heart that there is no God, and lives as though he were the center of everything. But the monkeys of this forest are all consumed with excitement over God. They are more like innocent and lively children who have no fear of offending Him.
My heart is softened nowadays toward monkeys, not that I think of them very much. I think it was happening even before I discovered these lines from Paton, but he in his forest psalm has helped by reminding me how much every creature plays a part in bringing praise to the Creator.
We have the redwoods that amazed Alan Paton growing in our backyard, and have often camped near where he wrote these lines. The same feeling of awe and reverence has come over us in these forests, but nothing so playful and raucous as in the scene he describes. I love the fig tree, the waterfalls, the leaves showering down on their Maker, and the monkeys standing in for all of us children of our Father.