Recently I read a fascinating book called “The Naked Ape.”
Written by zoologist Desmond Morris in 1966 – four years before I was born – it nevertheless reads like “breaking news” in the ongoing human-animal consciousness debate.
Morris states quite matter-of-factly in his introduction that he has always both liked and felt more comfortable with animals than with people. He discloses that his work on “The Naked Ape” book is in part an attempt to help remedy that.
His literary premise is therefore fairly simple: by stripping humanity of its rather glamorous “top of the food chain” status and simply taking a look at lifestyle, behavior, breeding, feeding, fighting, even anatomy from an apples-to-apples, ape-to-ape perspective, perhaps it will then become possible to feel more connected to the vast variety of non-human life that exists all around us.
Maybe, in this sense, Morris’s goal is to finally discover some sense of normalcy – a feeling that he, that we, belong here on this planet we are so intent on dominating and (these days) over-populating.
In fact, in an interview in The Guardian, Morris tells interviewer Stephen Moss:
I spent the first half of my life studying animal behavior…and when I eventually wrote a book about human beings, I wrote about them as if I was writing about another animal species. I had met Tom Maschler, then a young publisher at Cape, at a party and told him I was going to write a zoology of human beings one day, and not even use the term human beings. Instead I’d write it as if I was an alien who had come to this planet and seen this extraordinary ape which doesn’t have any fur on its body.
As I was reading the book, I had so many “aha” moment insights – especially when it comes to some of the social taboos observed only in human-based social contexts.
Like an objective, unbiased mentor with no agenda to push, Morris answers questions I’ve often wondered about as they relate to why we (human beings) do or don’t do the things we do or don’t do.
As someone who also shares Morris’s inclination to like and feel more at home with animals and nature than with my own kind, I feel more connected to all species – including, surprisingly, my own – after reading “The Naked Ape.”
And while I’m tempted to write more in support of the book’s findings, it truly feels like this is a topic that each of us must explore on our own, with Morris’ book providing a good vehicle to facilitate independent thought and reflection.
[All that to say, if this is a topic you are interested in learning more about, I highly recommend you check out the book!]
Worth noting – Morris didn’t stop his literary career at “The Naked Ape.” He went on to create an entire series of variations on this theme, including one that is now considered by some to be the precursor to the modern science of body language!
Today’s Takeaway: Have you ever wondered why we stand upright, how come we have no hair, what the deal is with our incredibly long infancy/youth compared to other species, how we ended up being omnivores, what caused us to part ways with the rest of the apes and become today’s “human beings?” If yes, you may want to check this book out and decide for yourself is Morris has some insights worth pondering!