The difference is not so great. When we look at apes, we recognise in them something of our own selves: in their behaviour, in their curiosity, in their faces. Apes are a caricature of humankind – which is naturally a very anthropocentric view of things. It’s quite likely that apes see it in exactly the other way. We can easily hide inside such an ape-skin, our caricature that lies inside ourselves.
So, we seat ourselves on a tree, purse our lips, puff out the abdomen, use our diaphragm to suck in air through the throat and let out a loud «Uhuh Uhuh» through the treetops, a cry that can be heard for miles around. Perhaps, the sound is meant to call our tribe to order or maybe to entice a female into our lap. Or, perhaps the «Uhuh Uhuh» is simply of no greater significance.
Bach wrote his «Magnificat» with the purpose of praising God in heaven, to celebrate, to eulogise. Even if one does not believe in God one must give him thanks for providing the composer with a pretext for producing this transcendental piece of music. Music gives man the feeling that he is more than what he is. It invokes a feeling deep in his heart that something higher lies hidden within him, or influences and impacts him. As such, we hardly think about the caricature inside us, about this giggling shadow which glides through life with us, when a «Magnificat» fills our being.
Is the «Uhuh Uhuh» of the ape his «Magnificat»? Does he swing through the foliage in order to experience the “higher”? Or is the ape simply what he is? An animal that cares a hoot about time passing by and about having to write in his diary every evening: «Today, nothing special happened»? When zoologists speak of animals, one gets the feeling that the creatures are permanently fixed in meaningful survival mode, a 24-hour program whose cornerstones are nutrition and reproduction. But does everything in an ape’s life have a purpose?
We like to imagine that the ape sits on his branch in a state of sweet reverie, in a mind beyond all obligations and without having the feeling of missing something, or actually having to use time meaningfully or even having to enjoy itself. The sheer existence in the moment, in the here and now, magnificat anima mea momentum: «Uhuh Uhuh». For more than that, what we are, it has no place on this branch.
It’s quite fitting that we delegate this state, which we fear as much as we desire, associated as it is with our own caricature, to our inner court jester. But as mentioned before, the difference is not so great: «Uhuh Uhuh» – et nunc et semper et in saecula saeculorum.
First Publication: 1-1-2013