Extreme Kindness

Extreme Kindness

Monkey Love

On the eve of my birthday, I have butterflies in my stomach. Not because another line has creased my face, or because the big 3-0 is only 366 days close. I am excited because tonight my partner, Danielle has given me a rare opportunity to listen to one of the great minds on the planet. Jane Goodal, the acclaimed activist and scientist has spent her life studying Chimpanzees and has been sharing her insights on them and humanity for decades.

I decided to open one of her books that rests on my shelf, Reason For Hope a spiritual journey. In this great work, Jane addresses the concept of Moral Evolution and the question of whether we perform acts of kindness because of selfish intent. She challenges the notion that humans are inherently selfish, and puts forward the possibility that we are not just driven by genes and evolution, by the choice to care for others, regardless of their connection to us. I pulled this quote in the chapter on compassion and love, which resonated with me strongly.

“If our motivation to perform charitable acts is simply to advance our social standing, or to lessen our inner discomfort, should we not conclude that our action, in the final analysis, is nothing more than selfish? Some might argue this- and in some cases it could be true. But I believe it is wrong dangerous event to accept reductionist arguments of this sort that denigrate all that is most truly noble in our species. History resounds with tales of extraordinarily inspirational acts of courage and sacrifice. Good heaven! The very fact that we can feel distressed by the plight of people we have never met says it all for me! It is, surely, remarkable and heartwarming that we can empathize, and feel truly saddened, when we hear of a child brain-damaged in accident; an elderly couple losing their life savings to a thief; a family dog stole and sold to a medical research lab and traced too late to be saved.”

In these words, a strong belief in the human desire to be kind for the sake of being kind resonates. I couldn’t agree more, and there have been countless times when I have felt this care and sense of responsibility well up in me for no reason rather than to want to ease the suffering of another. I remember feeling this during the Tsunami on Boxing Day, during the Russian massacre in Chechnya and during the Rwandan crisis. I believe we are pulling closer and closer to a global village where we all will be moved emotionally and physically when another human is suffering. We must continue to extend our sense of family and community. This is a paradigm shift for many, but I am certain one day we will all be in embrace.

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One Response to “Monkey Love”

  1. Lanny Marentette Says:
    May 16th, 2006 at 5:29 am

    Hi Chris:
    Just to add a bit more support to your thoughts above, Richard Leakey wrote in Origins that the future of the human species depends on two factors: “our relationship with one another and our relationship to the world around us”. Every individual is a member of Homo sapiens sapiens, and any variations are simply biological variations on this basic theme. The one saving grace in the evolution of people and societies has been the ability, the basic human drive, to cooperate. “Unless there is an acceptance of the oneness of the human race, a real spirit of brotherhood”, then we are doomed to join many of the vanished species. Chris, your natural goodness and generous ways have touched our lives in so many ways. Your idealism and optimism gives me shivers sometimes. Give Dani a hug for us. Lanny.

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