The term “dumb animals” is rooted in animals lacking the power of speech. Nevertheless, some people, who equate intelligence with speech, think of animals as being dumb. (I challenge you, using only your mouth and saliva, to build a nest designed to hold your weight.) Many think of animals as non-sentient. Speech, however, is only one aspect of intelligence.
As a point of departure, I recommend watching a short video of Kwibe, one of many captive gorillas, rescued by The Aspinall Foundation based in Howertt’s Wild Animal Park, Canterbury, England. At five years of age, Kwibe was re-homed in Gabon, Africa.
At the time of the video, five years have passed since Kwibe has been set free. He has had no human contact. Damian Aspinall, who parented Kwibe at the foundation park, travels to Gabon to see if Kwibe has made a successful transition to his natural habitat.
Despite the five-year interval, Kwibe recognizes Damian. Face-to-face Aspinall and Kwibe look into one another’s eyes and in Damian’s words, “We sat there drunk on each other.” At one point, Kwibe reaches out and clutches (not to be confused with “crushes”) Damian. It is the clutch of a drowning person. It is the embrace of a toddler who has lost then found his parent in Wal-Mart.
I am moved by Kwibe’s memory and emotional intelligence. Watch the video. What do you see? http://www.aspenallfoundation.org/conservation/conservation/overseas-consersation-work/congo-gabon.
If you are a movie fan, you know Roger Ebert. A 46-year film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, he reviewed movies with intelligence and humor. His reviews were never mean-spirited… never snide.Following a 2002 diagnosis involving cancer of the thyroid, salivary glands and chin, Roger Ebert died April fourth. By 2006, Ebert had lost part of his jaw which left him unable to speak or eat. Imagine! Count the years. Walk a few paces in his shoes.
I guess, given his lack of speech, you could say that Roger Ebert was also “dumb.”
Hardly! Despite his illness, Ebert continued to review movies. He wrote his last blog two days before his death. In that blog, he wrote of his fractured hip and taking “A Leave of Presence” to undergo radiation for reoccurring cancer.
Terry Gross remembered Roger Ebert with live and archived interviews. Gene Siskel, Ebert’s TV co-host on “Sneak Previews and “At the Movies,” was featured as were a number of others. One archived tape was a September, 2011 interview with John Powers. In that interview, Powers said that Ebert’s writing was better than ever: “It’s the best writing he’s ever done, and it is all the more impressive because life dealt him a hard blow with a disease that kept him from eating, drinking, or talking… three things he obviously loved.”
On one level, you stand mute and open-mouthed admiring Ebert’s fortitude. Notching your admiration up another level, your jaw drops: how did Ebert move beyond surviving to thriving?
If you are a movie fan, catch the Fresh Air retrospective of Roger Ebert’s career featuring movie soundbites and archived interviews of Ebert chatting with Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, and Marlon Brando. http://www.wbur.org/npr/176339792/roger-ebert-in-review-a-fresh-air-survey.
I close with Ebert’s concluding thoughts expressed in his 2011 autobiography, “Life Itself”: I believe that if at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts.”
Watching Kwibe embrace Damian Aspinall made me happy. Reading of Ebert’s resolve to be happy made me happy. Here’s hoping that emotional intelligence rules our days.