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Please note, you can access all previous explanatory and inspirational WTM Emails at the end of this email. Wednesday’s explanatory emails and Friday’s inspirational emails are numbered in order of appearance, so one is odd and the other even numbered.

 

This is inspirational WTM Email 12

 

Bonobos, and what these primates teach us about our own evolutionary history

 

Until biologist Jeremy Griffith found the clarifying, redeeming and rehabilitating explanation for why we humans became competitive, selfish and aggressive in fact, so ruthlessly competitive, selfish and brutal that human life has become all but unbearable and we have nearly destroyed our own planet we couldn’t afford to acknowledge the truth that our species’ once lived cooperatively and lovingly.

 

Bonobos in the wild

Clockwise from top: Frans Lanting/Getty Images; © Frans Lanting; Planckendael Wildlife Park

Bonobos in the wild

 

It is only now, with the redeeming explanation of the human condition that we can admit without shame that our distant primate ancestors lived in a pre-human-condition-afflicted, innocent, loving, peaceful state and that bonobos, the endangered variety of chimpanzee living south of the Congo river, provide a truly astonishing, living example of what those ancestors were like.

 

To give you some feel for the extraordinary nature of bonobos, we have compiled a selection of amazing observations and images that appear in Jeremy’s book FREEDOM. The first observation comes from filmmakers on the set of the beautifully-filmed 2011 French documentary, Bonobos:

 

They’re surely the most fascinating animals on the planet. They’re the closest animals to man. They’re the only animals capable of creating the same “gaze” as a human. When you look at a bonobo you’re taken aback because you can see behind the eyes it’s not just curiosity, it’s understanding. We see human beings in the eyes of the bonobo.”

 

and:

 

Once I got hit on the head with a branch that had a bonobo on it. I sat down and the bonobo noticed I was in a difficult situation and came and took me by the hand and moved my hair back, like they do. So they live on compassion, and that’s really interesting to experience.’’ (Footage can be viewed here but please note the narration is in French)

 

The bonobo Kanzi’s human-like gaze

Photograph by Finlay MacKay for TIME

The bonobo Kanzi’s human-like gaze

 

Yes, as the bonobo caretaker Barbara Bell has said:

 

Adult bonobos demonstrate tremendous compassion for each other…For example, Kitty, the eldest female, is completely blind and hard of hearing. Sometimes she gets lost and confused. They’ll just pick her up and take her to where she needs to go.”

 

and:

 

They’re extremely intelligent… They understand a couple of hundred words… It’s like being with 9 two and a half year olds all day’ and ‘They also love to tease me a lot… Like during training, if I were to ask for their left foot, they’ll give me their right, and laugh and laugh and laugh.” (Chicago Tribune, 11 June 1998)

 

Researchers have also reported that,

 

Up to 100 bonobos at a time from several groups spend their night together. That would not be possible with chimpanzees because there would be brutal fighting between rival groups.” (Paul Raffaele, ‘Bonobos: The apes who make love, not war’, Last Tribes on Earth, 2003; see <www.wtmsources.com/143>)

 

A group of bonobos at the Lola Ya Bonobo Sanctuary, Congo

© Fiona Rogers / shahrogersphotography.com

A group of bonobos at the Lola Ya Bonobo Sanctuary, Congo

 

The bonobos’ unlimited capacity for love is also tangible in this truly amazing first-hand account from researcher Vanessa Woods:

 

Bonobo love is like a laser beam. They stop. They stare at you as though they have been waiting their whole lives for you to walk into their jungle. And then they love you with such helpless abandon that you love them back. You have to love them back.” (Vanessa Woods, ‘A moment that changed me – my husband fell in love with a bonobo’, The Guardian, 1 Oct. 2015)

 

Significantly, unlike other primate societies, bonobo society is matriarchal and focused on the nurturing of their infants:

 

Bonobo life is centered around the offspring. Unlike what happens among chimpanzees, all members of the bonobo social group help with infant care and share food with infants. If you are a bonobo infant, you can do no wrong… Bonobo females and their infants form the core of the group.” (Dr Sue Savage-Rumbaugh & writer Roger Lewin, Kanzi: The Ape at the Brink of the Human Mind, 1994)

 

Bonobos nurturing their infants

Bonobos nurturing their infants

(Frans Lanting/Mint /images/Getty Images; San Diego Zoo (bottom right))

 

You can watch some exquisite footage of the nurtured peace in bonobo society that was filmed during Jeremy Griffith’s 2014 visit with Professor Harry Prosen to the bonobos at the Milwaukee County Zoo.

 

Finally, the following picture indicates just how physiologically similar our species are, comparing as it does the skeleton of our early australopithecine ancestor (who lived between 3.9 and 3 million years ago) with the skeleton of a bonobo.

 

 

Left side: Bonobo skeleton. Right side: Early australopithecine.

Left side: Bonobo skeleton. Right side: Early australopithecine.

(Drawing by Adrienne L. Zihlman, New Scientist, 1984)

 

These amazing descriptions provide powerful insights into not just how aware, cooperative and loving bonobos are they provide an extraordinary portal into what life was like for our primate ancestors. We can only hope that with the human condition now solved, this most special species can be properly recognised and its extinction prevented.

 

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Read Jeremy Griffith’s breakthrough redeeming explanation of the human condition in chapter 1 of FREEDOM, and confirmations of the truth of our species’ cooperative past in chapters 2:5 to 2:7. Jeremy also writes at length about the loving and nurturing nature of bonobos, and how they evidence our species’ cooperative past, in chapter 5 of FREEDOM, ‘The Origin of Humans’ Unconditionally Selfless, Altruistic, Moral Instinctive Self or Soul’.

 

Discussion or comment on this email is welcomed see below.

 

 

See all previous WTM Emails

 

(Note, Wednesday’s explanatory emails and Friday’s inspirational emails are numbered in order of appearance, so one is odd and the other even numbered.)

 

Wednesday’s explanatory WTM Email 1 Why solving the human condition solves everything | 3 The false ‘savage instincts’ excuse | 5 The explanation of the human condition | 7 The transformation of the human race | 9 The historic fear of the human condition | 11 Ending the stalled state of biology

 

Friday’s inspirational WTM Email 2 WTM Centres opening everywhere | 4 Can conflict ever end? | 6 ‘This is the real liberation of women’ | 8 Is God real? | 10 Anne Frank’s faith in human goodness fulfilled

 

These emails were composed during 2017 by Jeremy Griffith, Damon Isherwood,
Fiona Cullen-Ward & Brony FitzGerald at the Sydney WTM Centre.

 

LEAVE A COMMENT





Please note, we encourage constructive discussion about this information and so reserve the right to moderate or decline posts that we feel are not relevant or inappropriate. In particular, with the subject of the human condition being so confronting, malice can easily occur, and where comments are deemed to be motivated not by objectivity but by malice, they will be declined. It has to be appreciated that the possibility of malice toward this subject matter is very real, and we have a responsibility to manage that as best we can.

9 Comments

  1. Matt on August 9, 2017 at 11:41 am

    And I have just re-read the email about Anne Frank, and how she believed in the essential goodness of everybody, despite how they were acting, and in my mind I am joining the dots between what she believed, and this idea that we evolved from loving creatures like bonobos and it fits. It fits very well! Keep it all coming please.

  2. Matt on August 9, 2017 at 11:39 am

    Chimpanzees I know, but I had not been aware of these little guys at all. Amazing. And thanks for the reference PaulM, what a compelling piece of evidence for Mr Griffith’s theory.

  3. Frank B on February 20, 2017 at 7:05 pm

    Oh boy do I love hearing this paragraph!
    “Bonobo love is like a laser beam. They stop. They stare at you as though they have been waiting their whole lives for you to walk into their jungle. And then they love you with such helpless abandon that you love them back. You have to love them back.”

  4. paulM on February 19, 2017 at 9:18 am

    Thank you for the email WTM. It inspired me to read the chapter (5:13) in FREEDOM about Jeremy Griffith’s time at the Milwaukee Zoo and his observations about their troupe of bonobos. The following paragraph (460), is, I think, an extremely sensitive analysis of the bonobos, and worth sharing:
    “With all other highly social species that I have observed, such as meerkats, I have had the feeling that their groups are still more a collection of individuals, but that wasn’t the case with the bonobos. With them it was as though they were all part of one organism, all deeply aware of and in tune with each other. While there were outbursts of anxiety and occasional tensions and even fights amongst them—because bonobos haven’t as yet completed the love-indoctrination process that enables the fully cooperative, utterly harmonious, completely integrated state to develop—there was a high degree of harmony in the group; to such an extent, in fact, that there was an overall togetherness, a real peacefulness and tranquility, a unity, a security, an each-knew-all-about-and-trusted-and-supported-and-loved-everyone-else-feeling between them. It was like they took each other for granted, just as we take our arms or legs or ears for granted because they are simply part of our whole being. It was like they all felt they belonged and were part of something bigger; it wasn’t like they had to trust that this was the case, it was that they knew it was the case. As is very apparent in some of the marvellous footage WTM Founding Member James Press took of the bonobos for inclusion in Harry’s video introduction to this book that appears on this book’s website (see ), when one of them looked at you with the extraordinary awareness and thoughtfulness that their facial expression exhibits, it was as though that individual was fully connected by an invisible cable or link to all the other members of their group behind them and around them; that at that moment they were the looking-out-at-the-world component of the whole group. Yes, they all moved about together like one big roly-poly organism that would suddenly materialise in front of you, and then, just as suddenly, vanish all together into another corner of their enclosure. I derived a deep, calming, reassuring, and even happy, life-as-it-should-be, feeling from being with them, which was quite amazing. To use some of the extraordinarily honest words from Sir Laurens van der Post that were included in par. 186, I felt part of a time when ‘All on earth and in the universe were still members and family of the early race seeking comfort and warmth through the long, cold night before the dawning of individual consciousness in a togetherness which still gnaws like an unappeasable homesickness at the base of the human heart.’”

  5. nomad on February 18, 2017 at 9:19 am

    Richard, their loving nature has been so confronting for us upset humans that they have actually been called ‘the forgotten ape’! Recently though, to some extent they have become the darlings of the left wing, but their true significance, which, as jthomas says, is that they shed light on our nurturing origins and loving heritage, remains overlooked. Chapter 5:7 of FREEDOM is good on this topic.

  6. richard on February 18, 2017 at 9:05 am

    Why have I never heard about these guys before?

  7. jthomas on February 18, 2017 at 1:57 am

    It would have truly been a tragedy if bonobos had been extinct. But being able to see them in action really does confirm the love-indoctrination process, and challenge one’s view of “evolution”.

  8. Michael on February 17, 2017 at 10:12 pm

    I always find the primates particularly fascinating when I visit the zoo with my grandchildren. I have not seen bonobos in the flesh but they are no doubt extraordinary. The pictures showing their nurturing ability are really something. I hope my grandchildren have a world with bonobos and a world built on understanding of our human condition. Thank you

  9. nomad on February 17, 2017 at 4:27 pm

    What an amazing animal the bonobo is! And what an incredible insight into our own past.