Wild Chimpanzees

One of the highlights of last week was catching the movie, Jane, about the life of Jane Goodall, who spent her lifetime studying wild chimpanzees in what today is Tanzania.  The movie was put together from more than a hundred hours of camera footage rediscovered in the National Geographic archives.  The cinematography was so beautiful that you felt you were there, in the deep jungle, just without scorpions and poisonous snakes underfoot!

Jane had no scientific degree or background for her study other than a passion for understanding chimpanzees and experiencing them first hand.  She was funded for the study partly because she would be able to approach her subject without preconceived ideas and with “fresh eyes.”  Jane’s passion to be accepted into the world of the chimpanzees took dedication, fearlessness, and patience few would have.  It was, in fact, a labor of love.  Labors of love take all of those things.

An interesting part of the film was how seeing both the nurturing and the cruelty of the chimpanzees.  One memorable scene was of a young chimpanzee who lost his mother and companion and revisited her remains over and over.   The young chimp fell into isolation and failed to survive–the emotions of love and grief not so unlike our experience as humans.  Then there was the shock of the chimpanzees becoming territorial at one point and engaging in fierce guerilla warfare against each other—not so unlike our experience as humans. There were also ingredients of playfulness, tool making, and problem solving, that connect our species.

The passion to understand wild chimpanzees began at an early age and affected who Jane became.  It took her back to school at Cambridge to earn a doctorate in ethology.  It had a part in the course of her marriage.  It informed her own parenting.  Jane knew at an early age what her passion was, and her life grew around it.  Some discover their passion early but may only be able to pursue it later in life.  The important thing is to begin the journey.  What are your “wild chimpanzees”?  Where could they lead you?