What Gorilla Nipples Have to Teach us About Consciousness

Yeah, another one of these, but I’ll keep it brief as I can.

If you’re reading this, then you’re on the internet; and if you’re on the internet, that probably means you can find a clip of two gorillas in a zoo enclosure hanging out together for the pleasure of onlookers. In this particular video, the gorillas are sitting there, minding their own business, chewing on stuff, when one of them suddenly reaches over and tweaks the other’s nipples. The assaulted gorilla briefly snarls, baring his teeth, and smacks the other gorilla’s hands away.

Then, the most beautiful thing happened: they started laughing hysterically.

These two massive, primitive jungle beasts were slapping their knees, laughing maniacally at the joke one had just played on the other. For one thing, obviously, it’s hilarious. Nipple jokes, stuff about butts, or pranks about peens will and should always be funny. But for another thing, it was- okay, a quick aside:

At the top, this will be a bit weird, but bear with me. We are, all of us, regardless of rank, station, occupation, status, wealth, or otherwise, human. We forget that a LOT of the time, but by and large we all come into this world the same way, and we’ll all leave it the same way too. I used to have a trick to remembering that where I would – God, please, again, bear with me for a moment – collect people’s farts.

And not in some weird way (*nervous laughter*) like in jars or something. It was at a company I worked for, basically an office job, and I started to notice some things. I’d go to the bathroom, be sitting in a stall doin’ business (Christ, I feel like I’ve mentioned bowel movements a lot lately. Sorry everyone.) and someone would walk in to step up to the urinal. I wouldn’t know who it was, but at that point in my life I was a nervous pooper, so I put a pause on my own business until the realm was wholly mine again. But it would be while looking down at the person’s shoes hearing the tinkle they were taking, that usually a heel would leave the ground and I’d hear them toot. Of course then they’d finish up and leave, but I found myself on the hunt the rest of the day trying to identify who it’d been that I’d just heard fart.

They weren’t those on the manufacturing floor, or working store rooms, or other factory folks. They were department heads, executives, Inner Circle types. And it was there in those moments of tooting in the social sanctuary of the men’s room that those barriers dissolved and we were just humans. Humans that both passed gas.

Which brings me back to the gorillas. In the same way that, once you strip away the titles, status, manufactured authority, and whatever else, we’re all just people who fart, the same logic applies to those gorillas. When someone’s nipples get tweaked, it’s funny as hell, and here I’m confronted by the fact that gorillas are the same way. It’s like finding out that the big hard-drinking biker guy standing next to you also really likes Hamilton, and you’re able to bond over that with him. If you’re similar in that way, how many others ways might you be kin?

“There but for the grace of God go I,” is supposed to elicit the humble realization that someone else in an unfortunate circumstance is the same as you, the only dividing factor being luck, basically. You…the conscious awareness behind your eyes, your thoughts…you could have been a gorilla. Could have been a dog, or a locust, or anything, but you wound up as a person. We just…we need to stop thinking we’re all so different. It’s dumb.

I don’t know what consciousness is. None of us really do. It’s somehow, simultaneously, the least understood and most mysterious force we have to observe in this life, while also being the most innate, familiar experience there is to be. It’s just…<groan> be it a gorilla, a songbird, or another person walking down the street, it’s a worthy reminder that we’re all just – for all our accomplishments, complications, and manufactured status – creatures trying to get by in our own jungles.

Anyway, all for now. Peace, y’all.

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