21 July 2008

Letter 2.43

Yes, creativity is important to me -- which is one of my reasons for meditating, since meditation is a creative art using the 'artist' himself as the medium. But it is a very difficult art form.Right now the monkeys have just finished eating the remains of my breakfast, and about half a dozen of them are perched on my new stone walls -- one looking over my shoulder, several on the floor -- in the hope that there might still be a stray banana peel (which there ain't). Now, with the stone walls (about 2-2,5 feet high), a new sand-and-mud floor, and a wall portion made of large green bamboos vertically placed, the room looks clean and right -- at last. There are still things to be done (e.g. construction of a cistern to store rainwater, cementing over the mud which was used between the stones, etc.) -- I suppose there always will be something more that could be done -- but it can not be done too.
The monkeys have gone away now and I can see them jumping from tree to tree. One of the females gave birth last night and showed up this morning with her baby, the umbilical cord still attached to the baby. It is quite an education -- and now always a genteel one -- to observe the monkeys. By now I can recognize them as individuals. Some of them have distinct personalities. The Big Chief, for instance, is fearless and sits himself down in front of me at feeding time with a grunt, expecting at least half of everything going as his natural right. His queen (who is, in my opinion, the ugliest monkey in the troop) reminds me of Snow White's stepmother. Some are bold, some afraid, some friendly (one of them lets me pet him), some gentle, some aloof, some unsure of themselves, etc. There is a very definite power structure in their society. One small monkey will climb up onto my lap and pry open my fist to get at the piece of bread; but when the Big Chief is around he won't even pick up food when I throw it at his feet. (Whether he is simply a 'good subject' or whether he's particularly afraid of the top brass I haven't yet learned. Certain monkeys tend to hang out together, forming sub-clans within the larger community. They have definite sounds for warnings, etc. Arguments -- almost always over food-are settled by force (backbiting) only when there is no doubt who will win; otherwise there is a fairly elaborate series of sounds and gestures conveying anger, threat, conciliation, etc., which they will go through, coming to blows (or, rather, teeth) only in a rare last resort. Even then, no quarrel ever takes more than a few seconds to decide and only a few more seconds to be forgotten (though perhaps the overtones linger longer, creating the social structure and changing it, constantly needing to be renewed and the balance of power reweighed).

I've also been observing the butterflies (of which there are numerous varieties hereabouts) and find that they seem to have a primitive social structure too, and seem to be surprisingly aggressive for such beautiful and flimsy appearing creatures. Lightning bugs, on the other hand, seem to get along with each other without difficulties.

So much for nature studies. (Says the creeper to the vine.)

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