Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Why Does a Monkey Write a Love Song?

So take an ordinary every day situation like say... sitting down and watching TV (or, if you're like me, sitting down and watching Youtube) and then reimagine it with a monkey instead of a person. Or a chimpanzee because they look more human (they're not monkeys but whatever). The monkey isn't acting like a monkey though, they're acting exactly like a human would as if they've been trained and raised by humans to be like humans.

Suddenly that situation is re-examined with new context because the part of it that has agency over that situation - the person - has been changed. It becomes unusual. Absurd. Kinda comical? Because a monkey doesn't need to watch TV. All a monkey really needs to do is acquire food, shelter, and mate. As much as we love monkeys we don't see them as having the same emotional depth or intellectual finesse as we do.

See the point of this exercise is to disconnect from the familiar and re-examine it in an objective context by removing it from the realm of the real, but keep it grounded enough for you to relate to it by having a near human analogue - the monkey. In short: when you replace things with monkeys ordinary situations become strange. It's an exercise in de-familiarization.

Imagine a world run by literal monkeys (none of that "hur hur politicians are like monkeys" nonsense, I mean literally monkeys). A monkey wakes up, put on its tiny monkey shoes, kisses its monkey wife goodbye, and sits in traffic for an hour in a metal box with wheels. Things stop making sense because well... why does a monkey do that? Why doesn't a monkey just get out and go live in a tree?

We hold certain cultural ideas of what we should or should not do. We have traditions. We also have ideas about what is grand, what is amazing, what is deep. We discern between different things as if they have some innate quality despite having no practical value. One piece of art is deep, another is talentless and stupid, and people will disagree continuously. But imagine a monkey sitting in an art gallery looking at art.

Why does a monkey look at art?

Why does a monkey decide it is more important to dress in a suit and tie instead of something comfortable?

Why does a monkey look down on other monkeys for acting differently?

This was all inspired by listening to a love song on the radio. It was deep, it was moving, it had this real heartfelt emotion embedded within the notes within the lyrics as if they very sounds that escaped the singers mouth weren't just words but feelings being transmitted through the air. Then I imagined a monkey sitting in a darkly lit room plucking chords trying to find just the right one to express how it felt and suddenly it was... different. Why does a monkey write a love song? Sure, it wants to mate, but what exactly is it about an acoustic guitar that somehow makes that emotion worth more? As if making it lyrical made it any more important than just outright simple basic "I love you. I want to be with you and it hurts when I'm alone and I think of you." Introducing the monkey removes this human concept of "depth" and strips away any meaning that has artificially been imbued upon that situation due to personal opinion or experience.

I'm not saying we should all re-examine our entire lives and realise some inherent lack of meaning or purpose... because we're not monkeys. That's silly. But it's just fascinating as a thought experiment to look at things through the lens that they're just staged events and the actors are all monkeys. It might be helpful to you somehow. You could be really upset at something and think "why does a monkey get offended at X?" and upon examination realise it isn't important and feel better. Alternatively you might be able to justify it outside of personal in which case you have constructively approached a situation and gone away understanding it better. Or maybe it's just fun to think of Monkeys doing human things...

At any rate it offers you a new perspective on things...

But then again... why does a monkey read a blog post?

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