A number of years ago, at a zoo in England, a young boy climbed up onto the railing above the gorilla pit. I have no idea if he was recklessly showing off or just wished to see better. Either way, he slipped and fell twenty feet, landing in an unconscious heap on the compacted pit floor. Those clutching the railings above looked down in horror, someone yelled out for help but there were no zoo staff nearby. The gorillas, who had been passing the time of day lounging on the rocks were suddenly fully awake–on mass they got to their feet and moved towards the prone child. The crowd above could do nothing. When the gorillas were about six feet from the boy they stopped, formed a circle and turned in unison so that they were facing outwards like centurion guards. Their leader, a fierce looking large male, then squatted down next to the child and with extraordinary gentleness reached out with the back of a forefinger and stroked the boys cheek.
Later, the watchers described the strange tableaux and remarked that it felt as if time were standing still. Finally the pit door opened and the zookeeper hurried in. At which point the protective circle of gorillas opened and the big male stepped back allowing the keeper to reach the child, scoop him up and carry him out of the pit.
When I heard the story on the news that evening I started to choke up—not, I admit, so much for the boy (who by then had recovered) but for the lesson in humanity we had been given by a bunch of gorillas.
In London just recently, a young soccer player had a heart attack in the middle of the pitch, the large crowd who up until then had been their normal vociferous selves, instinctively sensed the gravity of the situation and fell silent. Medical staff rushed onto the pitch, and after an eternity the unmoving, stretchered player was carried off. You could see by the look on people’s faces that they feared the worst and both sets of supporters started to chant the players name*. When it came over the loudspeakers that the game had been cancelled, the crowd filed quietly and respectfully out of the stadium. It was as though all thirty thousand people were as one, experiencing the same single emotion—compassion.
We all have it in us to be more compassionate. Occasionally, we need reminding. And that’s why Wasnick, the arch anti-sentimentalist, the YouTube Grinch, am posting the following clip as a reminder to myself and anyone who cares to watch that compassion is infectious.
* Fabrice Muamba technically died, but was revived and has since made an amazing recovery. It would be nice to imagine that his survival was in some small part due to the collective compassion of all the people in the ground that day.
Dice © Nick Bantock – All Rights Reserved
First posted at Nick Bantock’s Blog
Guest Author Bio
Nick was schooled in England and has a BA in Fine Art (painting). He has authored 25 books, 11 of which have appeared on the best seller lists, including 3 books on the New York Times top ten at one time. ‘Griffin and Sabine’ stayed on that list for over two years. His works have been translated into 13 languages and over 5 million have been sold worldwide. Once named by the classic SF magazine Weird Tales as one of the best 85 storytellers of the century. His paintings, drawings, sculptures, collages and prints have been exhibited in shows in UK, France and North America. In 2010 Nick’s major retrospective exhibition opened at the MOA in Denver. His works are in private collections throughout the world. Nick has a lifetime BAFTA (British Oscar) for CD Rom ‘Ceremony of Innocence’, created with Peter Gabriel’s Real World.
Produced artwork for over 300 book covers (including works by Roth and Updike), illustrated Viking Penguin’s new translation of Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tales’.
For 20 years he’s spoken and read to audiences throughout North America, Europe and Australia. He’s also given keynote and motivational speeches to corporations and teachers state conferences.
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Blog / Website: www.nickbantock.com
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