Three wise monkeys

Just realized it’s less than a week to the lunar new year. It’s been my excuse to send Christmas/New Year’s greetings very late but still in a ‘timely’ fashion. I reckon the surprise of getting a card in February, when the holidays have already been  forgotten and the New Year isn’t really all that new any more, makes up for not getting a card during the traditional holiday season, especially when the animal sign is a fun one, like this year’s Monkey. Reminds me of Judy, the chimpanzee (I know chimps aren’t monkeys) of my favourite childhood TV show Daktari. Judy was my idea of the perfect human: smart, funny, whimsical, headstrong, creative, and with a set of eclectic friends (including Clarence, the cross-eyed lion, another favourite), all of whom were, if not from a different planet, of a completely different species – literally! Chimps popped up again recently, when we were reading K. Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves for one of my book clubs. Interesting idea, to bring up your children with a chimpanzee as a sibling. Not an experiment I would have tried on my children, but interesting to see how children can deal with pretty much any reality, human or not, that’s thrown at them, and run with it. And to see just how similar humans and chimps are in many ways.

The other thing that pops into my head when I think of monkeys are the “Three Wise Monkeys”, the pictorial maxim of “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”. This has always confused me. I get the “speak no evil”, but why would it be better to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear on evil? But maybe it’s a misinterpretation (mine) and in a broader sense it means we should not be impressed or discouraged by people doing or saying bad things. An appeal to maintain a positive, open-minded attitude even in the face of “evil”? Maybe a good motto for the Monkey year ahead? Yes, I think I like that. I also very much like the original 17th-century carving of the “Three Wise Monkeys” at the Toushou-guu temple in Nikkou, Japan. It’s one of the pieces of art that exceed your expectations (other than, say, the Mona Lisa) and surprises you again and again by its whimsy and artistic expression.
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