Monday, January 22, 2018
“Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.” — Charles Dickens
I have always considered myself to be a man of peace, almost as calm as a Quaker pacifist. One of the stages of grief is anger—but not for me. How could I be angry at God for giving me such a wonderful woman for over fifty years? How could I be angry when He allowed her to die in all the ways she wanted: at home, in Africa, painless, quick, surrounded by those she loved? How could I be angry at Karen when she was living and working in daily pain? Again, only grateful to God and grateful that she was so strong right up to the end. However, somewhere, lurking beneath the surface of my calm exterior, there is a volcano of violence waiting to erupt. Read on.
When I was in junior high school, I got talked into training as a boxer. At first, I really liked it, and it was an excellent outlet for my dormant anger. I was pretty good, too, winning the first seven of my bouts. Then, in the eighth match, my opponent landed a knockout blow to my neck, and I saw stars just like in the cartoons. Thus ended my career as a boxer, and I never again hit anyone out of anger. However, that statement does not cover all primates. I was reminded the other day while watching a nature show on the National Geographic Channel that I was once guilty of primate violence. Shaban and I were on a safari in two cars through the Serengeti on our way to Arusha, and the second car full of folks wanted to go down into the Ngorongoro Crater, but I had been there several times before (as had Shaban), so we opted to stay up near the exit and to wait for the other car to return several hours later. We found a shady spot, pulled up, turned off the engine, and began to rest and wait. It was hot, but Shaban began to roll his window up. I thought that was quite silly as I began to roll my window down. It didn’t take long to figure out that Shaban had what we call “local knowledge” as an adolescent male baboon jumped up on our car and came in my window. Without even thinking for an instant, I punched him hard on the nose and knocked him back out of the car, rapidly rolling up my window. It startled the baboon, Shaban, and me (and hurt my hand). Then, I began to worry that a game ranger may have seen me and that I might have to pay a fine or worse for “baboon brutality.” We worried for a while, but no one ever said anything and had Shaban not been there, no one would have ever known, but he thought it was a story worth telling and retelling time after time. Mention the word “baboon” to him and he will be quick to tell you the story once again. So, now, even you know that I am not the man of peace I claim to be. Apparently, I have an internal mechanism that will make me punch baboons if under attack. As someone who suffers from high blood pressure, I need to remain calm all the time. I only mention this because sometimes, when we go the Serengeti Stop Over for lunch, we do encounter curious or hungry baboons. Don’t be surprised if you hear of my having a stroke as a result of a baboon/bishop dust up. I really am a man of peace, except in those rare occasions when a teenage baboon jumps in my face. What can I say, for as Desmond Morris wrote, I am just a “naked ape” after all. As for you, stay calm, relax, and let God deal with all the “baboons” in your life. You will be much safer relying on God than trying to punch all the baboons that bother you. After all, He made the baboons, too. Sorry, Lord, don’t know what came over me, but it won’t happen again, honest.