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04 February 2013

b is for bonobos

"Isabel Behncke: Evolution's gift of play, from bonobo apes to humans"

The transcript of this video can be seen at the TEDtalk website.
It's available in 29 languages.
I recommend watching the video; a picture is worth a thousand words, and all.
It's also quite funny.

I recently said this about apes: "Apes are the thinkers of the primates; they use tools and seem capable of learning language (personally, I would argue that the great apes do, in fact, use language - maybe better than some humans I know - but that's a hotly debated topic). They have complicated social systems and emotions. They hunt, make war, practice altruism, heal each other, they experience joy and grief. They are the thinkers, and the feelers; great apes are the nearest of our kin. Though each species of ape has a different story to tell, a different lesson to teach, it's likely that the lesson will be related somehow to those truths. Their theme is social cognition: how do we think about our interactions? How do we act on our feelings? How do we process emotions and empathy?"

This holds true for Bonobos; they are a species of chimpanzee, which is a genus of ape. They are great apes, like us. And their lesson is: play. 

Play  in the Bonobo lesson is a means to empathy, and a means to community and personal happiness, regardless of the form it takes. But more to the point: play is a way of taking oneself and ones sexuality less seriously. It's as though they're telling us not to be such puritans; quit worrying about societal fears and just have fun with your playmates. Enjoy yourselves - that's what creates happiness and builds strong relationships. If you can't play together, somehow... well, that's not healthy.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my goodness! I love bonobos, they are our most peaceful relatives and so lovely :)

    I took an evolutionary anthropology class that discussed how humans are more violent like chimps but strive to be more peaceful like bonobos. Obviously it was a lot more complex, but I don't think I'll forget that class!