Jane Goodall, Moms, and Reason for Hope


Fiercely Interdependent
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In a farmhouse, on a farm. With goats.
Yesterday was International Women's Day, and last night, my fiance and I along with thousands of others had the privilege of seeing/hearing Jane Goodall speak at one of the universities here. A-May-Zing!! to say the least.

Here is a woman who at age one and a half, took earthworms up to bed with her. And her mother, rather than rebuking her with, "Jane!! Earthworms in bed??! Now, now, no, no, no!" responded with, "Jane. If you take the earthworms to bed with you, they won't be able to live." And then little Jane Goodall and her mom took those drying earthworms outside, put them back in the earth.

At age five, Jane Goodall wanted to see a hen lay an egg, because she just couldn't figure out how the hens got those things out of their bodies. She didn't see a large (relative to a hen's body size) egg-shaped hole anywhere. So after some elaborate scheming and a couple of failed attempts, five year-old Jane Goodall sat in a wooden pen designed for a hen to lay eggs in. She waited and waited and waited for a hen, and finally a hen came in, making those boisterous hen sounds that mean, "Oh my Gawd, y'all!! I have just got to lay this egg. Oh, oh, oh!! I mean... damn!!" Fortunately for young impressionable Jane Goodall, she did not yet speak hen, so her virgin ears were not corrupted by the mild profanities.

Jane hunkered down in the pen, pressed into straw, and watched a hen lay an egg for the first time in her life. Mystery upon mystery. I imagine her wide, intelligent eyes, curious and questioning, awed.

Meanwhile, Jane's parents and everyone were freakin' out. No one had seen Jane in hours. The police had been called. Informal search parties had been sent out.

And then here comes Jane, running, running, running, exuberant and full of the secrets of hens, streaming straw and hen smells, running, running, running towards her mama.

And again mom, instead of being all, "JANE GOODALL!!!!! Where have you been?!! Your father and I have been worried sick!!"--instead of this tight-gripped parenting tactic, Jane's soft, compassionate mama sat down with her in the dirt on that farm and listened to her daughter tell her about the amazing secret of nature she had just seen unfold.

So I have heard from Jane Goodall. And it continues. Later in life, Jane wasn't able to go to a university, because her family was poor, but she really, really, really wanted to live with and study animals in Africa. So she worked as a secretary and she worked serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner to people at a hotel, and she saved some money until she had enough cash to buy a one-way boat ticket to the "Dark Continent," as the imperialists had designated Africa, to hang out and work with a friend who was already there. She was 23 years old.

Soon Jane met a man named Louis Leaky, who was a true professional "doctor" in the fields of anthropology and palentology. He wanted to send Jane out in the bush to watch chimpanzees, and Jane--well, Jane Goodall was ecstatic about this. But again money was an issue. She looked around at her options and was able to procure some funds from a benefactor. But the British Protectorate didn't want a fragile, fertile young woman like Jane Goodall to go out in the African bush all alone. No, no, no. So there Jane had another problem.

And so Jane's mom went out into the bush with her for four months.

I mean, damn. My mom won't even go camping.

After her mom left, Jane got the breakthrough observation she was looking for. For the longest time, the chimpanzees wouldn't even let her get close. She wasn't able to observe much behavior because of that, as you can imagine. But one day after her mom had left, Jane watched a chimpanzee whom she had named "David Greybeard" (I think I am remembering his name correctly) start stripping leaves, then use them as tools.

This challenged the very definition of the word "humanity," for up to that point, one of the defining features we had for ourselves as humans was that we were the only species to use tools. "Man the tool maker," we called ourselves. Or something to that effect.

Jane Goodall has continued to observe chimpanzees for many, many years--40+, I believe. Now she is mostly a public speaker, traveling 300 days of the year to give speaking engagements like the one we were privileged to be at last night.

Her anthropological observations began without even a college degree and have gone on to challenge and redefine basic assumptions about humans and our place, our uniqueness in the world. Beyond the tool-making, she has observed culture, emotions, and learned behavior in chimpanzees. Culture was a shock to the system. And I mean system: establishment. Humans had defined themselves not only as the only tool-makers, but also the only species with a social culture. Emotions in animals was also a radical idea for the system to accept, despite the fact that any idiot with a dog could tell you:

"Yeah, Milo there, he's got some feelings on him, fer sure, man. He gets pissed off and tries to eat his leg, heh heh. And then he craps inside when he's mad at us. Damn dog. And lordie you should see how jealous ol' Milo gets when we are eatin' at the table and he don't got no food.​
"I love that dog."​
This woman is an inspiration. She is way cool. She is an Ambassador of Peace for the United Nations, for god's sake. I mean, how cool is that? I wish I could go to parties and when people asked me what I did, I could say, "Oh you know, I work in a bookstore, take care of my animals, write, draw, play music, and I'm an Ambassador of Peace." What a cool freakin' title. Jane will tell you, though, it's not a title or an honor, but a responsibility.

She takes that responsibility seriously, for sure, and also treats it with joy. She and her friends have this program going on called Roots & Shoots, aimed at empowering kids to act for change. One of the fun things they do is that there's this one day of the year where all these kids fly these big white doves that they've made out of sheets and stuff. All over the world. Even on top of Mt. flippin' Kilimanjaro.

How cool is that?

Jane Goodall. Now there's a beauty. Her mom, too.
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Awesome....a story repeated often...that behind every great person we know there was someone...a Mom, a mentor, a teacher, a wife, someone that supported them and helped nurture the wonderful person that they are.

The teacher...the story of Helen Keller's teacher...all of these really touch me. And tell us what our role in life is...to support each other.

Aman Motwani says that every encounter we have with any individual...when we separate, we've either built them up a little, or tore them down a notch.

Let's build each other up!

thanx for the thread!
Hi Pathless :)

I'm "on the road" at the moment, visiting family and just taking a small break in general so's I can keep the engine cool and help alleviate some of the traffic jam problems. ;) But I just had to come by here and tell you how much I enjoy your writing. Great article. Glass full, too. Sometimes it really is, isn't it? :)