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Read Letter

Forgiveness Heals

Dear Jack,

I am not ordinarily interested in wild nature or safari but for some reason I tuned to Animal Planet on Saturday. And my wife and I became riveted by the narrative of the rehabilitation of a chimpanzee named Charley into the wild. Charley had the scars of life all over his face. His face was marred and sad. He had been rescued from man’s cruelty. I actually thought he was a baboon until my wife corrected me. They all look the same to me! Baboons are different from chimpanzees apparently. And not just because they have red butts. (Baboon is derived from Middle French “baboue”. It means grimace. This probably explains my attitude! :))

Charley is a very gentlemanly chimpanzee, not one given to brutality or other animalistic tendencies. In other words, Charley should never have been born a chimpanzee. He was made for civilised society. For reasons I’ll soon make apparent Charley always made for the electric fence. He suffered repeated shocks as a result. Had the fence been rigged with lethal voltage Charley would have died several times over. Chimpanzees are supposed to learn from painful experiences but not Charley. He went repeatedly for that fence.

In one particularly unpleasant episode of going for the fence Charley was strung on the wires. Like a spider’s victim caught on silk ropes, the more Charley struggled the more entangled he became. Only God knows how many volts coursed through his veins in the three minutes before the game keepers switched off the mains. It was a painful thing to watch. He was literally roasting on the wires in acute anguish. And the question kept troubling my mind, why-was-he-always-going-for-the-fence?! Whatever he was running from was more traumatic than the jolts from the fence. He had decided he’ll rather die trying to escape than remain in the game park. Desire for freedom and emancipation can be that strong. Charley had counted his cost.

A minute after Charley was disentangled from the fence it became apparent why he was so desperate for freedom. As he fell to the ground, the other chimps (four in number) descended on Charley. In his weakened state he became an even fairer game. They beat, pumelled, bit and tore into him, wickedly. So vicious was the attack that the game keepers began to fire shots into the air to give him temporary respite. Then they sought to lure the bullying chimpanzees away with food. The game keepers were beyond the fence. They were most frantic. The food lure and the threats of violence finally worked. Else Charley would have been murdered. Seeing Charley wail was so heart wrenching. Chimps are so human in pain and suffering.

The fence voltage was switched off. A game keeper crawled under the wires and dragged Charley out. Before that could happen though he was sedated with a tranquilising dart shot into his back. Now you understand why Charley would rather die making for the fence than stay behind the fence. Mind you this game reserve in South Africa was huge. Yet four baboons made the enclosure very small for Charley. The question my wife kept asking was, why did they turn on Charley? Why indeed?!

And how very much like chimpanzees humans behave. We turn on people and gang up on innocents. We bite with sarcasm, rend with the violence of words, slash with hatred, greedily gorge on entrails of slander. Those with superior or unique graces we seek to destroy even when those graces are for our benefit. Envy and malice characterise us. We even feign to defend the reputation of God with malice. How can evil be holy?! We cast stones at those caught in flagrante delicto yet we’re in flagrante collecto. Our pile of stones reflects the pile of our secret sins. When we throw stones we are only projecting. Those most versatile with stone haulage and projectiles are usually the biggest sinners. We behave like the chimpanzee community going after the weak and wounded. We revel in the misfortune of others. We have turned life into a zoological enclave of ravaging baboons and chimpanzees. Baboons ‘R’ Us! We forget that when we lose the attribute of compassion, we lose all that makes us human.

Charley needed surgical intervention after rescue. He had a long gash on his back. His nipples were torn off. One finger was almost severed. His mouth was bloodied. So vicious was this attack. Even the game keepers were traumatised. And so the chimpanzee rescued from human cruelty suffered another round of cruelty from the brotherhood. And I saw life. A game keeper said something poignant. He said Charley was physically and psychologically battered. That he had to forgive the humans for what they did to him and then has to get over the attack of his brethren. Even chimpanzees are required to forgive in order to be healed. Forgiveness is always for our sake. Forgiveness is the salve of a wounded and injured soul.

The peculiarity of the organic physiology of the soul requires the compound of forgiveness for healing to commence. The wound will remain fresh without forgiveness. Forgiveness heals us from the inside on the inside.

Forgiveness puts us on a superior pedestal, high over our abusers. It is a moral high ground. It’s the only way to overcome. It’s a place of strength, a place of power, a place of freedom.

Forgiveness is a stepping stone, the stepping stone into a future without shackles, manacles and barnacles. It took three months for Charley to recuperate physically but it took much longer for him to overcome the trauma.

Sometimes life chooses to process us through extreme difficulties. We call them trials. Trials build character in us. Trials mature us, teach us patience. Trials make us strong, and wise. Trials correct us, refine us. Charley was sent to another sanctuary. He found love in that sanctuary.

Love will eventually find you. It may take some time but love will find you. I wish you love, both now and always.

Your mentor, LA.


©Leke Alder 2013



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