Contagious Thoughts, Mutating as Needed

by VirusHead

Please Help us Save Our Dog MAYA

If you can, please help us give Maya more time. Our beloved puppygirl accidentally ingested a small amount of a skin cream used to treat human pre-cancerous cells (5-fluorouracil) and is on intensive supportive care. She has a chance to make it but she needs time and lots of help. Please support, if you can, to support our sweet loving Maya. Healing thoughts for her are also welcome. Thank you for either. – See more at:


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by VirusHead


I am sick of it

There’s always it about which one is sick.

Does it even really matter what the content within it might be? It is morphing, moving, ever-changing, like the ubiquitous they.

There is only the acknowledgement of the crossing of the threshold, over into the complete sickness of it, and for a while, we simply quit. Systems shut down. Whatever you can identify as some aspect of yourself – all those endless bleeding heaps of body, mind, soul, consciousness, sense, interpretation, mood, preference, style – all of these fuse in a rare moment of union at the moment when you cross that boundary condition.

Everything, everything says “that’s enough.” We – I – Us – are one! SICK of IT.

Danger, danger! Bad things could happen here. Voices: Run! Snap! Attack! But the best among the limited choices is probably – down! SLEEP!

Sometime later, we recover enough, find that we have regained the ability to navigate around again, through and despite “it.” Wordlessly – without a sound or a thought – we slipped back under that threshold. Or maybe it just backed off to regroup, waiting for another weak, dark (hormonal?) moment.

It is an ever-mutating cluster. To be able to look at the current constellation without despair or anger or fear is difficult, sometimes impossible. This is why we have spiritual heroes – because we think maybe that they can, however flawed they might be otherwise.

You might be able to subtract feelings, but what is the method to transform or add? All these years – all these studies – make me spit in disgust when IT looms. Worth nothing. Meditation, empathy, dreamtime, ritual, positive thought, body position – deflectors, not solutions. Everything seems pointless, meaningless – even hostile, murderous.

  • Where is your it in the spectrum of the people you know, the people you’ve read, the people you’ve heard of?
  • Do you avoid knowing about it?
  • Is there any value in at least registering and recognizing it?

My it might look like small beans to one person, and as an insurmountable mountain of horror to someone else.

All that I can do anymore is either monitor the reality of the hovering it – or else lie, and perform a happy happy dance (but happiness is momentary, not like this recurring, slimy, creepy encroachment always already ready). I understand how people have projected demons. It almost has a presence of its own.

Although the emotional feeling is of something over and against me, it is mine. It can only be mine, the construct of all the current struggles, real or imagined, the ad nauseum repetitions of argument and ignorance and all the things that bring disgust and anger and hopelessness and depression and alienation and – there are too many words for this separation and conflict. Spare me any platitudes about control or self-determination, I beg of you.

  • I slice it with a flaming sword.
  • I blow fire and smoke at it from my dragon’s mouth.
  • I try to charm it, or absorb it.
  • I try to dismiss or ignore it.

How many methods can there be for continuing on despite it? I don’t have the talent or the spiritual maturity or the delusional stance that could accept it. All that really matters to me now is that I keep recovering from the sickness shutdown, that every time I cross the threshold into the infinite sickness of it, that I continue to choose shutdown, not flight or fight or self-destruction. Just isolate, nest, sleep, reboot.

IT will be better in the morning. IT will be better tomorrow. Bits of progress against IT, but then SLAM! backslide! Again, again, hope as a dream of an escaped Sisyphus. And then I look around and pray that there’s something better, in another dimension, up in space. And I understand why people cling to ideas of an afterlife.

IT is IT.

IT never becomes Thou, not ever.

IT will kill you if you turn your back. There is no “between” to construct.

by VirusHead

Truth Be Told – in Atlanta Oct 29th

Gregorio Smith has announced the Atlanta premiere of his controversial documentary film about growing up a Jehovah’s Witness, TRUTH BE TOLD. Due to the recent publicity of several child sex abuse cases against the religion, this film exploring the oppressive hold the Watchtower Society has on its members is particularly timely. TRUTH BE TOLD will be screened exclusively on Tuesday October 29, 2013 at AMC Phipps Plaza 14. Get your tickets now!

TRUTH BE TOLD – a new feature-length documentary – lifts the veil on the seemingly benign Jehovah’s Witnesses religion to expose a profit-driven, isolationist culture characterized by fear, totalitarian corporate leadership, intellectual & spiritual intimidation, suspension of critical thinking, failed prophecies, doctrinal inconsistency and improper handling of physical and sexual abuse allegations within the church.

See former Jehovah’s Witnesses candidly discuss growing up inside the religion. They reveal experiences including the effects of proselytizing door-to-door, shunning non-observant family and friends, suffering the discouragement of pursuing dreams like gaining a higher education, missing other societal holidays and customs. Ultimately the film reveals why Jehovah’s Witnesses have the lowest retention rate of any religion with only 37% of those raised as Jehovah’s Witnesses continuing their affiliation with the religion.

This exposé – the title of which refers to the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ perception that their beliefs are ‘the truth’ – is the first feature-film directed by Gregorio Smith.

Trailers, excerpts, production stills and other content are available on the official TRUTH BE TOLD website:
Direct link to trailer:
TRUTH BE TOLD on Facebook:
About the Filmmaker
Gregorio Smith is an independent filmmaker and writer. His work has been featured in the Staten Island Film Festival, Anthology Film Archive, Dallas Video and Film Festival, Denver Underground Film Festival, Bowery Poetry Club and other forums. His work has also been covered by The New York Times, Boston Globe and other media outlets. He is a graduate of Baruch College and a member of the International Documentary Association.
Mr. Smith was born and raised a Jehovah’s Witness. He describes TRUTH BE TOLD as ‘immersive, informational, expository and controversial …an honest glimpse into the culture of growing up in the Jehovah’s Witness religion.” TRUTH BE TOLD is the director’s sixth film and first feature.

See details and trailer here (

Truth Be Told

by VirusHead

Was it Really That Hard to See?

Marilyn videos…

YouTube Preview Image

Nobody Listened, by Delta Goodrem

I am in one of those dreams
Where you just keep on falling and
No one hears you calling

All that you saw was my smile
But it’s been dark for a while
And the days have gone cold
No more sleep for my soul
Or that’s what I’ve been told

Did you think that things would be ok?
That my life could keep going on this way?
When I cried when I shouted and I screamed and I yelled
And I was mad and I was angry
How come no one could tell?
Say why didn’t you listen to me?
Was it really that hard to see?
Nobody listened

One day I found the creature asleep
I had a secret to keep
And now the whole world knows

And if I did now go
And I know be on show
Unprotected did you know
From it all came the blow

Did you think that things would be ok?
That my life could keep going on this way?
When I cried when I shouted and I screamed and I yelled
And I was mad and I was angry
How come no-one could tell?
I said why didn’t you listen to me?
Was it really that hard to see?
Nobody listened
Nobody listened

Invader took the breath from me
Healer the angel did I see

All that you saw was my smile
But it’s been dark for a while
And the days have gone cold

When I cried when I shouted and I screamed and I yelled
And I was mad and I was angry
How come no-one could tell?
Say why didn’t you listen to me?
Was it really that hard to see?
Nobody listened
Nobody listened

And then I cried and I shouted and I screamed and I yelled
And I was mad and I was angry
How come no’one could tell
Say why didn’t you listen to me?
Was it really that hard to see?
Nobody listened
Nobody listened

Invader took the breath from me
Healer the angel did I see

Invader took my breath away
Healer the angel did I see

It’s not too far to go now
Like a train off the rails here
Cuz nobody listened
Nobody listened (nobody listened)

But they’re listening now…

YouTube Preview Image

Goodbye by Natalie Imbruglia

Everyday’s the same
I feel them merge
I try to separate
Resist the urge

But they tell me, I’ll be fine
That it will all get better
Just try to write it down
Or put it in a letter

But the words won’t play
And there’s no easy way to say
Goodbye, goodbye

Keep my head on straight
And don’t look down
With all I’ve pushed away
I’m losing ground

But they tell me, I’ll be fine
That it will all get better
Just try to write it down
Or put it in a letter

But the words won’t play
‘Cause there’s no easy way to say
Goodbye, goodbye
Goodbye, goodbye

And from the sidelines
Watch me fall down

And I don’t understand the things I do
But I’ll probably be fine
As long as I keep moving
I’ll try to write it down
So things just keep improving

Still the words won’t play
‘Cause there’s no easy way to say
Goodbye, goodbye
Goodbye, goodbye

Goodbye, goodbye
Goodbye, goodbye
Goodbye, goodbye

by VirusHead

Them as You Speak – Hester Site

Once in a while, it’s good to go random, just to see what the cosmos throws at’cha when you ask. Here goes.

Your Debut Album

1 – Go to
The first random Wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.

2 – Go to Random quotations:
The last four words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your first album.

3 – Go to flickr’s “explore the last seven days”
Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

Put it all together, that’s your debut album.

Hester Site - Them as You Speak

Hester Site – Them as You Speak

Possible interpretive data:

Hester Site

The Hester Site was a major campsite used by Middle and Late Paleo-Indian and Early Archaic peoples between 9000 and 7000 B.C. The major activity at this site was the manufacture of chipped stone projectile points and tools for hunting and butchering of wild game. In the Early Archaic Period these site activities continued as stone tools used in wood working and processing of wild plant foods were added to the tool kit. Repeated annual occupations created intact stratified deposits which have proven of great significance in documenting stylistic changes in stone projectile points over time. These tools were the keys to understanding the chronology of Paleo-Indian and Early Archaic cultural periods over a large area of the Southeastern United States. The site has the potential to yield significant information on how and when the Southeast was settled, lithic technologies of the earliest cultures, and the chronology of distinctive tool types.

Hester Prynne is the protagonist of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter. She is portrayed as a woman condemned by her Puritan neighbors. The character has been called “among the first and most important female protagonists in American literature.”

Them as You Speak

To sway an audience, you must watch them as you speak. ~ C. Kent Wright
Language most shews a man: Speak, that I may see thee.~Ben Jonson

Image of Desert Sands, Footprints

Only one set of footprints in the sand, not two. Note: This saccharine poem has always irritated me, but it’s the first thing I think of.

Free association –> solitary path, hermit, marks left behind, history, tracks, simplicity, retreat, danger, beauty, ancient, wandering, projections, spirit journey, the desert of the real, remains, scorpions, heat, vultures, white sage, fire, survival, reflection, stone, hieroglyphics.

Quotes that resonate:

“To the desert go prophets and hermits; through desert go pilgrims and exiles. Here the leaders of the great religions have sought the therapeutic and spiritual values of retreat, not to escape but to find reality.” ~ Paul Shepard, Man in the Landscape: A Historic View of the Esthetics of Nature

“A thousand fantasies / Begin to throng into my memory / Of calling shapes, and beckoning shadows dire, / And airy tongues, that syllable men’s names / On sands, and shores, and desert wildernesses.” ~ John Milton, Comus, A Mask

“Night poured over the desert. It came suddenly, in purple. In the clear air, the stars drilled down out of the sky, reminding any thoughtful watcher that it is in the deserts and high places that religions are generated. When men see nothing but bottomless infinity over their heads they have always had a driving and desperate urge to find someone to put in the way.” ~ Terry Pratchett, Jingo

“I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams…” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

“WIDE, the margin between carte blanche and the white page. Nevertheless it is not in the margin that you can find me, but in the yet whiter one that separates the word-strewn sheet from the transparent, the written page from the one to be written in the infinite space where the eye turns back to the eye, and the hand to the pen, where all we write is erased, even as you write it. For the book imperceptibly takes shape within the book we will never finish. There is my desert.” ~ Edmond Jabès

“Where is my oasis? Too far from
here for me to crawl with these
dead legs, refusing to co-operate
Hands and fingers clawing uselessly
through the grains of sand…”
~ Kiera Woodhull, Chaos of the Mind

“An afternoon drive from Los Angeles will take you up into the high mountains, where eagles circle above the forests and the cold blue lakes, or out over the Mojave Desert, with its weird vegetation and immense vistas. Not very far away are Death Valley, and Yosemite, and Sequoia Forest with its giant trees which were growing long before the Parthenon was built; they are the oldest living things in the world. One should visit such places often, and be conscious, in the midst of the city, of their surrounding presence. For this is the real nature of California and the secret of its fascination; this untamed, undomesticated, aloof, prehistoric landscape which relentlessly reminds the traveller of his human condition and the circumstances of his tenure upon the earth. “You are perfectly welcome,” it tells him, “during your short visit. Everything is at your disposal. Only, I must warn you, if things go wrong, don’t blame me. I accept no responsibility. I am not part of your neurosis. Don’t cry to me for safety. There is no home here. There is no security in your mansions or your fortresses, your family vaults or your banks or your double beds. Understand this fact, and you will be free. Accept it, and you will be happy.” ~ Christopher Isherwood, Exhumations

“Within minutes my 115-mile walk through the desert hills becomes a thing apart, a disjunct reality on the far side of a bottomless abyss, immediately beyond physical recollection. But it’s all still there in my heart and soul. The walk, the hills, the sky, the solitary pain and pleasure—they will grow larger, sweeter, lovelier in the days to come, like a treasure found and then, voluntarily, surrendered. Returned to the mountains with my blessing. It leaves a golden glowing on the mind.” ~ Edward Abbey, Beyond the Wall: Essays from the Outside

“Is it possible to write a poem or are these words just screams of outlaws exiled to the desert?” ~ Dejan Stojanovic, The Sun Watches the Sun

“She also told me it wore down her spirit to live in the desert landscape that was parched by midsummer, to plant a garden each spring and struggle to keep it alive past July.” ~ Ursula Hegi, Hotel of the Saints

“You have wakened not out of sleep, but into a prior dream, and that dream lies within another, and so on, to infinity, which is the number of grains of sand. The path that you are to take is endless, and you will die before you have truly awakened.” ~ Jorge Luis Borges

by VirusHead

Please, J.K. Rowling, More Stories

The current Harry Potter moviefest that I’m enjoying with my son has inspired me to make a request of J.K. Rowling. I love these stores – we’ve read all the books multiple times – because they give me hope. It’s just that simple. They give me hope.

So, I navigated over to her website at and – sure, why not? – clicked on the contact link.

The Blair Partnership represents J.K. Rowling internationally and across all media. Please direct any queries to and a member of the team will be in touch directly. J.K. Rowling very rarely does interviews or public speaking, and when she does they are usually around a new project or charitable commitment. Please note that she does not undertake fee-paying public speaking engagements. Because of the huge volume of requests coming in, J.K. Rowling also regrets she is unable to…

Yada yada yada. Well, ok, fair enough. I sent the following email, but just in case there isn’t any analysis or reporting of the communications, I’m also posting it here. You never know, maybe they do some version of web analytics, social media harvest, or even a Net Promoter Score (put me in the “I would definitively recommend” bucket).

To Whom it May Concern:

I am aware that the illustrious J.K. Rowling could not possibly respond to the billions of her readers, but I am hoping that you maintain some sort of thematic statistics for her.

If so, may I add to the numbers of those who pray that she considers creating more stories that work at multiple levels for children and adults alike? I pray for very few things.

There are so very few such nourishing narratives that do (or can) burst into our mainstream cultures as they exist today. In the Potter books (and films – one must include the films) human complexity is better grasped in these contexts that show how important existential choices are (whether or not someone has quite enough information, whether or not situations are fair, whether or not you think anything you do will make a difference to yourself or anyone else). The stories allow us to feel (with the very deepest of empathy and intuition) compassion and pity and courage and friendship and trust and even alienation. That they do so with a marvelous reinvention of all the long-standing traditions of literature, fairy tale, and even institutional satire gives incredible depth to the world she crafted and creates the speculative but nuanced expansion of imagination that used to be the basis of all liberal education.

In short, the Potter stories give me hope during what I consider to be rather dark times.

My son Ben (now 12) has grown up with the Potter story. It has given us so many opportunities to discuss life’s issues and mysteries in a common language. I can tell you – definitively – that navigating the terrain of the characters and story have made a significant difference to his own evolving character and intellectual/creative/spiritual development. He understands being true to himself, and the meaning of friendship, and the gifts of love, awareness, grace, support. He has internal reference points for things that are difficult to articulate, but can be recognized. And he doesn’t simplify into simple dualities and sound bites. He learns to ask better questions. Thank you for this gift to my son, and to me, and to all the others, everywhere.

I love the woman of her personal history and of her effects in the world, but please – more stories. The world so desperately needs them.

by VirusHead

Most Beautiful Song for the New Year

Regina Spektor – My Dear Acquaintance (A Happy New Year)

My dear acquaintance, it’s so good to know you
For strength of your hand
That is loving and giving
And a happy new year
With love overflowing
With joy in our hearts
For the blessed new year

Raise your glass and we’ll have a cheer
For us all who are gathered here
And a happy new year to all that is living
To all that is gentle, kind, and forgiving
Raise your glass and we’ll have a cheer
My dear acquaintance, a happy new year

All of those who are hither and yonder
With love in our hearts
We grow fonder and fonder
Hail to those who we hold so dear
And hail to those who are gathered here

And a happy new year to all that is living
To all that is gentle, young, and forgiving
Raise your glass and we’ll have a cheer
My dear acquaintance, a happy new year
Happy new year

by VirusHead

I Only Report

“A Report to an Academy” (“Ein Bericht für eine Akademie”) is a short story by Franz Kafka, written and published in 1917. In the story, an ape named Red Peter, who has learned to behave like a human, presents to an academy the story of how he effected his transformation. The story was first published by Martin Buber in a German monthly. This English version was translated from German by Philip Boehm.

Esteemed Gentlemen of the Academy!

I feel honored by your invitation to present the academy with a report on my former life as an ape.

I am afraid, however, that I will be unable to comply with your request. It is now some five years that I have been separated from apedom – a short time according to the calendar, perhaps, but an eternity when you have to gallop through it the way I did. And even though I was accompanied, at least for parts of the way, by fine human beings, good counsel, orchestral music and applause, my journey was in essence a solitary one, for the accompaniment-to stick with the metaphor-kept far away from the barricade. This achievement would have been impossible if I had desired to cling to my origins, to the memory of my youth. In fact the first rule I set for myself was the renunciation of any and all forms of obstinacy; I, a free ape, willingly accepted this yoke.

But because of that my memories withdrew more and more. And the gateway of return, had the humans willed it, which at first was as great as the heavens that vault the earth, became less and less lofty and more and more constricted as my development proceeded at its spurred-on pace. I felt increasingly at ease, increasingly included in the world of men. The storm that followed me from my past abated, and today it is nothing more than a breeze to cool my heels, and that distant aperture through which it blows, the same opening I once passed through myself, has grown so small that I would have to scrape the fur off my body to make it through-assuming I had the strength and willpower for the journey back. Frankly speaking, much as I enjoy finding images to describe all this, frankly speaking, esteemed sirs, your own apedom, insofar as something similar may lie in your own past – could not be further from you than mine is from me. But every creature that walks the earth has a ticklish heel: from the small chimpanzee to the great Achilles.

Nonetheless, I may be able to respond to your request after all, at least in the most limited sense, and I’m very happy to do so.

The first thing I learned was how to shake hands. A handshake is a sign of candor, and today, at the pinnacle of my career, I’d like to expand on that first handshake by adding a few candid words as well. And although what I have to say won’t teach the academy anything essentially new, and though it’s far less than what was requested of me-and what I cannot articulate despite my best will-I might nevertheless be able to offer a broad outline of how a former ape managed to penetrate the world of men and continue his existence in that world. Nor would I permit myself to say the little that follows unless I was absolutely certain of myself, having secured an unshakable position in the biggest variété shows of the civilized world:

I come from the Gold Coast. As to the method of my capture I have to rely on the accounts of strangers. A hunting party of the firm Hagenbeck-incidentally I have since downed many a bottle of good red wine with the leader of that expedition-had set up a blind in the bushes by our watering place along the riverbank, where I went in the evening together with my tribe. Shots were fired, I was the only one hit, I took two bullets.

One grazed my cheek, and although the wound was superficial, the bullet did shave out a large red scar that led to my being called Red Peter–a disgusting name, completely inappropriate, only a monkeybrain would come up with a name like that, as if the red mark on my cheek were all that distinguished me from the circus chimp Peter, recently deceased, who was well known in certain parts. All that just as an aside.

The second shot hit me just under the hip, and it was serious; to this day I limp a little as a result. I recently read an article penned by one of the thousands of gossiping gadflies that write about me in the papers, who claims that my apish nature is still not completely repressed, and cites as proof my predilection for removing my pants whenever I have guests to show the entry point of that bullet. The man who came up with that should have each finger shot off his writing hand, one by one. I may remove my pants in front of whomever I please, the most anyone would find there is an impeccably groomed fur and the scar from a shooting wound that was-and I use this word carefully so as not to mislead anyone – that was downright criminal. It’s all plain to see, there’s nothing to hide, for when it comes to truth, even the highest-minded individual is ready to let his manners drop. On the other hand, if the author of that article were to take off his pants when he had visitors, well, that would be another matter entirely, and I’ll give him the benefit of any doubt he doesn’t do this. But he should stop imposing his own delicate sense of propriety on me.

When I woke up after being shot – and this is where my own memory gradually begins – I found myself in a cage on a Hagenbeck company steamships, down in steerage. Instead of four walls of bars this cage had only three, and was fastened to a large crate, which comprised the fourth wall. The whole thing was too low to stand up in and too narrow for sitting down. So I just crouched inside, with my knees bent and constantly shaking, and my face turned toward the crate, as I didn’t want to see anyone and wished only to be left alone in the darkness, the bars cutting into my flesh from the back. This method of confining wild animals is supposed to be particularly advantageous during the first days of captivity, and judging from my own experience I cannot deny that this is indeed the case, from the human point of view.

But at that moment I wasn’t thinking about that. For the first time in my life I was trapped with no way out, at least nowhere I could go directly, since straight ahead of me was the crate, board securely fixed to board. And though I discovered a gap between the boards, which made me howl for joy in all my ignorance, it wasn’t even big enough to stick my tail through, and all my apish strength couldn’t make it any wider.

Later I was told I made unusually little noise, which led everyone to believe I would either soon die or else – assuming I survived the first, critical period -would prove to be very tamable. I survived. Dull sobbing, the painful search for fleas, apathetically licking a coconut, banging my head against the wall of the crate, and sticking my tongue out at anyone who came near me-this is how I first behaved in my new life. But my one prevailing feeling was that I had no way out. Of course today I have to rely on human words to describe what I felt then as an ape, so my portrayal is bound to be distorted, but even if I can no longer attain my old apish truth, at least my depiction is very much in that spirit, there’s no doubt about that.

I had always had so many ways out, and now there was none. I was trapped. My freedom of movement couldn’t have been more restricted if they had nailed me down. And why? You can scratch between your toes until you start to bleed and not discover the reason. Press yourself so close against the bar of the cage until it nearly slices you in two and you won’t find the answer. I had no way out, so I had to invent one: otherwise I was doomed. If I had stayed staring at the wall of that crate I would have inevitably died a miserable death. But that’s where Hagenbeck & Co think apes should be, and so I stopped being an ape. A beautifully clear train of thought I must have somehow hatched out with my belly, since apes think with their belly.

I’m afraid that you may not understand exactly what I mean by a way out, which I mean in the most ordinary and fullest sense of the phrase. I am deliberately avoiding the word freedom, because I don’t mean this grand feeling of freedom on all sides. As an ape I may have known it, and I’ve met humans who yearn for exactly that. But I myself have never asked for freedom, neither then nor now. As an aside: freedom is something people deceive themselves with far too frequently. And just as it counts as one of the most sublime feelings, so, too, can it lead to the sublime disappointment. Often, before going on stage as part of a revue, I’ve watched this or that pair of trapeze artists high in the air by the ceiling. They would swing and sway, floating into each other’s arms, one would carry the other by her hair in his teeth. “So that’s another example of human freedom,” I thought, “ego-maniacal and high-handed.” What a mockery of holy nature! There’s not a building on earth that could withstand the laughter of the apes at such a sight.

No, I didn’t want freedom. All I wanted was some way out – right, left, wherever it might lead. I kept my demand small, so that if it turned out to be a delusion, the disappointment would be no greater. Anything to get on, to get out! And not just stand there with upraised arms pressed against the wall of some crate.

Today I see clearly that I could never have escaped without the greatest inner tranquility. Indeed, I think I owe everything I have become to the calm that came over me after those first few days at sea. And I probably have the crew to thank for that.

They’re good people, despite everything. To this day I enjoy recalling the sound of their heavy steps that echoed through my half-sleep back then. They had the habit of taking everything extremely slowly. If one of them wanted to rub his eyes, he’d raise his hand as if it were a hanging weight. Their jokes were crude, but hearty. Their laughter was generally mixed with coughing that sounded dangerous but didn’t mean anything. They always had something in their mouths to spit out and couldn’t care less where it landed. They were constantly complaining about the fleas jumping from me to them, but they weren’t ever really angry at me; they realized that fleas thrive in my fur and that fleas are jumpers, so they learned to live with that. When they weren’t on duty they’d sometimes sit around me in a half circle, more cooing than speaking to one another. They would stretch out on the crates and smoke their pipes, slapping their knees whenever I made the slightest movement, and now and then one of them would take a stick and tickle me where it felt pleasant. I can’t say I’d accept an invitation to take another voyage on that ship, but nor could I claim that all the memories I have from that passage are ugly ones.

Above all, the tranquility I acquired among these people kept me from trying to escape. Looking back, I think I must have sensed that if I wanted to live, I needed to find some way out, and I must have understood that fleeing would not accomplish this. I no longer know whether such an escape was possible, but I believe it was – surely escape is always an option for an ape. Today my teeth are such that I have to be careful even with ordinary nutcracking, but back then it would have probably been just a matter of time before I chomped my way through the lock on the door. But I didn’t do that, for what would it have gained me? As soon as I stuck my head out they would have recaptured me and locked me up in an even worse cage, or else I might have crept off unnoticed, to the other animals–for instance to the giant boa that was caged across from me, and breathed my last breath in its embrace. I even might have managed to steal onto the upper deck and jump overboard, in which case I would have rocked a while on the water and then drowned. Desperate deeds every one. I didn’t calculate things in such a human fashion, but under the influence of my surroundings I acted as though I had.

I didn’t calculate, but I probably observed things in peace and quiet. I watched the people going back and forth, always the same faces, the same movements, I often had the impression there was only one of them. So this man, or these men, went about with no impediment. A lofty purpose began to dawn on me. No one promised me they would open the bars if I acted like them. After all, promises aren’t made for seemingly impossible tasks. But when such tasks are accomplished nevertheless, the promises are made after the fact, and exactly where you would have looked for them in vain before. Except there wasn’t much about these men that truly tempted me. Had I been a follower of the grand freedom I mentioned earlier, I’m sure I would have chosen the sea over the way out I saw in the gloomy faces of these people. But in any case I spent a long time observing before I ever had thoughts like that, and it was the only accumulated observations that first pushed me in a specific direction.

Imitating people was so easy. Within a few days I was able to spit. We would spit at each other in the face, with the only difference that I licked my face clean afterward, and they didn’t. Soon I was smoking a pipe like an old salt, and if I pressed my thumb into the bowl to boot, the whole steerage would cheer; except it took me a long time to understand the difference between an empty pipe and one that had been fully stuffed.

The whiskey bottle caused me the most difficulty. The smell was sheer torture, I forced myself with all my strength, but it took weeks to overcome my aversion. Strangely, the people took these internal struggles more seriously than anything else about me. While I don’t distinguish the people in my memory, there was one who kept coming back, alone or with his chums, day or night, at the oddest hours. He’d stand outside my cage with the bottle and instruct me. He didn’t understand me, but he wanted to solve the riddle of my being. He would slowly uncork the bottle and look at me, to check whether I had understood; I confess that I always watched him with wild-eyed attention-all too eager, in fact-no human teacher on earth would find such a student of people. After the bottle was uncorked, he would hold it to his mouth; I would follow with my eyes, from the bottle to his throat. He would nod, pleased with his pupil, and place the bottle to his lips. Delighted with my gradual discovery, I would shriek and scratch myself all over, wherever I felt the urge. He liked that – then he’d tilt the bottle back and take a swallow, and I was so impatient and desperate to emulate him that I wound up soiling myself in my cage, which would again cause him enormous satisfaction. Then, swinging the bottle away from his body and back to his lips, he would drink, exaggeratedly bending over for purposes of instruction, and down the entire bottle in a single gulp. Exhausted from so much effort, I could no longer follow him; I’d hang limply on the bar, while he ended his theoretical instruction by stroking his belly and grinning.

Then came the practical instruction. But hadn’t the theoretical part already worn me out? Indeed it had. Still, that’s part of my fate, so despite my exhaustion I reached as best I could for the bottle being held out to me, and, shaking all the while, uncork it. Success gradually brought renewed strength, and I managed to lift the bottle in a manner hardly distinguishable from the original. I raised it to my lips, then threw it away in disgust, disgust, even though it was empty, with nothing left but the smell. I was so revolted I tossed it on the ground, to the sadness of my teacher, and the greater sadness of myself, and the fact that I didn’t forget to stroke my belly and grin after throwing away the bottle didn’t make either one of us feel better.

All too often, that was how my lessons went. And to my teacher’s credit: he wasn’t angry with me, though he did on occasion hold his burning pipe against my body in some place I couldn’t reach, until my fur began to glow, but then he’d dampen it himself with his huge kind hand – he wasn’t angry with me, he realized we were both on the same side, both struggling against my apish nature, and he knew I had the more difficult struggle.

So what a victory it was for him as well as me, when one evening in front of many onlookers – it may have been a party, a gramophone was playing, an officer was carrying on among the crew-at a moment when no one was watching, I grabbed a bottle of whiskey that had been inadvertently left outside my cage, and did a perfect job of uncorking it-to the increasing attention of the group around me. Then I held the bottle to my lips and without the slightest hesitation or grimace, like a bona fide professional drinker, with round and rolling eyes and letting the liquid slosh into my throat, I really and truly drained the bottle, and threw it away, no longer out of desperation, but as an artist. Of course I forgot to stroke my belly, but for that, because I couldn’t help it, because I felt an irresistible urge, because all my senses were intoxicated – well, to make a long story short I called out “Hello!” in a human voice, and with this call I leaped into the community of humans, and their echo of “Listen to that – he’s talking!” felt like a kiss on my body that was thoroughly drenched with sweat.

I repeat: I never felt any desire to imitate people; I imitated them because I was looking for a way out; that was my only reason. And even this triumph was just a small step. I immediately lost my voice, which I took months to recover, and my aversion to the whiskey bottle came back worse than ever. But my course had been set once and for all.

When I arrived in Hamburg and was handed over to my first trainer, I soon realized that I had two choices: zoological park or variety show. I didn’t hesitate for a second. I told myself to focus all my strength on getting into the variety show, there lies your way out. The zoo is just a new cage, if you end up there, you’re lost.

And study I did, gentlemen. You learn when you have to, when you’re looking for a way out, you learn with no holds barred. You drive yourself with a whip, flogging yourself at the slightest opposition. My apish nature came tumbling out of me so fast that my first teacher nearly went ape himself, as the saying goes. He was soon forced to give up teaching and had to be taken to an institution. Fortunately he was released soon thereafter.

But I wore out many more teachers, even several at once. When I became surer of my own abilities, and the press began to follow my progress and my future began to shine, I hired my own tutors, had them set up in five adjacent rooms, and learned from all of them at once, constantly jumping from one room to the next.

What progress! How the rays of knowledge penetrated my waking brain from all sides! I will not deny it: it made me happy. But I must also confess that I did not overvalue my achievement, neither then nor especially today. Through an unprecedented exertion I managed to acquire the education of your average European, which might not mean a thing in itself, but at least it helped me out my cage, at least it provided me with this way out, this human way. I slipped off into the bush, so to speak-the human bush. I had no other choice, assuming that freedom was never an option.

Looking over my development and its purpose up to this point, I neither complain nor am I fully content. I half-sit, half-lie in my rocker, my hands in my pockets, a bottle of wine on the table, and look out the window. If I have company I show them the proper hospitality. My agent sits in the anteroom; if I ring then he steps in and listens to what I have to say. I perform nearly every evening, and my success could hardly be greater. If I come home late after a banquet, a scientific society, or a friendly evening at someone’s house, a small, half-trained chimpanzee is waiting for me and I have my pleasure with her in the manner of apes. I don’t wish to see her by day, as her eyes have the insanity of the befuddled half-tamed animal, which I alone can recognize, and which I cannot bear.

By and large I have accomplished what I set out to accomplish. It cannot be said it wasn’t worth the effort. Nor am I asking for any human judgment; all I wish to do is disseminate knowledge, I only report, and that is all I have done for you tonight, esteemed members of the Academy: I have reported, and nothing more.

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