On Why, In Heaven, I Will Be An Ape

Call me a sap if you want, and you’ll be right, but I found the new Planet of the Apes moving. It wasn’t the friendship between the James Franco character and the ape, although that was pretty nicely done. It wasn’t the Noble Savage thing, which is not only tired but silly — it’s not civilization that makes man cruel, it’s sin.1

Nope, it was all the jumping through the trees that did it. I swear I was born to be roaming a veldt somewhere, which is funny because (a) I stare at glowing rectangles for a living, and (b) I’m not even sure what a veldt is.2 But Andy Serkis and the animators did a tremendous job of capturing the physicality of the apes: their simultaneous grace and heaviness, their total physical joy. Like Hopkins’ windhover: the fire that breaks from thee then!

I can’t see that kind of thing without thinking of Heaven. When I go for a hike3 and come to a clearing, somewhere where you can see the earth spread out below you for miles and miles, I always want to jump, because I’m almost certain that if I did, I would just glide. It seems like the thing to do: food is for eating, people are for loving, and mountain views are for leaping into.

Except you can’t, because you’ll go splat. Which is the difference between here and Heaven. Another good thing about being a Christian: knowing that desire doesn’t lie. If I want something that’s impossible on earth — and I do, so often — it’s because earth is just the shadow of the real thing, put here to remind us of what real life is.

1 A fact that is entirely missed by people who think that “civilization” means the same thing as “technology.”
2 But it’s a great word, isn’t it? How many English words have silent d’s?
3 And it’s been much, much too long since I have.

8 Comments on “On Why, In Heaven, I Will Be An Ape”

  1. CM says:

    Well, now you made me go and look at a dictionary early Sunday morning! I’m not sure if a veldt has trees, but who cares, because it’s such an awesome word! And I agree that there’s not much better than a good hike.

  2. Jamie says:

    So I first thought you said “I swear I was born to be a roaming veldt somewhere…”

    I looked up what veldt meant, and was like, “Dude, you can’t BE a veldt.” But you know that. So I won’t try to tell you. (FYI, let me save some of you having to look it up: a veldt is an extensive, treeless grassland of southern Africa.)

    Also, God willing, I’ll totally be gliding with you in Heaven. I’ve always thought flying would be one of the greatest things ever. I don’t think I’ll be an ape, though, but I think it would be way cool to be friends with one. 🙂

    “If you find in yourself a desire which no earthly thing can satisfy, the logical conclusion must be that you are made for another world. That other world—heaven—echoes in you.”
    -C.S. Lewis

  3. Peter says:

    Now I’m dying to have you elaborate on the obvious – what about your SSA? Does that desire lie, or is that, too, a reflection of something heavenly?

  4. Ron says:

    I’ve been told to take a hike any number of times, but I don’t think the speaker had the same kind of hike in mind.

  5. Great post, as always. I know what you mean about wanting to leap around like an ape. Ever practice a martial art? I felt that joy flying through the air and bouncing back up to resume the attack in my aikido dojo. That’s something you might enjoy too.

  6. Patrick says:

    There’s a great short story by Ray Bradbury called “The Veldt” which involves both glowing rectangles and the African grasslands. Check it out: http://www.veddma.com/veddma/Veldt.htm

    1. Nice. What is it with Bradbury and terrifying automated houses? He’s one of my favorite sci-fi authors — I love The Martian Chronicles in particular.

  7. Andrew says:

    Just for the record, veld (minus the “t”) is an Afrikaans word, for grasslands or savannahs. There are sometimes trees (mostly Acacia’s or baobabs), and it is a truly beautiful sight! We sometimes refer to it as “bushveld”, and it is one of the most beautiful landscapes we in Africa have to offer the world 🙂

    I get why you would want to be in a veld, its one of my favourite places of all time!

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