Wordsworth vs. the Baby Monkey

Maybe that pig could finally shake the monkey off his back amongst the columns of Tintern Abbey
Maybe that pig could finally shake the monkey off its back amidst the columns of Tintern Abbey

The world has gone insane

And you don’t know what is right

You got to keep on keeping on

So get on that pig and hold on tight

I had intended to title this post “Ode to a Baby Monkey Riding on a Pig,” and then wax poetic about that YouTube video, and several other things, Internet-what-have-yous, that have proven to be instant mood improvers for me. (I will still go on about those things). But realizing I’d already written an “Ode to the Starbucks on Upstream,” I got to thinking about what merits an ode in my worldview. Apparently, it doesn’t take much to get me to sing the praises of something.

And I don’t know why I started comparing myself to William Wordsworth, but I did. I was probably being self-abasing about my lack of sophistication. Continuing that trend, I can say that there’s no comparison, really. I could never compose a poem like “Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey,” even for a lifetime of trying. I remember being struck by the poem when I read it in high school. It articulated, in a way I’d never read before, the impact nature has on me. I remember thinking, I totally get this. This dude Wordsworth feels me, even though he’s been dead for 135 years.

I’ve never been able to recite passages from it, and reading it back in the day didn’t inspire a study of all things Wordsworth. I just really liked that poem.

There is a lot of silliness in our current time, and I am a willing participant in most of it. Two hundred years ago, the rolling waters of the “sylvan Wye” inspired Wordsworth to write this enduring, beautiful prose. Today, watching a baby monkey ride on a pig’s back, all set to an obnoxiously catchy tune, inspired me to write this post. I don’t expect it to endure, but I don’t plan to apologize for it, either.

Because there is a peril in taking anything or anyone too seriously, especially yourself.

The things that I encounter that remind me of this, that capture the absurdity of life in our age, lighten my spirit. One might even say they lift the “heavy and the weary weight of all this unintelligible world.”

William Shatner’s 1968 rendition of Mr. Tambourine Man is one of those things. Here’s another, a chimpanzee learning an abject lesson in self-discovery. I first saw this many, many, years ago when Greg Kinnear hosted Talk Soup and YouTube was not even a glimmer in anyone’s eye.

With the release of The Force Awakens, I’ve been enjoying a renaissance of Star Wars Gangsta Rap, first encountered over fifteen years ago.

Here’s the thing. While the Internet has either spawned or brought new life to these things, the reason they endure with me is the life they’ve had within my family. I remember sharing the clip of the chimpanzee falling out of a tree with my father, via a VHS cassette tape. (He loved it, too). And I have several nieces and nephews who can recite / sing Star Wars Gangsta Rap verbatim.

There have been instances where a certain brother, sister and myself, commiserating about our jobs, have conjectured whether we’re the baby monkey, or the pig. It’s sharing in this silliness that continues to bring joy to me.

That’s not to say that we don’t talk about literature, poetry, or music, too. But in truth, movies and pop culture take up the balance.

There’s only one family member with whom I remember discussing Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey.” It was Mom, and it was topical because we were in Wales during our 2002 trip to the U.K. I saw that we were near Tintern Abbey, and proposed we make a quick detour to check it out.

It was a beautiful place, but it got me thinking more about abandonment and the ravages of time more than about the soothing power of nature. Since Wordsworth was wandering the countryside a few miles above Tintern Abbey, I can see how he would have been inspired differently.

Ida being a dutiful Mom in 2002
Ida being a dutiful Mom in 2002

I got the sense that Mom was humoring me (you can almost tell from this picture). I don’t think she had the same connection or feeling for the poem. But she was also someone who respected the power of the written word, and the very personal effect it could have, so I think she humored me with the very best of intentions, as was her way.

Then again, I also remember Mom going into fits of hysterical laughter over some apocryphal story about a tomato dialing 911. Which, according to Snopes, is not so apocryphal.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is the source of our joy can be very subjective. And broad in scope. Does wandering the wilds of City Park make me feel the same way as watching ludicrous things on the Internet? No. But each presents a different facet of delight that proves a balm for my soul.

I still think Wordsworth nailed it when he wrote:

“. . . with an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things.”

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