Captain Bananas – Millennium Gorilla

There is an old idea in Buddhism – attachment is suffering – which has always bothered me in a very stimulating way – because it is at once obviously true, right from the very first time we hear it, but also feels unfair. Especially from within a system of thought which prizes romantic love as highly as ours. The weird thing is – just because we consider love an especially high accomplishment, that doesn’t mean we westerners understand it very well at all.

I have a heartbreaking number of friends right now who are suffering because of the plight of their dearest loves. The last year has also given me more personal proof than I ever needed of that ancient insight. But the answering terms are not so often explored.

Yes we choose pain with love – willingly – and that link is inescapable, but it is also a part of the strange power love gives us.

Love has an extraordinary variety of forms and expressions – one of it’s great enduring charms – but the thing we least often say about it is that lasting enduring love requires an act of will. Some might say dozens of acts of will, or for the especially imaginative hundreds, as we resist possibilities that would leave our partner behind, and temptations that would wound their precious trust in us, and instead keep our loved one’s heart foremost in all of our interactions. But I say it is just one big decision – this is now my main person, and defending their heart, hope, soul and laughter is now my main goal in life.

Adoring Gaze

Some people would rather think of love as something outside of them, which overpowers their reason and compels their behaviour – and many of us do encounter strong feelings that carry us away at some point in our life. But if we rely upon that feeling alone, and don’t bring our will in behind to back it up, we make our love as weak as whim, instead of making it as strong as our whole unified being. Could anyone really claim that denying their relationship conscious intent, was a mark of respect or commitment?

Others believe that love is a transaction – getting what you need and giving what you must, to obtain it. Marriages like this inevitably seem to end up as a game of mutual resentment, punishment and extortion. How come I can’t get more and give less? Incredibly and pointlessly sad and non-loving stuff – especially for any kids involved to have to witness.

Some seem to consider love almost a consumer product, which must meet their high expectations in all regards or else be rejected. Aside from the hilarity of the mirror-check they must have avoided, these shallow fools very simply miss the good stuff altogether, by looking in the wrong place – judging all by surface imperfections, without ever once considering the quality of heart within.

Thing is, having made that one big choice – this is the other half of my life, no matter how hard it gets – a whole lot of other things become easier – even things which might seem so far outside our strength as to be almost impossible to contemplate, if we had to assemble our will and choose each of them, one by one. We don’t have to do that, because duty is different, we don’t choose or reason our way into duty – we accept it, and in so doing recognize we are acting on greater principles than whim, preference and advantage.

Love isn’t the only thing in life that works this way. Friendship has many of these same qualities. We can choose to interact with people only when they advantage us, and disdain them when they become inconvenient, but it is only when we take on a duty to their hearts, that we discover friendship’s greatest rewards.

Not just when we are with our friends, when we suddenly find we can share far more – but even when we can’t see them for a long while – because that bond of mutual will and duty to one another’s hearts, gives us a part of their heart to carry with us always.

And I’m not going to stop there – because there is another principle which has this quality, which is so rarely discussed and treasured nowadays that many have trouble finding and exercising it, even when they need it very very badly – whimsy – playfulness.

Scoffing and scorn are always options – the proportion of modern western humour which could be classified as ‘cheap shots’ itself says a lot of very unflattering things about our level of imagination and zest for life. We just love taking a big dump on someone else’s pleasure.

But when we invest our own will in imagination and play, we discover a network of allies in the world who also participate on that frequency, and will help us add free fun and magic to day to day living. The rules (such as they are) are very much like the principles discovered by improvising comedy troupes, over many years of play and experimentation. You don’t ever say no – you say yes and….

We Find Adventure  – Adventure Finds Us

I’ve talked a few times about how much I have learned about friendship from our dear and extraordinary friend Nada. We find adventure and creativity everywhere we go – and she has also encouraged me to reach out in a great many ways, which have been helpful to me creatively (I would never have considered social media at all, without her insistent nudge).

But the fact that we encounter art, magic, wonderful eccentrics, colourful neighbourhood cranks and loquacious masters of their craft, every time we go wandering is not actually surprising at all, because it is a product of our shared sensitivity to the frequency of play.

Long before I realized how many intellectual things we had in common, Nada showed Catherine the most important clue of all. They were working together at the time, and one day they both brought in small cute companions, to introduce to the other girls.

Catherine brought “Captain Bananas – Millennium Gorilla” (as pictured at the top of the post). Not so much because he is one of those bizarre artefacts of toymakers struggling to be modern and innovate, without quite having a coherent plan, but because he is really charming and funny (he says several wacky space-monkey phrases when one hand is squeezed – and does a vibrating countdown, if you squeeze the other).

Nada brought in her super cute surgeon bear “Doctor Zilch” complete with spiffy green hospital scrubs. Everyone was happy to meet them both, and they seemed to be getting along together as well.

Then a few hours later Nada asked Catherine, “Where are the bears?”
Catherine said, “Oh don’t worry, I left them together in the back, they’re just playing a bit of poker.”
Without missing a beat, Nada said, “Oh no, not again! He will lose everything! It has happened before!”

Catherine came home that night glowing and told me the story, ending it with, “She is one of us.”
And yes, by will, loyalty, friendship and whimsy, she really is.
And by just such means does one’s family and circle of love admit light and grow.

We all need reasons to feel lucky and grateful. The best we ever get, are those we forge together.



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I am always curious about what you are thinking

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