I've been contemplating this guy for a few days now. In the waning days of winter, I used an old lion for my profile picture on Facebook. But with the first day of spring, I wanted to make a change. I have always identified with these beautiful animals. Their strength. Their ferocious loyalty. When you grow up big and maybe a little too sensitive for your own good, you don't really connect with the cheetahs and the rabbits. So you can either resent the "big ape" thing, or else embrace it and make the best of what you have. I was never very good at chest pounding or swatting fighter planes out of the sky, but the dark browed, broad shouldered scowl came in handy on the subway a couple of nights. It's good to have it in the repertoire when you need it.
But ferocity isn't what attracted me to Old Silverback here. It was his eyes. They seemed to see. As much as I would love to be the kind of guy who sweeps the pretty girl off her feet and carries her to the top of the Empire State building, I think I'd rather be one who can look at her the way this fellow is looking. To see. To regard. To accept. To respect.
He isn't seeing himself in her. His failures. His fears. Those aren't eyes that imagine and project. They are eyes that embrace and perceive. He isn't afraid to know the truth. He isn't afraid to see what's really there.
Maybe that is because he isn't afraid to be seen. When I consider those strange, yet familiar eyes, I see open windows that let the truth pass through in both directions. He is able to know, because he is willing to be known. His strength is his defenselessness.
He seems like the kind of guy who isn't afraid to take the time to get to know you. Or to give you all the time you need to do the same thing.
I want to be that kind of an ape. One who can look without staring. Who can see without judging. Who regards each detail with curiosity and reverence, and treats your love as a sacred trust, a holy exchange of personhoods.
Too often, instead of a gorilla I have been a chattering carnival monkey. Grabbing and snatching. Clinging to scraps and squirrreling them away as if I were certain that the supply could never last. Too many times, I have blurted and blundered my way out of love with impatience. "Take this," I cry. "Take me. All of me. Now. Today." As if love were a desperate race against time.
But the monkey isn't pressed for time. He is haunted by fear. "Take me or leave me," he cries, " But for god's sake, get it over with. Don't make me wait for the rejection that I know is coming anyway." He thinks he's being brave, stripping naked for you to see. But really, he is a coward. He doesn't have the courage to wait for you to undress him yourself.
So I chose this beautiful old Mountain Gorilla to be my spirit guide for the spring. I hope he teaches me to see and be seen. I want to learn his courage and confidence. I want to learn his quiet strength and his tender patience.
When I contemplate those eyes, I see... I suppose the word I'm looking for is "Presence." He isn't thinking about what's next. He isn't a million miles away. When Old Silverback looks at you, he says, "I am here with you. I see you. See me."
If that isn't love, what is?