The man placed Ivan in a 14' x 14' concrete cell with a large viewing window in the center of his funky little mall, "The World Famous B&I" on South Tacoma Way. For 27 years, Ivan sat in his little room as B&I shoppers strolled passed him.
I remember seeing Ivan once during my childhood. To the best of my recollection, there was hay scattered on the floor of his barren quarters, a limp tire swing hanging from the ceiling and a punctured 4-square ball rolled away in a corner.
What I remember most, was Ivan. He was beautiful and magnificent, an astonishing creature designed for the lowland forests of the Congo. He sat before me in the dingy B&I bathed in vomitous fluorescent lighting. His 14' x 14' cell was his personal fortress of solitude. He sat there, not moving, just gazing out through the glass, his sad eyes looked right through me.
It's almost unfathomable to imagine the profound sadness and loneliness that 27 years alone in a 14' x 14' cell at the B&I could do to any pack animal. I wouldn't want to spend 27 minutes alone in the B&I, much less 27 years.
PARADOX. I enjoy taking walks in the evenings. Depending on the weather, it's pretty common for me to go for an hour long stroll 3-4 nights a week. It's a healthy habit that I find very refreshing. It's great to be outdoors, breathing deeply and just walking (humans are designed for long walks). You can walk with a friend, family member, golden retriever or just enjoy the chance to be by yourself and do some serious thinking.
I'll usually take a route through a safe and familiar neighborhood, and guess what I see... I see people sitting slack-jawed on their couches staring at television sets, ALONE. Certainly, some families watch television together, but often times I see people sitting by themselves in front of a Television. Isolated, alone, secluded, watching TV. It's disgusting.
How often do you watch TV alone? Many American households have more television sets than people! A fact that makes it easy for each member of a household to slink off to their private quarters and watch TV by themselves.
Ivan was forcibly confined to his 14' x 14' concrete cell, but how many of us willfully choose to live in isolation? We confine ourselves to a couch and allow the TV to watch us! We slouch down into the cushions as the television beams powerful messages paid for by multinational mega corporations. They tell us what to think and feel, they tell us what's cool and what we HAVE to have. We choose to sit stupidly in front of the television while we are brainwashed to purchase light beer, potato chips, extra value meals, cars, trucks, SUV's, soda, diet soda, diet pills, prescription drugs, blue jeans, and jewelery.
Ivan was forced to receive a daily bath of that awful fluorescent light at the B&I, but we choose an even more treacherous light bath, from our plasma and LCD screens as they instruct us how to be good little consumers. So we can go to mall and make sure we have the latest khaki pants from the GAP and get the most "extra value" from our fast food cuisine. The smiling faces of models, dancers, actors and athletes swirl before us, exalting the latest goods to appease our ever growing consumer appetites.Make a better choice. Go outside. That's where real life is. Life is growth, learning, movement and connection. Go for a walk, take your dog, or a friend, or your son, daughter, brother, sister, mother or father. Walk and talk. Be real people. Plan something, discuss ideas, current events, relationships, religion, politics, anything! Stroll passed the homes in your neighborhood and see all the people sitting alone like Ivan did for 27 years. Real life is outdoors, it's physical, it will occasionally cause you to break a sweat, it will bathe you in refreshing sunlight.
When you go to the grocery store, casually look in the carts around you. You'll see carts full of pizza rolls, hot-pockets, pop-tarts, soda cans and other microwaveable nonsense. It's the food that the TV told your fellow shopper would make them happy. Coca-Cola has ad spots with the slogan "open happiness." Can you believe that? It would be a lot more accurate if they said "Open carbonated water mixed with high-fructose corn syrup" with another warning label that stated "WARNING: This product may lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes and premature death." Now certainly television and soda could be used in moderation...
I'll be the first to admit that I watch my share of television, that that antics of Snooki, Jwoww and the Situation are a guilty pleasure. If you are going to watch television, please meet every advertisement with skepticism and be aware of the more sinister form of brainwashing, product placement. If you are going to watch television or have a coke and a smile, plan to share the experience with another real person that is really there! PS: "Coke and a smile" is another one of those creative ad slogans that sells you faux feelings.
I've strayed tangentially from my main point of this piece, which was, "Go outside and connect with other real people." So I'll just reiterate that, GO OUTSIDE AND CONNECT WITH OTHER REAL PEOPLE. Life is growth, learning and movement. Choose to LIVE.
Ivan was eventually freed from solitary confinement at the B&I penitentiary. He now resides at the Atlanta Zoo. He stretches out under the sun and enjoys the company of other gorillas.
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