The Chimpanzee and the Zoo – A Parable by Bruce Welch
My name is Jimmy and I’m a chimpanzee. I was raised in a zoo and my parents were raised in the zoo. Life in the zoo is all I knew.
Our life in the zoo was safe, the zookeeper gave us the food we needed and would take care of us when we were sick. Everyday was pretty much the same as every other day; we would wake up in the morning, the zookeeper would let my family and me out of our sleeping quarters and we would go to the play area and watch the people coming by to see us. About the time the zoo closed, we would go back into the sleeping room until the same routine was repeated the next day, and then the next, and the next.
Eating times were the highlight of the day. The zookeeper would stand on a platform above our play area and drop food down to us. We would gobble it up to the delight of the zoo patrons. We had many different zookeepers over the years. Sometimes they would mysteriously leave and be replaced by a new one and sometimes we would be transferred to a different zoo with a new zookeeper. We would have to readjust to each new zookeeper, how he fed us, when he fed us, what he fed us, and how he interacted with us.
Most of the zookeepers were nice to us, always providing for us and taking care of us. Some of the zookeepers would come down from the platform after feeding us and play with us in the play area. We had an affection for these zookeepers that came down off of their platform. Sometimes though, the zookeepers seemed angry when they fed us, almost throwing the food at us. Some never came down from their platform to play, they fed us, and we were glad, but they never spent time with us. Over the years we had only a couple of bad ones that would yell at us, one assistant zookeeper actually beat me, but they were the exception and mostly we felt loved by them.
One day I was in the play yard and I saw another chimp, Giles, who used to be in the zoo. He was outside the bars of zoo in the neighboring woods. We started talking and he told me about life outside of the zoo. I never knew that there was life outside of the zoo and the stories of his life in another world captivated me, made me yearn for more than the everyday mundaneness of the zoo. I asked him many questions; “How could you live without a zookeeper to feed you, to take care of you when you are sick, to protect you from the dangers in the woods? He told me that he never worried about those things, that he was happier than he had ever been and told me about a secret passage out of the zoo into the woods.
That night just before going to sleep I told my wife, Belle, about my conversation with Giles. She loved hearing the stories but when I asked her if she wanted to escape she told me “no, I like my safe life here, you can go try it if you want, but I’m not leaving.”
The next day, I found the secret passage and left the zoo. I found Giles and he began showing me around. The first thing I noticed was the grass, it was green and soft and I rolled around in it for hours. Our play area in the zoo had a small amount of grass but it was mostly dirt with one tree and a watering hole the zookeeper made for us. In the woods, there was grass as far as I could see. Giles took me to a river, I had never seen a river before. The water rushed over the rocks, splashing as it went, I stepped in the river, rejuvenated by the brisk water and drank and drank the cool water until I thought I would burst. We played in the trees, swinging from branch to branch endlessly. Giles introduced me to his friend Kenny who took me to another wood and saw so many more new things that I didn’t know existed; stars at night, mountains, birds, trails, and food, food was everywhere we just had to pick the leaves or bananas off the trees. Kenny introduced me to his friends and his friends to their friends, there were so many chimpanzees living this life that I had not heard of until I met Giles.
We left the zoo and our children came with us. We found everything Giles and Kenny told us about. We realized that we didn’t need a zookeeper like everyone else had because were provided for by the Senior Zookeeper. We never saw the Senior Zookeeper, as a matter of fact no one has ever seen the Senior Zookeeper, but we felt his presence constantly, providing food for us, our family and our friends. We found food everywhere, tasted foods we had never tasted before, and shared the food with our family and new-found friends. Always knowing that it was the Senior Zookeeper that was our provider and protector. Eventually we realized that the Senior Zookeeper was using our friends and family members to do what the zookeeper at the zoo did; feed us, care for us, protect us, play with us, all the while providing for and watching over us.
Occasionally we go to the zoo to see our friends and loved ones. We hug and kiss them through the bars. Some are angry and won’t talk to us or say we have monkey brains, but most who know us still love us. Sometimes we run into an old zookeeper, and we run and hug them like you may have seen videos of, we are still very fond of them. Some don’t even remember our names.
Our friends in the zoo often ask if we want to come back and on occasion will go back in for a short time, but we have tasted what is on the outside and we can’t imagine going back to the confines of the zoo. We soon find ourselves running back to the green meadows, rushing streams, our family and friends, and the life the Senior Zookeeper has given us.
Keith Giles is a former pastor who left the pulpit 11 years ago to start a church that gives away 100% of the offering to the poor in their community.
His new book “Jesus Unbound: Liberating the Word of God from the Bible”, is available now on Amazon and features a Foreword by author Brian Zahnd.
He is also the author of the Amazon best-seller, “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb”.
Keith also co-hosts the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast on iTunes and Podbean. He and his wife live in Orange, CA with their two sons.
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