I am on a hope-filled buzz. I devoured Jane Goodall’s memoir “Reason for Hope” last night; its message fanned the flame that had been ignited in me on election night, and now it’s roaring.
Goodall was just in San Francisco, lecturing at the newly renovated Academy of Sciences. I knew of her (she worked with monkeys, right?), but not much, so I found this book and read it all last night. She is an extraordinary woman, though she didn’t start out with any special skills or talents to make her that way, she just followed her passion and now she’s giving back to the world in huge ways. Growing up in England, she read books about animals in Africa and always wanted to go, and when she was twenty-three she saved up enough money, as a secretary and a waitress, to buy a ticket. She met Louis Leakey, a naturalist working in the National History Museum in Kenya, who hired her as his personal assistant because of her enthusiasm. He was the one that gave her the big break to study chimpanzees, even though she didn’t have a degree or the slightest idea how to begin.
She ended up spending the next twenty-five years studying the behavior of these animals that no one had observed closely before. During that time she created a research center, got her Ph.D., and published her ground-breaking discoveries. She has since gone on to become a world-renowned lecturer, animal rights activist and conservationist (Jane Goodall Institute), and humanitarian (check out her work with youth – Roots and Shoots). She has a deep faith in God, and though she has encountered many struggles and seemingly hopeless situations, has also maintained a deep faith in humanity and our potential for good. She believes that just as we evolved physically over time (her scientific and religious beliefs are not incompatible – how refreshing!), we are also evolving morally, each generation improving upon the next toward a more compassionate and loving society.
“Each one of us matters, has a role to play, and makes a difference. Each one of us must take responsibility for our own lives, and above all, show respect and love for the living things around us, especially each other. Together we must reestablish our connections with the natural world and with the Spiritual Power that is around us. And then we can move, triumphantly, joyously, into the final stage of human evolution – spiritual evolution.”
We have come a long way as a species, and we are improving all the time. She quotes Ghandi in the book, saying “If you look back throughout history, you find that every evil regime is eventually overcome by good”, and just look. Bush is on his way out, and Obama in. What more proof do we need that old ways of thinking are dying off, and new, better ones are growing stronger? And that is truly reason for hope.