Through a Window: My Thirty Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe

I read this because Peterson referenced it in his 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, and these days whenever I face controversial literature, I try to read at least one layer deeper to gain insight on why people may think the way that they do. This is why I recommend reading—and attempting an academic understanding of—the major religious texts, because those pages often contain the foundations of thought for authors raised with any amount of theology in their households. Never mind having religion in the home, it tends to affect people who grew exposed to the popular culture of their nations.

Goodall’s book on its own is well worth the read. Her work with chimpanzees is unparalleled and reveals more about what we don’t know than what we do. The material in Thirty Years doesn’t even cover the full lifespan of her subject matter, so we only get a lot of highly educated guesses. Goodall’s attention to detail and passion for her life’s work come through in her writing, and I found myself overcome with emotion several times.

As far as how this book ties into Peterson’s work, the more I read from his sources the more I feel like he has cherry-picked ideas to fit his internal narratives. Perhaps that’s what we all do, though. Especially in these modern times, when we can confirm and validate any opinion we like if we look hard enough on social media. That doesn’t make for a solid foundation of “truth”. We still need to exercise careful critical thought, and work hard to overcome our inherent biases.

Goodall has published a stack of books as tall as I am. I don’t know that I’ll read her any further, but I’m glad to have had this exposure to her work. This reading also enhanced my viewing of Chimp Empire (Netflix, 2023), a documentary that covers the same Gombe preserve from Thirty Years.

One thing is certain after this read: I do not want to return to monke. I’d be torn to pieces.


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