One of our recommended books is Reason for Hope by Jane Goodall

REASON FOR HOPE

A Spiritual Journey


From world-renowned scientist Jane Goodall, as seen in the National Geographic documentary Jane, comes a poignant memoir about her spiritual epiphany and an appeal for why everyone can find a reason for hope.

Dr. Jane Goodall’s revolutionary study of chimpanzees in Tanzania’s Gombe preserve forever altered the very, definition of humanity. Now, in a poignant and insightful memoir, Jane Goodall explores her extraordinary life and personal spiritual odyssey, with observations as profound as the knowledge she has brought back from the forest.

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From world-renowned scientist Jane Goodall, as seen in the National Geographic documentary Jane, comes a poignant memoir about her spiritual epiphany and an appeal for why everyone can find a reason for hope.

Dr. Jane Goodall’s revolutionary study of chimpanzees in Tanzania’s Gombe preserve forever altered the very, definition of humanity. Now, in a poignant and insightful memoir, Jane Goodall explores her extraordinary life and personal spiritual odyssey, with observations as profound as the knowledge she has brought back from the forest.

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  • Grand Central Publishing
  • Paperback
  • October 2000
  • 304 Pages
  • 9780446676137

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$16.99

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About Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall is the author of Reason for HopeJane Goodall is the world’s foremost authority on chimpanzees. An internationally renowned conservationist, she is the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and has received many distinguished awards in science. Dr. Goodall is also the author of many acclaimed books, including the bestseller Reason for Hope.

Excerpt

Chapter 1

BEGINNINGS

THIS IS A STORY ABOUT A JOURNEY, the journey of one human being through sixty-five years of earth time: my journey. Traditionally, a story begins at the beginning. But what is the beginning? Is it the moment when I was born, with all the charming ugliness of the newborn human baby, in a hospital in London? The first breath I drew so that I could yell about the pain and indignity of my forced expulsion from the womb? Or should we start earlier, in the dark, moist secret place where one little wiggling sperm—one out of millions—managed to burrow into one little ovum—the fertile egg that was biologically, magically, transformed into a baby? But that, really, is not the beginning. For the genes that were handed down to me by my parents were created long, long ago. And my inherited traits were molded by the people and the events surrounding my early years: the characters and position of my parents, the country into which I was born, and the era in which I grew up. So should the story start with my parents, with the historical and social events that shaped Europe in the 1930s, that molded Hitler and Churchill and Stalin? Or perhaps we should go back to the first truly human creature that was born of ape-men parentage, or back to the first little warm-blooded mammal? Or should we go back and back through the mists of unknown time to when the first speck of life appeared on planet earth—as a result of some divine purpose or cosmic accident? From there we could start my story, tracing the strange paths that life has taken: from amoeba, through apes, to minds that can contemplate the existence of a God, and strive to understand the meaning of life on earth and beyond the stars.

I do not want to discuss evolution in such depth, however, only touch on it from my own perspective: from the moment when I stood on the Serengeti plains holding the fossilized bones of ancient creatures in my hands to the moment when, staring into the eyes of a chimpanzee, I saw a thinking, reasoning personality looking back. You may not believe in evolution, and that is all right. How we humans came to be the way we are is far less important than how we should act now to get out of the mess we have made for ourselves. How should the mind that can contemplate God relate to our fellow beings, the other life-forms of the world? What is our human responsibility? And what, ultimately, is our human destiny? It will serve my purpose to begin, simply, from the time when I drew my first breath and screwed up my face to cry my first cry, on April 3, 1934.

Through the years I have encountered people and been involved in events that have had huge impact, knocked off rough corners, lifted me to the heights of joy, plunged me into the depth of sorrow and anguish, taught me to laugh, especially at myself—in other words, my life experiences and the people with whom I shared them have been my teachers. At times I have felt like a helpless bit of flotsam, at one moment stranded in a placid backwater that knew not, cared not, that I was there, then swept out to be hurled about in an unfeeling sea. At other times I felt I was being sucked under by strong, unknowing currents toward annihilation. Yet somehow, looking back through my life, with its downs and its ups, its despairs and its joys, I believe that I was following some overall plan—though to be sure there were many times when I strayed from the course. Yet I was never truly lost. It seems to me now that the flotsam speck was being gently nudged or fiercely blown along a very specific route by an unseen, intangible Wind. The flotsam speck that was—that is—me.

Without a shadow of a doubt my upbringing, the family into which I was born and the events that unfolded in the world around my childhood, shaped the person I would become. I grew up, with my sister, Judy (four years younger than I to the day), in an atmosphere that had become gently permeated by the ethics of Christianity. Our family’s religion was never rammed down our throats, we were never forced to attend church, and we did not say grace before our meals (except at school). However, we were expected to say our prayers at night, kneeling on the floor at the side of the bed. From the beginning we were taught the importance of human values such as courage, honesty, compassion, and tolerance.

Like most children before the age of TV and computer games, I loved being outside, playing in the secret places in the garden, learning about nature. My love of living things was encouraged, so that from the very beginning I was able to develop that sense of wonder, of awe, that can lead to spiritual awareness. We were by no means a wealthy family, but money was not important. It didn’t matter that we couldn’t afford a car, or even a bicycle, or expensive holidays abroad—we had enough to eat, some clothes to wear, and an abundance of love, laughter, and fun. Indeed, mine was the very best kind of childhood: because every penny mattered, everything that was extra such as an ice cream, a journey on a train, a cinema, was a treat, exciting, to be treasured and remembered. If only everyone could be blessed with such a childhood, such a family. How different, I believe, the world would be.

As I look back over the sixty-five years of my life to date it seems that things just fell into place. I had a mother who not only tolerated but also encouraged my passion for nature and animals and who, even more important, taught me to believe in myself. Everything led in the most natural way, it seems now, to that magical invitation to Africa in 1957, where I would meet Dr. Louis Leakey, who would set me on my way to Gombe and the chimpanzees. Indeed, I have been extraordinarily lucky—although as my mother, Vanne, always says, luck was only part of the story. She has always believed, as did her mother, that success comes through determination and hard work and that “the fault … is not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings.” I certainly believe that is true. Yet though I have worked hard all my life—for who wants to be an “underling” if it can be avoided!—I must admit that the “stars” seem to have played their part too. After all, I didn’t strive (so far as I know) to be born into my own wonderful home. And then there was Jubilee, bought for me as a present by my father (Mortimer “Mort” Goodall), when I was just over one year old. Jubilee was a large, stuffed chimpanzee toy, created to celebrate the birth of Jubilee, the first chimpanzee infant ever born at the London Zoo. My mother’s friends were horrified by this toy, thinking it would frighten me and give me nightmares. But Jubilee instantly became my most cherished possession and accompanied me on nearly all my childhood adventures. To this day, old Jubilee is still with me, almost hairless from all the loving, spending most of his time in my bedroom in the house where I grew up in England.

I was always absolutely fascinated by animals of all sorts. Yet I was born right in the heart of London, where animals were limited to dogs and cats, sparrows, pigeons, and some insect life in the small garden shared by the inhabitants of the mews where we lived. Even when we moved to a house just outside the city, from where my father would commute each day to his engineering job, nature was subjugated to pavement, houses, and manicured gardens.

My mother, Vanne, now aged ninety-four, has always loved to tell stories about my early fascination with animals and concern for their welfare. One of her favorites is of the time when, around the age of eighteen months, I collected a whole handful of earthworms from the London garden and took them to bed with me.

“Jane,” she said, staring at the wriggling collection, “if you keep them here they’ll die. They need the earth.”

So I hurriedly collected up all the worms and toddled back with them into the garden.

Soon after this, we went to stay with some friends who had a house near a wild rocky beach in Cornwall. When we went down to the sea I was enthralled by the tide pools and their teeming life. No one realized that the seashells I carried back to the house in my bucket were all alive. When Vanne came up to my room she found little bright yellow sea snails crawling everywhere—the bedroom floor, up the walls, behind the wardrobe. When she explained that the snails would die when taken from the sea, I became hysterical. The entire household, she says, had instantly to drop what it was doing and help me collect the snails so that they could be rushed back to the sea.

One story has been told many times because it shows how, even as a four-year-old, I already had the makings of a true naturalist. Vanne had taken me to stay with my father’s mother, Mrs. Nutt (I called her Danny Nutt because I could not say “granny”), at the family farm. One of my tasks was to collect the hens’ eggs. As the days passed, I became more and more puzzled. Where on a chicken was there an opening big enough for an egg to come out? Apparently no one explained this properly, so I must have decided to find out for myself. I followed a hen into one of the little wooden henhouses—but of course, as I crawled after her she gave horrified squawks and hurriedly left. My young brain must have then worked out that I would have to be there first. So I crawled into another henhouse and waited, hoping a hen would come in to lay. And there I remained, crouched silently in one corner, concealed in some straw, waiting. At last a hen came in, scratched about in the straw, and settled herself on her makeshift nest just in front of me. I must have kept very still or she would have been disturbed. Presently the hen half stood and I saw a round white object gradually protruding from the feathers between her legs. Suddenly with a plop, the egg landed on the straw. With clucks of pleasure the hen shook her feathers, nudged the egg with her beak, and left. It is quite extraordinary how clearly I remember that whole sequence of events.

Filled with excitement I squeezed out after her and ran home. It was almost dark—I had been in that small stuffy henhouse for nearly four hours. I was oblivious of the fact that no one had known where I was, and that the whole household had been searching for me. They had even called the police to report me missing. Yet despite her worry, when Vanne, still searching, saw the excited little girl rushing toward the house, she did not scold me. She noticed my shining eyes and sat down to listen to the story of how a hen lays an egg: the wonder of that moment when the egg finally fell to the ground.

Certainly I was lucky to be provided with a mother wise enough to nurture and encourage my love of living things and my passion for knowledge. Most important was her philosophy that her children should always try their very best. How would I have turned out, I sometimes wonder, had I grown up in a house that stifled enterprise by imposing harsh and senseless discipline. Or in an atmosphere of overindulgence, in a household where there were no rules, no boundaries drawn. My mother certainly understood the importance of discipline, but she always explained why some things were not allowed. Above all, she tried to be fair and to be consistent.

When I was five years old and my sister, Judy, was one, we all went to live in France, as my father wanted very much for us to grow up speaking fluent French. But this was not to be, for, within a few months of our arrival, Hitler occupied Czechoslovakia, an act that would lead to World War II. It was decided that we should return to England, and since our house near London had been sold we went to stay with Danny Nutt in the old manor house where my father had grown up. Built of gray stone, it nestled into the Kent countryside, surrounded by fields of grazing cows and sheep. I passionately loved my time there. On the grounds of the manor house were the ruins of a castle where King Henry VIII had held one of his wives—crumbling blocks of gray stone filled with spiders and bats. Inside the manor house itself there was always the faint smell of the oil lamps that were lit each evening, for there was no electricity. Even now, more than sixty years later, the smell of oil lamps always takes me back to those magical days. But they did not last long. The impending horror of war was coming closer and, knowing my father would join the army at the first opportunity, Vanne took Judy and me to stay with her own mother at the Birches, an 1872 Victorian red-brick house in Bournemouth.

On September 3, 1939, it happened: England declared war on Germany. I was only five and a half years old at the time, yet I remember the occasion. The whole family was in the drawing room. The atmosphere was tense as everyone listened to the news on the wireless; after the announcement there was silence. Of course I didn’t understand what was going on, but that silence, the sense of impending doom, was very frightening. Even now, half a century later, I cannot hear the chiming of Big Ben—which always preceded the BBC news—without an involuntary shock of apprehension.

As expected my father enlisted immediately, so the Birches, just a few minutes’ walk from the English Channel, became my home. It was there, on the south coast of England, that I would spend the rest of my childhood and adolescence. Indeed, this much loved house is still my home, my refuge, when I am in England. It is where I am writing this book.