I absolutely love Jane Goodall - her passion for chimpanzees, animals, humans and the entire wellbeing of the planet itself is so admirable it is difficult to comprehend how one human being (now in her 80s) has managed to fit so much into one lifetime. I've been fortunate enough to help with the efforts of Jane Goodall Institute Australia recently, and just a few weeks back actually got to meet her (see my personal blogpost about this here)!! It's a memory I will never in my life forget, and one that reinforced my own life's purpose and direction.
Prior to my meeting with her I felt drawn to read one of her books called 'Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey' - it called to me not only because of my admiration for her conservation work, nor for her tremendous breakthroughs and discoveries as a primatologist, but for her spiritual experiences and journey in contemplating the deeper meaning of life. So when I picked up this book and read the opening paragraphs about her life changing and mystical visit to the Notre Dame in Paris in 1974, I was floored..
Just three days before I first laid eyes on the opening paragraphs of this book, there had been a terrible and tragic fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral, destroying it's landmark spire and most of the roof structure. The upper walls had been severely damaged, with exterior art either damaged or destroyed. On hearing of this tragedy I had reflected on my own visit to the cathedral back in 2005, and just how colourful and illuminating the stained glass windows had appeared.
I read the opening paragraphs of Jane's Reason for Hope with my mouth agape:
"Many years ago, in the spring of 1974, I visited the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. There were not many people around, and it was quiet and still inside. I gazed in silent awe at the great Rose Window, glowing in the morning sun. All at once the cathedral was filled with a huge volume of sound...an organ playing magnificently for a wedding...in the cathedral...it seemed to enter and possess my whole self. It was as though the music itself was alive".
"That moment, a suddenly captured moment of eternity, was perhaps the closest I have ever come to experiencing ecstacy, the ecstacy of the mystic" (Dr Jane Goodall, Reason for Hope).
Not only was this a tremendous coincidence to be reading this mere days after the first flames burst forth from under the roof of the 850-year old framework, but the specific references to the Rose Window and pipe organs as central elements to her own personal mystical experience was simply staggering. You see, despite the excessive damage of the fire to many areas of the historical relic, it had been widely reported that the ..cathedral's two pipe organs (one that boasts over 8,000 pipes alone), and it's three 13th century rose windows, 'suffered little to no damage'.
The fire at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris on 16th April 2019 lasted over 9 hours and destroyed the cathedral's original spire and most of the roof (Image Credit: Nivenn Lanos)
The three Rose Windows can be seen at the top of this image after the fire (Image Credit: Nick Edwards)
After picking my jaw up off the table I poured over Jane's words and became quite mesmerised by her life experiences and her humble and honest accounts of a journey that led her into some of the most dangerous areas of the world (and to living with creatures who back in that time were considered to be extremely unsafe, aggressive and dangerous. Fortunately due to Jane's groundbreaking work in the field we now have a more realistic evidence based account of the behaviours and personalities of our oldest living relatives).
Then again, in Chapter 6 (titled 'A Decade of Change') Jane's Notre Dame experience is credited as highly influential to her spiritual path, prompting her to re-visit questions from her youth such as,
Was there a purpose to life on planet earth? and what role were we humans supposed to play in the overall picture?
Jane's genuine inquisitiveness into the philosophy and meaning of life is a central theme across all chapters of this book, setting it apart from some of her other published works.
A must-read for those on the spiritual path themselves, or for those curious about what theirs might entail.
Thank you so much for being here! This is my little 'book blog' where I write about what I'm currently reading, or what books I'm surrounding myself with.