'The Ape of Sorrows': have you read it?

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'The Ape of Sorrows': have you read it?

#1  Postby extant » Aug 08, 2011 10:09 pm

I stumbled across a very good book recently in Waterstons by a Maurice Rowdon called 'The Ape of Sorrows'.

So far I have found it to be a devastatingly honest and frequently disturbing critique upon the animals that you and I (almost) inescapably still are.

It's got none of the third-person cutesyness of a Morris 'Manwatching'-style coffee-table prop, and is a bit spartan in it's style, but I really do recommend it.

http://www.theapeofsorrows.com/

Has anyone else on Ratskep/RDF2 read it? Is it just my lack of connectedness to things I should be more familar with, or does the book itself suffer from insufficient publicity? Dear Reader (past, or future) what can you do? Support my proposition, or trust my recommendation? The choice is yours (or at least, I will let you believe that!)

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Re: 'The Ape of Sorrows': have you read it?

#2  Postby Morgan Everett » Aug 14, 2011 10:13 pm

I've not read the book, and probably won't: it's not the kind that appeals to me. I react with hostility to any text which purports to know me better than I know myself, and uses tired statistical platitudes to attempt to justify the supposition that humankind is morally indistinguishable from "animals".

Reading a little about the now deceased Rowdon, he seems to have entertained a great deal of nonsense, and this does little to make me more keen.
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Re: 'The Ape of Sorrows': have you read it?

#3  Postby Spearthrower » Aug 21, 2011 3:23 am

Never heard of it - might have been better to put the thread in the books subforum if we're just discussing whether people have read the book. However, if you're talking about the claims made by Rowdon, perhaps you could highlight the ones you find interesting?

The only thing I've got to go by at the moment is the Amazon blurb.

The Ape of Sorrows examines humans and our behaviors in a new and captivating way and presents our species as a being of sorrows who thousands of years ago, lost its original or fixed habitat.

Maurice Rowdon has authored several books on animal/human intelligence and opens with a gripping retelling of the monkey brawl at the London zoo during the 1930s - a scene that illustrates the power of sexuality and instinct to affect animal behavior. As Rowdon shares the results of his intense studies of and comparisons between humans and animals, he portrays the human as he truly is - the least intelligent animal of all the creatures, while emphasizing the fact that even today, modern science continues to struggle to catch up with nature. As Rowdon diplomatically challenges long-held scientific beliefs, he offers his own theories as he carefully measures impulse versus astuteness in both the human and animal and why either creature may eventually leave its habitat enhanced or depleted.

Manifestations of the human being's need to conquer everything in its path are evident everywhere in the world today. The Ape of Sorrows provides valuable insight and the unique opportunity to view humans without self-condemnation as an eroded species dedicated to its own destruction.


While I certainly don't know if this is a true representation of some of Rowdon's claims - there are 3 or 4 claims in the synopsis that are just flat wrong and/or bizarre.
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Re: 'The Ape of Sorrows': have you read it?

#4  Postby Ironclad » Aug 21, 2011 3:25 am

RDF2..?
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Re: 'The Ape of Sorrows': have you read it?

#5  Postby dashy » Sep 15, 2011 8:38 am

Hello, the Amazon blurb was written by Amazon and frankly it doesn't represent the book very well. If you go to www.theapeofsorrows.com you will get a more correct overview of the book. I'm Maurice Rowdon's widow and I put the book out myself after Maurice's death. It has received very little publicity because I, the publisher, have not been able to get behind it. I am just now beginning to answer different mails and questions I am receiving about Maurice, his work and in particular, this book which was a culmination of a life-time of dedicated thought. It's very difficult to sum up The Ape of Sorrows in just a few sentences but a here are a few of its ideas. Maurice was essentially exploring our human 'history' and challenging what we accept as givens, such as the notion that the human is the highest and wisest of all the species. He argues that each specie's intelligence is specific to itself. Step by step he shows us that our perceptions of ourselves as humans came from misguided theology. He explores how this theology has had us come to collectively regard all of the earth's species (including peoples of our own species) and all of the earth's resources as dead. So it is that in less than a hundred and fifty years human activity has turned our own habitat into an almost total battle zone where peoples are either conducting ferocious war on each other, or on the earth, or on the earth's other species---and as mindlessly as someone sawing the limb off of a tree he happens to be perched upon. Maurice's book, among many of other thinkers' books, is an honest and intelligent enquiry into this inherited savagery which threatens our own survival. Eventually, I will get around to blogging on the site I had made for maurice at www.mauricerowdon.org.
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Re: 'The Ape of Sorrows': have you read it?

#6  Postby Spearthrower » Nov 15, 2011 11:43 am

Hi and welcome. My condolences on your loss.

As you said, the Amazon review must be quite off as I am sure you are more aware of the content of the book, and your write-up looks both more interesting than the other one!

One thing I am not sure on there, although I obviously don't know how it was treated: modern society is actually far more peaceable than hunter-gatherer society. Far more people live together, and very few of them are directly related, or even share the same beliefs... yet they don't meet each other with axes raised. There might be latent hostility underneath, and it might boil to the surface in time of stress, but I don't think it's supportable to claim we are effectively degenerating in terms of violence on ourselves. On other animals though, I can't help but agree - our power over nature has grown far, far quicker than our understanding of it, or our empathy with it.
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Re: 'The Ape of Sorrows': have you read it?

#7  Postby dashy » May 11, 2012 6:56 pm

Thank you for your condolences, Spearthrower. I miss Maurice terribly. I'm sorry I haven't answered you but I had yet another loss in my family. Our species doing violence to the planet and all other sentient beings on it is the same thing as doing violence to ourselves. Even our bees are threatened now and once they go we, as a species, must go as well.

Let me just find a quote or two from the book: 'Man might be called the visionary creature because without a vision of what life should be, or what life means, or how life should be lived, he cannot even form a society. Lacking so many of his biological compulsions he is removed from the habitat whether he lies it or not and must therefore create a secondary habitat that so fills the air with its noise and color that he is swept off his feet from his earliest months and grows up to believe that this secondary thing is the 'real' world, and even the only world, fixed for all time and completely independent of him. It seems that the human can only stay in one reality a certain number of centuries. When it loses its hold on him, that is when his perceptions cease to convey it as unchanging and eternal, when he is no longer sure how he is going to behave or in what he is going to believe, only one thing will reunite him with others and that is a new reality which bursts on him like a truth that is both obvious and yet utterly original.
Maurice argues that all human needs refer to religion (but the theology is so embedded in the life that often we aren't aware of this, ie atheism is really only a Christian sect) and he explores how Christianity became the 'detachment theology' which 'turned their renunciation program...into a sort of day-by-day suicide. You were now allotted one life only and in this life you had to decide between the path to heaven or the path to hell. All life was thus concentrated in an after-life , not on any benefit or grace that might accrue here and now. All the the time you were here you were somewhere else, and present time was spent in future speculation'...as a way of writing off the habitat it was impeccable. Nature was now an incidental background to your drama, not only the nature outside but the one that gave you sexual appetites. You could befoul your environment, hide your body not only from the elements but from your own gaze, because you belonged to neither. So you missed the obvious connection between your sewage and your plagues, between your willful ignorance of your own body and the high mortality rate. ...since this one life of our was of only incidental importance, being a mere ante-chamber to heavenly delights or the most gruesome eternal tortures, you did everything as it were absently, overlooking yourself as a live being. A death religion therefore came about...'
Maurice goes on to show how Christianity created an alienated mode of life and in fact is responsible for a gradual erosion of our own inner habitat. He calls this the erosion of our natural faculties and he demonstrates over and over how the sympathetic bond (empathy, concern, friendship) between peoples is becoming desperately brittle. Ours in fact is now the age of narcissism which is extreme isolation not just from others but from one's own self. ...'the cult of detachment' made 'remorseless human acts possible'.

And to Extant, Hello! I'm so hoping to get back into working on publicizing Maurice's book soon. For myself, reading it helped me to put myself and my troubles in context. I no longer feel alone and particularly 'special' with my difficulties of trying to be a decent, whole human. I do think it's an important book and one that could be useful to people who are are seeking ways out of the old paradigms.
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Re: 'The Ape of Sorrows': have you read it?

#8  Postby oneofsevenbillion » Dec 19, 2013 9:33 am

I have only just stumbled on The Ape of Sorrows and ordered it today. If I infer correctly, I am in sympathy with much of what it says. I have been writing in a similar vein and am in touch with others who think somewhat similarly. I don't think there is consensus. There is a belated search on for the evolutionary and historical origins of human waywardness. Concepts such as anthropathology, depressive realism, etc., are often used to refer to this. Authors like David Benatar, Thomas Ligotti, John Gray, Peter Zapffe, Colin Feltham, et al., write about human suffering, alienation and absurdity, about antinatalism, depressive realism, philosophical pessimism. I think we have several intellectual camps here - those who believe humans have gone irrevocably astray and are doomed, those who agree with a direly negative analysis of the human condition but hope to find solutions of various kinds, those who think that only some humans and societies or social arrangements are doomed, and those who think this whole line of enquiry is irrational nonsense. One of the obstacles to comprehensive rational analysis is language itself, which tends to subtly force us into polarised views. Other obstacles include ego and impatience (mainly patriarchal characteristics): we are not given to discovery through dialogue and co-operation.
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