The Fear of Monkeys - The Best E-Zine on the Web for Politically Conscious Writing The Black Gibbon - Issue Three
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The Black Gibbon

The Black Gibbon
The black gibbon is a small arboreal ape weighing about 8 kg. They prefer subtropical evergreen forests and eat leaf buds, shoots, and fruits. Gibbons are mainly diurnal. The black gibbon is the only polygamous gibbon species. The black gibbon was once widespread in forests throughout southern China and Vietnam and into Laos and Cambodia. In 1990 the only area where black gibbon populations were reported to be healthy was in Yunnan Province, China. In 2000 they were in China, Laos and Vietnam. The black gibbon is threatened by loss of its preferred primary forest habitat, as well as by hunting for food and Oriental medicine."



The Inquisition Game


Richard Bissell

I thought I should write to you upon your decision to enter the priesthood. In some ways I envy you. Is that a mortal sin? I always believed it was a lesser evil, but then what do us protestants know.

As you know I attended a protestant seminary when I was in the process of destroying my own wasted youth. The students at the college would put on plays or vignettes for the congregation every Sunday. This was a way to break up the monotony of the bible readings. I was given the role of Luther in one of these vignettes, celebrating his founding of Protestantism. I should say that I only played him for one showing. I don't even know how I got the part. I didn't really study my lines and I had to do a lot of adlibbing.

I think I called Christ the janitor of the soul or some such nonsense. I think the correct analogy is that Christ is the jailer of the soul. I also had gotten confused of the diet of worms, and thinking it was a culinary dish, made the mistake of eating gummy worms on stage. But I think the last straw was the fault of Luther's mother, Margarethe. She was played by this biology teacher who I thought was really hot. I guess I had a crush o n her. Anyway, I was supposed to give her a hug as I left for church, with my 95 theses in hand. Indulge me, Mother, I said in a heated moment and I grabbed her and kissed her in the way a man kisses a woman. I even added some French influence to this kiss. Her slap was heard across the room and an audible gasp spewed from the Christian crowd. A friend of mine later told me I also grabbed Margarethe buttocks but I will not admit to that cardinal sin. After that scene the only person I would have been allowed to play in that church would be Barnabas. Someone they could legally crucify.

I gave them another crack at me seven months later when I snuck a pizza and a girl into my dorm. I am not sure what the greater sin was. We were supposed to eat like the missionaries. Food was for fuel they explained. Why does forbidden fruit taste so good? I broke the laws and I was expelled from Eden. Or at least Bethany Bible College.

I never really fit in there anyway. Although I did envy those theological students who found peace and acceptance within the scriptures. They would spend hours questioning each other, debating each other in the old testament history.

They would play a game that any catholic should appreciate. It was called Inquisition. They would tie someone up to a chair and question them about certain old testament events. "How tall was goliath?" "What were the names of Noah's sons?" As the night went on the game would become nastier. The Inquisitor would ask specifics about the victims life. "Name the seven deadly sins." "Now confess your sins. How have you broken God's commands?" The penitent would have ice put to his feet when he was slow in answering. Or he would have rubber bands snapped on different parts of his body. Raising welts.

You Catholics are into self flagellation while we followers of Luther felt that voluntary penance was penance denied. We did not trust the penitent. How hard would he really flog himself? I am not sure which is the higher calling. Which way which leads to righteousness?

I lay no blame at the feet of Bethany Bible College. I knew the law and agreed to follow the law. As Paul said, the spirit was willing but the flesh was weak.

In some ways I knew that pizza would be my last meal. I will not say the last supper because Christ was not invited into that room. Private sins are best kept to ones self. I feel somehow you Catholics would have forgiven me. I would have suffered some penance and then been allowed back in the fold.

I envied that. The ability to go to church on Saturday evening if one had Sunday plans. The right to talk to a man in a box and be forgiven any sin. Never being admonished for committing the same sins again and again. A dollar in the plate and you are saved!

My protestant friends knew my heart. I was not meant for seminary. I was both of the world and in the world. When a hungry eighteen year old boy is given pizza and the chance to discover the secrets of a females holy of holies, most will give in to temptation. When given this opportunity it is difficult to resist. And I did not put up much of a fight.

Do I regret my decision, you ask? No, not for one moment. I envied them their happy times and fun Christian games but I was never one of them. I never got much of a kick out of bible study and my heart was just not into the Inquisition game. Does this make me a bad person?

Every group has its tests. Some are physical, some are spiritual, and some are mental. Years later, I did try to play Inquisition with a girl I dated but she left before I was even able to put on my purple Robe. She didn't return my calls and I was never able to make her understand the misunderstanding. Some habits die hard but after that scene I gave up the game completely.

I did take attend a catholic college a few years later and took a course in contemporary moral issues from a priest. I really loved that class and I played Luther every chance I had. I remember this priest had an expression to talk about evil people. "They will be smoking turds in hell," he would say with a grim smile. He had many off colour jokes and told them often. Anyway, on the last week of classes he went around the room and asked everyone what grade they thought they deserved. Everyone was saying B or B+ but when it came to me I yelled out A+ of course. Everyone laughed.

"I added immensely to this class," I argued. "I spoke up and debated every chance I had." They all had to agree with me in this. "You have made me contemplate retirement on more than one occasion and added years to my liver," the old priest told me. "But you are correct, you debated every minor and major point that was raised. You articulated your position and did not yield to anyone, especially me. I will tell you what Bissell. I will give us both an A+. I for surviving you and you for not giving a damn about facts, figures, or anyone but yourself in this class."

I never understood why the rest of class was angry with me. I got the only A+ he gave out that year. They could have asked for it as well as I did. I did nothing they could not have done. I loved that old priest. The next year I went to a bar he frequented and tried to bring up the old protestant arguments. I was unceremoniously thrown out and after that we lost touch. I would have loved to tell him about the Inquisition game. Maybe he felt he had already played it. Torture can come in many forms.

My father died a horrible death after nine months of suffering. He lived his life as a man of God and his reward was pain and suffering. The sun rises and sets on the righteous man as well as the sinner.

I had a brother in law. His name was Chuck and he was a vicious and evil man. He used to force his five year old daughter to eat raw Hamburg. Once he found a weakness he revelled in exploiting it. She found the raw hamburger meat to be disgusting. Yet, no amount of pleading and no amount of tears would dissuade him. Two or three times she got intestinal worms. "Part of life," he would say and give a drunken sneer.

When I was a very young child he would show up at the door covered in blood looking for forgiveness. The blood was that of my sisters. My father would go to her and make sure she was ok and then try to council them in the art of relationships. I often felt my father should have taken a large hammer to the sludge that was Chuck's heart and rid the world of unnecessary evil. But of course he never did.

Eventually Chuck got his just deserts. He was an oil delivery person. He always smelled of gasoline. One day, while drinking and working, his clothes covered in oil, he lit a cigarette. I still smile at the thought. Of course he caught on fire.

They say nothing gets attention like a man with his entire body in flames running through the streets. He finally stumbled into a neighbours pool. Nearly drowned. Burns over 70% of his body, he died ten days later after incredible suffering and pain. The old priest would have smiled at that. Knowing he got to smoke his cigars both in a hell of his own making, and one that will follow.

Richard Bissell is a part time author and full time health care practitioner who lives and works outside of Boston, Massachusetts. He has three children who are all the same age but are not triplets. For more information about his unique lifestyle please visit him at

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