I was listening to a podcast yesterday about negativity bias. The idea, put simply, is that negative information has a greater effect on our emotional state and perception of the world than neutral or positive information. There are good evolutionary reasons for this asymmetry. Learning how to pick the ripest, sweetest fruit is certainly helpful, as anyone who has bitten into a mealy apple can attest, but you may not get a second chance to learn what a venomous snake looks like. The salience of negative experiences means they are more easily seared into our brains and resonate longer. Though it may be adaptive, this bias is often ill-suited to modern life. These days we are awash in information and there’s no shortage of negative experiences to choose from, a fact made clear whenever I am foolish enough to read comments on the sanctuary’s YouTube channel before going to bed.
Which is why we all need Willy B right now.
Granted, watching adult chimpanzees overcome their fear of the outdoors is a painful reminder of their tragic pasts. My heart aches as I watch Willy B make false start after false start while he works up the courage to venture out under open skies. Or when he clings desperately to familiar objects, stretching as far as he can to reach into the grass without taking his foot off of the boardwalk that is his lifeline. Or when he climbs clumsily up the ladder, searching for his footing, in a way that is completely uncharacteristic of a species so powerful and agile and for whom climbing should be as natural as breathing.
But we are so fortunate to witness his determination. To feel his courage. To share in his wonderment as he discovers the world around him and beneath his feet.
There could very well be setbacks to come, but Willy B’s efforts this past week have been deeply inspiring. To be honest, I have had trouble doing anything other than sitting quietly by the fence to watch it all unfold. There are so many other things to do and so much going on in the world deserving of attention. But Willy B is the story I need right now. And it’s been amazing to share it in real time with you, knowing that we are all cheering him on together.
This video was a joy to watch. Everyone so eager for Willy to make it to the top.?
Yay Willy B!!! Overcoming many years of conditioning is no easy feat. Thank you for sharing this milestone, really needed a dose of positivity and hope….guess we all do these days. ?
Janet Geisel says
When Willy B made his first attempt at the grape a couple of days ago and then ran back in, I had a feeling just a matter of days before he adventured farther out and boy did he to take in the freeness that your sanctuary gives the chimps. I can’t stop smiling and I bet Willy B can’t either.
I didn’t know I could hold my breath for as long as I did… This is a mission control moment that we are so grateful to you at CSNW for making possible and for sharing so openly with us. It is regrettable that negativity must be shared and my thoughts will touch on that here and there on your behalf J.B. ( and staff ) but for now I, along with you in some small way, will glory in this triumph of Willy B.’s adventure. I could see this post better if the tears of happiness would clear.. but I am enjoying them so much <3 Thank yo for sharing!
Judy! I was holding my breath too! So exciting for Willy B!
The simple compassion of pure love & respect you all carry in your hearts for each of these magnificent, resilient chimps, is so palpable, that I can actually feel it…
Lucinda Almy says
This was so wonderful to watch. No matter what we face in our lives, Willy B’s courage is inspiring.
June Jones says
I understand why Willy B hesitates, I hate climbing ladders! Fear of falling off them, I guess. I’m pretty sure it won’t be long before he just scurries up with no thought at all. Thank you so much for sharing this amazing time in his, and your, lives.
It’s amazing how far he’s gone in just one week! Good job Willy!!
This video really brightened my day. It wasn’t easy, but Willy B has taken the first steps to new adventures. I’m hoping this will give the girls the courage to venture out.
Beverly Donovan says
Now Willy B needs to get the girls out there.
I was thinking the whole time about an astronaut taking their first steps onto a new world. I see I wasn’t alone. Congratulations to all of you, kudos to your patience and support. We all have a brilliant summer ahead.
Woohoo! You got this Willy B!!!!
Linda C says
Thanks to all of YOU, J. B. for taking us all along with you! With all of the things that you guys have to do every day, Writing a blog must be a challenge some days but we really do appreciate it!
As I watched him this week, hanging on to the familiar items, whether those are the caging, the boardwalk or the ladder, it reminds me of Columbus’s diary. They were sailing into the unknown, and some people truly believe that
when they reached the edge of the world, they would just drop off into nothingness. It may seem silly to us, but to him that fear is real, that fear of dropping into the unknown. At least we know that he feels that there is a safe anchor there. Some place he can run back to if the outside world ever gets too big or too scary for him.
I’m so glad he did it, and that the nice weather is here, and that they will get to enjoy every bit of it! I am confident that Mave will get out there as soon as it’s just a tiny bit warmer.
Sherry P says
This will go down as one of my top 10 blogpost/videos ever! I love that you shared the staff’s breathless excitement with us, as I certainly was feeling it, too. 😀
Thank you, what a great video, I think of Willy B as so big and strong,
but he looked so little and afraid on that ladder.
He reminds me of the cowardly lion when he realizes he had all the courage he needed all along 🙂
Barbara H. says
I agree, sometimes I think of his past also, but the video I just watched made me smile
from ear to ear and cheer him on. He has come such a long way and I do believe he
will continue and trust more and more. The fact that he is safe, happy, and no more
unwanted harm is the best thing to watch and cheer him on. Thank you so much for
the video and comments. He is my pal this year so I am always interested in him.
Ah, Willie B! I wish you’d known how many eyes and arms and hearts were holding on to you as you made your climb. So proud of you for going to the top even for just that moment that must’ve seemed like a lifetime for you. Good man!
Every hesitation, every step, I half expected Willy B to turn back and head down ladder but he didn’t, it would have been the safe thing to do, but he didn’t. He braved it and went on to explore the great unknown. His little head peeking out up top is just so endearing. With held breath and a tear in my eye I took every single step with him. And today I love Willy all the more.
Thank you for your words today J.B., you are correct, we all need Willy B right now. I think you should share Willy B’s story with Anna’s “Some Good News” and let the world embrace Willy B and his incredible courage. Inspiring in the sweetest way.
Carla René says
With the awesome part being the next time he’s up there he won’t be so afraid, nor the next, and so on.
Kathleen Klueh says
Wow, fantastic! What an accomplishment for Willy B. Scary but exciting for him at the same time. Thanks for the video, it’s a keeper.
Jo Lathrop says
Beautiful post and thank you so much for it! We all feel like that sometimes and you are so right that we are all so lucky to be able to watch him overcome so much because of human interference with his life!!! It’s a joy to see! Love and hugs to you all…
Carla René says
WOW! This is epic.
And the ending was pure nerd!!! 3> it so much!!!
Did I ever bore y’all with why I’m studying for two doctorates in Astrophysics and Applied Mathematics? Because My Uncle Keith (RIP) worked for McDonnell-Douglas in the ’70s and ’80s as a contractor on the original space shuttle, and he designed it’s original electrical systems as a EE. That bird is my legacy and special to me, along with everything else to do with space, so this is hands-down, my absolute favourite post of all time!
So proud when the chimps take chances, even tentative ones, and succeed. Go, buddy! I was screaming from the cattle video!
I’m doing this in reverse. Read J.B.’s post, wonderful and true to hearth as always. Then I read the comments , sniffling and sniffling all the way through. Now I’m going to look at the video. Willy B. is waiting.
Dear brave Willy B. I cannot imagine what it took for you to do that. It’s beyond my lived experience. The platform is Willy B’s Moon and this was Willy B’s lunar walk. Incredible bravery.
J.B. How long was the actual time to getting up top?
On this occasion (which took place on Thursday), it probably took him about 30 minutes to get to the top. What I wasn’t able to show in this video was that he went back up later and sat there comfortably for about 5 minutes. He didn’t stray far from his escape ladder but it was a big step. And yesterday he went up there within 5 minutes with much less hesitation. He even played little games of chase, walking along the boardwalk as Kelsi walked outside of the fences. Amazing progress each day.
Linda C says
I imagine he also has to get used to the feel of the wood on his hands and feet, right?
That’s great! I was thinking it was longer than that. Even braver. And then to go back and clearly be relaxed about it. A brave and happy heart. That’s how I think of him now. Thanks J.B. I hope you are using your spare time 🙂 to write a book on how to conceptualize, fund, build and run a sanctuary. The hope is it would be well used by others.
Carla René says
Jeeb, is this the post with the most comments, or do you have that information? I think it would be right up there if not the most interactive one. It shows just how much we love these guys! <3
I’m not sure where to find that info but I would agree it must be up there!
Arlene and Michael says
He is so brave! Thank you for giving him this chance. I hope that he will have some friends out there with him some day. Standing ovation for Willy B.
So happy for Willie’s milestone, but every day these beautiful creatures remind us what it’s like to laugh, enjoy life, forgive those who may have harmed us in the past and be surrounded by people who care about us. They show us how to enjoy the little things in our world and that all vegetables are good for us too.
This is so exciting. Willy B is a pioneer! Love the reference to the moon walk. I am intimately connected to NASA from my
step dad who procured the property for NASA for Cape Kennedy and who was the lead engineer on designing the launch pads for the space shuttle. Watching Willy B take his first steps is as exciting as watching a space launch at the Cape. What do the girls think of his adventures? Any interest in joining him? How different is this introduction to the hill from the 7!
Mave often waits for Willy B at the end of the chute for him to return, and when he does she gives him a big greeting. Honey B stays at the top of the chute. But usually Honey B and Mave are off playing while Willy B does his exploring. I think Mave will be next but I can’t say when that will be.
Linda C says
we have ro remember that the 7 had time to get used to the outdoors, with the greenhouse, which is probably comfier than the chute
Thanks for all you do to support the chimps to blossom and enjoy their safe space.
Jo Arroyo says
Well done Willy B! Inspirational! They’re all amazing.
Yes, watching Willy’s amazing feat/feet makes my heart smile? Thank you for documenting and sharing this special moment!
Elaine Reininger says
JB,thanks so much for todays wonderful video, I didn’t want it to end. I am sorry you are having to deal with negative people and comments at this wonderful moment. Watching Willy B reach out as far as he could while keeping one foot still on the boards, was perhaps the most touching moment of this video. And I can well appreciate the fact that you had a hard time getting all your chores done. I too would have been glued to the spot and unable to leave the scene that I ham hooing was unfolding. I am hoping that one of Willy’s girlfriends will be joining him on this incredible adventure.
Nancy L says
Oh the possibilities are endless now for Willy B and the girls!! I’m curious if Honey B and Mave were witness to this brave feat done by WB today?
Reminds me of me when I have climbed vertical ladders. I could feel Willy B’s apprehension as he tried to figure out how to shift from the ladder’s top to the platform. Been there, done that and felt the uncertainty. Chimp behaviors are so familiar, and that’s really cool.