The question of boxes become very apt when one is moving to a new jungle. While those of my tribe are minimalist in their approach (in general), feathering their nests, as it were, with new leaves in new places, I have acquired the very human tradition of filling my home with books and yarn. And it is very important not to mix up the two; one wouldn’t wish to twist a book in hopes of making a scarf.

Human boxes, I believe, are an extension of pattern recognition. We all do it. In the jungle, I know that when an orange, furry feline jumps at me, I should run for it. Does that mean your average domestic tabby is a vicious creature, ready to rip out my heart and eat my young? (Well, yes, possibly, but it could very well get lost under the sofa on the way, and therefore presents no threat.) In the jungle, though, that cat is a tiger, and I would do well to recognize the warning signs.

For us higher primates, making boxes is a way to designate “us” from the “other”. As we form our social groups and pair-bonds, we create alliances. We will protect our friends’ children (an extension of “us”), whereas we wouldn’t care for the Kokootwe group of monkeys downriver. They are as nasty a group of monkeys as you’d ever wish to meet- they have orange foreheads and steal perfectly polite monkeys’ bananas and squash.

Can this box-making be carried too far? Certainly. Humans do it all the time. They look at us monkeys, and see that some of us can get violent. To a human, all other primates look the same. Ergo, gorillas are frequently maligned, though they are such gentle beasts. For my part, I do not care if humans malign gorillas, as they are smug, self-righteous saints who make us think less of ourselves, but there you have it.

At what point do we say that we have built cardboard walls to define what we see? Why do we frequently fail to keep note that there are exceptions to each category? Better yet, why do we not mix it up, and cushion our books with yarn?