If it looks to good to be true …

Recently I ran across a picture on the Internet of a little monkey laying its head lovingly on a white pigeon. It doesn’t sound like much, but I found it attractively touching and even sent it to a few close friends, which I try mightily not to do.

The expression on the monkey’s face is as benevolent and godlike as anything I can think of, and I need reminding of goodness hundreds of times a day, I figure. So the picture is part of my spiritual practice.

Of course it’s also unutterably cute, too, which I’ve come to appreciate. Little children in grownups’ clothes and big-eyed kittens don’t do it for me, but a monkey and a pigeon are irresistible.

I figured it would take a pigeon with nerves of steel to let a monkey, no matter how cute I think it is, lay his head on its back and not even turn around. The pigeon would have to know the monkey awfully well, and how likely is that? I had no idea.

Unless the pigeon was stuffed, which could easily be the case, that monkey cuddling a live pigeon still seemed a most improbable event. Maybe the white pigeon is a dove. That’s a little better—a monkey cuddling a dove. Monkeys have cuddled up to a number of soft things in laboratory settings, especially warm, soft things with a heartbeat. In a laboratory setting I might do the same.

Eventually I figured the whole setup was probably straight out of Photoshop, which would explain why the monkey and the dove look so real. They are real, and each was no doubt photographed separately and then seamlessly melded into an image of a dove calmly accepting a monkey on its back, something no pigeon of my acquaintance would even consider. Maybe doves aren’t so nervous as pigeons.

When I first saw the picture, I thought, “Awww.” You would too. At first I imagined that the monkey and the pigeon had sensed their shared beingness and their communion was proof of the oneness of all that is, or words to that effect. Then I decided that the pigeon was stuffed, until I decided—based on the voluminous evidence I had made up—that the whole thing was done in Photoshop just to make me go “Awwww.” The Photoshop explanation seemed the most reasonable.

I can easily imagine a monkey and a pigeon forging a bond and taking comfort in each other, like people. I also imagine that that kind of thing doesn’t happen much because animals tend not to be fearful and insecure. Imagine that.

At least once, though, on an island off the coast of Guandong Province in south China, a monkey loved a pigeon, and somebody took that picture. I read it on the Internet, so it must be true.