It really is a mistake to get carried away by the absurd routines of our everyday life, and we should remember our closeness to apes and monkeys.

So that even if the world were a paradise with food everywhere and palm trees to shade us from the sun and warm seas to wash the dust off and glittering beaches to dry on while eating figs, even so we would be preoccupied, as all monkeys are, with the other monkeys of our tribe, and intensely curious about strangers, and endlessly investigative of things that never require investigation in the first place.

When you enter a building, nowadays, there are guards to check identity cards and books to sign, and we pretend these are "security measures" but there is no security in them, of course.

Anybody who has ever seen an outraged editor or a paranoid writer does not need to be told that if a newspaper is ever blown to smithereens it will be one or the other or both who account for it, not somebody blowing in off L Street who cares little one way or another.

When, for my grievous sins, I was an editor, I was never so afraid to walk at all hours of the night through the "worst" parts of Washington to get my car, as I was of certain writers who thought everything they wrote was comparable to the text of Moses fresh from Sinai.

"It looked like it was gonna rain," they would write, and God help the innocent editor who suggested another way of saying it. Many a time I was in mortal danger, but as a fellow simian with simian writers, I adhered to the simian propensity for courage and adventure.

Simians also like to boast.

Even at the time, now mercifully past, it was clear to me that most of the discomforts or squabbles or dangers of the office have no base at all in reason, but a very strong base indeed in the simian fondness for excited chattering and racing up and down trees.

Simians love to examine and cross-examine each other; this is the nearly sole reason for committees and daily office meetings and for identity cards that guards can examine and all that sort of thing that accounts for one-third of any man's daily hours. And for virtually all phone calls, needless to say.

But it dawned on me that other animals do things differently. The beautiful life of wolves comes to mind. It is scarcely believable, even when it has been proved, how rich the world is, how awesome it is, in the richness of life that is organized far differently from our own.

On beastly cold October days, the temperature in the 50s, it is incredible to contemplate the Antarctic penguins who, with only their natural feathers, yet stand on the ice even without eating for days on end, with the snow falling on them.

A simian could not do that. The life of the horseshoe crab is incredible, as indeed its ancestry is; ancient beyond any simian comprehension. And I never hear anybody hint delicately at his proud pedigree -- a scant 300 years will do it for you in America -- without thinking of the cicadas, the cockroaches, the magnolias, the waterlilies: now there are some truly ancient houses for you.

When Australia broke off from the great southern continent and floated northward (not in our time will she bump into Asia), it is impossible not to think of that fragile seashell on which the goddess Aphrodite floated, the skies raining roses upon her.

That little island continent, with her precious cargo of kangaroos and odd birds and odd everything. The whole island was dedicated to marsupials, things like possums that bear infants far more helpless than any mammal, yet able to climb up parental fur into a safe pocket to complete some infant growth before facing the outdoor world.

The little lemurs of Madagascar -- how they flourished once the sea separated Africa from their new island. And how they dwindled (there are none now in North America, though there used to be) where larger apes moved in to compete for their niche in the world. But in Madagascar they were safe, without gross apes.

The greatest thing about being a simian, so far as I know, is the faculty of utter amazement, delighted wonder. I have a friend who knows about bugs, and he gets tired of my demands to tell again and again (simians love repetition) about the incredible fly that must lay its egg within a dragonfly's egg in the water. How do you fly through the air, with a brain far smaller than even your supervisor, and yet find a dragonfly egg in the first place? As a simian with a fish pond, I have looked for dragonfly eggs man and boy for four decades and never found one, except when I have seen them actually being laid. But once they hit water, they are unfindable. But the bug finds them.

A lifetime is not enough to learn what is amazing about ants. Or rocks of the Jurassic. Or the sex life of even one genus of plants like orchids.

When I was a boy I knew a wonderful man who found it hard to believe that most of us do not know even 300 kinds of dragonfly; he knew thousands. He could not believe we had seen dragonflies all our boyhood and not noticed anything more than that some are blue and some are brown.

I think education is folly, if not much worse than folly, that lets imbeciles get out of major universities without knowing one damned thing about corals or yucca moths.

There are endless "subjects" that deal with abstractions and these, in any simian world, are bound to be important, for all monkeys love games.

But there is a real world, as well, and it can be learned about. Men like me who were never properly educated -- laziness and a love of idle merriment is a simian quality to end all simian qualities -- do not even know the rate at which uranium turns to lead.

But good simians, if I may boast of being one, at least have the faculty of wonder, provided only they are given something really marvelous to marvel at. I have enjoyed a book, "Life on Earth," by David Attenborough, which has the beautiful simian approach (racing madly) of tending to life on this planet from 3,000 million years ago through James Watt, as it were: from the first stirrings in warm seas with lightning everywhere, to the noble peak of creation, sublime in reason and compassion, etc., etc., which is what we simians are today.

And yet, even from our unspeakable heights, it must be an imperfect or a spoiled simian who does not marvel at the penguin in snow, the wolf with the cub, the lemur marking his little tree, and Australia sailing north in a shower of kangaroos. graphics: WP illustration by Susan Davis. ... and Australia sailing north in a shower of kangaroos.