My father had a paper weight of the three wise monkeys when I was growing up and it was around our house as far back as I can remember. In those days, I just accepted it for what it was, a paper weight, something you use to keep papers from blowing off the table. Admittedly It was an oddity and it made me curious. What could these monkeys see or hear or say that would be so bad? It did not occur to me that this age-old symbol was intended to portray our goals in life to live without passing on bad information and striving to do good.
At some point, I became aware of a more obtuse meaning. I was reminded of that meaning when I saw the German Sergeant Schultz in Hogan's Heroes who would exclaim, "I see nothing, I hear nothing," when he wanted to assure the prisoners of war in the TV sitcom that he would not betray their trust.
Fast forward about fifty years and I was reminded of the wise monkeys just the other day. I was gazing down the parking lot where I live and couldn't make out an object in the distance about 80 yards away. That's because I don't see very well now and my eyes can't detect all the fine detail of objects at a distance.
I've had hearing problems since I was an infant. I have traditionally failed hearing tests all my life so it was a surprise when the Veterans Administration provided hearing aids, to find out what I had been missing for so many years.
Finally, an old crown and bridge I received while I was still in the Army more than forty years ago gave way and had to be replaced with a partial denture. So in the morning now I have to put my ears on, put on my glasses and affix my teeth before going out into the world every day.
It is much easier now to remember the three wise monkeys