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Monkey touch the monolith moment

Posted by Bruce Kahl on June 03, 2004

In Reply to: Monkey touch the monolith moment posted by platypus on June 03, 2004

: I gather that a "monkey touched the monolith moment" means a watershed, or important, event. But there must be a story behind this idiom. What monkey? What monolith?

The "monolith moment" is from a book by Arthur Clarke, 2001--A Space Odyssey.

The monolith is a tall, black, rectangular slab, with an eerie humming sound that materializes in the midst of a den of apes. The massive artificial monolith, in contrast to its natural surroundings, stands in a shallow depression in the rocks where the man-apes gather around a water hole.

The mysterious monolithic stone slab is a technological machine belonging to aliens in space, one of hundreds of such monoliths sent to Earth to test, teach and transform the apes into higher-order, intelligent beings.

The leader of the clan of man-apes is the first to reach out fearfully and hypnotically for the black object. He touches the monolith.

Later that day this leader of the apes discovers that he can use dried bones as weapons.

The "enlightened" apes gain domination in the animal world, establish their territorial domain, and take an evolutionary step or leap toward (or away from) humanity.

In 1968 the book was made into a really glorious motion picture by Stanly Kubrick.

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