Tag Archives: Lessons From the Monkey

Release and Be Free

I remember when I was a kid we were studying anthropology in school. It wasn’t actually anthropology, because it was only third or fourth grade. I don’t think we actually studied anthropology until maybe high school. I guess it was called science, or maybe nature. Weird how that is. When you grow up and learn new things, things you experienced before take on a completely different light. Certain filters are removed from your experience, and certain filters are added. Things just don’t look the way they did back then. Which is kind of cool, when you think about. All I knew back then was this thing called “science.” Now I know about all different kinds of science and different ways to study and different fields. It’s truly amazing that the more you learn, the more there is to learn. It’s like each new thing you learn or experience has the possibility of branching into about a million other things. This is one of the reasons I think it’s important for people to always continue learning.

So our teacher recommended a movie that we watch. It was about animals and different tribes in Africa. There was on famous scene that stands out. I’ve heard this particular scene brought up in several different conversations related to several different things, so it’s likely that you’ve seen it or have at least heard about it.

It goes like this. These tribesmen knew a troupe of monkeys had a secret water stash someplace. But the monkeys were smart, and they never hit up their secret stash when they knew they were being followed. So the tribesman had to figure out a way to outsmart the monkeys. They found a small hole that went into a rock. It was maybe a few inches deep, and then opened up into a much large hole after an inch or so. They sat next to this hole until the a monkey happened by. Then they carefully, and obviously took some pieces of something out of a pouch, and then put them one by one into the hole, making sure the monkey would watch. Then they left. The monkey, being a curious little monkey, wanted to know what was in the hole. So he went over and stuck his hand in to grab the small mystery items. He could barely fit his monkey hand in the hole, but once he felt around and picked up all the mystery items, he couldn’t retract his hand, because when he clutched his fist to hold the items, it couldn’t come out of the hole.

Later on the tribesmen came back. They monkey was still stuck. They started feeding the monkey very salty snacks. The monkey kept eating, but his hand was still voluntarily stuck in the hole. All he had to do was release the mystery items, and he would be free. But his curiosity demanded that he hold the items. His monkey brain also demanded that he eat the free snacks. As time went by, he became thirstier and thirstier until he couldn’t bare it any more. He finally released the mystery items, and ran to his secret water source. He was so thirsty that he forgot to practice monkey stealth, and lead the tribesman directly to the secret monkey water source.

Now think about this poor monkey. He had set up a system where he had a resource, which he took pains to protect. Then he suddenly came across something that he became really interested in. Something he had to have. Like he said to himself “You really have to get this.” Or maybe he said to himself “You really need this here.” I don’t know. But he had a system set up, and he was derailed by his curiosity over something that might or might not have been an additional resource. Something he hadn’t set out looking for, something he hadn’t decided beforehand was important. He saw something, wanted it, and without any thought or planning wasted a lot of his effort chasing something that he didn’t even know the value of.

To make matters worse, when he had what he thought might be important in his grip, it became severely restricting. He couldn’t move. That which he had convinced himself was important had power over even his physical movement. To make matters worse, while he was in the clutches of this unknown, perhaps worthless item (most likely a handful of useless pebbles), he gave in more to his greed and gobbled up the free food that was given to him, which further reduced his power and choice.

Pretty soon the poor monkey was so desperate to overcome his sudden problems he decided the best course of action would be to reveal his secret resource to all who wanted it, perhaps diminishing its value completely. To chase something that might turn out to be completely worthless, the monkey gave up everything. Of course he was only a monkey. He didn’t know that the best way was to never be dependent on free stuff. To take your time to investigate things that falls out of the sky. And had he not been a monkey, he might have learned the most powerful lesson of all. When you find yourself in times of trouble, the best course of action might be to just release, and take a step back, instead of holding on tightly to something that is causing you all kinds of trouble.