Too dumb to let go…
A story is told about a tribe of Amazonian hunters who have developed a unique method of trapping monkeys, a method that’s both simple and ingenious. Exploiting the monkeys love for a particular type of exotic nut and their imprinted survival instinct the hunters devised a method of trapping them using their own nature as the primary ingredient. They hollow out a portion of a huge fallen log creating a small opening barely big enough to allow the monkey to insert their hand, they then fill the hollowed out log with the tempting nuts and simply hide and wait. Eventually a curious monkey happens by attracted by the aroma of fresh nuts. On realising the source of the delicious aroma the monkey immediately plunges his hand into the log and scoops up many nuts as his hand can encompass. The trouble is that the hole in the log, while big enough for an empty hand will not allow one stuffed with nuts to pass. The hunters then make their appearance and while we might imagine that the monkey will simply drop the nuts and scarper, there is no way that they will abandon what has become ‘their possession’ by a firm grip, and they are captured. Freedom is surrendered for a handful of nuts! Whether the story is actually true or not I’m not sure, I have no knowledge about monkey hunting. It does however make a good parable of a kind.
The human journey is fraught with ‘monkey traps’, things and situations that present to us as attractive and sometimes even essential, but can end up arresting our progress and development and holding us in their grip. It can be an insidious addiction to alcohol, drugs or gambling which begins as an enjoyable dalliance but ends up as a hellish captivity. It can be a false self-belief, an internalised negative narrative which replays itself over and over again in our deepest psyche and stunts our growth beyond belief.
A love of material things which sees us strive for the biggest and the best of everything can begin as a legitimate ambition to better ourselves, and morph into ugly unbridled greed which poisons all our relationships; we can become that caricature of the human person who while knowing the price of everything knows the value of nothing. The human journey is indeed fraught with ‘monkey traps’ and we can all identify individuals trapped in them. Freedom from these traps sometimes begins with something as simple as naming the problem, and having named it, having what the monkey seems to lack, the sense to let go.
Fr. Philip Curran