This post is inspired by an email from a good friend who had just been laid off from a high salaried job, to find himself re-evaluating the “priorities” in his life.
There is an old tale originating from Eastern Asia tells how a farmer came up with an ingenious, highly effectively method of catching monkeys. The farmer would make a small hole in a gourd, just big enough for a monkey to fit its hand in. He would fill the gourd with a generous amount of nuts or wheat, and tie it stoutly with a rope to a nearby tree where monkeys frequent.
The farmer then retreats into the bushes and waits.
A monkey would inevitably scurry over to the gourd, enticed by the smell of the food. It would reach its hand into the small hole and clasp on to the clump of food inside. Before long however, the monkey realizes that the hole is too small to extract its clenched fist of food, and the tied rope keeps the monkey from hauling the apparatus away.
The farmer calmly comes out of hiding, either with a net or a weapon and walks slowly over to the trapped monkey. Sensing mortal danger, the monkey frantically jerks its arm in attempts to free it. But at no point does the monkey simply releases its fist and scampers away to safety in a nearby tree. No, the monkey is usually killed, with its fist still inside the gourd, grasping at food it never gets to eat.
Reflect on this a little: those of us who felt sorry for the monkey should probably feel worse for ourselves. How many of us spend most of our time tenaciously chasing material wealth without evaluating the true price we pay for them? Do you spend the majority of your time pursuing that extra zero in your pay cheque? Does that luxury item you can barely afford give you fulfillment, or is it frustration and resentment when you have to pay off the debt? It is a reoccurring scenario, chasing sugar high after sugar high of fancy cars and watches, or thinking someday you too would be “happy” with an arbitrary balance in your bank account.
The monkey spends but a moment with its hand in the gourd- many of us spend our entire lives in the trap.
Is your hand in a gourd?