Saturday, October 16, 2010

Monkeys On The Beach

A few years ago, a friend shared with me a parable that stuck firmly in my brain. I think it has changed and assumed new meaning, but anyway here it is as best I can regurgitate it:

Long, long ago, on a far-away island in the balmy Pacific Ocean, there lived a troop of monkeys. They played happily in the sun and often ventured into the surf. Their diet consisted primarily of yams. Boring, yes, but that was the produce afforded by their island habitat.

One drawback of living in this sandy environment was that the monkeys' food would get sand in it. Yuck !!!

As the years rolled blissfully on, there occurred one day a rather pivotal event. One of the younger monkeys happened to carry one of his yams with him into the waves as he went for his morning swim. As he walked back onto the beach, he started to eat his yam. Lo and behold - this yam was not gritty and crunchy. He had never experienced the taste of a sand-free yam. What a delight! He had eaten only gritty yams since infancy, just like his parents and siblings. Not being able to communicate this discovery to his fellow monkeys, he resolved nevertheless to attempt this experiment again the next day.

At sunrise the next day, he took two yams with him into the ocean waves. He shook and rinsed them vigorously in the clear, salty water. Then, holding them high above his head, he ran back to his family and sat down to eat them. Before he could take the first bite, his little brother snatched one of the yams away and hurriedly ate it. So surprised was the little one by this marvelous taste improvement, he became determined to follow his brother around to discover the provenance of this much improved foodstuff.

The next morning, the little monkey watched his brother rinsing his yams in the ocean. The secret was out. Before long, the entire troop of monkeys learned to rinse the yams before eating them, and, never again did they have to endure gritty food.

More years went by and, one day, the younger monkey decided to venture farther away from his familiar beach than he had ever dared to before. As he wandered along the shoreline and southward towards the sun, he feared that he might not be able to make it back to his family, yet his curiosity got the better of him, so onward he scampered. As the sun began to set, he noticed something moving in the distance. Undaunted, he approached the location of the movements.

Unbelievable! Though he could not believe his eyes, he had to accept what he was seeing. Here was another troop of monkeys - monkeys he never knew existed. They were so far from his beach. Did his family know of their existence? Had any of the monkeys ever known of each other's existence before? Was he the first to discover this population of possible kinfolk?

Not wanting to create a disturbance, he lay low and hid himself behind a huge palm tree, observing quietly. As he watched in the waning sunlight, he noticed several of the monkeys methodically rinsing yams in the shallow ocean water. How could it be? How did they discover this wisdom - this revelation? How on earth did they learn that it was better to eat their yams without sand?  At once jealous and proud, he scratched his furry head and wrestled with this anguishing question:

Had his older brother traveled here before him and taught this remote monkey-troop the art of yam-rinsing?

- - - - OR

Had this heretofore-undiscovered monkey-troop stumbled on this priceless gem of wisdom all on its own?

As he turned to hasten back to the anxiously-awaiting arms of his own family, he realized the answer to his question. It dawned on him that it did not matter how it came to be that the two monkey populations embraced this timeless dietary wisdom. It was not important that someone get the credit for this momentous discovery or for the dissemination of this vital knowledge. It mattered only that they had it and that both populations were forever blessed by it.


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