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Banana Monkeys


Do you know how they catch monkeys in India? They find a bottle that has a neck just large enough for a monkey’s hand to fit through. Then they tie the bottle to a tree and put a small banana inside it. Pretty soon a monkey comes along, sees the banana, puts his hand into the bottle, and grabs it. The monkey discovers that he can’t get his hand out of the bottle while holding onto the banana. But he doesn’t let go of the fruit, even when some Indian fellow comes over and drops a net over him. Why? Because he’s a monkey, and he places more value on the banana than his own life – at least at the moment.

I got to thinking about that. It seems to me I know a lot of banana monkeys – I might even be one myself. Sometimes I feel like we’re nothing more than a society of banana monkeys. Our preoccupation with possessions makes us prisoners to our own greed, it diminishes our nobility and honor, and minimizes our compassion for others. What we’re left with after we’ve taken as many bananas as we can, is an unacceptable place to eat them. Henry David Thoreau once said: “What’s the point of a fine house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on.”

When you turn on the stupid box, what are they telling you every five minutes now? That happiness is buying things, that satisfying your needs is the new manifest destiny of our society. What they don’t tell you is, each new possession is like another snort from the junkie’s cocaine-laden table – its ecstasy is brief and inadequate, and all it accomplishes, really, is the desire for another hit. What happens when we come to worship the material, is that we fail to cherish in immaterial – faith becomes secondary, family and friends a distant third, and honor is somewhere out in left field.  We have reached the point where we measure esteem by what we have, not what we are. It’s he, or she, with the most bananas, that wins our respect.

One of the sacrificial lambs in all of this is quality – quality of character and of product, and in the end we pay dearly for constantly pursuing what appears to be inexpensive and turns out to be cheap. When you look back in your life, the things that drew the most rancor and indignity from you were situations of honor or money. I’m reminded of the quote by the author H.L Menchen;  “When somebody says, ‘it’s not about the money,’ it’s about the money.”

We are a nation of people who simply can’t get enough. We are never satisfied, and it will become our undoing. I’ll leave you with a quote from John Steinbeck, which really sums it up. “A strange species we are. We can stand anything God and nature can throw at us save only plenty. If I wanted to destroy a nation, I would give it too much, and I would have it on its knees, miserable, greedy, and sick.”

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