prepared by Laura Simms
One evening I told my son a story that I had read from the Lemba tribe of Sierra Leone, West Africa. I was delighted to find tales from the country where he was born. Sierra Leone has been involved in a horrendous civil war for ten years. The war has resulted in some of the most hideous atrocities of our recent history. My son, who has been with me for less than three years and who I know from a special project I worked with at the UN five years ago, is the rare example of a young person who has successfully undergone detraumatization. One of his only cheerful childhood memories has been the recollection of stories he heard in his grandmother's village.
The story that I told him was a difficult and complicated story about a mother and a son, about revenge, and the rebalancing of energy after a disaster. I asked him what he thought of it. His response was to tell me a story about a story. The context of the storytelling is vital to understand the way in which stories function for every sort of teaching, sharing, and healing in the Mende tradition of his birth.
Every evening in the village of Matru Jong young and old sit in a circle and exchange stories. Each person is expected to tell or retell a story as part of the evening event. A stone is passed from one person to the next. Children are taught to listen carefully because they are also expected to repeat stories that they have heard. My son is an excellent listener. He has the capacity, bred from his history of storylistening , to reflect on what he hears instantly. Each person was then asked to discuss the story and what he or she thinks the boy should do. Everyone had an opinion.
A young boy went into the bush to hunt with his bow and arrow. He saw a monkey on the branch of a tree and aimed his arrow. The monkey spoke to him, "Stop. You must think before you shoot me. If you kill me, your mother will die and if you do not kill me, your father will die."
Ishmael could not remember what each person had said because he was too busy trying to find his own answer at the time. He was afraid that if he made either choice, then his mother or father would think that he favored one of them. So, he refused to give an answer. He was about seven years old at the time.
Needless to say the story haunted me. What a strange story to tell? And to leave without an ending. Ishmael as other traditional peoples have told me about the many stories that are told where the ending is left to the listeners.
I could not rest easily with this story.
In the middle of one night, I thought it must be about the fact that death is inescapable. There is nothing more profound and necessary to acknowledge than the reality of impermanence. It is true that no matter what the boy chooses, both his parents will ultimately die as will the boy and the monkey.
Then, I thought about the monkey who stopped the boy's mind from hunting at that moment to reflect on what he was doing. He was taking a life and all actions have effect in the energy of the world. The monkey is often the playful intelligence that is beyond convention. For instance, in the frame story of The King and the Corpse, it is the monkey that tears open apple which a King has thrown away after a beggar has presented it to him as a gift. The rotting apple has a ruby inside of it.
Can a hunter afford to think when he is hunting about the outcome of his action? Or, does he not have only to think about what he is doing and the food he is taking? How many African stories talk about the danger that faces the hunter who takes a nap in the afternoon confident that he can not find any game. In one tale, the gifted hyena hunter is hunted by a hyena who pounces on him while he naps.
Then, I thought about the very disturbing tale and the whole process of listening and thinking at a profound level, rather than always being spoon-fed a simple answer for our stories. Here was a living example of the power of story to heal, since it put us face to face with the most challenging dilemma. The community as a whole grapples with the issue at hand, like a Zen Koan as they unravel the inner meaning.
I am offering this story, this context, and some of my ideas because it is worthwhile for us who are in challenging situations to think like storytellers. To think with a vast view and to look at all the possibilities of the effect of story. To not be afraid of the difficult questions and the life risking activities. To look at and think about death, about hunting of every sort, and about our process of making sense of stories. In the end, I am struck by the generosity of the storyteller who allows everyone to come up with all the answers, rather than one right answer. At the depth of the images of the story is an important series of reflections.
Posted by Joe Pehoski
Dog-gon-it, this is one of those stories that are exquisitely irritating. I have not been able to dismiss it. However, in my own way, I have given it some rest.
As I play the story through my mind I have come more and more to think of the young boy as your son, Ishmael. The question is not whether the father or mother will die but rather of why the boy has been put in this impossible situation, a situation that belies an acceptable resolution. How many times has Ishmael been put in that situation as a young man? How many times are we?
The story does not have an answer, but it has a purpose. The purpose is much like a Zen Koan, to point to a truth beyond intellect or reason. As humans we have a unique burden of contemplating our actions without full knowledge of what the consequences of those actions might be. Faith becomes the arbitrator. The story s resolution is ultimately one of Faith.
I must ask myself what I would I do if I were the boy?
I would try to engage the monkey in dialogue find answers that may guide my decision when will my mother die will my father die of old age?
If that did not work, I would offer a prayer for guidance listen to my heart and try to live with the consequences.
What else can we do in life?
Posted by Dewey Dempsey
I immediately thought of a koan, but metaphorically I went to a place of feeling that the story was about having to decide between the feminine and masculine. I did not think of Laura's idea of the role of the hunter as killer, but rather as the hunter as a seeker of truth. I do like the power of stories that do leave open ends, even if I often feel emotionally frustrated. They can invite the deeper existential questions.
From the little I know of that culture, largely through Malidome Some's work, the connection with the spirits of the ancestors and the voices that continue to move through the village seem to play an unspoken role in the way stories are felt, or understood.
It will be interesting to read other comments.
Posted by Laura Simms
I am looking so forward to someone having a response to the story. Please read the story and try to tell someone this challenging tale and see what happens. let us know.
Posted by Allison M. Cox
I am so interested to hear that the Lemba people discussed the meaning of stories since I have been told that indigenous peoples do not discuss stories in this manner. I am also fascinated by the passing of the stone - it holds body sense to me to pass such an object. This story seems to be a frozen moment in time - when all possibilities hang in the balance as potential avenues of action.
I wonder if the monkey is trying to trick the hunter into becoming internally focused so that the monkey can escape. OR is the monkey really trying to impart some wisdom here? It could simply be that the parental roles would determine who would come into contact next with the monkey? If he kills the monkey - would his mother dress and prepare the meat? If the boy doesn't kill the monkey, then would his father have to go hunting to provide meat? Is anyone who come across this particular monkey that day in for it? Certainly seems to generate more questions! Curious to hear what others hear in this story...
Posted by Gail Rosen
There are "easy" stories - the ones where we immediately think "I know what this means." And even those often have layers and levels of meanings when we hold them for a time, or return to them.
This kind of story is not one of those, at least not for me. Instead, it is the kind that haunts the mind and heart, not resting lightly, but prodding for some deeper level of attention.
I love that kind of story.
So, Laura (and other respondents are welcome), how could this story be used in the specify context of healing. I can see how it could bring a kind of healing to anyone who heard it and was ready to take it in, but if you were to tell it intentionally, where would you tell it? And what would you hope that your listeners would find within it?
Posted by Kris Mathes
I love this story. I hate this story. I need this story. It's a "jump from the pot and into the fire" kind of story.
What fascinates me is the impression Laura's story made on her son as a seven year old, and that he is astute enough to respond to her difficult question/story with the Monkey story. Yesss!
It tells me that even though he was disturbed by iit, the story made an impression on him. And he knew EXACTLY when to apply it. Isn't that why we tell stories? To have them stick? To be retold? To pop up again and again in our lives? To make us say "Ah ha!" at one of life's twists and bends? If life isn't a neat package, where does the idea come from that stories should be?
In response to those of you who think difficult stories aren't for children: This past year alone, in our tiny community a young girl died in a car accident because of a drunk driver, a grade school child was diagnosed with leukemia and faces a difficult prognosis, and a recent murder/suicide left a high-school girl without a father and step-mother. And you know, from what I see on the news and read in the paper, this isn't unusual. How many kids today face the difficulty of divorcing parents... talk about choosing! Tell me, what stories are kids telling each other as they face these situations. My promo materials read: Life is story ~ and in stories lie our strength.
Children need stories like this as much as adults do. From my involvement with children I see their lives are incredibly complicated, difficult & filled with conflict. They know life isn't fair.
Then I hear adults talk about their children, laughing at the seriousness kids place on their problems. These same people turn around, without batting an eye to tell about pain inflicted on them in their childhood, events that still influence their feelings about themselves today. Perhaps adults, not children, are the ones pretending childhood is a fairytale.
Yes, we must protect children. But I think protecting a child means equipping them with the means to deal with conflict, learning to protect themselves and enabling them to see that conflict is a part of life. Without conflict, beauty and joy and triumph could not be so grand or glorious.
I think it would be interesting to tell a "pat" story about decisions to kids and talk about it. Then tell this one. See what happens. Bet they compare and contrast and pick the meat right off the bones . . . . 'Nuf said.
Posted by Mel Davenport
Laura, my first thought after reading this story was that I began to think of my own junior-high age friends when you mentioned your son and that pointed me in the direction that I perceived the story. The
dilemma of having to face life and death choices occurs in the lives of young people everyday - some in war torn countries and some in good old peace-loving USA. Our smalltown junior high is a war zone
in the eyes of some in our community and the challenges that both teachers and students face seem equally as life/death oriented as the hunter faced with the monkey's comments. Those kids must often
choose between peers (being accepted) and family (being acceptably behaved) When your peers urge you to conform to their way of thinking and that is not your family's way of thinking, it is much like the "choose" situation that the monkey presented. I agree the story does point out that all will die eventually, but layered within this story for me is the ever present battle of decision making. A story that addresses the subject of choosing what is right might be in itself a story of healing, though maybe not as overtly as some other stories.
We often try to tell kids what is right and what is wrong, but seldom give them the tools /experience /discussions to decipher what is right/wrong in their own way of thinking. A decision made of their own free will is more apt to be a lasting and meaningful one. Thanks for starting this discussion forum, I am anxious to tell this tale to some of my junior high neighbor girls to see what they think.
Posted by Laura Simms
I really enjoyed what you wrote about the story. And look forward to hearing what your students feel when presented with the story. I was also very intrigued about the idea of using it as a tool for decision making. The difficulty of the story provokes the possibility of a conversation that is unusual and courageous because it is about death and such forbidden idea as one's parents death as a result of one's actions. Makes me think also not only about the invisible spirits and ancestors, but also about interdependence of us and the natural world and how our decisions effect far beyond ourselves.
Posted by rafe martin
Very interesting. Several things come to mind.
If you kill me your compassion (mother) will suffer. If you do not kill me your duty (father) will be compromised. What to do?
What to do is the dilemma we face each moment. How to live, how to act, how to provide for the necessities of life. How to feed the community. What is food, after all? Hillman says somewhere that myth is the soul's food. Stories are food--I see this more and more. But what must we do to give this food? What compromises and difficulties of soul do we undertake?
A Inuit shaman said to Knud Rasmussen that we must be careful--all the things we must hunt to live have souls. Killing is therefore very dangerous work because of this. To be born human is to be keenly aware of the dilemma and yet--we must act.
There is a Zen koan, the 5th in the Mumonkan, one of the two classic Zen koan training texts. This koan is called Kyogen's Man Up a Tree.
The Master Kyogen says--"It's like a man up a tree, hanging from a branch by his teeth. His hands can't grasp a bough, his feet can't rewach one. Under a tree stands another man who asks him, essentially, what is the the Truth? If he doesn't answer he fails in his respnsibiolty to the sincere question of the person below. If he does answer he will fall and lose his life. What should he do?"
Stories don't give ansers. They articulate the existential truth of our situation.
Posted by Gail Rosen
My 21 year old son says "It's a monkey! A trickster. He's simply trying to confuse the hunter so he can escape. It doesn't MEAN anything."
Do we sometimes wish or believe or pretend that "it doesn't mean anything?" Is that useful also sometimes? When the choices feel too difficult, what happens when we fall back to "it doesn't matter?"
This story is full of possibilities and more questions that continue to grow as I consider it.
Posted by Laura Simms
I appreciate this continuous play of answers and the Zen Coan. another unanswerable answer.
perhaps this no answer is the greater potential for healing from the suffering caused by our monkey minded seeking answers.
Posted by True Thomas
Brave little parrot has a lot in common with the small animals can do great things (even if we are small we can make a difference) I beleive there is a similiar story where a gecko keeps digging in a dry waterhole, and eventually finds water. Likewise the frogs in the butter churn.(Keeps kicking and thus survives) My favorite is the American indian story of hummingbird pushing back the night (and creates stars in the process)
Monkey mind is a great tale...I especially like the aspect of the monkey at the point of death pointing out that death will visit the hunter. I think the european take on this is "My speaking of death visiting your house, implies I have something to do with this..." aka curse, death magic etc. I wonder if the African spin on this is the same- death is an integral part of daily life (slaughtering livestock, etc.) at least on a village level. Does mentioning death imply that the person/or creature has power over it? Personally, I leave talking monkeys alone. True
Posted by True Thomas
I wrote my previous comments before reading yours- On the parrot side, interesting that the little parrot either shames or inspires the god to do something. Goes back to that old saying "most of mankinds gods have the manners and temperament of spoiled children" Betcha parrot acts as a psychopomp in other stories in that area as well.
On the Monkey side---this is a bit morbid, but they are pretty sure that humans contracted HIV/AIDS from monkeys by eating "Bush Meat". As the human population grows, the Gorillas and whole species of monkeys have been wiped out or pushed to the brink of extinction by hunters. A variant of HIV is native in a lot of Monkey/ape populations. Chances are that a hunter skinning some bush meat cut themselves, (blood to blood contact) the virus made the jump, and lo and behold...Monkey was right...
More proof that hunting talking monkeys is probably a bad idea....
(I'm thinking Doctor Doolittle was a Vegan, right?)
True (confirmed omnivore, excepting animals that deliver riddles of any sort)
Posted by Tina Devine
What a perplexing story. I am intrigued by stories whose structures lead into unexplored territory, either within myself, or within a group of folks. This is what I needed to ask the monkey: "How do you know this, and by who's authority is it so?" There's another thing I like to think about, and that is the infusion of the magic event. The monkey, after all, speaks.
Now, do monkeys speak? Some would answer positively, "no", while others know that everything in the world indeed does, and there are ways of listening for the voices of all things. For me, it's what we believe about the nature of the world that will determine how we interpret the story. Thanks so much for submitting it, Laura.
Posted by Cristy West
I was struck by the context for "Monkey Mind" in Mantu Jong tradition. This seems to be central to the healing potential of the tale within that society. And it also greatly resembles the format of a contemporary therapeutic story group, it seems to me!
But I must say, when I first read your essay, I was shocked by the story, which seemed to present an absolutely no-win situation, with no clear message of hope for listeners, especially for fragile youngsters in need of optimistic reassurance and support. Recently I have been working in a school for emotionally disturbed kids (described in my Forum essay on "Brave Little Parrot") and I know I would never consider using this tale with that group. But as a teaching tale, to stimulate creative thinking among rational, philosophically-minded adults, Monkey Mind is clearly valuable, as the discussion here is showing. But I do think tellers must be extremely careful to think in advance about possible damaging effect an "interesting" story might have on listeners.
Posted by TrueThomas
The monkey spoke to him, "Stop. You must think before you shoot me. If you kill me, your mother will die and if you do not kill me, your father will die."
"At which point the Boy carefully took aim and shot, just nicking the monkey. "Monkey, I have wounded you. If you are not careful that wound will get infected and you will die. If you get better or worse, in any case, I have no control over that. So if you die, it is up to you and the God's, just as it is with my Mother and Father. And with that the boy pick up his quiver and went on to find less talkative food. - True!
Posted by Tina Devine
What a perplexing story. I love stories which lead to unexplored territory, either within myself, or within a group of folks. There are two things I need to ask the monkey: "How do you know this is so? and by whose authority does it happen?" Would he risk taking the responsibility for acting? or would he laugh in the monkey's face and want to test it for himself? Why live life on heresay?
The other thing that interests me is the infusion of the 'magic event.' The monkey, after all, speaks. Now there are some who would say that this is not possible, yet there are others who know that everything speaks, if only we know how to listen.
Thanks for the great story, Laura. Will be mulling it over, and over, and over.
Posted by Kitrina Kearfott
I am interested by the way my understanding of the story was influenced by the given title, "Monkey Mind", which conjured up the Buddhist image of the mind as a drunk monkey with Saint Vitus' Dance that has been stung by a bumble bee. The voice of the monkey became that internal voice that distracts us from a singular aim. -- how the mind can be the "trickster" referred to by Gail's son and Allison -- And I also thought of how one can be paralyzed by indecision when one holds an overinflated view of the power of one's actions.
I love True's brilliant "Answer for the Monkey" which recognizes the involvement of something "higher" in the outcome. We need not completely kill the mind or let it run totally free -- we can slow it down and require it to be careful. (like in the practice of vipassana meditation interestingly brought to the U.S. largely by mental health professionals)
And then how interesting in the Brave Parrot story that the determination of the bird to act in spite of her powerlessness is what engages the assistance of something higher! Also interesting that she trusts her own, clear internal voice and is not distracted from her aim -- even by the voice of a God!
Is it the motivation or intention behind an act that is important?
Posted by Robin Pearlstein
This story made me feel that very uncomfortable feeling of the struggle, as a child who still has magical thinking, of believing that a choice s/he makes or something s/he does will have utterly powerful consequences...that angst that maybe something one has done will or has caused something terrible to happen. It really evoked strong feelings along those lines. This is my first comment as a new member, this is a great forum!
Posted by Laura Simms:
I just read the question and comment above (from Pearlstein) and began to thinkabout how it is up to each one of us to decide whichstories to tell in particular situations. It wasa great comment to reflect on in regards to Monkey Mind storyabout the child's magic thinking and the MM story... This no-outcome story is not a light tale at all. any nmore thoughts about children hearing a story like this.perhaps it also depends how and who is telling it. What is the intention ofthe teller and how that is translated to the listener. more thoughts??
Posted by Laura Simms
I just read the question and comment above and began to thinkabout how it is up to each one of us to decide which stories to tell in particular situations. It was a great comment to reflect on in regards to Monkey Mind story about the child's magic thinking and the MM story... This no-outcome story is not a light tale at all.
any nmore thoughts about children hearing a story like this.perhaps it also depends how and who is telling it. What is the intention of the teller and how that is translated to the listener. more thoughts??
Posted by Gail Rosen
I didn't of that aspect (magical thinking) when I first read the story. True's response to the monkey and your comment Robin could lead to important conversation about personal power and responsibility and guilt.
Posted by Mary Clark
I really enjoyed this story - the choice. I recall as a child walking home from school and thinking that if I walked this way or that way I would be choosing a certain path. Part of my thinking at the time was that I would be choosing one path or another. This story is interesting because it made me look - in desperation! - for a third choice, a fourth choice, etc. The child can choose to believe the monkey or not - and that is an interesting point as well.
Posted by Gregory Leifel
This story put me immediately in that boy's position. And, as the boy, confronted with this apparent two choice dilemma, I began to think of my other options. Letting the monkey live, was the obvious choice to save both parents. Sort of the no choice or not making a choice is still a choice.
I began to see this story in the way I have come to look at the Zen koans, after reading so many of them. Where as some stories are conflicted in such a way that it limits, and at the same time focuses the choice of the person involved,I began to think it also teaches a pick and choose method of getting through life. While we can become passionate about everything, time, energy, and common sense tell us we must pick and choose our battles. Within the context of Monkey Mind, as that boy, I might simply choose to continue hunting elsewhere leaving this particular monkey alone, thus in essence, choosing by not choosing this particular battle.
In terms of healings, I've learned this alternative option for myslef and taught it to many a hurting friend over the years. For when one is immersed in the problem/dilemma it is so difficult to see the forest for the trees, and thus, any other monkeys who aren't so precocious. Just another view.
Posted by Laura Simms
I am delighted with the complexity, variety and even confusion of all the responses to the story. For me, the storyteller's responsibility, more than collecting more and more stories, is to develop the insight to look beyond the content-only to see how the story means in the telling.. how the story incites imagination, feeling. Ultimately, a story awakens the capacity to stir up fixed ideas and static states of mind. It can open the heart and arouse the practice of creative thinking. Such potent muscle building within is what strengthens someone to deal with their situation, to see themselves in a fresh way, and to accomodate feelings. The story teller is initiating lively communication and disturbing fixed ideas based on negative or habitual thinking patterns. If we find a single meaning based on the text alone, an intellectual activity only, then the teller begins to manipulate or inform their listener, raher than engage them in a living experience where they meet their own imagination and intuitive intelligence. The storytelling is a physical as well as a mental and feeling event.
I think in order to tell a tale of this sort, the storyteller must be committed to be present as the narrator, as a guide and not disappeared into the story or become their favorite character. To let the whole story breathe and then the listener can become all the characters, etc.. Also, in this kind of tale it is necessary to recognize, especially when telling to people in chaotic, or traumatic states of mind, that it is not a finished done deal tale, but the instigator of conversation with no definite solution. All solutions are accepted as part of the dialogue. The listener is not solving a problem but viewing their own mind. This opening heart method is healing, regardless of the outcome be it life or death or illness. These are some thoughts gladly generated by the generosity and insightful and provocative ideas offered on this Forum for both Monkey and Parrot.
Posted by Gregory Leifel
Sorry, I inadvertently typed in my previous post in that the boy deciding not to shoot the monkey both parents would be saved. What I meant was that because he had to make a decision, in deciding NOT to make the decision (as opposed to shooting the monkey)he was opting out of the responsibility on some level for his father dying. The lesser of two evils, if you will. How this relates to my other point can best be illustrated with an example: You are asked to perform some community service which you feel passionately about. You know if you don't do it, it won't be done right. But you don't have time to do it. In choosing to NOT do it, you must live with and accept that it won't be done right. But there is some satisfaction in that you can't fight every battle and by choosing not to fight this particular one, the world goes on in it's own way. As you must live with your decisions.
I hope that clarifies my point. Sorry for the previous error explaining.
Posted by Laura Simms
Reading through the conversations and comments that people have made for Monkey Mind and Little Parrot, I am thoroughly delighted by the complexity, compassion and confusion they have aroused. More than gathering stories, I feel that as tellers our first responsibility is to begin to look beneath the obvious meaning of content, Or, what we assume the purpose of a story is.. thus, becoming too literal and manipulative. The story as heard is a mysterious event and potent awakener of communication (self to self) that has more ramifications than either the word text, or a single meaning. A creative and feeling potential is awakened in the listener that opens the heart, makes the mind flexible and curious. This sometimes daring disturbance stirs up the complacent and the static, and sets in motion the inner potential of one's inherent awareness or open heart. It is open heart that heals, whether the outcome is life or death. Thank you all. There are so many wonderful insights and humorous conclusions and great ideas. It seems that no single interpretation need to be the one, but all together we are listening and kicking up the dirt. keep pouring the water of your generosity and what grows will be a great surprise.
Also, a story of tyhis sort to be told, the teller recognizes that this is not a story with a conclusion and can open it to response from the listener, rather than tell it as a done deal. Someone in a chaotic, or traumatic situation needs to be guided toward the conversation, rather than thinking they are the boy who must make this sort of decision. The trick for the storyteller is to present with enough presence and detachment, so that the listener becomes all the characters and possibilities. Let them be the monkey too. best, Laura
Posted by shoshi shamir
When I first read this story it intrigued me. As some stories leave me with the feeling that even though I do not comprehend them I under-stand them. I have that certain kink of knowing that the story flows in some unseen vain which is part of me, and it is noutishing me. One day, I know it will get through to my consciousness, and I will know what it realy tastes like.
Today, as I opened the forom site and saw the name of the story, all of a sudden it was revealed to me:
By acting either way, this boy saves one of his perants.
In workshops that I perform occasionally, I deal with the question of choise. After telling a story, I ask people to pick a folded piece of paper out of an old magocian's hat. Each folded paper contains a sentence that begins with the words "I am..." and continues with a marginal object from the story I told. All participants in their turn, have to tell a story from the perspective of the object written on their note. This is fun, most people get creative and do their share. Then we take a break, and after the break each of them tells the group how his choise of note referes to their current life situation, which angers some, who say - we chose nothing, it was only by cance that we drew the specific note. and that is when I ask them if it is really different in true life and in what way? We don't discuss it. We proceed with the workshop. None fails in making the connection.
I do believe that all is interrelated, and that whatever we do influences the world inways that most of them are not known to us. I do believe that intention matters when acting, as intention is part of the act. The monkey in the story brings to consciousness the intertwined ways of our living, which are not conscious most of the time. If I am not as witty as True, another way to outwit the monkey is to reverse the meaning of the deed.
Posted by Laura Simms
Dear Shosha, and others,
The original idea for The Forum included the hope that participants would try the story out with different groups and include in response some of the ways in which you used the story and the effect of the telling.
I look forward to hearing about this.
Posted by Andy Fraenkel
This is a sublime site. Wonderful reflections.
But to analyze the monkey mind. Impossible! I know this monkey mind trickster very well. If he has his way he won't let you rest for a minute. You'll wind up staying awake all nite and sweating buckets. I encounter this monkey mind every day in my life and if I listen to him its difficult to make decisions and move forward. This monkey mind fellow spreads restlessness, doubt and confusion. The only thing to do is laugh in his face and call his bluff. Then he scampers off.
Posted by Laura
I love your response. It made me laugh out loud. Of course, I too know Monkey well. laura
Posted by Larry Lee
When I claim and set out to accomplish a goal beyond my current set of agreements regarding my creative capacity, my mind always questions my ability to accomplish the task. My mind only knows what it knows and both doubts and abhors the possibilities inherent in my greater creativity; it has a vested interest in keeping who it thinks I am alive. That the monkey (mind) proposes an otherwise inevitable situation for the Hunter to consider is merely the mind doing what it does best, attempting to keep who it thinks I am, the agreements and beliefs it maintains about who I am, alive. The story's brilliance is in presenting the situation as inevitable and therefore not effectual beyond the Hunter's choice to be diverted from his goal or not. Perhaps the listener will identify with his or her liberty to choose in the matter of maintaining the status quo or to step into the realm of creative possibility. Perhaps healing is in some ways an empowering and liberation toward greater choice in living (which might include dying).
Posted by Laura Simms
I first had a chance to read your response to Monkey Mind today on my return from California. I was so moved and excited by what you wrote. I do believe that it is the hardest lesson to experience and understand that our fixed projections and opinions, fears of the unknown or unknowable, are a source of illness.. physical/mental/psychic terror... which keeps us from the capacity of aliveness as well as knowing what is actual, rather than attempting to think-control what we wish for to be real. thank you. I feel moved further into understanding and admiring this traditional uncanny means of telling tales from a traditional culture.
Posted by jennifer Kimzey
Imagine Cinderella, being confronted by her father who abandoned her emotionally, and her step mother, a very poor sustitute for the original who left a long time ago. These parents ask you, a 7 yr old,
"If we get divorced who do you want to live with?"
This is death to a child, one more on top of the first two. It doesn't matter if it is real or not, if the divorce occurs or not, because the question haunts Cinderella for the rest of her life. Cinderella eventually finds the truth after years of searching. Life is fleeting, and we must love and live as time allows. Everyone eventually leaves. Monkeys are cruel at best.
Posted by joan stockbridge
What an interesting and pertinent reflection on Monkey Mind. I have to confess that I had to go back to the archives to refresh my memory on the story, but then I saw the connections you were drawing. As a reader, it felt to me like you were living into the deep questions posed by Monkey Mind and finding an organic and unique repsonse...which is a process much like the one many tellers use when preparing a story for telling.
Posted by Laura Simms
remarkable insight and provocative point of view adding to the many ways in which the story can be appreciated in its effectiveness. Like Joan, I had not made that particular connection. How interesting it would be to tell Cinderella, and then ask the question you pose to see the different answers an adult or adolescent audience might come up with.. I love questions that pose responses rather than a right answer.
nice to meet you here too. Laura
I feel the Monkey Mind story is a way of questioning the options of survival. When survival is based on very primitive ideas, the need to eat, and have shelter, I felt the monkey was the questioning the sacrifices we all make just to basically survive. What does that mean to a tribe of people in comparison to an individuals needs? I think about the late night hours the common day worker of our society, puts in to attain new material wealth, but their relationship with their family is dying. Could we give up all that we hold "valuable" for the sake of ensuring that our survival includes peace, includes a satisfying relationship with our family, includes doing what our heart desires, rather than what we think others desire of us? It all depends on what we individually define as valuable. Culturally speaking... what would an African youth choose? Would it be a nurturing mother, or a father who looks upon this boy as competition. Or is this another situation where a women's life is reduced to their birthing capacity and then considere dispensible. Then look back upon our culture when million dollar CEO's can make rash lay off decisions and yet not consider how the line worker at his minimum 5% yearly raise, will subsist or the fact that that workers 20 years of dedication including the overtime they spent during deadline time, is now dispensible? Faith becomes a much more needed skill than any college degree, or technical certificate. If the person still graduates incomplete within themselves, what do they seek to accomplish? Okay thanks for reading.
Well Well we must all look death in the face throughout life...
The infinite wisdom of the monkey shows that as a child grows through his youth that he or she will ultimately confront the fact of their own death or those who they love.
The choice is the unexpected death that will ultimately result and unkown facts of life ?
Faith comforts the unknown ?