Friday, October 11, 2013
I suspect that pretty much everyone has heard the story of the "monkey trap". Depending on where you look, it can be attributed to experiences in Africa or Asia. And, who knows, maybe folks on each continent simultaneously observed that, if one puts a bit of attractive-to-monkey food in a constrained space (such as a jar, or closely-barred cage), a monkey would reach in and grasp the treat. Of course, once the fist is formed around the treat, it can no longer be withdrawn from the trap. The monkey's desire for the food is greater than its desire for freedom. And the trapper can easily capture the critter.
Earlier this week I was listening to a couple of interviews on the Canadian Broadcasting Company's show "Tapestry with Mary Hynes". The two guests on the show both related stories of "letting go". One was a pastor in the United Church of Canada who, in spite of the risk of losing her job, "let go" of her belief in God; she now considers herself an atheist. And, remarkably, she hadn't lost her job, and still leads a congregation in Toronto. In her telling othe story, her life now is more honest and fulfilling than it was before -- because she let go.
The other guest was an author of graphic novels, born in Hungary, but living now in the US. She, because of her experiences with the Nazis during WWII had a deep, abiding, suspicion of Germans -- especially older German adults. So, when her son decided to move to Berlin, and re-claim his Hungarian citizenship, she faced a major dilemma: could she let go of her past mistrust and support her son's choice, or not?
I must say that, once I heard those two stories about "letting go," my first thoughts turned to the deadlock in Washington DC. Intransigence on center stage! The monkeys with their hands in separate jars grasping for treats that the others couldn't understand. Unwilling to let go -- but willing to let the country go under -- because their "treats" were so wonderful (in their eyes). It seems that many of the legislators understand the risks they're taking, but, oh, the "treat", or prize, is SOOOO worth it.
It is easy to point to the Washington circus, or to "like" various Facebook "status updates" that support our own point-of-view.* But the stories of the two interviewees on the "Tapestry" show are clear examples that we only need to look in the mirror to see our own hands in the trap. We all hold so tightly to possessions, habits, beliefs, etc., that we often are kept from living life fully, joyfully, lovingly. And, for some reason, we are dead-set on trying to make everyone else agree with us!
"Human nature", I suppose. We want security; we want certainty. But one thing that seems to be found throughout our religious traditions is a call to transcend that human nature, to be better than a creature that only seeks its own self-interest. From Jesus' assertion that "to save one's life one must lose it", to the Buddha's advice, "If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him" we are counseled to examine those things that would limit us, that would entrap us. We are counseled, encouraged, exhorted, to let go. The "treat" we receive may far exceed that which we're grasping.
*By the way, how often DOES someone really update their status anymore, rather than share a video/news release opinion?