A Monkey, a Rock, and a Coconut


How do you know when it’s time to let go?


A wise friend once told me a story about a hunter. This hunter’s tribe lived in an area with scarce resources. They depended on the local population of monkeys as a primary source of food.


The hunter was asked, “Isn’t it difficult to hunt monkeys? After all, they are extremely fast, agile, and clever.”


The hunter replied, “Yes, the monkeys are very fast, much faster than people. It is hard to get close enough to use our bows. They are much more agile than us and can dash quickly into the trees at the slightest disturbance.”


“So, how do you hunt them?”


“Well,” the hunter replied, “they have one serious weakness, which makes the hunting quite easy.”


“Oh, what’s that?”


The hunter continued, “Their weakness is that they are too much like humans.”

He went on to explain that he would cut a hole in a coconut. The hole was just large enough for the monkey to slide its hand into it. Into the hole the hunter would place a rock that is just small enough to fit through the hole. Then, the hunter would tether the coconut, with the rock inside, to a sturdy stake in the ground.


“And that,” the hunter said, “is how we catch a monkey.”


“But I don’t understand. How does a coconut with a rock inside and tied to the ground help you to catch a monkey?”


The hunter sighed, realizing that these people did not understand monkeys at all. He continued, “The monkey is very curious and also very tenacious, much like us. It cannot help but investigate the coconut. When the monkey shakes it, the rock will make a rattling sound.”


“The monkey will be curious to know what is inside the coconut and will reach inside, grasp the rock, and try to pull it out. But the hole is too small. Because he is grasping the rock in his fist, the monkey will not be able to pull out the rock or its hand. The monkey is caught.”


“But I still don’t get it. Surely the monkey will just let go of the rock and slip its hand out of the coconut?”


“No,” the hunter explained, “as I told you before, a monkey’s weakness is that he is too much like us. Once he desires the rock enough, he will never let it go. He will stay there, refusing to let go of the thing he wants so badly, even if it means his end.”

The hunter, seeing the other man’s somber face, said, “Yes, this is a rather sad way to die. However, I must feed my children after all and this trap is quite effective.”


He continued, “Plus, from an early age everyone in the tribe learns a valuable lesson from this. Anytime someone is holding onto something that is hurting them and refusing to let go, we say:”


“You need to let go of the rock."


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