Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Voluntary Stress

Been thinking about monkeys this week. They seem to keep coming up in conversations.

A long time ago someone once explained to me how a monkey trap works. The trap consists of a hollow gourd, attached by a stout rope to a tree or some other immoveable object. The gourd contains something that will draw the interest of the monkey (some food, a trinket or some other kind of monkey bling), which can be seen through a small hole just large enough for a monkey to insert its hand through. The aforementioned monkey comes along, notices the bait and reaches for it, squeezing its hand to get it through the hole. Once it's reached inside it quickly clutches whatever it was that had drawn its interest. However it they try to remove its hand it discovers that its clenched hand can no longer fit out the hole. As long as the monkey clings to the bait, it's stuck, although it could easily escape were it to let go of the bait. The monkey is now facing the difficult dilemma of choosing between freedom or the chance that it can somehow get that bait out of the gourd.

I find that fascinating. I guess I'm intrigued by the simple idea of a monkey voluntarily holding its hand in the trap that will lead to its capture. Perhaps the fact that I'm not a monkey leaves me with a little bit of a cavalier attitude the plight of the monkeys.

But it does make me wonder how often I allow myself to get stuck by clinging to something that's simply not worth it. Not to get all Buddhist about this, but there's something here that's worth more thought. That's probably how most of my temptations work. That's the dynamic behind most church fights, in my experience. I suspect that a large percentage of my stress comes from various gourds into which we've inserted our clenched fists. My life is blissfully free from major crises right now, and I find it disconcerting to think about how much of my stress might be considered voluntary.

How about you? How much of your stress is self-inflicted?

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