Sometimes, Kalahari bushmen need to find new sources of water to support them on their long hunts. They have learned over centuries that it’s a pretty good bet, that in the areas they need water, the local baboons will have access to water sources.
So they have developed a method to trick the monkeys into revealing where their water supply is. They do this by first trapping the baboon, then making it thirsty by giving it salt. Finally, they free the monkey, and follow it as it leads them directly to the water source.
To set the trap, the bushmen will find a location where there are baboons around, and some giant ant mounds. These mounds can be extremely tall and wide.
When the bushmen are sure the curious baboons are watching, they will laboriously dig a hole into the mound with a stick, just big enough so that a baboon can squeeze its open hand into it. They then place some wild melon seeds into the hole, and work the seeds into the hole until they drop into a hollow.
The bushmen will then go and hide where they have a view of the ant mound. Eventually, curiosity will get the better of one of the baboons, and it will go over and place it’s open hand into the hole to see what is in there.
On discovering the melon seeds, the baboon grabs a large handful, clenching its fist tight full of seeds.
The clenched fist of seeds is now too large to pull back out of the hole, and it becomes trapped. All the baboon needs to do is release its clenched fist, letting go of the seeds, and it can easily pull it’s arm back out and and get away.
But instead it panics, screams, and clenches harder. Unable to pull its arm back out the baboon remains trapped for the bushmen to go over, capture it, and tie it up. Eventually, it releases it tight grip on the seeds, but it’s too late.
Life’s Monkey Trap
Mark Twain is famously quoted as saying “I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened”.
Sometimes when we are experiencing stressful situations, it’s worth checking if we are holding on too tightly to the stressor, exacerbating it, and thus trapping ourselves.
It’s worth reminding ourselves that it’s our own minds that are responsible for most of our suffering, and that often it’s possible to just let go, and free ourselves.