Avoiding the monkey trap: the pain and the possibilities in letting go

Avoiding the Monkey Trap: The pain and the possibilities in letting go

Calvin Mulligan, March 9, 2023 Futurescapes in the 21st Century (c) all rights reserved

The group of aspiring preppers were reviewing their progress in preparing for the possibility of a major disruptive event in their lives. In today’s world, the “disruptive event” could be any one of several developments. It could, for example, be an EMP (electro magnetic pulse). An EMP would immediately shut down our country’s electronic infrastructure including our communication networks. Such a scenario could in turn require the prepared to abruptly vacate their homes as the social environment deteriorates and services collapse. (The story told in the book, One Second After by William R. Forstchen (2009) is premised on an EMP attack on the United States by a foreign enemy). One member of the group who I’ll call “Rob”, perhaps more mentally prepared than some of the others, urged his colleagues to get their act together and pick up the pace. He empathized that he had as many reasons as anyone to hold on to his current existence including his home and a fleet of valuable restored vehicles. But at the same time, he had accepted the fact he may have to leave it all behind at some point. 

Our struggle to confront big change

As a member of this group, I continued think about Rob’s comment. Having served as a futurist during my career, I was well aware of the tendency to adopt a “wait and see” posture even as threatening storm clouds build on the horizon. But what is it that predisposes this kind of denial or near paralysis in the face of obvious danger? A day later, it clicked. A lot of us resist coming to terms with the possibility of catastrophic change because we struggle to let go of the familiar and comfortable. 

We naturally resist the idea that in the current social and political context, we may have to let go of many of the amenities that are part of the good life we’re grown accustomed to. We’re attached to a lot more than homes and vehicles of course. There’s the prospect of leaving behind family members, friends, colleagues, businesses, financial interests and the familiarity of our community and facing an array of unknowns. It actually goes deeper than that. Ultimately, it means letting go of our plans for the future we imagined, plans that we may have lovingly crafted over several decades.  

Like many of you, I’ve had some up close and personal experience with letting go. While I had envisioned a “happy together” future for my wife and I, she had other plans. Our differing perceptions regarding the so-called “pandemic”, the vaxx and what it required of us was a decider. My decision was to share the results of my personal investigation of the fake pandemic and the dangerous vaxx with as many of my family members, friends and neighbours as I could. For her, that was clear evidence that I had experienced a mental breakdown, and time for her to exit our marriage. In the current taxing environment, grieving the loss seems like a luxury fraught with dangers I dare not risk. 

The necessity of letting go 

If we think about it, while the circumstances may differ, each of us has some prior experience in letting go. You may have had to let go of a job, when a former employer went bankrupt, or when you were laid off as part of corporate downsizing or government cost-cutting. You may had to let go when your employer restructured and asked you to take on an entirely new role. You might have had to let go when a loved one in your family passed. Or you may have had to let go when an accident left you with a debilitating injury. We often don’t have a say in the matter.

The obvious conclusion is that letting go is an essential if we are to move ahead in our life journey. Lingering in the past can give way to toxic regret, self-recrimination and resentment. And that becomes too much dead weight to lug into the future. Letting go frees the mind and spirit to come to terms with new realities and to recreate. The challenge isn’t exclusively human. The foremost management authority of the 20th century, (one of my intellectual mentors) Dr. Peter Drucker, considered letting go to be the essential discipline of successful organizations. Drucker put it this way:

“The first policy — and the foundation for all others — is to abandon yesterday.” (Management Challenges for the 21st Century, 1999)

On another occasion he observed: “If leaders are unable to slough off yesterday, to abandon yesterday, they simply will not be able to create tomorrow.”

And further…”It (innovation) also requires something that is most difficult for existing companies to do; to abandon rather than defend yesterday.”  

Drucker makes it clear that for organizations it’s either a case of sloughing off yesterday or certain death. The typewriter companies of the 20th century  famously clung to their product lines well beyond their respective best-before-dates. All of them were eventually overtaken by the computer revolution and their products relegated to the status of business antiques. Forbes magazine made this observation regarding the passing of Smith Corona: “Things might have been different had the company found the courage to shuck off its legacy”, as if channelling Peter Drucker himself. 

The Monkey Trap 

There’s an analogy in the natural world illustrative of the risks of holding on too long. It’s called the “Monkey trap.” It is said you can trap a monkey by putting a nut through a small hole in a gourd. The monkey reaches in and grabs the nut, but then his fist won’t fit back through the hole. Greedy monkeys will literally let themselves be caught rather than let go of the nut.”

A human equivalent is what’s metaphorically described as golden handcuffs. These are “benefits, typically deferred payments, provided by an employer to discourage an employee from taking employment elsewhere.” These benefits keep employees tethered to employers and roles long after the job satisfaction has evaporated. They may even predispose “handcuffed” employees to engage in practices inconsistent with their values. 

The possibility of embracing something better

I’m not suggesting a wholesale abandonment of every attachment in our lives. That would amount to throwing out the proverbial “baby with the bath water.” Westerners must protect vital spiritual and cultural legacy assets from the raping and pillaging by the Powers That Be and their obsessed minions. Some things are worth fighting for and even dying for. But it may be time to loosen our grip and even abandon completely many of the shiny bobbles and cheeply-veneered enticements of the culture.

It’s an opportune time to ask ourselves what things will be of enduring value in the next chapter. It may be time to reorient our personal vision and mission. I suspect that many in the freedom movement are delighted to discover God is offering them a higher calling and greater service to humanity. I asked a friend how many opportunities he had had to save another human being’s life before the Plandemic compared to the opportunities he now has to warn others away from injurious or deadly pharma prescriptions. No comparison.

I recently shared the thought with Dave, another member of our group, that letting go in psychological, emotional and physical terms was the real challenge. He laughed, saying that he had come to terms with that some time ago. Dave had experienced a succession of professional career assignments, earning at times what he described as “ridiculous” amounts of money. He had travelled widely and now reconciled himself to the likelihood his life could change dramatically. In anticipation of coming disruptive social, political and economic developments, he had liquidated some savings and purchased a remote piece of forested land, his new “happy place.” He recalled one of last summer’s best moments — sitting in the front entrance of his modest make-shift abode, basking naked in the warm sunshine. Sitting there, immersed in the unspoiled beauty of nature, he had never felt so free or alive in his entire life.  

Uncertainties are ever present, and Dave knows his decisions aren’t risk-free. But from this vantage point, it appears that he has escaped the lure of the monkey trap. Or, put in Caesarian terms, he’s waded in and crossed the proverbial Rubicon. Have you? 


1995 as Tipping Point: Recalling Smith-Corona’s bankruptcy: https://1995blog.com/2015/07/05/1995-as-tipping-point-recalling-smith-coronas-bankruptcy/

One Second After, https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/4922079

Inside the monkey trap, EconLog https://www.econlib.org/archives/2018/03/inside_the_monk.html

Management Challenges for the 21st Century, Peter Drucker https://www.amazon.ca/Management-Challenges-Century-Peter-Drucker/dp/0887309992

Crossing the Rubicon, Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossing_the_Rubicon

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