Wednesday, January 30, 2013

barrel of monkeys theory

monkey in front of Angkor Wat (Endless Loop)

Angkor Wat. What the hell? How did anyone manage to mobilise such a massive portion of the resources of a civilization toward creating these monuments? Magnificence is sufficient to justify the existence of these works, but is not enough to explain them. To maintain the colossal construction, planning, coordination and effort over several decades, there must have been a practical reality sustaining the dedication, faith and pride.
Barrel of Monkeys
I have a theory. It's called the Barrel of Monkeys Theory of Happiness. The objective of a game of Barrel of Monkeys is to create the longest chain of monkeys. Pick up one monkey by an arm, hook the other arm through a second monkey's arm, continue making a chain... Your turn is over when a monkey is dropped. To succeed at Barrel of Monkeys, you must maintain a certain amount of tension in the chain. Without tension, the monkeys fall apart.

without tension, the monkeys fall apart
Tension as I will use it here to talk about life, means essentially the same thing as purpose, only with emphasis on the unsatisfied, ongoing, incomplete aspect of purpose; tension as unfulfilled need, drive. Religions give this kind of tension, as do competitive sports, street gangs, and addictive drugs.

Without tension we get unhappy and restless. Tension gives coherence to events and circumstances in the same way it holds the monkey chain together. Without tension, life degenerates into "blooming buzzing confusion". This is the Barrel of Monkeys Theory of Happiness:
Without tension, life falls apart.
The theory scales. It applies to nations as much as individuals. A sovereign ruler concerned with keeping her dominion united and subjects content should ensure there is sufficient unifying tension among the people. A command from a god to create a magnificent temple can do this. Or a space race. Usually, though, it's a call to war.



If you prefer less introspective fare, my other blog is for the more practical and professionally-minded reader

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