by Nejmi MuHammad
Sufi teaching-stories work simultaneously on a number of levels.
Some aspects furthermore can be discussed simply enough in purely narrative-terms.
One point is that these stories deal often in helpful analogies that, among other things, can break the all-obsessing trance of the “here and now.” This is often done with a beneficial laugh at ourselves — and, at the role that undetected anger, fear, greed and lust, and laziness plays in all our lives.
This is especially so in “the business of this World.”
For instance in the investment-realm, fads come and go. But for example despite all of the complicated technical talk today of investment “sovereignty funds” and “sub-prime” mortgages, still the underlying motives are much more primitive.
And, the purposes — such as wanting to laze around in wealthy early retirement! — often not much better….
So it is that much of our primate heritage in these matters is revealed to ourselves in the story of the monkey-buyer:
Once upon a time in a village, a man appeared and announced to the villagers that he would buy monkeys for $10 each.
The villagers seeing that there were many monkeys around, went into the forest and started catching them.
The man bought thousands at $10 apiece and as the wild supply started to diminish, the villagers stopped their efforts. The buyer now announced that he would now buy at $20.
This revivified the efforts of the villagers and they started in catching monkeys again. Soon, however, the supply diminished even further and so people started going back to their farms. The offer was now increased to $25 each and the supply of monkeys became so little that it became an effort to even see a monkey, let alone catch it….
The man now announced that he would buy monkeys at $50!
However since he had to go to the city on some business, his assistant would now buy on behalf of him.
In the absence of the man, the assistant told the villagers:
“Look at all these monkeys in the big cage that the man has collected. I will sell them to you at $60 apiece, and when the man returns from the city you can sell them back to him for $100 each. To tell you the truth, it is a slow market but it is going up after all, as you have seen for yourselves.””
The Imam of the village mosque said:
“Hang on, how do we know this isn’t just some kind of pyramid-scheme such as we have been warned against, by the BBC World Service?”
“That is a very good question and it shows how you simply cannot cheat honest people like yourselves — you will notice that we have not treated you hardworking monkey-trappers like the usual load of greedy fools in other villages, by telling you a bunch of lies and promising to actually ‘double your money’ or anything phony like that….”
So the villagers rounded up all their savings from their previous sales plus all they could raise from all of the nearby moneylenders in all of the other villages, and bought back all of their monkeys.
Whereupon they never saw the monkey-man or his assistant ever again, only monkeys everywhere.
And so now you have an example of the role especially of greed in the universal activity of human self-deception — and, a better understanding of how the stock market works.
[Emmett R Smith
[all transcription-rights reserved
[23 February 2008]