The monkey was in agony, because he did not want to let go of the food.
The morale of that story, of course, is that letting go can be vital to your health. That concept is easy enough to read on paper; in real life, though, it is tougher to grasp. We've all been in the monkey's shoes, after all -- who hasn't tried to hold fast to something at some point, even when it was obviously a poor choice? Come on: we've all done it. Several times.
I once met someone who was holding on for dear life to a job he detested. He had been working hard at it for years, typically he would spend 10 to 14 hours a day slaving over his desk. If you asked him why he didn't look for something else, he would give a totally reasonable answer: "It's all I know."
Then one day, out of the blue, he discovered he had terminal cancer. He was shocked: he was still young, his body was in good shape, and it didn't seem remotely fair to him to be felled by cancer before he had gotten any fun out of life. The doctors told him he had a year left to live.
Stunned into unreasonableness, this fellow quit his job and decided to spend the year enjoying himself -- something he had never done before in his whole life. He had, you remember, held passionately tight to his profession, even though he hated it. But in the face of death, he lost all fear of leaving his job. He packed up a few clothes, cleaned out his bank account and took off for a trip around the world.
We didn't hear from him for several months; as the days slipped by, many of us became increasingly concerned about his wellbeing. Was he all alone in some obscure hotel in South America, getting weak and frail? There was no way to track him down; and we kept worrying about him at a distance.
Ten months later, one of our team got a phone call from the fellow. He was back in the U.S, hale and hearty, and bursting with ideas about starting a new business. The cancer? It had disappeared off the map -- the doctors could no longer see any remnant of it in the X-rays. The man was healed.
We couldn't believe our ears.
He stopped by to visit us a few days later, and indeed he looked happy, tanned, vigorous and full of excitement about his new career, which was in a vastly different direction from his previous one. We gathered around him in awe. "But how on earth did you get healed?" we all wanted to know. He said, "Well, my doctor thinks it was because I let go of the job I hated -- and then just dashed out and did all of the things I never let myself do before."
He's still healthy today, many years later. And he loves his work. We say he healed himself of cancer. He says cancer saved his life.
That same story about the monkey was told in a different way by the beloved American comedian Jack Benny. One of Benny's most famous comedy bits is the one in which a robber comes up to him on the street and demands, "Your money -- or your life!"
Benny stares at the robber and then falls into one of his relentlessly long, silent pauses.
Exasperated, the robber repeats his ultimatum: "Your money -- or your life!"
And Benny says, "Don't rush me.......I'm thinking."