Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hundredth monkey

When I was a hippie, I remember hearing about the hundredth-monkey effect. I suspect some of you have also heard of it. But just in case you haven't, here's the story:
Unidentified scientists were conducting a study of macaques monkeys on the Japanese island of Koshima in 1952. These scientists purportedly observed that some of these monkeys learned to wash sweet potatoes, and gradually this new behavior spread through the younger generation of monkeys—in the usual fashion, through observation and repetition. Watson then claimed that the researchers observed that once a critical number of monkeys was reached—the so-called hundredth monkey—this previously learned behavior instantly spread across the water to monkeys on nearby islands. This story was further popularized by Ken Keyes Jr with the publication of his book The Hundredth Monkey. Keyes presented the “Hundredth Monkey Effect” story as an inspirational parable, applying it to human society and the effecting of positive change therein. Since then, the story has become widely accepted as fact and even appears in books written by some educators.
It came to mind when I was thinking about International Peace Day and began to wonder if enough people believe in peace, will it come to pass? Will we someday have enough people who believe in something that it will spontaneously occur? Has this already happened?

I love my wild birds so much and wonder: will they someday figure out how to stop flying into windows? It is estimated that more than 90 million birds each year fly into windows and are killed.  I guess this means that the hundredth-monkey effect has a little ways to go with the birds. But it hurts me each time, and my windows are only about five or six feet from the feeders. Just moments ago I heard the telltale sound and looked out to see a goldfinch laying unconscious on the porch. I put on my special birding gloves and picked him up and put him in the plastic container I have just for this situation. He lay there for awhile, finally began to hear things, looked up and down. He tried to fly away but didn't seem to be able to, and I feared he had a broken wing. But just now, he took flight, and so did my heart. Yes!

Abe Lincoln over at Pick a Peck of Pixels wrote a very moving post this morning about a sick squirrel and his decision of what to do for him. It made me wonder what I would do in the same situation. Life is very tough sometimes, and the decisions we make are not clearly delineated as good or bad ones. I do know that I have a constant prayer in my heart to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. And it is not clear at all what this really means. I try to stay attuned, but my ability to hear the answer sometimes gets clogged.


  1. Somehow this post brought to mind, the prayer of St Francis...

    Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
    where there is hatred, let me sow love;
    where there is injury, pardon;
    where there is doubt, faith;
    where there is despair, hope;
    where there is darkness, light;
    and where there is sadness, joy....

    I think it was the thought that you carry a silent prayer to be a part of the solution.

    This is mine.

  2. What a sad story on Mr. Lincolns blog, but we all do what we have to and must for the animals. About peace, I am not so sure it is attainable..I hope and pray for it..probably because I am a dreamer.:)

  3. We have the birds hitting our windows often too. We do what you do..we keep them upright and we pet them/stimulate them until they come to again and fly off..we have saved many birds doing this and always feel great when they recover...but I love the concept of the 100th monkey. I hope you are right.

  4. That's the first I've heard of the 100th monkey. It's interesting, and I like your train of thought.
    I believe I read somewhere that to reach 'critical mass' requires much fewer people than one would believe; in fact it's only about 2% of the population. I'll have to pull the book out and check.

  5. Yes, I've heard of the 100th monkey. And yes, I believe with enough of us working towards a better world that it will spread. I have hope.

    I hate it when a bird flys into one of my windows! It is just awful. I wish they would learn. I don't seem to have that problem where we live now but in Minnesota is was terrible.

  6. The thing about peace... The monkeys didn't have a bunch of loud-mouthed monkeys screaming at them that what they were doing was wrong.

    In all the homes I've lived in (a bunch) only my last home had birds flying into the window. It was a large bay window that faced east. I've been here, out in the open with tons of birds around, for six years and never had a bird fly into the window.

  7. We are collectors of all things orphaned and injured and always try to rehab and release. And we are picker-uppers of lost and wandering dogs. I always wonder why God brings them across our path but of course, I know why. Glad you're little bird woke up and flew off. We can make OUR little places safe spaces. :)

  8. I hate hearing that ka-thud noise hitting a window. I am too much of an animal lover. I get upset when any of them are hurt or injured.

    The 100th monkey story is interesting. I have never heard of it before. I think I have seen it in action though - every time I go to Wal-Mart. The monkeys there don't wash sweet potatoes, but they sure seem to spread stupidity spontaneously. I am always amazed watching it filter through the store.

  9. Pretty soon you'll have 100 followers. And maybe some smart monkeys among them. Your posts are always so interesting!

  10. The Shot is lovely and the Information is fantastic !! Great..Unseen Rajasthan

  11. Djan, you can buy some little reflective butterflies to stick on your windows and then the birds won't bump into them anymore. They are a really good idea. Don't you have them over there?
    Blessings, Star

  12. Critical mass causes explosions and revolutions, all sorts of change.

    Animal suffering breaks my heart more so than human suffering.

    While reading your post and all the comments Sinead O'Connor's song popped into my head. ("Make me a channel of your peace
    Where there is hatred let me bring hope...") Sinead O'Connor

  13. dJan --
    I look every week for the Sr T'blazers most recent hike. Maybe I'll do another, one of these days. For now I've been on splendid hikes with my dog and individual friends.
    Re the birds flying into windows, I bought decals to apply to my windows -- they're opaque butterflies -- and it helps A LOT. I bought them at the birdseed place just off James. Best wishes. Rae Ellen


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