Slaves of habits, traditions – Flow with the tide

4 January 2017

A man bought a mule, went to a neighbor and asked him for a rope to tie it. The neighbor apologized and advised him to put his hands around the neck of the mule and the mule will believe something is tying his neck and refuse to move.
The next morning the man found the mule was in its place. He mounted the mule and set off to work, but the mule refused to move, so he went back to the neighbor and asked for advice.

The neighbor told him he must remove the rope from the neck of the mule. The man was flabbergasted at the neighbor’s request and said, ‘Are you making fun of me? Do you not know that I did not tie him last night?’ To this the neighbor replied, ‘We both know it, but the mule does not’. The man did his part of untying the mule.

During one of my visits to India, I saw a herd of elephants in a yard and they were all tied to a small rope to wedges fixed on the ground. It was very easy for anyone to remove those wedges and certainly the elephants given their strength.

I asked one of the mahouts what was the secret behind this. He said, ‘the mahouts usually tied the elephants to iron chains when they are young to make it difficult for them to escape. As the elephants grow, they are gradually tied to chains which are less strong and the process goes on until they are tied to ropes and the elephants believe as long they are tied to wedges their escape is not possible.

Earlier I had written an article about the five monkeys who were put in a cage and experimented. The monkeys were put in a cage and a bunch of bananas was suspended from the roof of the cage. A ladder was place just below the bunch of bananas and one of the monkeys climbed to reach it.

Whenever, the attempt was made cold water was poured on this monkey until he got annoyed and gave up the idea of getting the bananas. The same process was repeated on all monkeys until they were convinced that any attempt to get the bananas was punishable and at last forgot about the bananas.

Later one of the five monkeys was removed from the cage a new one was sent in its place. No sooner the new monkey got to the ladder the four others who had experienced the cold water pounced on him and beat him although the latter was unaware of what was going on.

This process was repeated until all the five original monkeys were replaced and each time the one who attempted to reach the bunch of bananas was beaten without knowing why the punishment.

From all this, it shows that we usually are slaves of our habits, and sometimes our traditions, and often to old ideas until we believe that nothing can be altered or changed.

Of course this is a big illusion because there are no fixed issues. A lot of values, customs, and traditions have changed and ceased to exist because of the progress and urbanization, and after discovering they are either impractical or silly or their application has become impossible.

If today I asked someone to leave his tradition or habit or reject the mere thought of it, the answer will be no, not knowing he and his people have abandoned the habits and many traditions which they believed in, by no more than just three or four decades.


By Ahmad Al-Sarraf