In Africa, hunters have a clever way of catching monkeys. They place inside a hollowed-out log many tantalizing delectibles. The hole they carve into this cavity is thin and elongated-perfectly shaped to allow for the insertion of little monkey hands. The poor little guy reaches through and grabs "his" treats, but the shape of the hole does not allow him to remove the once-opened hand that has now become a fist. Even at the edge of the hunter's blade he will not release his grasp, fixated upon a prize that never was to be his.
I believe that, in a changing environment, the fixation upon one specialization to the exclusion of all others can be likened to the grasping of the poor monkey. Take into consideration just one example. Many friends and relatives of mine have made their living from the building trades (including myself at one time or another). They are engineers, construction supervisors, architects and draftsmen. They are the experts in their field; a field which, for the moment, is in a slump. As it stands, many are (for the most part) scraping to get by and are struggling. Many are questioning their very survival. I am witnessing some refuse to look elsewhere for a source of income because to do so might somehow betray years of accumulated experience and expertise. The very thing that one day gives us the means to carve a niche in this world of ours can become a weight around our ankles as the water rises. Due to many years of experience and expertise many are unwilling to "leave all of that behind" and search elsewhere for another source of income. Of course this is not a personal judgment but rather an observation I am currently taking to heart.
The ability to be flexible, adaptable, is paramount when responding to the context of a changing dynamic. This is the trait we need to have when the world we have known is collapsing around us. A white marker isn't of much use in a snowstorm. When your gun has run out of bullets then it's time redefine its purpose, be inventive, and see it for what it now is: a club.
An open mind allows for paradigm shifts. The closed, rigid mind is brittle; it will break blade of grass in a gust of wind. The Tao Teh Ching (69) reminds us that the strategists have a saying:
"I prefer to be able to move, rather than be in a
I prefer to retreat a foot than advance an inch."
Lao-tzu calls this "progress without advancing." In particular, flexiblity in our willingness to engage a new definition of what and who we are functionally opens our minds to greater possibilities. Rigidity is associated with death ("like wood destined for the fire"). Essence is something we seek to unlock, and not create. As we realize our true selves as soul and mind, we loosen the hold on the delusion that we are defined by our vocation, by our possessions, by our associates, by our very bodies-by our very endeavors. What we do is not synonymous with who we are. What we have accomplished should not limit us in being open to what we yet can do. I know I have been guilty of wasting the present to validate the past. It's far too easy to play the role of Captain Ahab.
There is a time to be the little Dutch boy with our finger in the levy, and there is a time to run like hell for the higher ground. I remember somebody once saying that the wisdom lies in knowing the difference.