Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Reflections on Fundamental Matters by John H.T. Francis @JohnHTFrancis

Excerpt 1: Reflections on Fundamental Matters: Not for the Satisfied Mind – Chapter: The
There were once two neighbours, a young monkey and a young koala. The monkey was of the curious and
restless kind, always looking to know more, to achieve something, to be great. The koala, on the other hand,
liked his sleep and comfort; he cherished his 22-hour-a-day habit of ‘resting’, resting from what no one really
knew… Clearly, the koala had little ambitions apart from devising the most effortless ways of living. One day,
the young monkey sets himself on a project, that of becoming the ‘King of the Jungle’. The monkey
calculated it to be an ambitious task indeed but not unachievable given his whit, constant energy, and
curiosity. He was in fact a special monkey among his peers, not the least because he came up with such an
objective. Unfortunately, the ‘King of the Jungle Manual’ was out of stock that day so the young monkey set
himself on the laborious task of looking through the wisdom of his ancestors for tips on how to be great,
powerful, rich, wise, and all such good things. He figured that, once he got to understand all that is required
to have these qualities, becoming the King of the Jungle would just be a matter of simple application. The
monkey poured over book after book, all of the wisest and most intelligent of his ancestors. He was surprised
to discover that many of these revered ancestors contradicted each other, sometimes even bluntly.
Nevertheless, after great pain, he managed to synthesise their knowledge and wisdom, and he detailed
accordingly an exact plan of how to conquer the entire jungle and put it under his dominion. He looked
boastfully at his poor nonchalant koala neighbour and thought, “Poor thing, he simply does not realise who
he has been neighbour with all this time. Once my plan is in motion, this small resting creature will only
discover the extent of the opportunity he missed by not seeking my goodwill.”
Finally, Day 0 arrived. The monkey embarked on executing his plan only to discover days later how clearly
ineffective it was in the first place. He was faced with many surprises along the way; many things did not
work out as prescribed by the ancestors. Even some of the prescriptions turned the situation worse than it
was before. Not much difference or benefit was achieved. On the contrary, the outcome was on the whole
negative when the young monkey took into account all the effort and hard work he had done. “There must
be an error of reasoning or calculation in my plan”, he thought, “There is no other explanation. It is based on
only the best wisdom and knowledge of my ancestors. Maybe it is something I have not accounted for.
Maybe it is something I have not understood.” The young monkey went back home; he wanted to recheck
everything again, take into account all the nasty surprises he came across, and start again. Upon coming home,
the young koala woke up and asked, “What did I miss?” The monkey frowned and looked the other way
without answering.
A new plan was devised and a new Day 0 was announced. The results some days later were exactly the same:
more additional surprises, more additional bewilderment, and more additional questions. Anger set in but not
despair; disillusionment with all this declared wisdom of the elderly set in but not despair. The monkey kept
on searching for meaning behind it all, for knowledge, and for wisdom. Everybody around him has always
highly regarded hard work, the wisdom of the elders, good ethics, and intelligence. There must be a deep
meaning and benefit for existence in all of that. Years passed and the monkey did not lose any of his resolve.
Plan after plan after plan were made and tested without success. Always new disappointments; always new
unanswered questions and problems along the way; always some new cul-de-sac; and always a failure and a
disillusionment in the face of what was considered a newly found greater knowledge and power. And the
worst of it all, this stupid, almost insulting, question the monkey gets from the koala time after time upon his
return, “What did I miss?”… I mean this koala did not even try to do anything ever! He did not work hard, he
did not think hard, and he did not look for any meaning in Life. He never had any ambition or attempted
anything of substance really! And yet, the monkey has tried it all and still to no avail. These were the thoughts
that kept running in the monkey’s head. The monkey is now older after every trial. He kept on leaving his
home with a plan to come back disappointed to the same question from the koala.
The monkey and the koala turned really old. One day, the koala receives a letter. Upon reading it, the koala,
with remarkably wide eyes that the monkey had only rarely seen on him, turns towards his neighbour and
shouts, “Hey monkey! You will not believe this! One of my far relatives died recently with no one left behind.
I just inherited all of his estate. He happens to control an enormous jungle. I am now the King of my own
Jungle!” The monkey was barely able to utter the following before completely subsiding, “Do not look for
The Way. Do not look for One Meaning. Do not look for One Truth…”
The monkey passed away not long afterwards; he left a son behind. The young son was of the character of his
father. The son had a new neighbour of a similar character to the older koala. I guess the greater absurdity of
it all is that the new monkey and the new koala went on repeating the same exact behaviour of their
predecessors respectively.
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Genre - Philosophy, Non-Fiction
Rating – G
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