Tip 50The South Indian Monkey Trap

In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values [Pir00], Robert Pirsig tells an enlightening story about how people in South India used to catch monkeys. I don’t know whether it’s true, but it teaches a useful lesson, so I’ll paraphrase it.

The people of South India, having been pestered by monkeys over the years, developed an ingenious way of trapping them. They would dig a long, narrow hole in the ground and then use an equally long, slender object to widen the bottom of the hole. Then they would pour rice down into the wider portion at the bottom of the hole.

Monkeys like to eat. In fact, that’s a large part of what makes them such pests. They’ll jump onto cars or risk running through ...

Get The Passionate Programmer now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.