End of Oil

What Will The End of Oil Mean?

Type: 
Articles
author or publications: 
Robert Freeman
Description: 

In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig tells the story of a South American Indian tribe that has devised an ingenious monkey trap. The Indians cut off the small end of a coconut and stuff it with sweetmeats and rice. They tether the other end to a stake and place it in a clearing.

Full Text: 

In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig tells the story of a South American Indian tribe that has devised an ingenious monkey trap. The Indians cut off the small end of a coconut and stuff it with sweetmeats and rice. They tether the other end to a stake and place it in a clearing.

Soon, a monkey smells the treats inside and comes to see what it is. It can just barely get its hand into the coconut but, stuffed with booty, it cannot pull the hand back out. The Indians easily walk up to the monkey and capture it. Even as the Indians approach, the monkey screams in horror, not only in fear of its captors, but equally as much, one imagines, in recognition of the tragedy of its own lethal but still unalterable greed.

Pirsig uses the story to illustrate the problem of value rigidity. The monkey cannot properly evaluate the relative worth of a handful of food compared to its life. It chooses wrongly, catastrophically so, dooming itself by its own short-term fixation on a relatively paltry pleasure.

America has its own hand in a coconut, one that may doom it just as surely as the monkey. That coconut is its dependence on cheap oil in a world where oil will soon come to an end. The choice we face (whether to let the food go or hold onto it) is whether to wean ourselves off of oil

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