Human beings learn vital skills by aping their immediate social group.

A large part of our reactions and responses falls under the category of learned behavior. We’ve learned to ape facial expressions, tone of voice, the way we do things like holding our spoon, clipping our nails or tying our shoelaces. We’ve also aped some prejudice and tolerance. We’ve learned by aping how to react to aggression- be it criticism or physical danger- which is all very well.

If we didn’t have the capacity to ape, we’d have taken forever to learn the simplest things. Our everyday skills would have required a manual the size of a five bedroom house. It would have been useless anyhow because by the time we’d acquired the skills, our life would be all but over. Not quite effective, I am sure you will agree.

Human ability to learn through aping, therefore, has my appreciation. But, there is the old adage about something being too much of a good thing.

It brings to mind  a hilarious a story.

A newly married couple were celebrating their first Thanksgiving. Both their families being far, they were going to celebrate together, just the two of them. The wife had told her husband that she would roast a turkey using the recipe which had been passed on from mother to daughter for eight generations! He was naturally excited, as which new husband wouldn’t be?

The table all set for dinner, the wife bustled into the kitchen to bring out the aromatic turkey which had been filling the house for hours with the most mouth- watering aroma. Staggering under the platter, the wife re- enters the dinning room, beaming proudly. The turkey indeed looked, and smelled, awesome.

It’s just that- its tail end had been chopped away. The poor bird looked mutilated needlessly. The husband was horrified.

“Honey”, he began tactfully, trying hard to control himself, “what happened to the turkey?!”

“What do you mean?” asked she, THE GLEAM in her eyes.

“I mean”, the poor man stuttered, “why have you cut the tail off?”

“But that’s how it is made!” the wife ejaculated.

“No, honey. It was never made like that in my house. My mother never cut off the tail”, he wailed plaintively. He was new to the whole marriage thing, he had no idea that he had said the wrongest thing he could have said.

With a steely glint in her eyes, the wife declared, “This is how MY mother made it.”

If he hadn’t been so agonized, he’d have realized that the current conversation/ argument was over; anything he said after that was going to be the start of a new conversation/ argument. Newbie that he was, he ploughed on, regardless. More like blundered on, the poor fish.

“But why did she cut the tail off? Didn’t you ever ask her!?”

“No I did not!” the woman was a tad miffed, though intrigued.

“Let’s call her and ask her”, said the husband, determined to get to the bottom of this once and for all.

A part of her wanted to know too. She wondered why it had never occurred to her to question it. They called her mother. Greetings over, she asked, “Mom, why did you cut the tail off when you made roast turkey for Thanksgiving?”

“I don’t know darling, that’s how your grandma always made it. I guess it never occurred to me to ask her”, the mother replied- lamely I might add.

(It is not recorded in the story if at this point the husband wondered what kind of family he had gotten into. One can but imagine his state of mind. One wouldn’t be surprised at all if the man began pulling his hair out in picturesque handfuls- NOT literally, of course!)

The man was made of stern stuff. There was no backing down in him, not even a trace of it. “We will call your grandmother then”, replied the brave soldier.

“Grandma”, asked the wife timidly, knowing this was the end of the trail, “Why did you cut the tail off the turkey when you roasted it for Thanksgiving?”

There was a tinkle of laughter at the other end.

“Why, that was because I had a small oven and the bird wouldn’t fit in my pan unless I trimmed it off a bit.”

As I said, monkey see, monkey do. Often without questioning the validity of the action being aped… or knowing the reason for the original action. If you know the reason why certain things are done in a certain way, and that reason is valid for you too, by all means follow suit, but not otherwise.

If your oven is large enough to hold your bird, it serves nobody to cut it off. Your inner voice will never speak to you if your ears are full of another person’s drum beats. Whose parade are you marching on?

Some of the monkey business is best left to monkeys.

Picture from Google Images
Picture from Google Images