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Living in the Monkey House

I picked up a copy of Tim Gunn's "Gunn's Golden Rules:  Life's Little Lessons for Making It Work," at the Dollar Tree and happened on this passage that I think applies to a whole lot of people in life:

When presented with bizarre circumstances -- such as radical (and radically unappealing) cosmetic surgery -- I'll mutter, "That person is living in the monkey house."

What does this phrase mean?  I'm assuming that most readers have been to a monkey house at a zoo. The stench of it is like nothing I've experienced.  Every time I visit, I can't help but declare, "This place stinks!"  Well, after about ten or fifteen minutes, it no longer smells as bad.  And after half an hour, it doesn't smell at all.

The trouble with that is the following:  It still stinks.  We're merely used to it, so the smell disappears to us.  However, anyone walking into the monkey house anew is going to scream, "This place stinks!"

Tim Gunn, "Gunn's Golden Rules:  Life's Little Lessons for Making It Work," at p. 171.

There are a whole lotta folks I know who are living in the monkey house, myself included.

How often do we accept the bizarre or the substandard in our lives because we're used to it and, even worse, it's all we know?  I know folks who are putting up with bizarre situations because they either fear moving out of those situations or they simply don't know any other way to live.  Some are happier than pigs in you-know-what living in their monkey houses because they don't want to make the effort to get out of them.

I realized my co-workers and I have been living in the monkey house when an outsider made a remark about how we carry on our business in a way like no other agency, and she didn't mean it in a good way.  We'd been doing the same thing for some long without any outside observation that it just stopped being bizarre to us.  That didn't mean what we were doing wasn't bizarre; it just meant that we'd gotten used to it, and, up until recently, no one had ever told us how bizarre what we were doing was.

When confronted with the stench of our own monkey houses, oftentimes we respond, "But this is the way we've always done it."  That's why Tim Gunn has banned this phrase from his office, stating, "There's always room for improvement."  So true.

I doubt I'll be able to convince my co-workers, family and friends that they are living in the monkey house.  At least I'm one step ahead of the game because, unlike them, I haven't lost my sense of smell, so to speak.  I know a monkey house when I smell it.


Cami-Can said…
"But this is the way we've always done it." - the one phrase that is guarunteed to suck the life out of anything you do. Here's to keeping our noses opened to know when it smells!

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