The Hundredth Monkey

The Japanese monkey, Macaca Fuscata, had been observed in the wild for a period of over 30 years. In 1952, on the island of Koshima, scientists were providing monkeys with sweet potatoes dropped in the sand. The monkey liked the taste of the raw sweet potatoes, but they found the dirt unpleasant. An 18-month-old female named Imo found she could solve the problem by washing the potatoes in a nearby stream. She taught this trick to her mother. Her playmates also learned this new way and they taught their mothers too. This cultural innovation was gradually picked up by various monkeys before the eyes of the scientists. Between 1952 and 1958 all the young monkeys learned to wash the sandy sweet potatoes to make them more palatable. Only the adults who imitated their children learned this social improvement. Other adults kept eating the dirty sweet potatoes. Then something startling took place. In the autumn of 1958, a certain number of Koshima monkeys were washing sweet potatoes — the exact number is not known. Let us suppose that when the sun rose one morning there were 99 monkeys on Koshima Island who had learned to wash their sweet potatoes. Let’s further suppose that later that morning, the hundredth monkey learned to wash potatoes. THEN IT HAPPENED! By that evening almost everyone in the tribe was washing sweet potatoes before eating them. The added energy of this hundredth monkey somehow created an ideological breakthrough! But notice: A most surprising thing observed by these scientists was that the habit of washing sweet potatoes then jumped over the sea…Colonies of monkeys on other islands and the mainland troop of monkeys at Takasakiyama began washing their sweet potatoes. Thus, when a certain critical number achieves an awareness, this new awareness may be communicated from mind to mind. Although the exact number may vary, this Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon means that when only a limited number of people know of a new way, it may remain the conscious property of these people. But there is a point at which if only one more person tunes-in to a new awareness, a field is strengthened so that this awareness is picked up by almost everyone! From the book “The Hundredth Monkey” by Ken Keyes, Jr. The book is not copyrighted and the material may be reproduced in whole or in part. Read the whole book
The story of the 100th monkey has been bandied about and played with until some people have discredited it and discarded it. I don’t care if it’s true or not in the sense that it did or did not happen; it has become true in my head and my heart. I believe that when something reaches the event horizon, then it gets to that tipping point and then nothing can stop it.
I use the term Event horizon loosely; no one knows what’s at the other side of the black hole, after all. I believe that random acts of senseless kindness could change the world. I’ve been on the receiving end of them, of people doing wonderful things for me not because I deserve it but because they believe in me or because they happen to feel like it, or because it felt right at the time. J (see blogroll) did it for me when he helped me publish my book, using skills and courage I didn’t possess to get something rolling that otherwise would have remained a dream that died quietly in a corner somewhere. He did that for someone he hardly knew at the time.
I could also speak of the woman whose name I will never know now who sat with me during the dark hours of a hospital night after I tried to kill myself aged 19, who took the time to sit with me and listen and talk to me and change my mind and teach me that I had a chance to live, even though her life was far worse than mine and she had no hope of better. I never even knew her name but she saved my life and she was a STRANGER.
We are none of us meant to get through this life without kindness given and kindness received and the kindness of strangers is the purest there is, because it is given without thought of return. It’s given as a true gift of grace, with no ulterior motives.
But I am just one woman, with limited powers and energy and finance. What can i do? I can do the kindness of being a friend to those who need me and to strangers. I can take the time to be courteous, to give alms where I can. And when an opportunity come where I can let go of my own agendas and simply give to the world, I can trust that even my small efforts are not invisible in the grand scheme of things, that they will make a difference somwhere.
That woman in the hosptial will never know what a difference her kindness made to me in my dark time. I may never know what difference I may make to others. Neither are reasons for not doing it.
Myth or not, you might be the Hundredth Monkey. Go and make a difference

26 thoughts on “The Hundredth Monkey

  1. Being part of getting S&P published was a wonderful journey. A journey that gave me a sense of purpose in life and more importantly a journey I hope will continue..

    The link is not working by the way…sorry….please don’t slap me for telling you!

    As for being the 100th monkey I am not so sure and it doesn’t really matter as long as I continue to try to make a difference..



    • Should be working now and I wouldn’t slap you anyway; thanks!
      It’s maybe a bit like that bit at the end of Spartacus where everyone gets up and says “I am Spartacus” it doesn’t matter who is that 100th as long as someone is. It’s not a medal to win, just that tipping point.


      • It’s working fine now. I am also liking the new stress buster link although I am still stuck on 666!!! Am I dreaming or have my eyes gone red???


  2. We can learn a lot from looking back to our evolutionary past. Thanks for passing on this story. First time I encountered it.

    michael j
    other side of ther Atlantic


  3. I didn’t know the story of the 100th monkey but I believe in the critical mass theory. My reasons are mathematical. 2 raised to the power of 2 equals 4, but 100 raised to the power 100 equals infinity!

    Of course, life isn’t mathematics, and there’s a lot of randomness around…yet, in a world as populated as ours even randomness evens out. So you are right – each of us could be the one who changes a change into a wave.

    Warm Regards,


  4. Beautiful Story Viv…
    That’s the amazing thing about kindness… You may think it is a little thing you’re doing but that kindness may actually change another person’s life, you can never know.

    The butterfly effect is a great theory I think, on explaining how a little act of kindness can make a great effect somewhere else…


    • I have done some thinking about chaos theory and find the whole thing depressing. The tale of the 100th monkey us more uplifting!


  5. Stranger ? angel?
    this is such a nice and encouraging thing to share.
    I am so glad she was there for you.

    okay ,I have been in this little block for 20 minutes and wrote 2 very cynical things and finally gave up and washed my tater.



  6. I like this. This is the second time in a few weeks I have heard/read the hundredth monkey tale. I like how you link it to kindness and random acts of kindness is so important, especially as it has the power to act as a social glue.


    • I think that kindness is a much underrated quality, and the kindness of strangers even more so because it comes closest to unselfishness and altruism.
      Thanks for visiting, Andy, I appreciate it a lot.


  7. Yes, there’s something to that-not only the collective consciousness aspect of things, but also making things “real” in your mind. Let alone the other side of the black hole, we don’t even know what “reality” itself is-all we have are our own perceptions, and perceptions are often skewed. If my boy has decided that a stick he found in the woods is a mighty sword, who am I to tell him it’s not? I believe that our “thoughts” are very real things, and that they effect the world around us-perhaps even the entire universe.


    • I agree. But I do disagree with the whole supposed law of attraction thing, because once you start looking into it it’s a very pernicious system that promotes blindness and selfishness.


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