I was in a zoo
once, sneaking wine
from a picnic basket and watching my favorite animals in the world, ring-tailed lemurs
Near the lemur's cage was a sapling
which had been stripped bare by the hungry creatures. At the top of the sapling was a single leaf, which all of the lemurs coveted
They did something incredible, which was to cooperate
in an attempt to gain access to the last leaf. One lemur stood at the bottom of the cage, and pulled the sapling a little closer. Another climbed on the shoulders
of the first, and pulled it even closer. And so on, until there was a chain of five lemurs, bringing the last uneaten leaf agonisingly close, but not close enough.
A sixth lemur would have been able to climb on top of the others and claim the leaf. The problem was that all of them wanted to be the sixth lemur. At this point
, all of the lemurs made a leap at the leaf, including the five lemurs at the bottom of the pyramid
. By letting go, the sapling snapped back, putting it out of the reach of all of them.
I watched them attempt this for an a full hour, and couldn't help thinking that it was a metaphor for something