Halfway up the slope of a volcano lived a monkey. Like his fellow monkeys, he spent the majority of his days picking and eating fruit off the trees growing on the side of the volcano. Unbeknownst to his friends, however, he dreamed of one day opening his own banana pie stand where he could spend his old age providing delight to others, just making and serving pie, passing the time in enjoyable conversation. He dreamed this every day as he foraged, and it made him happy.
But he knew he would only get there if he grew big and strong enough to build that stand, so he ate as much fruit as he could from the trees half way up the mountain. One day a friend of his told him he was moving further up the volcano to get fruit, because as every monkey knew, the higher up the volcano you were, the better and more nutritious was the fruit. The monkey had been hanging out halfway up the volcano because if it ever erupted, he wanted to be able to make it down off the volcano before the lava could reach him. While foraging and frolicking, many a tale was told of monkeys who picked fruit too high up in dangerous times who never made it back down.
His friend assured him, though, that now was a good time to be going higher, because the fruit up there had been growing ever more delicious and nutritious. “Hmmm,” thought the monkey, “that would mean I would be able to build the pie stand faster, for I would grow even bigger and stronger.” But he still wasn’t sure.
“Why has the fruit been growing more delicious and nutritious?” he asked his friend.
“Because the volcano has turned active again, and the ash from the volcano is nourishing the trees, and there is more ash falling the higher you go.”
“But, isn’t it more dangerous up there now?”, he asked. “Aren’t you worried the volcano will erupt and you will not outrun the lava?”
“Pshaw,” said his friend. “I’ve heard the volcano isn’t going to erupt for a while, and I will move back down before I think it will.” And with that, his friend was off, moving higher up the volcano under the wistful eyes of the monkey.
Days and weeks passed, and not only was there no eruption, the monkey saw more and more of his troop heading higher every day. “Come on!” they yelled, “You don’t want to miss it! The fruit is more nutritious and delicious than ever before!”
Finally, he couldn’t take it any more. He could look up the mountain and see all his friends, laughing and frolicking and swinging, eating the fruit that was more delicious than ever before. He could feel the rumblings of the volcano, but it had been rumbling so long now that he barely even noticed it. “I can get my pie stand so much faster if I were bigger and stronger,” he thought, so he too started moving up the slope.
He had not reached his friends yet when he saw a very old monkey walking down the volcano.
“Hey! Where are you going?” asked the monkey. “Isn’t the fruit at the top more delicious and nutritious than ever?”
“Goodness yes, my young friend, it is,” said the very old monkey, continuing down the slope.
“Then why are you going down the volcano?” he asked.
“Because,” replied the very old monkey, “I did not get this old by staying at the top of the volcano when it rumbled this hard for this long.” And with that, he continued down the slope, growing smaller and smaller until he could no longer be seen.
The monkey knew he was taking a risk by going higher, but he rationalized he would only stay and eat the fruit long enough to get big and strong, and then he too would return down the volcano to build his pie stand far sooner than he’d ever dreamed. He kept going higher, right toward the top, where the fruit was even more nutritious and delicious then he’d imagined. During the day he ate and played and frolicked with his friends. At night they rested and grew stronger. They had all grown so used to the rumblings, they barely even noticed them, even as they kept getting stronger. There came a day when the monkeys no longer even considered the volcano a threat.
Because the volcano had not erupted for many years, when it did, the lava flowed faster and farther down the slope than anticipated, making outrunning it impossible.
As the new lava toward the top quickly cooled and the fast growing trees reappeared with all that new volcanic soil helping them create fruit even more delicious and nutritious than before the eruption, the very old monkey made his way back up the slope. He was wise enough to know the best time to reach for the better fruit was after the eruption and not before.