I ran into an old Navy buddy the other day and we got to chatting about old sea stories and catching up on recent events. At a point in our discussion my mind shifted gears. Call it a squirrel moment, to which I am prone.

“So, Plug, have you ever heard of the Gorilla Theory?”

Plug, in his usual startled look when I turn a conversation, replied, “Ugh, no.”

“Well, it’s like this. It’s a thought experiment conceived by some psychologists on human behavior. These scientists put six gorillas in a large cage, and in the middle of the cage was a platform with stairs leading up to it. Hanging above the platform was a bunch of bananas. Now the scientists also installed a water-jet system so that if any gorilla attempted to go up the stairs to get the bananas, they would be forcefully hosed off the stairs. At the same time, water jets would hose down all the other gorillas, too. So, as you can imagine, at the start of the experiment all the gorillas attempted to climb the stairs — and they all got hosed down. Now, gorillas are trainable, so they slowly realized that attempts to get to the bananas resulted in all of them getting hosed down. To prevent this, the gorillas started beating up any gorilla that attempted to climb the stairs.

“After the six gorillas stopped attempting to climb the stairs, the scientists took one of the six gorillas out of the cage and introduced a new gorilla. The new gorilla, of course, promptly saw the bananas and headed for the stairs. As he started to climb, he was promptly beaten and pulled from the stairs by the other gorillas. Eventually, the new gorilla realized that if he attempted to climb the stairs he got beat up.

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“So, the experiment proceeded with the scientists slowly taking out all of the original six gorillas, one at a time, and replacing them with new gorillas which attempted to climb the stairs to get to the bananas and were quickly beaten up by the other gorillas.

“Eventually all of the original six gorillas were removed and only replacements existed in the cage. Scientists then removed the hose system because newly introduced gorillas were quickly beaten up by the others if they attempted to climb the stairs to get to the bananas. Funny thing was, none of the gorillas knew why they had to beat up any gorilla attempting to get to the bananas. It was just what they had always done.”

Plug stared at me with some wide-eyed confusion and replied, “You sure took a hard-right rudder with that one. What’s your point?”

“I guess I’m not really sure. But curious, how long do you intend to wear that face mask?”

Dave Crockett of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, owns engineering firms in Arizona and Michigan; is politically active; and is currently on sabbatical, working at Cirrus Aircraft in Duluth.