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Middling's good? Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

I recently read an article in the journal Science concerning baboon behavior. I enjoy reading publications that discuss things which I can relate to, and baboon behavior pretty much hits the nail on the head.

According to Science, a 9-year research study was conducted on wild baboons trying to determine if the top-ranked male in baboon society was better off than those with lower ranking.

This study determined that the top male, i.e., the alpha male, had stress levels and other type indicators equivalent to those baboons who were at the bottom rung of society.

The only males who had a reasonable level of stress hormone and appeared to be not under extreme pressure were those males which were considered "middle of the road," or "middling monkeys." Now this study was conducted by Princeton University, so I assume it has some level of scientific credibility.

The researchers from Princeton concluded that, in their words, "Second-rate males received the same amount of attention from females and performed slightly better than predicted at reaching their full reproductive potential." I'm not an English major, but I think this sentence means that the second-rate males got just as lucky as the alpha males and had half the stress in doing it.

I've often heard that human beings are very similar to baboons in social structure, emotions such as jealousy and greed, etc. And, it is just as I thought. Those males at the top of the heap are so stressed out, so overworked and under so much pressure that they are walking time bombs. At the other end of the spectrum, males who are on the bottom rung of society are stressed out trying to do simple things like eat, get in out of the rain and survive.

All of my life, I have wanted just once to climb up on stage and be announced No. 1 for something. Instead, at the athletic banquet I was more likely to win the spirit award, the hustle award or, worse yet, the trifecta by adding most improved. All three awards simply said someone else is better than you on the team, but we will give you a little credit for sticking it out through the year even if you did sit on the bench most of the time. I guess it's like a friend of mine says about his golf game. He says he's tired of hearing people say "that was a pretty good shot ... from where you were." Just once, he says, I'd like for somebody to simply say that was a pretty good shot.

But now this study gives me hope. Those males who are middle of the road, not likely to achieve anything above bronze medal, have less stress and, I guess, can still reach their full reproductive potential. They can also succeed "slightly better than predicted," although some of the guys I know if they did better than predicted, it would simply mean they are not serving time in prison.

Well, for whatever it's worth, Princeton University has established an important criteria for all males. We should strive to be mediocre. As I often say, "I'm at the pinnacle of a mediocre career." We'll live longer, have less stress and reach our full reproductive potential. From now on, live by the motto "Be stress free, be a middling monkey."

Contact columnist T. Gamble at t@colliergamble.com.