Most mornings I go early to the pool and swim a mile.  Where I go this means 36 laps, a lap meaning down to the far end and back.  It isn’t a very social activity, and some people consider it boring.  But a person whose Myers-Briggs type is INFJ can easily enjoy the solitude.  This writing actually began while swimming laps.  I had noticed a new sign at the entrance to the locker rooms.  It warned of the wet floor.

Swimming pool signs in Montgomery County, MD
Swimming pool signs in Montgomery County, MD

But the floor had not been wet.  In all my trips to this familiar pool I have never see that floor wet.  And the sign wasn’t one of those yellow ones they stand in the hall while someone mops.  It is permanently mounted on the wall.

That sign is like a stopped clock.  Most of the time it is dead wrong.  But once every 24 hours it gets to be right.  How effective is a warning as stupid as that?  And how often are we warned of harms that have such a long shot at being actual?  So a family may go to the mall and come home with box after box of stuff with stickers warning of trivial harms.  But nothing warned about the agreement made with the credit card that was used to pay for it all.

Chicken Little was in the woods one day when an acorn fell on her head.  It seems that she was the excitable type, and nervous as well.  She cried out “Help! Help! The sky is falling.”  And we accept that CL actually believed this, for she had indeed been hit on the head.  But as she runs in fright to tell the king, she tells all her friends that the sky is falling and they believe it too–they who were hit on the head by no acorns at all.  They believe it because CL tells them so, and because she is frightened.  Her fright is catching.

It seems that all fright is catching.  Tell people that things are good and they doubt you.  Tell them that things are bad and they believe you.  Write a story about a good deed done in the city and no one will print it because no one will read it.  Write a story about a bad deed done in the city, whether real or imagined, and they put it on the front page with pictures and people devour it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Write about a plan with factual information about improving society and the result is either apathy or argument.  Write about a threat to society with no basis in fact and people take it for the truth. Fright is catching.

As Chicken Little ran to tell the king about the problem with the sky, she created a procession of friends who had become instant believers in the threat.  Ducky Lucky, Henny Penny, and others.  How convenient for Foxy Loxy!  Here was this crowd of frightened citizens who were ready to believe anything, ready to be manipulated, ready to follow.

“Follow me, and I’ll show you the way to the King” said the fox.  And with that he led them straight into his den.  They would never see the king to tell him the sky was falling.

It seems that fear of imagined threats is distracting.  Those possessed with it become easy prey to harms they never suspect.

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