Back in 2006, I wrote an article that I sent in to a Christian magazine (Sojourner), hoping they would publish it. They had no interest, and that matches the theme of that article. Here is the beginning of that article:
I keep having this vision in my mind’s eye. There is a wide downtown street. Its daytime and the sidewalks are lined with all kinds of people. The streets are barricaded, keeping side traffic away, and the people from going into the main thoroughfare. The reason is there is a parade going by.
The people are all standing close together, side-by-side, watching the floats pass by. The people are waving flags and cheering happily. The people in the cars wave back and smile. Marching bands play loud music, making the atmosphere festive.
Then I see, amid the throng, a young boy swallowed in this sea of people. He is unable to see the parade. He stands beside a man in a suit, who towers over the boy. The boy tugs on the man’s coat sleeve and says, “Hey mister.”
The man looks down and sees the boy. The man does not recognize the boy. He cannot hear anything the boy is saying, due to the crowd noise, but he sees the boy trying to speak to him. However, with the parade still going by, the man cannot pull himself away from the action to lower to the boy’s mouth to hear what he wants. He looks back at the parade and waves his flag.
A moment later, the boy repeats the tug and call to the man. The man glances down, and moves his arm as if to say, “I’m busy. Leave me along.” He continues to watch the parade.
The boy tries a third time, and the man inches closer to the street. He does not bother to look away from the activity. The boy stops tugging on the sleeve, and looks down at the sidewalk, unable to see anything beyond the sea of legs and bodies around him.
When the parade has finally finished passing and the crowd slowly dissipates, the man looks down and sees the boy still standing by him. With the excitement over and the noise gone, the man stoops down and asks, “What do you want kid?” The boy says sadly to the man, “Someone stole your wallet, but he’s long gone now.”
For as long as I have been able to understand Nostradamus, I have also thought over and over about the Aesop fable, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” It is a another tale with a sad ending. In 2008, I did a “worship” presentation at a local church, where I recounted that story. I pointed out all of the Christian symbolism that story contains, and asked those there to think about what the “moral” of that fable is.
I will not recount the fable here, because everyone knows it. However, think about that fable, and then do the same thing. Remember what the moral of The Boy Who Cried Wolf is.
According to the Wikipedia article that I referenced in 2008, the title is actually, “The Shepherd Boy and the Wolf.” That piece of information is no longer on Wikipedia. However, the moral is still stated to be, “Even when liars tell the truth, they are never believed.” The article adds that an English idiom originated from this tale, which has stuck around for centuries. The idiom is “to cry wolf.” It means to give a false alarm.
What I want you to think about now is how logical do you think that conclusion is. Take as much time as you need. There will be no test later.
I remember when I was in grade school that they trained us how to respond to a fire drill. When the bell rang, we all lined up in an orderly fashion, and then followed our teacher outside the building to a prearranged destination. We usually were warned about there being a fire drill beforehand, but the sound of the alarm was always a shock, and strange to hear. Occasionally, we would not be forewarned and the teacher would look surprised. The teacher then would tell us it was not a planned drill, so we needed to act as if it was real. Each time it was only a drill, and us kids enjoyed the break from having to do class work. We had fun sitting around in the grass outside for ten minutes or so. The teacher would do roll call again. The bad part was going back inside and doing school work when the drill was over.
For a while, we even had to practice the “duck and cover” drill, just in case there was a nuclear attack (they called it “Fallout” back then). We had to get out of our desks and get under them, while putting our hands over our heads. We watched films where a animation of a mushroom cloud rising was shown, with kids immediately doing what they had been told by their teacher to do – duck and cover. I did not fully grasp what dangers Fallout meant. I knew (in the words of the SNL Frankenstein) “Fire bad.” I also knew Fallout was serious enough for one family in my neighborhood. They obviously wanted to practice Fallout drills away from school. I remember walking by their house on my way home from school and seeing how they dug up their front yard to put in a Fallout Shelter. We did not have one of those at my school. We just had our desks to protect us.
While the Fallout drills eventually abated, every year I went to grade school (1 through 12) we practiced fire drills. Each year my class would have a different place to gather, once outside. For that reason, we had to learn new routes to take, after we exited the school. In all twelve of my years of grade school, I never once went to a school that caught fire, much less burned to the ground. Each year, I experienced a fire drill multiple times; but never did I stay in my seat because I knew it was just a drill.
As an adult, I have formed safety committees at work. I have learned that the most serious injuries come from emergency situations. Although emergencies are the least frequent we ever have to deal with, bad injuries occur when there is panic, or when one does not know what to do during an emergency. To lessen the severity of an emergency injury, one has to prepare in advance. This is done by having a plan of action so everyone knows what to do when an emergency occurs.
A plan means people exercise control versus panic, and lives can be saved. That is why fire drills take place, and it is why you see little emergency maps around businesses, with red dots mapping out the path to take in case of emergency. It is why fire alarms are on walls in buildings too. In case someone sees a fire, they know to warn everyone in the building. The fire alarm says, “In case of emergency break glass (or pull).” I seem to remember a couple of times bad boys wandering in the halls of school did just that … even though there was no fire. Everyone still did as planned. No harm done.
When one thinks about the fable (better titled as) The Shepherd Boy and the Wolf, its not hard to see how he was only making sure the town was practiced in getting to where the boy was quickly. Getting there slowly could be bad for saving the lives of sheep, and the boy. Practice makes perfect. In other words, to call the boy a liar, thus unworthy of being believed, and thus worthy of dying in the teeth of a wolf, is like calling fire drills “fire lies.” The boy was trying to help the peope be prepared in case of an emergency situation, just like a fire drill. His laughing just seems to make distrust a better moral to believe. We certainly are not going to stop people from lying.
At least, the story of the shepherd boy does show how the town responded a couple of times, before they gave up listening. The story of the boy trying to help someone, His calling out, “Hey Mister,” to a stranger in a crowd, was an attempt to keep the man from losing something he valued (his wallet). That “moral” shows how people today have stopped listening to people crying out to help them. It seems we gave up trusting alarms a long time ago.
That has become a sign of our times. No one trusts strangers enough to take them seriously, much less believe anything they say. Rather than run up the hill to see where the wolf is, prepared to kill it or run it off, just the thought og finding no wolf present makes us tune alarms out. We have become lazy and unsociable, rather than vigilant and helpful.
Another line I often quote these days comes from the hilariously funny movie, Planes, Trains and Automobiles. In the movie, John Candy and Steve Martin are driving the wrong way down the Interstate, but they do not know it. Some people drivng the right way, across the median from them, see them and get their attention. John Candy rolls down the window and listens. He heards the people shouting out as loud as they can, “You are going the wrong way!” Steve Martin asks John Candy, “How do they know where we’re going?” The “moral” of that story was they ignored people trying to save their lives.
If only real life was a Hollywood comedy. We do not really listen anymore. In the words of Pink Floyd, we have become Comfortably Numb. “Your lips move, but I do not hear what you are saying.” We no longer practice saving lives, and that is a dangerous practice to fall into.
Copyright by Robert Tippett.