Sunday, August 06, 2006

Ship of fools

A ship carrying many passengers was sailing on a flat world. Two thirds of the passengers were insane - the 'crazies' - and one third were sane for the most part, but crazy 'in patches'. (I shall call them 'the non-crazies'.) The crazies thought they were on an old-style sailing ship, but although the ship moved and had sails, the non-crazies noticed that the sails were never filled out. But the ship moved anyway.

The non-crazy passengers were mostly very tolerant toward the crazies, giving them a lot of respect. It distressed them that the crazies often quarreled and fought among themselves.The non-crazies also found it difficult that the crazies persisted in all kinds of ways to get the non-crazies to join them, or at least agree to a number of rules, some restrictive on everyone, some advantageous to spreading craziness.

The crazies would tell of the marvellous land ahead, and how the ship's captain would allow them to disembark on it. They would invite the non-crazies to visit the cabins and day-rooms of the captain and crew, to admire how splendid these living quarters were. They expected admiration and assistance in their efforts to making these chambers magnificent and beautifully decorated. But the non-crazies had a problem with this. No matter how often they looked in, no captain or crew ever seemed to be in the rooms.

It happened that some of the non-crazies began to investigate as much as they could, all aspects of the ship and the voyage. What they discovered was that the ship was simply drifting on a current, without a crew.They speculated that the current was caused by the ocean spilling over the edge of their flat world. Eventually - but not for a long, long time - the ship would fall off into the void. Worse, the essential parts of the ship were made of a kind of plastic that gradually twisted and melted out of shape due to the weight and activities of the passengers. Unless the passengers' hands were used regularly to re-mold the lower parts of it, it would spring leaks and sink long before it reached the edge of the world.

Most of the non-crazies accepted the findings, and affirmed that the best they could do was to give high priority to taking good care of the ship, make the whole ship as beautiful as possible, and give comfort and support to each other.

When they were presented with these facts and recommendations, a few of the crazies abandoned their fellows and became sane. A few tried to combine helping to save the ship with craziness. Most went on as before, but with an underlying fear and hatred of the non-crazies that had done the investigation. This caused fear among many of the non-crazies, who suspected some of the crazies of becoming violent towards them. Indeed, a large number of non-crazies even joined the crazies in denial, while others believed it was better to leave it to a few to try to do whatever little could be done to save the ship, while they defended the rights of the crazies to stick to their old familiar ways and beliefs. And so this unhappy ship remained a doomed ship of fools.



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