Building for the Future When It Already Looks Grim

Posted on 29 December 2016

Very much like the three little pigs, this is a story about houses. Well, metaphorical houses on a metaphorical island. Because like the three little pigs, this is a fable with a metaphorical point to be made.

On this island was a group of people who came to enjoy a vacation among its lush palms and warm sandy beaches. They had expected clement weather and brought only light sleeping bags in which to fall asleep each night while gazing at bright stars winking in the sky.

Not long into their vacation they were contacted by radio with a warning. A fearsome storm was heading their direction and it would arrive at their island at the same time as a high tide. They had no way to safely outrun the storm in their tiny boats. So, they started discussing what was to be done.

Some of the people felt nothing should be done. A little rain is natural and getting wet isn’t the end of the world. Surely, the weather report was an exaggeration, because why would a disaster befall their island and their vacation? Some people felt these people were fools. In fact worse than that, they felt everyone (besides themselves) was a fool and utterly unprepared to do anything of value to forestall disaster. Both of these groups chose to do nothing, because in their estimation there was no reason to do something.

Another group were more pro-active about what was to come. They felt panicked and frightened. They sensed something needed to be done and straight away. In fact they felt the urgency was so great, they decided anything that looked like a solution needed to be done by any means as fast as possible. Building a shelter seemed the best way to go. The fastest way to put up that shelter was to use the wood in their boats to build a frame, then cover the frame with dry palm fronds. Since speed was of the essence they decided to erect this hut where it would be nearest to the materials used to construct it, which meant near the edge of the beach.

One final group understood the urgency, but also understood the scale of their problem. They couldn’t afford to underestimate their danger and needed clear thinking to ensure no mistakes were made. Instead of immediately running around taking action, they spent some time planning. The cynical scolded them for wasting the last moments of their lives in endless and pointless deliberating. These people understood it was possible to get lost at the point of problem-solving, but they were committed to what they were doing, set aside their egos, cooperated with one another, and came up with a stratagem in no time flat.

They too felt a shelter was the best solution. However, under the circumstances that shelter would need to be high up where the tide could not wash it away nor storm winds batter it to pieces.. They decided to hike up the leeward side of an extinct volcano at the centre of the island. Once there they found a shallow cave they could use as the beginning of their refuge. They checked to make sure the floor would provide a solid foundation. Together they reinforced the ceiling and the walls. And last, but not least, they built a rock shed over the door to ensure rockfall of any sort could neither trap nor harm them.

Of course it’s clear at this point that there will be no wolves. However, we can throw in a few sharks that eat the people who did nothing and ended up swept out to sea almost immediately when the storm hit. All we can say is that they did their bit for the preservation of a useful oceanic species.

The pro-active group fared a little better at first. Nevertheless, before long their flimsy hut dissolved under force of the elements. Being pro-active some of them did think to run to the mountain where the planners were safely ensconced. Though, some of the planners were unhappy about helping people who not only did not contribute to building their shelter, but had also destroyed their means to get off the island. However, the planners were also clever enough to realise that after the storm they would need all the hands they could get to survive until help arrived. And besides, they had thought to bring the two-way radio with them. Forgiveness seemed the better part of valor.

In the end we must remember the humanity of each member of this hapless band of vacationeers. All of them could have chosen to do nothing , any of them could have been lost to panic, and they were all perfectly capable of careful planning. Those who suffered and died were either raised to see the world in a way that led to their downfall and/or were not challenged to reconsider faulty thinking. How much better would the story have been if everyone had the chance to learn and everyone had a chance to be rescued?

The End.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

Beach with palms.

CC BY 2.0 Photographer David ten Broek


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