One of my sisters told me a cautionary tale from Ireland . A fishing boat sank and the fishermen were thrown into the sea . Only one of them knew how to swim and he saved the other men , one at a time . He pulled them in to shore , one at a time , by their hair , except for one . One fisherman drowned . Not enough hair to take hold of .
I’m not sure why my sister chose to issue this cautionary tale . I’m not exactly sure , to be honest , what a cautionary tale is . Am I supposed to be cautious from now on whenever I row out on the Irish sea with the lads ? No one could drag me in to shore by my hair , for sure . But , then again , I know how to swim .
That tale got me thinking about cautionary tales .
I visited with a couple of long lost friends recently . I know them from 35 years ago when we all were young and spry . Now , none of us are quite as spry , if spry means what I think it means . I should have looked it up before I wrote this , I know . But , hey , it is whatever it is . Sometimes we just have to go with our best guess and hope for the best . Sometimes also , after all , the best laid plans of mice and men are often gone for naught . Right Lenny ? Right George ? ( Literary reference ! ) .
My friend Tony told me his memory of what he calls ” The Sermon on the Mount ” when he and I went camping once all those many years ago, more than thirty , and I , evidently , stood up on a boulder and preached at him in older- brother style about his intentions toward his then girlfriend , Kathy . It was a ” You’d better treat her right or you’ll have me to deal with ” sort of a lecture , I guess .
” And at some point I realized he was serious , ” Tony said of me , as he told the story in his living room to Ada and Kathy and me . He laughed gleefully as he spoke , and the very air in the room reflected the sparkle of the generously shared joy that frolics playfully within the limitless playground of his dark Sicilian eyes .
I have blocked the specifics of the sermon out from my memory for now . I don’t often preach . Sometimes , sure . I , evidently , had been well- oiled at the time with too many beers when my deep evangelic side kind of brusquely showed itself .
A cautionary tale told to my friend Tony ?
I won’t claim much credit , necessarily , for a successful long-term loving couple’s relationship , but the two of them have been together all these many years , settled and content , and working as an effective team . He remembers my sermon on the mount , anyway , and that must say something . All I know is that he let me inside his house a week or so ago , after thirty years , and he offered me a bottle of good beer . That’s a good sign .
Enough of cautionary tales , though . I think the culture is drowning in cautionary tales . I think that I hear , subliminally at least , cautionary tales all day long . Everyone in the news and over the internet issues dire warnings about us all being on the brink of disaster . On the Eve of Destruction . Things are worse by far than ever before , I hear . The country is collapsing ! The founding fathers are turning over in their graves ! All that we’ve ever believed in and cherished is disappearing fast !
The sky is falling in . The sky is falling !
It’s an old familiar folk tale , folks . Henny Penny , aka Chicken Little , sounds the alarm that the world is coming to an end . We are all tempted to run for the hills .
The collected tale was first published in Danish in 1823 by Just Mathias Thiele. Now , nearly 192 years later , the sky is still falling ? More and more people churn themselves into hysterical panic as the manipulators stoke the fires of fear for their own various reasons . Fear is the modern mode ?