Standing a moral on its head

In Chicken Soup For The Soul there’s a story about a man who was watching a desperate life or death struggle happening in front of his eyes as he sat in an inn near Toronto one afternoon. it concerned a fly that had come into the room and was trying to get out of the window. Trouble was, the window was closed and the creature couldn’t fly through the glass pane .yet it kept buzzing its whining wings all that much harder and hammering itself repeatedly up and down the glass till, as the writer correctly surmised, it would eventually wear out its little body’s life force and collapse and die on the sill.

He then goes on to say that this drama needn’t necessarily have concluded the way it did because there was actually an open door just a few feet away. All the fly had to do was use it to escape to the outdoors and freedom. If only the fly had realized the glass was not something it could go through it would not have wasted its precious energy. Instead of banging its head against an imaginary solution it could have flown sideways a small distance and exited the room easily.
Moral: Trying harder isn’t necessarily the solution to achieving more; sometimes trying different can work miracles.

However, the reason the moral works the way it does is because flies have been around for some 65 million years, which is 60 million years more than humans. And the reason they’ve been so successful as a species, in spite of all our latter day efforts to exterminate them off the planet, is because of the amazing survival skills and adaptations they’ve developed to cope with the environment. Unfortunately, glass became part of that environment only about 5000nyears ago. They literally didn’t know what hit them.

But if, on the other hand, glass was also millions of years old, flies would have had evolutionary time by now to have developed strategies to deal with it. Perhaps the fittest among them would have known about flying around it- say, through an open door a few feet away. In this revised scenario if we saw a less fit fly trapped at a window and trying constantly to move sideways but not moving enough distance to get to a door, what would be the moral of the story??

Simple: try harder. And don’t even think of trying something different like attempting to go through the window.

Moral: don’t accept the moral of a story (including this one) at face value.

(Source: Cosmic Uplink; The Economic Times.
By Mukul Sharma.)


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