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A hope note

From early childhood, most of us are taught to stay in line. Last week I heard that some elementary schools now have a red line that children walk from the classroom to the cafeteria and back.
There are times, as we mature, that staying in line translates into ‘stuck in a rut’ and gets us in trouble, or closes off good possibilities.
Consider the caterpillar. The famous French naturalist, Jean Henri Fabre, conducted an experiment with processionary caterpillars. They travel in long lines, one behind another. He took a flowerpot and placed a number of the caterpillars in single file around the rim, each caterpillar’s head close to the caterpillar in front of it, making a circle without beginning or end.
Then Fabre placed the caterpillars’ favorite food six inches away from the circle and very visible. But each caterpillar followed the one in front of it, apparently believing that it was heading for the food. Round and round they went for seven days, until they all died from exhaustion and starvation. Their favorite food was close by, but they missed it because it was off the beaten path. Cause of death on the death certificate could read: Stuck in a vicious circle.
W. H. Auden, in his poem ‘The Unknown Citizen,’ describes a man against whom there can be ‘no official complaint’ because he ‘held the proper opinions for the time of the year; when there was peace, he was for peace; when there was war, he went.’
A part of us hates to protrude, so we tow the line. Last century a whole nation, including most churches, uncritically fell into line and followed the leaders of The Third Reich.
Occasionally, as adults, we need to step out of line and see where the line is going.
Or would you rather be a caterpillar?

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