This is a parable I've thought about putting here for years. It's my own, I think. And- I just conducted a nice proof of it; so it's highly relevant.
My excuse for dropping off for a few days (this time) - I got bitten by a cat; on the hand.
Bitten hard, is the thing, and right on the ball of the index finger; down to bone, maybe. Dumb, huh?
Cripes. I'm a trained animal behaviorist, and have been handling cats- including in highly difficult circumstances; literally for decades. So why did I allow myself to get bitten? Same reason why Old Lumberjacks Don't Have All Their Fingers.
There's a real reason- and it's not all that obvious. It's a really good thing to keep in mind. Since I made the parable up, at least 25 years ago, you'd think I'd remember- but the fact that I didn't- is actually a proof of the parable- and "a warning to those who would be warned", in the words of the Thousand And One Nights.
Cat bites are no joke; don't get bitten. The Mayo Clinic hand surgeons recently published the information that 30% of the cat bite patients they see- wind up hospitalized, for an average of 3.2 days. I'm on two antibiotics, after the emergency room visit.
The Parable Of The Old Lumberjacks And Their Missing Fingers
Young lumberjacks are not dumb. When they get into the business, they look to their seniors to learn how to do the job. It's known to be dangerous; deadly, indeed. People die every year doing this. Trees are massive, and gravity is absolutely unforgiving.
Old lumberjacks are, frequently, missing a finger or two; or some pieces of fingers. Young lumberjacks see this instantly. They ask the old lumberjacks how it happened - and why.
The old lumberjacks are universally just a bit embarrassed about it.
"Why? How did you let that happen?" Puzzlement.
"Well. It was late; the end of the day. Had this one job left; then I could go home."
A pause occurs. And a sigh.
"I broke a rule. Knew I shouldn't. But it was just this little quick thing- thought I could get away with it. Stuck my hand where I shouldn't. There's a damn good reason for the rules. Broke one- here I am. Paid for it."
The young lumberjack, in awe of the expertise of the old lumberjack, is nonetheless just a tad scornful of anyone stupid enough to break work rules like "don't put your hand in danger". "Man, I'm NEVER going to break a rule!", they swear to themselves, and they mean it.
And? They don't. Break rules. They are very, very careful- and never, ever, break a rule; or put their body parts in danger. The image of those missing fingers is extremely durable- and forceful. Why would you ever take a risk like that?
And? They don't get hurt.
Year after year.
And there, my dears, is the problem.
Year after year- the young lumberjack works safely. No injuries; good hard work done. Year after year, the rules keep him safe. And; little by little; insidiously, inevitably, he begins to believe - that it is never going to happen to him. The years add weight to that belief that it is almost humanly impossible to ignore. "I'm careful. Always. I don't take risks."
Then, years later: it's late. One last thing to do. It'll just take a fraction of a second to do this... I've never had an accident... just this once...
And. Whammo. Missing fingers.
It's a trap our own brains and humanity set for us. Be warned, those who would take warning.
So why did I get a cat bite on the hand? Um. It was late... I've been handling difficult cats for flipping decades... never had a real bite... used gloves when medicating...
: - ) My other excuse is, I'd had to manhandle this cat's father a few days prior- he sneaked into the root cellar behind me, and I needed him out, so I could close it, and he was evading me... it was late... And the father is a big, tough, originally semi-feral intact tom, who has never been a lap cat. I was quite rude about it; dragged him out from under a shelf by one hind leg, picked him up... and the tom was extremely polite about it all, and very careful of me; claws fully retracted at all times in spite of it all. I had reason to expect him to be polite, actually, we have a great relationship.
So this half-grown cat, potentially in training to be an inside-outside cat (one lap cat can be nice, yes?) had been naughty, and knew it; up on the table, grabbed a chicken bone, while I was upstairs singing to Smidgen... I was trying to move him out the door, he evaded, I grabbed- and he BIT.
Dumb, dumb, dumb- and expensive. And I so knew better.
Just call me Sven.