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Certainty, Faith, and the Herd Instinct

By       Message Bob Gormley     Permalink
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Back when I was in 7th or 8th grade we had a spelling bee. The teacher,who was a nun, was very clear about the rules of the contest. You would have to say the word, spell it, and then say the word again. There was a little twist to the rules,however.  If a word was spelled incorrectly the nun would remain silent and go to the next person in line with a new word to spell(we were all lined up against the outside windows).

It would be up to the next person in line to catch the error and give the correct spelling. If the next person got it wrong, the same process would continue. So I was like 20th in line and this one person spelled a word incorrectly, I knew it.

The next person missed the error, the next person also, and it finally was my turn to spell. Boy was everyone shocked when I spelled a word that was given 10 minutes ago. I knocked down 20 people. I must admit that to this day I still get a perverse pleasure when thinking about this. I ended up winning the spelling bee, and the nun promised me a nice prize the next morning. I wondered: "What could it be?". I was hoping for a Red Rider bee bee gun or something like that, maybe even a baseball glove.

Much to my disappointment I had won a statue of the virgin Mary. What 13 year old kid wants that? Later in life I realized that Catholicism is in blatant violation of the Bible's warning against graven images , idols, and the worship of entities other than God.

Thinking back I realize that experience taught me a few lessons. Some things we can be certain about. I was certain that word was spelled wrong. Other things are believed because of faith. Faith is kinda like an educated guess. You can't be absolutely sure or prove it, but your life experiences make the chances of it being so to be great.

Another thing I learned was the power of the herd instinct. The kids in my classroom were no dummies. It was hard for me to believe that not one kid knew how to spell that word. Were they afraid to trust their own feelings because everyone else kept going on their merry way? Did they just want to fit in and not rock the boat? Were they in their comfort zone and did not want to risk being laughed at if they were wrong?

With kids you can understand their reticence about sticking out, but with adults that should be different. This whole 9/11 thing reminds me of that day in the classroom. The truth was out there in plain sight, but for whatever reason they chose not to believe.

I think the same reasons apply: fear, laziness, and uncertainty.


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electronic technician, truth seeker

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Certainty, Faith, and the Herd Instinct