Once upon a time, in a far away land, high up in the mountains, there were two little villages named Fickle and Staid. They were on opposite sides of a deep gorge, through which flowed an icy cold river. Over the river a tiny little bridge connected the two towns. The simple folk of both villages lived separate lives except for their monthly general village meetings, where all village business was decided. Villagers were free to join each other’s meetings if they chose to be neighborly.
One fine day the villagers of Staid were just about to end their monthly meeting when there was a loud banging on the town hall door. Suddenly the door flew open with a loud creaking, and in stepped an old man. He was dressed in a white robe, his long grey beard reached the floor and his pointed hat almost touched the roof. A deep silence fell over the hall and then in a loud booming voice he said, “I am Medicus, I have come to give you The Ring, which has deep knowledge and control for those in its presence. When The Ring is asked a question or given a command, it will glow a brilliant green color as it does its work. You may decide to keep The Ring if you promise to use it only to protect the people’s health. Failure to do so may result in unknown grave consequences.” Then as suddenly as the old man had appeared he vanished. Moments later he appeared before the village folk of Fickle and gave them another Ring with the same instructions he had given to the village of Staid.
The simple folk of Staid kept their promise to Medicus and decided that The Ring should stay in the Department of Good Health. Every month they asked The Ring to reveal to them how to improve the villagers’ health. Otherwise they carried on in much the same way as self reliant mountain villagers had done for generations.
On the other side of the river, the people of Fickle soon discovered that The Ring could give them control over many other things. They chose to use The Ring to drive their cars and fly their planes for them. The Ring could operate their factories all on its own. It could run all the farm equipment, milk the cows, turn on and off the electricity, lock the doors, and make their morning cup of coffee. The Ring could even lay the bricks to build their little houses. It could read to them and help them if they got lost. There was almost nothing The Ring could not do for them. Soon the villagers of Fickle no longer had much work to do and they spent their time, eating, sleeping and enjoying long walks in the beautiful mountains. As the years passed, high in the mountains, a new generation grew to adulthood. The libraries had seen their books decay and turn to dust. Why read when The Ring could read for you. Money had long ago disappeared. People had forgotten how to drive cars, fly planes, or build houses. No one knew any longer how to farm, or cook. They had even forgotten how to make a cup of coffee, for The Ring did it all.
Satisfied with the ease and convenience of their lives the folk of Fickle began to jeer and mock the villagers of Staid for their old ways. As the years went by the folks from Fickle began to despise everything about Staid. Finally they decided to avoid any further contact. They built a thousand foot tall wall around their village with a giant gate, locked by The Ring. Yes, that is what they did. The good folk of Staid were saddened by their neighbor’s actions, but went about their work and business as they always had.
The years past and there came a time when the weather began to behave in a very unusual way. It was difficult to tell when one season began or when it ended. One summer, it began to snow in July and by July 4th the mountains lay buried beneath a deep blanket of snow and the river below the bridge had frozen solid. That very night at the stroke of midnight the sun began its thousand year cycle of giant solar storms, and the sun hurled a mighty flare into our solar system, showering all the planets with a field of powerful energy.
The next morning July 5, 2084 the villagers in Fickle awoke in very cold houses indeed. Icicles over three feet long hung from all their houses. The lights would not go on. They had no power. They could not start their cars or their planes. The folk of Fickle discovered that The Ring was no longer working. No food was delivered, no factories worked. Everything was still and silent. For weeks they tried to feed themselves, and keep warm. Finally those who had survived decided to visit and beg help from Staid. When they arrived at their giant gate, they could not open the lock since it had been closed by The Ring. They villagers decided to wait, huddled by the gate in the hope that some folk from Staid might happen by. So they waited, and waited.
By the end of July the snow had melted and the Staid town meeting was packed with folk. As usual The Ring was consulted for an update on their health. The villagers were surprised to find that it had gone to sleep and would not respond. Perplexed they all decided to see if the same had happed to The Ring in Fickle. The people thought that this would be a good reason to see if the villagers of Fickle might talk to them since they had not spoken to one another other for years. The next morning, as the first rays of sun began to shine on the mountains a few good villagers crossed the bridge and slowly and cautiously made their way up the mountain to Fickle. Upon reaching the giant gate, the villagers discovered a small group of cold, hungry, and helpless people huddled together behind the gate. “Help us please we beg you” cried out the few survivors of Fickle. “The Ring is no longer working, so we cannot open the gate and we are too weak to climb over the walls.” Immediately the people of Staid sent word back to their village for help. Soon the good villagers had assembled before the giant gate a crowd of people who brought their skills, tools and knowledge. Within a few short minutes they had cut a hole in the giant gate and freed the inhabitants of Fickle.
A few weeks later everyone was gathered in the Staid village hall for the monthly meeting. All the survivors were in attendance since they had recovered their strength under the good care of their neighbors. To celebrate, they held a great feast of good food and drink for all. Later that night, the villagers gathered around the stone fireplace and began to discuss the events of the past years. They talked and debated late into the night. The meeting came to an end, just as the first rays of sunlight were beginning to warm the mountain crests. The mountain mist had brought the village folk an understanding. They decided to proclaim their knowledge in banners over the entrance to their villages. The banners read:
BECAUSE WE CAN, SHOULD WE?
BEWARE HIDDEN CONSEQUENCES!
Thus the mountain folk prospered, forgiving each other, but never forgetting.
Dr. Nayvin Gordon is a Family Physician who has written many articles on health and politics. He can be reached at gordonnayvin@Yahoo.com