Sunday, 29 May 2016

Tale of a delusion: If frogs can fly...

The tale below is inspired by the parable about Felix the Frog whose Internet author is unknown. Here is my version of it. Hope it makes you think.

Once upon a time, there lived a frog trainer. He ran a frog circus. People came from all over the world just to watch his acrobatic amphibians do their thing. They were trained to hop through fire hoops, jump over chasms, and belt out popular choruses. Well, it is not exactly pitch perfect, but the frog chorus always brings the house down.

Business was good in the early years. People were coming in. The trainer was making fast cash. His frogs were performing seven nights a week to packed halls. He worked his frogs to the bones.

But as the novelty faded, the crowd also thinned. After a while, the frogs were performing only to half its capacity. Most of his audience were attracted to the other circus acts down the street. The competition was killing the business. And the trainer was desperate for new acts to lure in the people. He knew he needed to spruce up the show.

Then one day, he got an epiphany. It came to him in a dream while he was vacationing. It came as an audible voice accusing him of performing mediocre circus tricks with the frogs. The voice told him that the frogs could do much more if they just believed more. In fact, the voice convinced him that his frogs could fly. The trainer could not believe what he had heard. Fly?

Before he woke up from his dream, he was specifically warned not to mix mediocre circus tricks with the far superior gravity-defying acts of flying. And he was assured that if he just focused on flying, his audience will return and his business will prosper beyond his wildest imagination.

That day transformed his life completely. He vowed never to allow his frogs to perform ground-hopping stunts ever again. They were made to soar and soar they shall.

The trainer then hurried home to tell the frogs the wonderful news and most of them were excited. Well, a few were at first hesitant but they were nevertheless daring to go. Still, a handful protested: "We are frogs, you idiot! We can't fly! Are you mad?" Undaunted, the trainer paid off the naysayers and he sent them away. The rest of them stayed for the next exciting phrase of their training.

The trainer took them to the highest floor of a building and lined them all up. He then fired the frogs up with a short speech about taking the leap of faith and off they went. One by one, they hopped off the edge with a victory chant - "We can flyyyyyy!"

Alas, one by one, they became gravity's victims. The sight was a rain of frogs like the plague that saw some of them landing on the road where they became road kill. Immediately they ascended to lily-pad heaven.

Yet those who survived wanted more of it. They were determined. They were still believing. They were openly defiant. I guess the only thing they defied that day was common sense.

The next day, the trainer brought them to a mountaintop, checked the wind direction, and fired them up with another leap of faith sermon before watching them dived off the cliff.

Again, gravity had the last laugh. The frogs splattered to the ground and some got their heads crushed against the rocks. They went straight to frog heaven.

This went on for quite a while. Every death-defying dive was met with more unnecessary plunge of death. Strangely, the more frogs jumped to meet their maker, the more delusional the trainer became. He became obsessed with the voice that told him frogs can fly. For every failure, every casualty, he blamed it on everything else - the wind, the diving position and insufficient height for initial launch. He just refused to accept that frogs can’t fly.

Weeks went by, and the trainer was reduced to just five jaded frogs – three of which were limping. Many had suffered their last jump to the end.

Before the five leapt off, they tried to persuade the trainer to return to what they did best, that is, ground hops and hoops jump. Basically, mediocre circus tricks so called. But the trainer refused to mix those lame acts with flying. He was still stubbornly holding on to the belief that flying is the new thing which would revolutionize the industry. It was the big break he had been waiting for all his life. That voice can't be wrong. He had lost too many frogs to turn back.

Disillusioned, the five kamikaze amphibians spread their hind legs, suck in their tummy, and bounced off the parapet. One after another, they flew away. But they had it all planned out. This time the dive was next to a river and they took aim of it. And one by one, they dived into the running river and disappeared for good.

The trainer tried to look for them but they were gone. His last batch of frogs escaped with their life to tell the tale of a delusion that has gone too far, an obsession that refused to come to its senses, and a belief that had costs them too much.

This tale ends with the frog trainer looking up to heaven, wailing in despair, "What have I done wrong?" Suddenly, that same voice from within returned and whispered these words to him, "You need smarter frogs." Cheerz.

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