Processionary caterpillars travel in long,
undulating lines, one creature behind the other.
Jean Henri Fabre, the French entomologist, once led a
group of these caterpillars onto the rim of a large
flowerpot, so that the leader of the procession found
itself nose to tail with the last caterpillar in the
procession, forming a circle without end or beginning.
Through sheer force of habit and, of course,
instinct, the ring of caterpillars circled the
flowerpot for seven days and seven nights, until they
died from exhaustion and starvation. An ample
supply of food was close at hand and plainly visible,
but it was outside the range of the circle, so the
caterpillars continued along the beaten path.
People often behave in a similar way. Habit
patterns and ways of thinking become deeply
established, and it seems easier and more comforting
to follow them than to cope with change, even when
change may represent freedom and achievement.
If someone shouts, "Fire!" it is
automatic to blindly follow the crowd, and many
thousands have needlessly died because of it.
How many stop to ask themselves: Is this really
the best way out of here?
So many people miss the boat because it's easier
and more comforting to follow--to follow without
questioning the qualifications of the people just
ahead--than to do some independent thinking and
A hard thing for most people to fully understand is
that people in such numbers can be so wrong, like the
caterpillars going around and around the edge of the
flowerpot, with life and food just a short distance
away. If most people are living that way, it
must be right, they think. But a little checking
will reveal that throughout all recorded history, the
majority of mankind has an unbroken record of being
wrong about most things, especially the important
It's difficult for people to come to the
understanding that only a small minority of the people
ever really get the word about life, about living
abundantly and successfully. Success in the
important departments of life seldom comes naturally,
no more naturally than success at anything--a musical
instrument, sports, fly-fishing, tennis, golf,
business, marriage, parenthood, landscape gardening.
But somehow people wait passively for success to
come to them--like the caterpillars going around in
circles, waiting for sustenance, following nose to
tail--living as other people are living in the
unspoken, tacit assumption that other people know how
to live successfully.
It's a good idea to step out of the line every once
in a while and look up ahead to see if the line is
going where we want it to go. If it is, it could
be the first time.