Knowing Where To Tap Part II
I’ve been dissatisfied with the version of this tale that I posted here so below I post a variation that draws on themes from teaching tales from different traditions
A ship had called into harbour to deliver some cargo. Once the cargo had been unloaded, the captain gave orders to set sail, but the engines wouldn’t start.
When the captain asked how long it would take to make the repairs, the crew said they were working on it.
Many hours later the engines still would not start, and the captain was desperate to leave the harbour as he was losing money moored to the harbour wall, and he had heard that there was a highly experienced engineer visiting the area, so he asked this engineer to look at the ship’s engines.
The engineer took a little work bag down into the engine room, listened to the engines as they tried to start, reached into the little bag and took out a little hammer.
With this little hammer, she tapped a pipe, tried the engines, and they started immediately.
The captain and crew were overjoyed and set sail immediately.
After sailing for a few days, the crew fell to disagreeing about what had actually happened. One group came to the conclusion that it was the hammer that was important. One of their member made a replica hammer and bag, and any time they had a problem with the engine this group would gather in the engine room, all dressed in garb similar to that of the engineer, ritually remove the hammer from the bag and hold it aloft, before using it to strike the pipe at the same spot that the engineer had.
The other group decided that it was the tapping that was important. Whenever a problem occurred with the engine they would gather and jeer at the first group, before spreading out across the ship, repeatedly tapping any piece of exposed metal that they could find.
Eventually the tension between the two groups got so great that they moved to quarters at different ends of the ship. Attacks had happened, so they moved around in pairs for protection. And sometimes the ship started, and sometimes it didn’t.
Eventually, after many years, the ship pulled back into the first port where the engineer had come on board. The crew invited the engineer to the ship, and when she arrived she was astounded. She addressed both factions and said “You have both failed to understand the process, by seeing what took place on the surface only and not understanding the mechanism by which it took place”. But both groups became angry… some said that things should be left as they were, because their rituals and patterns formed the cohesion of their society. Others accused her of sacrilege and of being a bringer of false knowledge.
Some, however, were intrigued. They had long been silently unhappy with the activities on board ship but the idea that there might be something beyond the surface had never occurred to them. So they started to map the mechanisms of the ship… to understand the different ways in which it could stop working and the correct remedies. Their existence threatened the first two groups so they kept their activities quiet, but gradually they came to understand the ship until they too, knew where and when to tap.