National Aquatic Safety Company

Theirs Not To Reason Why

By Dan Warren

Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:

Excerpt from “Charge of the Light Brigade”

In a small Tibetan village far up in the mountains a monk was saying farewell to many of his students who promised to keep things exactly as they had always been under his teaching.

Decades passed before the monk returned to the village and as promised — virtually nothing had changed. This fidelity to his teaching was so finite that even the white cat which resided at every meeting from a wicker cage was in place.

The old sage asked why the cat was in the cage. His protégé readily answered that the cat was present because that is how it was prior to the monk’s departure and ever since.  They had replaced the cat periodically because of age but the replacement was always an exact duplicate.

The monk smiled and said he had placed the cat in the cage during meeting because the cat was very playful and curious and would always play with his feet which distracted him.

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When I reflect upon this short anecdotal story I see a theme that runs through so many organizations. When you ask someone for a reason behind a certain procedure or process and they say “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it” – it could be divulging a major Red Flag or possibly a White Cat…