THE THINK TANK
Once a very large think tank sprang a leak. Not that anybody noticed at first. The leak was a slow one, and so the fall in the level of thought in the tank was only discernable over a period of time. In fact, it wasn’t until there were next to no new ideas left in the tank that most people recalled how full of them it once had been. Prior to the leak, there seemed to be little concern anything might be wrong. The big fish and the little fish moved about as usual, bumping into one another on occasion but for the most part circling in an ordered school of thought that illustrated their ability to adhere to the limits imposed on them by the confines of the tank. This embrace of intellectual conformity over the prospect of independent thinking had undeniable advantages. Once introduced to the tank, every small fry found reassurance in the promise of safety from troublesome crosscurrents in thought and could look forward instead to becoming a senior fish with time merely by following the lead of the larger ones in all things. So long as the tank was full, the increasing number of senior and emeritus fish in it was cause for occasional comment, perhaps, but not much else. Only as the level of ideas fell, turning ever more murky and devoid of oxygen in the process, was it remarked that greater and lesser fish all looked to be in trouble. The occupants of the tank adapted as best they could, most commonly through variations on what came to be called “the buddy-bubble system,” whereby a single thought might be passed back and forth between any number of them until there was nothing left to it. Only half-submerged in the clouded murk of the tank eventually, many fish churned erratically to maintain their equilibrium, often doing little more than reversing their earlier positions in a bladder-up maneuver. And as other once-brilliant specimens were reduced to being mere bottom feeders on the remains of their erstwhile glory, not many showed any evidence of understanding what might have brought them to this state? Later inspection of the seams of the think tank revealed that they had weakened and cracked with age, most likely from vibrations caused by all the mouths moving in ceaseless unison as small fish became bigger fish and big fish became real whoppers. Though these findings were made available to all think tank developers and supporters, it remains to be seen whether new standards will be implemented as a result. If not, it may only be a matter of time before the public finds itself swept under by a truly catastrophic think tank collapse and swimming for dear life amid slippery, half-dead ideas.
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans