The Lighthouse

Two battleships assigned to the training squadron had been at see on maneuvers in heavy weather for several days.  I was serving on the lead battleship and was on watch on the bridge as night fell.  The visibility was poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on all activities.


Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing of the bridge reported, “light, bearing on the starboard bow”


“Is it steady or moving astern?” the captain called out.


Lookout replied, “Steady, captain” which meant we were on a dangerous collision course with that ship.


The captain then called to the signalman, “Signal that ship: We are on a collision course, advise you change course 20 degrees”


Back came a signal, “Advisable for you to change course 20 degrees”


The captain said “Send: I am a captain, change course 20 degrees.”


“I am a seaman 2nd class” came the reply “You had better change course 20 degrees”


By that time, the captain was furious.  He spat out “Send, I’m a battleship.  Change course 20 degrees!”


Back came the flashing light, “ I’m a lighthouse”


We changed course.

(Frank Koch in Proceedings, Naval Institute as cited in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey)


Recently, I find myself in various situations where in the end, I would say to myself that nobody is to blame, that I would just have to accept things as they are, that it is just another sad situation.   This comes from understanding both sides of every situation.  Too much understanding now that I think about it. 

I remember reading Stephen Covey’s 7 habits, and in the chapter about paradigms, he mentions that people can completely disagree about something and both of them can still be correct.  This is because they see different sides of the same situation.  This perspective comes from how each of them was conditioned since birth. Most of the time, each would assume that his perspective is the right one.  This is what Covey calls “Subjective Reality”.  But who is to say which perspective is right, which is truly, realistically correct?  Should we just settle ourselves with accepting situations as sad affairs, agreeing to disagree, like I’m doing recently?

I was enlightened and happy to agree with Covey when he continues and talks about how there are fundamental principles.  These are principles “…that govern human growth and happiness – natural laws that are woven into the fabric of every civilized society throughout history and comprise roots of every family and institution that has endured and prospered….These principles surface time and time again, and the degree to which people in a society recognize and live in harmony with them moves them toward either survival and stability or disintegrations and destruction.” 

This is the “Objective Reality” and no amount of individual perspective can argue with these principles.  Some examples are the principles of fairness, integrity, excellence, human dignity and respect.  Not one culture or civilization that has prospered can ever argue with these principles.  Further, no one can prove that by living the opposite of these principles, they lived with lasting happiness and success.

As I ponder these, I cannot help but think, that there may have been situations where I was treated unfairly, that realistically, I should not have to settle myself with everything thrown my way.  And that no matter what amount of reasoning I am given, there were times, these totally negate principles of fairness and integrity.  Maybe next time, I should remember the lighthouse…


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