Said The Spider

The email I opened today began with these words: “This is to inform you of a very important information which will be of a great help to redeem you from all the difficulties you have been experiencing in getting your long over due payment…”   Skipping down to the bottom of the note, I was amused to see this warning:  “Any action contrary to this instruction is at your own risk.”  I laughed at the audacity of the author and deleted the post. I get these missives on a daily basis.  You probably do too.  This one appeared to have originated in Nigeria and, like all the others of its ilk, was nothing more than an attempt to gain information about those recipients who are foolish enough to reply to the email.  What promises to offer personal redemption is actually an attempt to enslave you.

Photo: Evelyn Simak

Most of us would never be so foolish as to be caught in one of these traps, but a number of greedy people have. A few of them are still digging out of the financial hole left by the scam.  Most people are naturally skeptical of these too-good-to-be-true offers, because they understand that there are unscrupulous people just waiting for willing victims to walk into their webs of deceit.  We have been warned again and again about these crooked schemes and are constantly looking out for them.  We are wise to do so.

But, I can’t quit thinking about that audacious sentence at the bottom of the email.  “Any action contrary to this instruction is at your own risk.”  I see warnings like these on a regular basis.  Band instrument manufacturers insist that their product will only function at its best when you purchase and use their lubricants to maintain the valves and keys.  I can’t count the number of times that customers have come into my store, requesting these proprietary products by brand, insisting that their instrument will suffer if they don’t have them.  The sad fact is that most of these companies purchase their products from the major distributors and re-label them with their own name and trade-mark, marking them up many times the actual value.  They often are inferior products, rather than superior ones.  I do my best to gently guide these misguided folks to the other quality products, but there are some who insist.  A similar warning is there about power supplies for electronics, replacement heads for percussion instruments, tuning machines for guitars, and any number of other products.  All are scams to produce ongoing profit for a company which was only owed the profit for the original item, but has figured out how to guarantee a return for the life of the instrument.  Like the writer of the Nigerian email, they understand that many will be foolish enough to take their bait.

But, again, I think about the audacious warning.  “Any action contrary to this instruction is at your own risk.” I’m thinking that there actually are times when such a warning needs to be heeded.  I remember the time the next-door neighbor kids didn’t.  It cost them a lot of expensive camping and hunting equipment, to say nothing of the fact that they almost burned down the neighborhood.  The simple instructions on the side of a can of charcoal lighter fluid should have averted the entire affair.  “Do not spray contents on an open flame. Combustion will occur!”  A rather simple principle, one would think.  It wasn’t simple for these boys!  They had pitched their tent in the middle of the semi-wooded lot, leaning their .22 rifles against a nearby log, and started a fire.  Supper was prepared and eaten and they settled in for the evening.  It was still light out, but there wasn’t much to do except sit around and talk.  Bored, one of them, probably Mike, got the idea that it might be fun to shoot a little lighter fluid on the smouldering campfire.  It was.

Within seconds, the flames were leaping higher, and each subsequent squirt from the metal can was infinitely more exciting, as the flames began to chase the liquid up toward the young man wielding the can.  Finally though, the real combustion occurred, as the flames followed the liquid up and jumped to the lighter fluid soaked hands of the screaming boy.  Mike dropped the can, banging his hands on the ground to douse the flames that seemed as if they would burn away his flesh.  Seconds later, Mike and his brothers were fleeing the conflagration, as their campsite–tent, guns, and all–went up in flames.  Within moments, what started out as a simple campfire was a raging grass fire that threatened to consume not only the trees and dry grass nearby, but the homes bordering the area, also.  I know. We stood and frantically sprayed our property with a garden hose as the fire department worked to extinguish the main fire.  It was a scary evening. All because a few boys didn’t know to pay attention to the warnings.

Somehow, it is in our nature to ignore words of warning.  “Hot!” we tell the child, yet he has to touch the burning stove to find out for himself.  “Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear,” states the admonition on the automobile mirror, but again and again, people move into the other lane too soon, forcing vehicles behind them to brake suddenly or be hit.  Stop signs are ignored, lifeguard’s instructions unheeded, warnings from doctors merely laughed at.  Of course, you know that it is indeed in our nature to ignore instructions.  One of the earliest stories I learned in Sunday School was the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  Their Creator said, (and I paraphrase), “Any action contrary to this instruction is at your own risk.”  The serpent planted the suggestion, but the pair determined their, and our, course.  Again and again as a child, I wondered why in the world they would ignore the warning.  How could they ruin it for all of us?

But now, I look deeply into my own heart and know, beyond any doubt, that I would have made the same choice.  I still do, even today. My guess is that you do also.

Do you suppose that we might be better off if we would heed warnings which are desperately vital, but ignore the others?  The false ones, the ones primarily intended to impoverish and to harm us are fairly easy to spot.  Just as easily, we can determine the warnings that actually do demand our attention and our obedience.  And, the most important of these have to do with our very being, not just with physical safety.

You see, there is an instruction manual.  It was not written by some scam artist in Nigeria, nor by an ad writer on Madison Avenue.  Truly, we ignore these instructions at our own risk.  Contrary to popular belief, this manual actually contains a lot more encouragement than warnings.  It would be well worth spending some time with.  I bet you already have one of these volumes somewhere. It is the best-selling book of all time.

“Any action contrary to this instruction is at your own risk.”

I do like the idea of being “redeemed from all the difficulties”, too.  That day really is coming…

‘Will you walk into my parlor?’ said the Spider to the Fly,
‘Tis the prettiest little parlor that ever you did spy;‘…
‘Oh no, no,’ said the Fly, ‘To ask me is in vain;
For who goes up your winding stair can ne’er come down again.‘”
(The Spider and the Fly” poem by Mary Howitt~1799-1888

“Subtlety may deceive you; integrity never will.”
(Oliver Goldsmith~Irish poet/author~1730-1734)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2012. All Rights Reserved.

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