Processionary caterpillars travel in long, undulating lines, one creature behind the other. Jean Henri Fabre, the French entomologist, once led a group of these caterpillars onto the rim of a large flowerpot, so that the leader of the procession found itself nose to tail with the last caterpillar in the procession, forming a circle without end or beginning.
Through sheer force of habit and, of course, instinct, the ring of caterpillars circled the flowerpot for seven days and seven nights, until they died from exhaustion and starvation. An ample supply of food was close at hand and plainly visible, but it was outside the range of the circle, so the caterpillars continued along the beaten path.
People often behave in a similar way. Habit patterns and ways of thinking become deeply established, and it seems easier and more comforting to follow them than to cope with change, even when change may represent freedom and achievement.
If someone shouts, "Fire!" it is automatic to blindly follow the crowd, and many thousands have needlessly died because of it. How many stop to ask themselves: Is this really the best way out of here?
So many people miss the boat because it's easier and more comforting to follow--to follow without questioning the qualifications of the people just ahead--than to do some independent thinking and checking.
A hard thing for most people to fully understand is that people in such numbers can be so wrong, like the caterpillars going around and around the edge of the flowerpot, with life and food just a short distance away. If most people are living that way, it must be right, they think. But a little checking will reveal that throughout all recorded history, the majority of humankind has an unbroken record of being wrong about most things, especially the important things.
It's difficult for people to come to the understanding that only a small minority of the people ever really get the word about life, about living abundantly and successfully. Success in the important departments of life seldom comes naturally, no more naturally than success at anything--a musical instrument, sports, fly-fishing, tennis, golf, business, marriage, parenthood, landscape gardening.
But somehow people wait passively for success to come to them--like the caterpillars going around in circles, waiting for sustenance, following nose to tail--living as other people are living in the unspoken, tacit assumption that other people know how to live successfully.
It's a good idea to step out of the line every once in a while and look up ahead to see if the line is going where we want it to go. If it is, it could be the first time.