Ducks for my Grandmother

A Happy Duck

This is, I believe, a true story.

Long before I was born, my grandmother decided that she wanted to keep ducks. I’m not sure why she wanted to keep ducks; I guess it was probably for the eggs. Whatever the reason, my grandmother wanted ducks, so my grandfather bought her some ducks.

Now, my grandparents didn’t know a lot about ducks. They did, however, know that ducks like water, so in a genuine effort to keep their ducks happy, they fetched an old tin bath from the shed, half filled it with water, and plopped the ducks into it. No doubt they observed the ducks for a while, satisfying themselves that the ducks were happily swimming about in the bath. Content that their ducks were happy, they left them to it.

Unfortunately, it turns out that that ducks – especially young ducks – need to get out of the water from time-to-time. They need to get out of the water to re-oil their feathers, otherwise they get water-logged and they can’t stay afloat. Experienced duck-owners know this. Often, they will put a couple of bricks and a little ramp in their ducks’ swimming-water, so that their ducks could escape from it when they needed to. My grandparents didn’t know this, however, so they provided no bricks, and no little ramp.

When, sometime later, my grandparents came back to check on their ducks, they were horrified to discover that things had gone badly wrong. Sadly for my grandmother, and tragically for her ducks, their feathers had become waterlogged, and the ducks had drowned.

Not everyone has grandparents who have managed to drown ducks.

Thankfully, following this experience, my grandparents gave up on the whole duck-owning deal. Their duck-owning days were done.

The Moral of the Story

What’s the point of this – rather grizzly – story? Well, my grandparent’s duck-rearing practices were based on false assumptions. They believed in what they were doing, but their beliefs were faulty. As a result of their faulty beliefs, their ducks failed to flourish, and their dreams of duck-eggs were scuppered.

It turns out that the same principle works in other aspects of life. When our actions are based on sufficiently accurate, sufficiently complete information, we are able to promote the welfare of both ourselves and those that we care about. However, when are actions are based on faulty assumptions, we reduce the probability that our actions will lead to the flourishing that we desire.

It turns out, then, that truth is the foundation of a flourishing life. If we want to flourish, if we want to achieve anything of value, then a solid grasp on reality is essential.