White Publishing Company

Return to Normalia (4.5.20)

Let's say there's a village of exactly 100 people, called Normalia. It's a progressive village with a hip mayor -- maybe he has a man bun! -- and they like to go for walks as an entire village. It's corny but sweet. One day, the whole village is walking through the woods, a few miles from home, when a freak lightning storm rolls through.

It's a bad one. Lightning sets the forest on fire. And from a clearing at the top of a hill, the people of Normalia can see that a third of the village (meaning their homes and shops) is also on fire. They need to get back to Normalia, quick. Running down the trail, they reach a fork. Both paths lead to the village ... but now they have a dilemma.

The path to the right is shorter, but it goes through a very dense part of the forest. If they go that way, it's a very dangerous trip through intense fire and thick smoke. The village's fire expert guesses that if they go to the right, five people will never make it home. The only blessing: Because the path is shorter, they might make it back to Normalia in time to save most of the homes and shops. There's going to be serious fire damage, but they could save a lot.

The path to the left is much longer, but the the forest along that path is thinner. If they go that way, fewer people from the village will die from smoke and fire along the way. The village's resident fire expert guy guesses that maybe two people are goners if they take the path on the left. That's better than five -- but because the journey is longer, the fire in the village might be out of control by the time they get home. It could completely destroy lots of buildings and at least damage most of them.

What should they do? Everyone wants to get back to Normalia, but opinions will vary. Weaker villagers, or those who have the closest ties to the weak, might want the long path; the healthiest villagers might want to take their chances on the short path. Villagers with homes or shops on the outskirts of towns might be fine with the long path; those who could see their homes already on fire might want to race down the short path. Some people will argue that lives are irreplaceable and saving them has to be the priority. Others will say that if the village burns down, everyone's life gets much, much worse for a long time.

Some people might say, we should each get to choose our own path! Others will say, we have to stick together as a village! And the mayor, wanting to please everyone, might say, "Let's start down the long path, and hey, maybe we'll find a shortcut along the way!" The only thing they all know is that standing there in a forest fire isn't going to help anyone.

If you lived in Normalia, how would you get home?

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