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Thank goodness for Lighthouses

Thank goodness for Lighthouses


The story is told of an American Navy ship sailing in thick fog during an exercise off the coast of England. Up ahead the battleship sees a light coming towards them.

Fearing a collision, the ship’s captain gets the signal man to flash a signal to the approaching ship; “Sir, turn your ship 10 degrees south.”

Up through the fog came back the signal; “No, you sir turn your ship 10 degrees north.”

Well that made the captain angry as they moved closer to this collision. So, he sent a signal back; “I am an Admiral, turn your ship 10 degrees north.”

To which the reply came back through the fog; “I am a first-class seaman, you sir turn your ship 10 degrees south.”

This response infuriated the captain, so he sent a signal back saying; “I am the captain of a battleship, turn your ship 10 degrees south.”

Back through the fog came the reply; “Sir, I am a lighthouse, you turn your ship 10 degrees north.”


I like this story because it’s a reminder that regardless of how powerful or important some may think they are, there are some things we are all completely at the mercy of.

There are a number of ways to look at life, one is the belief we are all born good and it’s therefore only the oppressive external influences in our life that cause us to behave in negative ways. With this view, the role of society is to bring influence on our culture to free us from the oppression this produces.

This perspective sees many of our society’s rules and regulations as oppressive influences restricting us from the freedom life offers. The primary goal with this view is to therefore progressively dismantling these restrictions in order to become free.

Another view on life  is  the belief we are all born with the need to be corrected and guided into what’s right and it’s therefore the role of society to implement the guidelines needed  to achieve the freedom that living within these boundaries offer.

This perspective sees the primary goal being the maintaining of these rules and regulations as they are the protective perimeters around our society enabling us to become free.

Two polar opposite ways of seeing things that inform how we live out our lives.


My view is, just as a river without banks becomes a swamp, or a tree that’s not pruned and a garden that’s not tended won’t produce healthy crops, so  we also need active boundaries in our life to enable us to live well. A bit like a playground needs a protective fence around it to restrict danger from coming in and the wayward from easily getting out and being hurt. Freedom is therefore found within the safety of the fence.


Lighthouses are strategically placed to highlight the presence of danger to passing ships. Shooting the lights out of the lighthouse doesn’t make the danger go away it just hides it from any future approaching vessels.

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