This is a story I once heard. I’m sure there are a few variations of it going around, but the core principle I’m sure has remained the same:
Dwight L. Moody used to tell the story of the terrible train crash outside of the small town in the Colorado Rockies. It seems that the railroad trestle at the bottom of a long grade had washed away in a storm.
One night, the railroad company telegraphed the station manager of the station farther up the hill to tell him about the washout, and told him to flash a red lantern to stop the train there so that the passengers could spend the night there. It was the job of the station manager to wave a lamp to warn locomotive engineers of danger ahead on the railroad tracks.
So that night, for some reason the train did not stop, but continued down the hill and off the tracks, into a ravine with great loss of lives.
Of course an investigation was convened as to the cause of the crash, and the station manager was called to the stand to be interrogated.
The judge started, “Did you wave the lamp?”
The watchman responded,“Yes, Sir. I waved the lamp.”
So why didn’t the train stop?”
“You’ll have to ask the engineer.”
“We can’t ask him, he is dead! Did you wave the lamp?”
“Yes, Sir. I waved the lamp.”
The judged asked the watchman the same question several more times with increasing intensity, “Did you wave the lamp?”
Each time the watchman’s answer was the same,“Yes, Sir. I waved the lamp”, but the watchman seemed less and less convincing.
After the inquest was over, the watchman and a friend were talking. The friend asked, “You seemed upset when the judge asked you that question, and each time he asked, you seemd less and less sure of your answer. You did wave the lamp, didn’t you?”
The watchman replied, “Yes, I waved the lamp.”
The friend said, “Then your answer should have been the same no matter how many times the judge asked you.”
The watchman said, “Yes, but you see, there was a problem. I was doing some paperwork when I heard the train coming. I thought I could finish the paperwork and still have time to warn the train. But the train came faster than I thought, so I grabbed the lamp, ran out, and waved it. I waved the lamp just fine… but I didn’t have time to light it, and the engineer of that train didn’t see the lamp, and he drove on to disaster.”
Do you wave an unlit lamp?