This is what they do when they get you young

by janedotx7

I read this story a long time ago in some self-help book. It is the only thing I remember:

A traveling circus must have an elphant, of course, but elephants are very strong, and it takes a lot of heavy chains to keep one in check. This equipment is heavy, and it’s a traveling circus, and so it’s impossible to afford the effort of bringing the chains everywhere.

The solution, then, is to buy a baby elephant. It is easy enough to restrain a baby elephant. You simply need to use a single chain to restrain it by one leg, lock the chain to a wooden peg, and drive the peg deep into the ground. No baby elephant likes being chained of course, and they all fight very hard, but they’re young enough that the chain defeats them. And after a while, they don’t even try any more. Even when they become full-grown strong elephants, they won’t even try. A single chain still works. The memory of their helplessness stays with them and keeps them from their freedom.

It’s a kind of learned blindspot.

I think about this story whenever I wonder why it’s not socially acceptable to skip in public, play Dungeons and Dragons, slide down a bannister, or ride a bike as an adult in some states. Simple, innocuous, childish things, things that shouldn’t even be anyone else’s business (so long as you’re careful to only break your own bannister and not mine). Those of us who are comfortable doing these things must have been very fast, evasive little elephants once.