In one of my favorite 5-part trilogies (you read it right), the Book tells Arthur Dent more about the best parts of it’s cover, in which the now notoriously large and famously friendly letters were a catch-all for any situations the book didn’t cover: “DON’T PANIC!”

’The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ is an indispensable companion to all those who are keen to make sense of life in an infinitely complex and confusing universe. For though it cannot hope to be useful or informative on all matters, it does make the reassuring claim that where it is inaccurate, it is at least definitively inaccurate. In cases of major discrepancy it is always reality that’s got it wrong. So, for instance, when the Guide was sued by the families of those who had died as a result of taking the entry on the planet Traal literally – it said “Ravenous Bugblatter Beasts often make a very good meal for visiting tourists” instead of “Ravenous Bugblatter Beasts often make a very good meal of visiting tourists” – the editors claimed that the first version of the sentence was the more aesthetically pleasing; summoned a qualified poet to testify under oath that beauty was truth, truth beauty, and hoped thereby to prove that the guilty party in this case was life itself for failing to be either beautiful or true. The judges concurred…and in a moving speech held that life itself was in contempt of court and duly confiscated it from all those there present before going off for a pleasant evening’s Ultra-golf. The Guide’s omissions are less easily rationalised. There is nothing on any of its pages to tell you on which planets you can expect suddenly to encounter fifteen mile high statues of yourself, nor how to react if it is immediately apparent that they have become colonies for flocks of giant, evil-smelling birds – with all the cosmetic problems that implies. The nearest approach the Guide makes to this matter is on page seven-thousand-and-twenty-three, which includes the words “expect the unexpected.” This advice has annoyed many Hitch-Hikers in that it is ‘A’ – glib, and ‘B’ – a contradiction in terms. In fact, the very best advice it has to offer in these situations is to be found on the cover. Where it says, in those now notoriously large and famously friendly letters, “Don’t Panic”. 

Panic helps no one. Never. No-how. It just doesn’t. If you are around me when a major catastrophe happens, your wigging out because you think a situation is hopeless, or haven’t prepared properly, does not mean I am going to agree with you. So, if that happens, expect a decent reminder to stop spreading panic to everyone else. Perhaps a nice smash across the shoulders? Glass of water to the face? Whatever works. Just stop causing everyone else to think that it’s time to explode. 


When I was in Boy Scouts back in Topeka, if you lost something while on a campout/hike you were responsible for it. If you found it back, great… problem solved. If someone else found it, you had to sing to get it back, in front of the whole troop, regardless if there were five or five hundred around. If you didn’t want to sing, keep track of your stuff. Easy. I also remember a lot of training that would help us to be better citizens by learning what to do if and when something happened that was unexpected. Snakebite. Car crash. Fire in a building. Gas station explosion. We covered a lot of different things under the “BE PREPARED” motto. One of the things that was easier to learn (Courtesy of Boys’ Life magazine and the Pee Wee Harris cartoon) was getting people to calm down by singing, maybe the Star Spangled Banner. Something that everyone would be familiar with and reduce the fear factor. 

If you want to be ready as possible for problems, consider what might happen versus what you think it capable of happening. If there are things you can’t control, you can’t control it. There are some things in life that are uncontrollable. Some people can’t face that idea if their lives depended on it, and sometimes it most certainly does. Focus on what you can control, and what is fixable. If you are going to panic over something, spreading it around to everyone only increases the possibility that someone else / more someones nearby are going to get hurt. 

This has been THE number one rule for me for a long time, when I hear people (especially my kids) get nervous about any number of situations in rapidly escalating fashion. I look at them and ask: “What is Rule Number One?” They know the answer. It just takes some time to remind them of it. Also true for a lot of people out there. Be a part of the solution, not part of causing more problems. Help reduce panic; don’t contribute to it. 


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