‘There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly’ is the perfect parable of the Eristic/Aneristic Principle.
In the past I have written about what I consider to be the central lesson of Discordianism – which really boils down to radical acceptance. Chaos is the primal state of existence, and the harder we try to control it with order, the more disorder we create on top of it. Perhaps the most simple illustration of this principle is a children’s song written by people who had nothing at all to do with Discordianism – ‘There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly’ – or alternately ‘I Know An Old Lady’.
You can check out the song’s history and different lyric versions HERE.
The swallowing of the fly, in the Discordian sense, represents chaos. A random event that could not be controlled. When the old lady tries to catch the fly by swallowing a spider, that is an act of order. Each subsequent thing she swallows represents another act of order, and when she eventually dies from swallowing a horse (of course) – that is the disorder which resulted from attempts to deny chaos with excessive order. The old lady should have just chased that fly with some tequila and moved on with her life.
Now apply this lesson to our world. What kind of personal, regional and global disorder have we created in our attempt to deny that which will not be denied? Can you think of personal examples? Socioeconomic? Political? Environmental? If you really think about it, humans are so neurotically averse to risk and their inevitable mortality that we create more problems trying to avoid trouble and death than we started with. Perhaps the most important lesson for humanity at this stage is radical acceptance. Accept the chaos. And who knows, maybe if you laugh the next time you swallow the proverbial fly, you will end up coughing it back up. You should still have that shot of tequila, though.