Once upon a time, a small town stood on a narrow strip of land next to a river in the shadow of a high cliff. Occasionally, stones would fall from the cliff and land harmlessly on the roofs of the town buildings while other, rarer ones crashed through and caused harm. One day, a portion of the cliff gave way and brought a rumbling rock-slide down upon the town.
The town was devastated and many were lost. The survivors swore such a tragedy must never occur again and a council was held to determine the future of the village. Plans were made to study the cliff and design new defenses. While the science and engineering took place, the townsfolk set up tents on the other side of the river where the plain began so as not to crowd progress.
Every day, the people would cross the river to the ruins of their town to excavate, analyze, design and build. Clever alarms were imagined and constructed with bells hanging from the cliff wall which would ring whenever the cliffside moved. Great scaffolds were built alongside the cliff to discourage crumbling. Flowering vines were planted at the base of the cliff that would one day secure the sandstone, it was thought.
After a year, the townsfolk decided it was safe enough to rebuild their homes and granaries when a wise man among the people noted that in the year spent on the flat side of the river not one of them had been injured by falling stone. And so the people crossed the river one last time, carrying the tents which were safer than structures of stone and wood. Or so the archeologists tell us.
MORAL: The wise man wades into danger while the fool swims.
LESSON, n. The happy error after.