Bats in the Belfry

On June 18, 2002, I awoke from a dream and wrote this:
Recently, a problem has surfaced where huge numbers of bats suddenly infest a house, church or other public place. Sometimes the bats can reproduce so quickly that they overtake the people present, driving them out. Oddly, it doesn’t seem to happen at coffee shops, restaurants or music stores. But city council meetings, Board meetings, homes, churches of all denominations, and courts of law have all experienced situations where bats suddenly and without much warning have reproduced rapidly, in geometric proportions, and driven people to the streets. In one case, a family of five were driven from their house during dinner. By the time the police and fire departments arrived the bats were so thick you couldn’t move through the rooms of the house. One estimate on site put the bat population in that house at over a million, in only 1,500 square feet of living space. People are scared.
A public hearing has been called, and a prominent scientist has been asked to testify about the problem. He is at a witness stand, facing the audience. A governing body of some sort (city council, or panel of judges perhaps) is also at the front of the room, and they are asking questions trying to understand the problem and determine what to do.
The scientist is explaining that it is primarily a psychological problem. “You see,” he said, “bats do not exist without fear. In fact, I would go so far as to say that bats are created by fear – without fear there would be no bats. The way to eliminate the bats is for each of us to eliminate our fears.”
A panelist asks, “But the bats are a physical entity. You’re telling us about a psychological state. How can the two be related?”
The scientist explained, “It’s an interesting phenomenon. There are many examples of the mind influencing or even controlling physical conditions. The most famous of course is the so-called mind/body connection. Psychosomatic illnesses, cancer patients becoming cured, allergies, asthma, etc. We’ve known for years that the mind can have an influence over our well-being. Now, in this case, we have an example of our minds manifesting a physical presence due to our insecurity. It’s quite an interesting situation, and may be important for all of mankind to understand and learn from.”
There was much murmering from audience members when another panelist pressed for a description of how the mechanism worked. “How, exactly,” he asked, “does this work? I need to see evidence that your theory is correct.”
“It’s fairly technical,” said the scientist, “but I think it’s important to walk through the details. I should warn you, though, that during my description it is critical for every audience member to stay focused on the technical aspects of my theory, and not yet consider the ramifications. There are solutions to the problem at hand, but first let’s understand the problem.”
“When the first bats appear, each one represents a different fear. These fears come from people’s thoughts and interactions. It’s very rare for a single person to have enough fear to manifest a bat, but as people congregate their fears form a sort of energy field, and this field can sometimes be strong enough to create bats. In order for a bat to be manifest, the fear factor must exceed a threshold defined by the ratio of the product of collective fears to the sum of individual fears. That is, a strong-willed person without much fear can compensate for another person that carries much fear. However, in groups, the effect of the fear-less people is typically less than that of the fear-full people, and then the dominant effect multiplies, whereas the individual effects only add. The net result is that things can be fine for a long time but as each person’s fearful threshold is approached it contributes to the dominant group threshold. At some point the threshold is crossed and then there’s little that can be done for that configuration of people.”
The first panelist asked, “You said that each bat represents a different fear. Say more about that.”
“Sure. As the fearful threshold boundary is approached, dominant fears emerge. When the threshold is crossed, the first bat manifested represents the most dominant fear. At that point the particular fear is ‘consumed’ so to speak, and pushed down below the threshold – it’s a form of redirection. There was fear, it was manifested, now it’s not as fearful – since it is now present we can ‘rationally’ deal with it. As each new fear crosses the threshold, a new bat is manifest. So, if there are a lot of fears, there will be a lot of bats. The real problem however, is that sometimes a fear begins to spin through a group of people such that they continue to think about it, perhaps stuck in a loop of fearful thoughts, each amplifying the others, magnifying the worst potentials of each fear. When this happens and the fear crosses the threshold _again_ a new bat is not created, but rather the existing bats associated with that fear duplicate, similar to cell division.”
“For instance, one bat can turn into two, then the two into four, then the four into eight, etc. This can proceed quite rapidly, and once started tends into feedback onto the fear factor, creating new fears and new bats. But, since there are a number of fears possible, eventually there are enough bats that the bats themselves become the fear source. Then it becomes obvious that there is no rational way to deal with over a million bats in one house, the fears continue to multiply there’s very little you can do and you don’t have much time. It takes a lot of love to counterbalance that much fear, and sometimes the best thing to do is burn the building down and start over.”
A panelist asked, “Once the bats appear, is there anything to do to minimize their impact?” Suddenly, a single bat appeared on the back wall of the room. The scientist saw it immediately. The panelists noticed it as he spoke.
“Because the fear factors multiply in groups of people, the best thing to do is to break up the group so that each person can regain their personal center. Smaller groups of two or three, focused on deep desires rather than hypothetical fears, can begin to leverage their love to overcome the fears. This is much more difficult in groups due to psychological entrainment, but basically the largest group that can sustain the least fear will have the most impact over a population. However there is a danger in that if a group suddenly loses their focus and fears coalesce it can be almost impossible to reset the whole group. In that case the groups need to refactor again and focus more narrowly on positive futures.”
Now there were about a dozen bats on the back wall, and before the scientist could continue the panelists watched in horror as the bats each morphed into two, halving themselves and doubling at the same time. Like a sophisticated special effect from a science fiction movie, the bats existed outside of normal time – they could appear instantly, grow exponentially, and consume all space. A panelist called the meeting to adjourn. A bat squeaked and flew across the room. Someone screamed. People ran panicked for the doors. Within seconds the bats consumed virtually the entire ceiling volume and were doubling quickly downward toward the audience. The scientist shook his head sadly. Someone called 911. The fire department arrived. When they couldn’t see anything but bats through the windows, they set the building on fire.