We are a great country but we are not perfect. Like other countries we have our share of physical and social diseases.

For the most part, like other countries, physical diseases are not of man's doings and will take many years to completely cure. Alzheimer's, Lou Gehrig's and heart diseases along with certain forms of cancer are just a few. I'm sure you could add to the list.

Then we have the human social diseases. If we had the information and willingness to do something about them, they could be remedied in a matter of days, months or a few years. For centuries, we have been more successful in curing most physical needs and done very poorly with most social diseases. Here is my diagnosis and a possible cure for the No. 1 social disease in America today.

According to the scriptures, man has always been plagued with social diseases. You may recognize them as the seven deadly sins: gluttony, lust, laziness, greed, wrath, envy and pride. I'm sure you could add to this list. If we use both physical and social diseases as a yardstick, no one is perfectly healthy. We are all infected one way or another. Unfortunately there is one other social disease that needs attention before we can attack the sinful seven. It is the disease of gossip!

Its nasty virus has spread to the media, political parties, schools, religious centers, families and friends. The most diseased population is the media, with politicians a close second. They disguise themselves as news programs but are in reality more like gossip centers. The definition and cure of gossip can be found in a story attributed to Socrates (469-399 B.C.)

Socrates was widely lauded for his wisdom. One day an acquaintance ran up to him excitedly and said, "Socrates, do you know what I just heard about Diogenes?"

"Wait a moment," Socrates replied, "Before you tell I'd like you to pass a little test. It's called the Triple Filter Test. Before you talk about Diogenes let's take a moment and filter what you're going to say. The first filter is truth. Have you made absolutely sure what you are about to tell me is true?" The man replied no he had just heard about it.

"All right," said Socrates, "So you really don't know if it is true or not. Now let's try the second filter, the filter of goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about Diogenes something good?" Again the man said no.

Socrates continued, "You may still pass the test because there is a third filter, the filter of usefulness. Is what you want to tell me going to be useful to me?" A little embarrassed, the gossiper answered, "No not really."

"Well," concluded Socrates, "If what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful why tell it to me or anyone else?" The man was bewildered and ashamed. He never told the story to Socrates.

We should keep this in mind when you or I are about to repeat a rumor or spread gossip. It is a social disease you know!

Ken Seifert is a 40-year resident of Andover and former superintendent of the Andover schools.

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