The Cliff

“I know you’re struggling, but I really need you to talk to me. I don’t understand how something like that could be affecting you in this way.”

“I mean it shouldn’t be right. It shouldn’t. What can I do about it? But it does.”

After a moment of thought,

Here’s the only way I can describe it:

It’s like we’re on a bus, the most enormous and infinite bus you can imagine. And when you’re young you’re just kind of along for the ride and you assume there’s some sort of serious or capable bus driver directing the thing. Or a group of people, someone with a plan, or at least some professional training, right? And then as you get older, you realize no one is really in control of the bus and the control panels of the bus are hopelessly complex and in conflict with one another. So, who controls the bus? The people in it of course, but no single group or person can do much to influence it on their own. They all occupy different controls that only seem to have limited impacts. People vie for influence and direction of the bus for very different reasons, and this jostling and jumping is what is driving the bus. And on this bus, everyone is having conversations. Sometimes important conversations, sometimes frivolous. But these conversations take place and every once in a while, a voice will pipe up and point out that we are headed toward a cliff. I take notice of that and look and sure enough we are indeed headed for a cliff. Then you begin to look around, and the conversations are still ongoing, the bus is still careening back and forth, but we are definitely headed for that cliff. So, you begin to point it out to people. And some will acknowledge the cliff, lend a sympathetic ear, and then go right back to their conversation and whatever life they are trying to make on the bus. Others will deny the existence of the cliff. Some will say “We aren’t going to go off the cliff.” So, you reexamine and talk to some people who demonstrate that given the trajectory and the momentum of the bus we are most definitely going to go off the cliff without drastic changes. And so, the cliff begins to occupy my every thought. I wake up, either well rested or like a living death, but either way I think “Oh, right. The cliff.” And then you talk to everyone again. And some people are like, “We should avoid the cliff.” And then go back to their conversation and their life on the bus. Others begin crafting an escape pod. But the cliff is right there. There won’t be time. The cliff looms. A few of those who claimed the cliff didn’t exist begin to argue that the bus can fly if we can only build some wings for it.

I go to bed thinking about the cliff. On the better days I try to vie for influence over the bus. I throw my weight against the window, hoping others will join. But soon you realize you could be doing the opposite and it would have the exact same effect on the bus’s direction. And the apathy begins to creep. Some days it takes hold of you and drives you to dissociation and you ask whether it wouldn’t be better to go over the cliff and just get it over with. You know there is some version of events that could cause the bus to avoid the cliff. But the cliff looms. It seems too late, and the bus is speeding up. You know that perhaps there is some sequence of actions that you could take that might lead to a change in route, but you try, and it doesn’t seem to work. You begin to make concessions. The cliff looms. Perhaps if we could just slow the bus down.

You try to group people together establish some common goal and clear action that will lead to a slowdown and perhaps a stop. Maybe we could throttle the engine? Most of them agree with you. But the trajectory of the bus doesn’t change. The bus speeds up, just like they said it would. You hold none of the levers that control the engine and it’s clear there’s no steering wheel. The bus seems to be having trouble holding itself together at the increased speeds. You gain the influence of those who touch some switches of power, only to realize that they don’t control much and there are others with other knobs and buttons. So, who is controlling the bus? Why can’t we come to a collective decision? Some people seem to be having a good time. You wonder if they know. Can they see the cliff? Has anyone told them? Maybe they don’t understand. I mean, the cliff is right there, and we are definitely going over the edge if nothing is done. Is there nothing I can do? I am doing things, but they have no effect. I could do the opposite and the bus would go on. Some campaign for us to avoid the cliff. Most people agree, but then return to their conversation and life on the bus. Some parts of the bus will go over the ledge first. Perhaps once that happens people will see. Will it be too late? Will inertia do the rest of the work? Others still claim the cliff doesn’t exist, or that we can’t know how bad going over the edge will be until we try it. I take my seat again. I guess I, like everyone else, am just along for the ride. Others are still saying we could all flap our arms in unison and the bus would fly. It seems like we should slow down or turn the wheel.

The bus goes faster. The wheels shift back and forth. And the cliff looms.

One comment on “The Cliff

  1. I’m not sure if this makes me sad or happy, but it definitely made me think and I guess that was your purpose. Thanks for sharing it
    with no me.

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