from Pantperthog to Knockando

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The parable of the bridge

In the depths of the valley, the tribe of little people lived under the bridge.

It was comfortable under there – nice and dry, with water nearby. Everybody pretty much agreed life under the bridge was almost perfect. In fact, no one could imagine what life was like away from the safety and the shelter of the bridge.

One or two members of the tribe had wandered out. The ones who came back said it was horrible out there. They’d felt lost and alone, ended up dirty and worn out, and so had come back to the safety of life under the bridge. Now they could wash themselves clean, rest, and recover from their ordeals in the loving company of their tribe family.

Some little people who wandered away never came back. The elders of the tribe muttered darkly that the wanderers had died, or gotten so lost they could never return. They issued dire warnings to anyone who even thought about leaving the safety of the bridge. “Be careful!” they said. “The bridge is what we know. The bridge is the only place where you can be safe. The bridge is the perfect place for us to live.”

Generations passed and, with each new generation, the younger members of the tribe would grow accustomed to the warnings of the elders, and start to wander out from under the bridge in curiosity. The elders’ warnings grew direr. They spoke of hideous monsters waiting to devour any who ventured away from the safety of the bridge. They spoke of torments and ravenings, of the madness and misery that awaited any who ventured away from the safety of the bridge.

The tribe of little people grew afraid to even think of leaving the safety of the bridge. If any thought such an unthinkable thing, they were loath to admit to it, and the very few who admitted to it were hushed by their family and clan members. Soon it was taboo to even admit there was a world other than under the bridge.

But there was one young member of the tribe, called Sprog. He wasn’t the tallest warrior, or fastest runner, or the cleverest artisan. His teachers used to call him the daydreamer, because he always seemed to be thinking about something he wasn’t supposed to be thinking about.

One day Sprog went to see the elders. Standing in their Circle he addressed his supplication to Vinder, the wisest and most wizened of the tribal elders. “Excuse me, elder,” said Sprog politely. It took Vinder a while to realise Sprog was talking to him because he was profoundly deaf. Eventually he said ‘Eh? What d’you want, lad?”

“I want to ask a question,” said Sprog.

“Go ahead,” said Vinder.

“We live under this bridge,” began Sprog. “And you elders tell us this is all we know, and this is the place where we’re safe and so we must never leave it…”

“Yes,” said Vinder.

“But, I’ve been thinking. When we build a bridge across one of the little streams, we walk across it. So, if this is a bridge like our bridges, it wasn’t built for living under, it was built for walking across.”

The elders were silent for a very long time.

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