Imagine the following scene: There is a stream of water that stretches as far across as the eye can see. In one direction there is a perilous waterfall, and in the other, dangerous rocks. You are compelled to cross it – staying on the safety of land is not an option.
The stream seems calm on the surface, but you can clearly see people being swept away by an undercurrent which seems to run in different directions as people cross the stream. Some people are being swept over the waterfall while some are floating in the other direction uncontrollably until they smash up against the jagged rocks. But looking straight ahead, you find what appear to be some safe stones leading to the bank on the other side of the stream, and some people have found a way to reach those stones one-by-one, as they progress across. You aren’t sure what awaits you on the other bank, but you know you can’t remain at the one you’re on. You have to cross.
The most important concern you have right now is how to cross safely. It seems that there are ways that work, and ways that don’t. You aren’t sure what to do, but you have to figure it out.
You contemplate this for a while, and then an idea occurs to you… you need a *method* of crossing. You realize that you can track the undercurrents by watching people float across, and in doing so, you can swim in the right direction to the next safe stone. In this way, you can progress across the stream indefinitely without being swept away in either direction.
As you cross, you find people discussing how to safely navigate the stream. The voices are more numerous than you can count, each seeming to have their own idea of where the safest place in that stream is.
- A lady is waste deep in the water. She is drifting toward the waterfall and confidently assures you that the water will always steer you in the right direction. She decides that if the water steers you over the side, then that’s the right place to go.
- A man swims furiously toward the jagged rocks, screaming that the waterfall is terribly dangerous and the best way to avoid it is to cling on to one of the razor sharp rocks. He insists that the jagged stones are the right place to be.
- A man stands on one of the safe stones. He got there by closing his eyes and jumping, and suggests you do the same. He invites you to join him on his safe stone, declaring it the only good place to stand.
- A woman floating by tells you that it doesn’t matter – the stones and the water, the waterfall and the rocks, are all equally safe, and that everything will be alright no matter what you do.
A cacophony of other voices join in, each of them standing in a location they consider safest, insisting that where they stand is the right place, and all those who stand elsewhere have made a grave error.
The one thing you notice about all of the people you encounter is that they all seem to endorse where they stand at that moment, even those who have occasionally moved. None of them seem to be concerned with how they got there, or how (or if) they will take the next step. Indeed, the overwhelming majority of them are convinced that where they are currently positioned is the only right place to be, and that being anywhere else either means certain doom, or is a complete waste of time. They all appear to be planting their metaphorical flag in the spot where they are, and they banter incessantly about which place is the right place to be. Even the few who agree with each other seem to be standing on different stones.
Meanwhile, you track the currents. You step in the water and swim in just the right direction to get to the next safe stone. You look back and observe you last stone you were on… you watch as the water rises over it… you realize that it wasn’t safe to begin with, and you are grateful that you didn’t stay there. You realize that if the safety of the last stone was illusory, perhaps the safety of this one is as well. You track the currents. You swim to the next stone. You remain in motion. You progress.
Then you look back and notice that many of the people who were bantering about the correctness of their position have been swept away by the changing currents and water level, either over the waterfall, or into the deadly rocks. You continue moving forward to safer stones, as those left behind continue insisting how correct their position is.