An Allegory for Ms. Eerie

Imagine you’re standing on the edge of a cliff. You look over the edge; you can’t quite see the ground below, because there’s a layer of fog, or clouds, between you and it. But you know you’re high enough that, if you jumped off, you’d hit the ground hard enough to be killed. Imagine, now, that you have a child with you; let’s say, a 6 year old little girl. It suddenly comes into your mind that it might be fun for your daughter to take a little flight down the side of the cliff. You know…you’ve always dreamed about what it must be like to fly! Whatever the risks, it must be more fun than sitting around in this empty place on top of the mountain. Why, all your daughter has done since she’s been here is sleep. Peacefully, to be sure, but so peacefully it’s as if she doesn’t even exist! WHY should she not exist, when she could be FLYING? There’s just something wrong with that idea, isn’t there?

And so, you slap her on the rump to wake her up. She starts to cry, but you cradle her in your arms, and coo at her, and tell her how much you love her, and about how lucky she is to be alive. This settles her down a bit, and she hugs you as you walk back to the cliff edge. With a last kiss for luck, you pry her arms from around your neck, and throw her over the cliff…granting her the freedom to fly! You watch, as her form slowly disappears into the fog below…but the fog has lifted a bit now, and you can make out some shadows that look like boulders sticking out from the cliff’s face. Of course, YOUR child won’t be so unfortunate as to encounter any of those; after all, she’s your child, and you love her so dearly. Still, you shout words of encouragement, and last minute instructions; at times, you catch a glimpse of her through little holes in the cloud cover. Look at her fly! How fast and true she soars! How proud you are of her; and of yourself, of course, for being the kind of parent who could conceive such a special child.

You have been so preoccupied with trying to ascertain your  child’s progress, that you only now notice other parents along the cliff’s edge, casting their own children over. You become friends with some of them, and you chat with one another about the marvels of being a parent, and about how good it is to have children…the experience is so fulfilling, so spiritual, and you’ve all learned so, so much about yourselves, and about life. Why, you’ve become better people!

Then a lone voice calls everyone over to the edge; his tone is one of concern, and…regret? You and the others move over to him, and you all at once notice that the fog has burned away, and below, there is a giant, empty valley, the terrain of which appears to be much like the top of the mountain…the children’s point of departure. Only, the valley below is a blotchy red color. You also notice that the boulders and other outcroppings along the face of the mountain, which are far more numerous than you had noticed before, are also stained with red, and  seem to be decorated with little bits of hair, and clothing. The parent who was the first to notice all this begins to cry, and a few others with him. You start to feel sad, and maybe a little guilty; but, you don’t really like to be sad, do you?

Another parent who doesn’t want you to be sad lays his hand on your shoulder, and remarks softly, “But, wasn’t it all worth it? They flew!” And he’s smiling as if he almost believes what he says, and so you smile too, and together you chide the few who can’t smile for being pessimists. And you become part of the welcoming committee for the newcomers with their sleeping children in their arms, waiting in line so that their kids, too, can fly. The truth be told, encouraging everybody else to do what you did, makes you feel an awful lot better about what you did- right? And after all, Ms. Eerie, you really DO love the company…

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10 Comments

  1. Posted March 17, 2008 at 4:59 am | Permalink

    A classic.

  2. Posted March 17, 2008 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    I think the comparison between killing an existing thing and creating something that previously did not exist so that it can die is flawed. I’m with Mankiw.

  3. Posted March 18, 2008 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    TGGP,

    The host may or may not choose to explicate, but I take “this empty place on top of the mountain” to mean pre-vital nonexistence, hence the reference to Dawkins’ preferred term, “sleep.” Being hurled into “flight,” as I read the allegory, is thus tantamount to being brought into existence. Perhaps this is a mite too much right-brain license for your taste, but it seems like a fair reading to me.

    A nice touch, to my mind, is the reference to the red-stained outcroppings, which I take to signify the accumulated sufferings endured by the unwitting babes as they descend toward that which is inevitable and bad.

  4. isaywhattheywont
    Posted March 19, 2008 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    That’s a correct reading, Chip; I thought I’d made it clear with the line “Peacefully, to be sure, but so peacefully it’s as if she doesn’t even exist!”. And the drop from the cliff isn’t murder in the normal sense of the word, TGGP. It’s a metaphor for life itself, the outcroppings representing the possiblilities of suffering and/or early demise on the way toward the valley floor, which itself represents our ultimate and inescapable mortality.

  5. Posted March 20, 2008 at 1:06 am | Permalink

    Thanks for clearing that up.

  6. isaywhattheywont
    Posted March 20, 2008 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    No problem. I strive to be clear, but I probably miss the mark from time to time. Glad to have the chance to clarify further.

  7. Posted March 31, 2008 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    Brilliant piece.

    Clarity isn’t always a virtue, by the by.

  8. isaywhattheywont
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the generous comment. I’ll try to keep that in mind, lol!

  9. SundayMorning
    Posted May 20, 2008 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    Beautiful.

  10. isaywhattheywont
    Posted May 20, 2008 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    Thanks!


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