An Allegory by Bronte Baxter
Suppose you want to go visit the ocean, only you know of no road that goes there. One day you find one. It’s owned by a man who tells you you’re free to use his road anytime you like. He seems like a real nice fellow. After you use his road a few times, though, you learn he’s been stealing a dollar from your pocket every time you pass by. You don’t mention this, as it seems a small price to pay for the use of the road. Or maybe you do mention it, and he tells you that’s his toll-road charge. He took it without saying for your own good, because if you knew you had to pay you might have backed out of your first excursion and never would have had that wonderful experience. Now that you’ve been there, he’s sure you won’t mind paying the dollar. This explanation seems a little off, but you buy it. After all, what really matters is the great time you’re having at the beach.
After a while, the man announces he’s raising the toll. Now it will cost you five dollars every time you pass. You go to the beach every weekend, and it’s great, but the price for using the toll-road keeps getting higher. It’s very expensive now, hundreds of dollars a week. You inquire again if there are other roads that will take you to the sea, free ones maybe, but the man and your friends who use the road tell you this route is the only one .
So you keep going there and paying. But after a while, the beach isn’t such fun anymore. You’ve taken a second job to support the toll-road, and by the time you get to the sea you have no energy left for anything but a nap. You only go into the water on rare occasions. While you’re sleeping on the beach, goons who work for the toll-guy patrol the premises, picking the pockets of the sleeping sunbathers. You hear rumors among the crowd that someone is robbing people, but you don’t believe it. True, you’re missing some money, but you’re sure you left it at home and only thought you had it with you.
The fact that this starts happening every weekend doesn’t disturb you. You’ve been so spacey and foggy-headed lately – you can’t expect yourself to remember if you had your money when you got to the beach or not. All that matters is the sun and the sand feel so good. You’re so tired, and they are so soothing. You’ve forgotten about boating and swimming, picnicking and flying kites in the wind, all the things you used to enjoy in the early days when you would come to the oceanside, back when it was practically free. All that matters now is how good it feels to get to the beach and fall asleep. Yours cares dissolve away. You don’t think you could live without it.
One day you wake up from a beach nap to see a couple of people flying kites on the sand, in between all the snoring bodies. A couple more people are playing in the surf. It looks fun, and you call out and ask them, where do they get so much energy? They yell back that they’ve found a free road that takes them to the ocean and they don’t have to work to pay the toll-guy anymore. In fact, coming to the ocean energizes them now, the way it used to do back when the toll-road only cost a dollar or two.
You say, that’s impossible. Everyone knows this toll-road is the only route to the beach. No, say the others, the toll-guy lied to us. This free road has been there all along. It’s even older than the toll-road. In fact, it’s not even the only free road that will take you here. There are plenty of them. They just take a little work to find, and then you’re on your way.
You hear this, and you start to get mad. Who are these guys, coming in here telling you nonsense like that, and saying bad things about the toll-guy? If it weren’t for him and his generosity, letting you use the toll-road, your life would be empty. You never would have found the beach. You are eternally indebted to the toll-road guy for that.
You wonder why these kite-flyers and swimmers are lying, telling you all the money you’ve spent on the toll-road all these years was a waste. You simply can’t accept that. It would mean you’ve been a fool, and you won’t let anyone make you look like one. No, they must be lying. They’re just here to make trouble. You lay back down in the sand, tune out everything you just heard, and fall back into the welcome numbness of sleep.