Imagine a steady stream of people wandering blindfolded over the edge of a cliff. Now imagine that the blindfolds somehow fall off of two guys just before they go over. They stop walking. They take a look around. People keep walking past them and over the edge of the cliff by the dozen. They decide they had better try and help some folks if they can.

The first guy starts shouting at the crowd: “Take off your blindfolds! Don’t walk off the cliff!” but nobody listens to him. They think he’s crazy. So he steps in front of people and shouts in their faces: “Hey, knuckle head! Take your blind fold off and look around!” But the people still don’t listen. “What are you talking about?” they say. “What cliff? I don’t see one! Out of my way!”

The second guy walks around introducing himself to people, saying hello and being friendly, and when he gets a chance to, he tells folks about his own experience: “My blindfold fell off and I noticed I was walking toward a cliff.” Then he says, “If you feel like you might be in a similar situation, I’d be happy to show you what I did to get out.” But people just chuckle and say, “Good for you, bud, but I don’t have the same troubles you did. So long.”

The first guy gets more and more frustrated, and more and more aggressive with each new wave of cliff walkers. The second guy keeps on with an easy-going attitude, and continues to tell his story to anyone interested. Soon, the first guy notices what the second is doing, and becomes irritated. “How can you be so passive?” he asks. “Don’t you care about these people? They’re going to die!”

The second guy says: “You’ve been stressing yourself to no purpose. When you and I were walking, we would never have stopped if we hadn’t been fortunate enough to have our blindfolds drop off. No one could have said anything to change our minds. Neither of us is having too much luck in helping these folks. My hope is that some won’t die after they go over the edge. Maybe they’ll remember what we’ve said to them, and they’ll come back up to ask us for help.”

Sure enough, from the cliff’s ledge comes a slow trickle of climbers, bruised, battered, and broken. “We need your help,” they say. “Tell us again about these blindfolds.”

So the two friends talk to the blindfolded at the cliff’s edge. They speak to those who climb back to hear them, and to the new arrivals. The newcomers, of course, continue to ignore their warnings and walk off the cliff. Surprisingly, the climbers don’t fare much better. They sit still for a while, nursing their wounds and listening to the talk of one man or the other, sometimes nodding, other times posing simple arguments like, “If I can’t see the blindfold, how do I know it’s really there?” Eventually, they get restless with all the talk. One by one, they get up again, still blindfolded, and say “Excuse me, but I feel a need to stretch my legs.”

The first man grows increasingly frustrated with this situation. He returns to being loud and demanding of newcomers and cliff-climbers alike. The second man continues to work in his own way, being friendly, telling his story, and offering to tell people exactly how they can remove their blindfolds if they like. Here and there, once in a while, for no apparent reason, someone’s blindfold falls off. These few join the friends in their efforts to help others.

Over many years, the first man grows tired. He becomes bitter from long days spent focused on those who do not listen and on those who walk over the cliff but do not return. The second man ages a little better, keeping his peace of mind and helpful spirit, for he had spends his years in gratitude for his vision and the vision of those few who have listened.

One day the first man approaches the second. “What’s the point?” he says. “They don’t listen to me. I almost envy them the comfort of closed eyes.”

“There is no difference between them and us,” says the second.

“What do you mean?” says the first. “We can see.”

“I don’t know about you,” says the second, “but I don’t really trust myself. I could just as easily put my blindfold back on and start walking.”

“That’s crazy,” says the first under his breath as he walks away. But he has already started wearing his old blindfold at night. “To help me sleep,” he tells himself.

3 Responses to “Blindfolds”

  1. Arnello S Says:

    Glad to see your back! Thank you for the “teaching” story!

  2. James R. Says:

    Thanks, Arnello. 🙂
    I’ve got a few more articles I’ll post over the next couple of weeks and then it will probably be quiet on the blog for a while again.

  3. Jane Says:

    Love reading your stories. Thank you.

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