Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Parable of the Crevasse

Rick and Safir, friends for many years, went for a hike in the desert. Their route was a loop of about ten miles, and both the views and the cameraderie were quite enjoyable. After about eight miles, they came upon a crevasse about six feet across and two hundred feet deep. They were on a ridge, so there was no avoiding it.

Rick ran toward the crevasse and leaped across without hesitation. Safir watched and said, when Rick stopped to look back, "though I know I can jump farther than you, I cannot take this chance. I will have to return the way we came." And he did.

After waiting at his car for more than two hours, Rick saw Safir coming down the trail. They greeted, got in the car, and Rick drove off. He had been driving for fifteen minutes on the two lane highway when they caught up to a very slow driver. Rick patiently followed at a safe distance until they reached the only passing zone on the way home.

At that point he gunned the engine and pulled into the opposing lane. They both could see that there was another car coming, and it was not entirely clear whether they would have time to pass. Rick pushed the car to its limit and managed to slide in front of the slow car just as the oncoming vehicle flew past.

Safir admonished him. "You should not have done that. Not only did you put me, your longtime friend, in danger, but you also endangered the people in both of those other cars."

Rick responded, "I am driving, so it is I who must decide what is or is not too dangerous. Simply by driving at all, we put ourselves and everyone else at risk. If I knew, in a quick and straightforward way, what your threshold for risk is, I would respect that, since you are my good friend. But I have no way to know the tolerance of every other driver, and even if I did, it is not at all clear that I would be obliged to consider it."

Safir did not like this answer, but did not know how to respond. He thought about it all the way home.

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