I see a scene; it has a craggy island with a lighthouse. The lighthouse overlooks a harbor and on the opposite shore, far into the distance, are the lights of a city. The island is joined to the near shore by a substantial stone bridge. In fact, it is more than substantial; it is massive. There are thousands of stones that make up the bridge. However, the most prevalent part of the bridge is the singular keystone archway that supports the bridge as it crosses the narrows of the bay. The keystone archway ends where it meets the water. The laid-up stones take over as they climb the craggy cliffs to meet the near shore.

The atmosphere near the lighthouse is constituted of a gray and ominous fog – – painted with dark and heavy brush strokes. The distant city lights promise a safer place, a respite from the unsettling surroundings of the lighthouse. There appears no way to reach the city.

Who has built this bridge? Am I allowed to use it? Is there another bridge that may lead from the lighthouse to the safety of the city?

The bridge was built by the Greek Philosophers and the Roman Senate. It has been added to by my fathers – – – and your fathers – – – and my holy men and your holy men. Maintenance has been tended to by the writings of Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau. Some of these writings (or rules of civility) are made up of The Apology, The Crito, Politics, The Prince, Leviathan, Constitutional Government, Democracy and Participation) and form the intricate cement work that ties the stones together.

The words found in these writings contain all the wrinkles found in the two faces of Janus.

They promise one thing but deliver another.

They say “Use this bridge to safety. It will help you to avoid the strong currents of life.”

And then add “What you can not see, but we promise you, is the second bridge – – the one that takes you to the city on the other side of the harbor.

And I respond “But the swim from shore to the island appears more exciting. Why would I walk the bridge when I am challenged by the sea?”

They answer “You should be afraid of the sea. Unknown things lurk beneath its surface.”

My heart tells me to ask another question. “But don’t I obtain new insights if I swim? I will at the very least be proud of myself if I make it to the other side. And anyway, it really does not appear to be that dangerous of a swim.”

They admonish; “But dangers do lie in wait for you there – – in the unknown, and  also, you know it is against the rules.”

I reply “But life, growth and exhilaration await me as I swim to the island.”

“Trust us” say the stones that contain the words of others.

Being youthful and wishing to learn I choose to challenge them;
“How do I know that your rules of religion and politics will serve me if I don’t experience the challenge myself?”

Being righteous and ancient they immediately respond;
“We have the experience of the ages and all those pitfalls that you will encounter have been experienced by us before. That is why we have written these rules, made these laws and enforce them; it is for your own safety.”

I question them farther “If I take your bridge can you promise me another bridge to get from the island to the city of lights?”

“TRUST US!” they once again respond.

But being youthful I decide to make the swim. I make it to the island and nothing evil occurred. And I scanned the harbor for the second bridge to the city of lights.

It didn’t exist.

I hope when I am old and feeble that I don’t succumb to the words that built the bridge  – – – but rather throw myself into the passions of the sea.


Copyright W. Tomosky