First posted in January of 2011, this little item seems all the more timely today.
A Visitor's Center one day was manned by twin brothers Nick and Knack. A car pulled into the parking lot, disgorging a breathlessly eager visitor.
"Yes, thank you!" bubbled the newcomer. "All my life I've been longing to travel Route 49! Can you show me the most direct way?"
"Oh, I'm very sorry, but you don't want to go Route 49."
"But I do!" insisted the visitor.
"Let me rephrase myself," amended Nick. "You may want to, but you really mustn't. The road goes along nicely at first, but then you'll see a bunch of roadblocks and obstacles laid across it, slowing you down and warning you off. These impediments aren't really a problem; they're actually a good thing...."
"How can they be a good thing," the visitor cuts in angrily. "This is my dream! I want to zoom, not be slowed down."
"Oh," said the visitor, turning a bit white himself.
"He says," observed Knack, leaning forward, putting down his latte and stroking his soul-patch.
"The map says," countered Nick.
"Map?" asked the visitor.
"Yep, right here," replied Nick, spreading out the item itself on the counter. "See that red X there? It means bridge out."
"You say it means that," snarked Knack. "I say it means 'X marks the spot.'"
"Oh, come on," retorted Nick. "There's a legend at the bottom of the map, for crying out loud! See? 'Bridge out!' It isn't rocket science."
"Scholars now realize that 'X' means many different things in different cultures. Besides, you're talking as if that's the only map," drawled Knack. "This one shows a clear, delightful road right where our visitor wants to go. See?"
"That's in crayon!" exploded Nick.
"You got something against crayon?" inquired Knack.
"No," Nick shot back. "I have something against people destroying themselves."
"Psh," Knack sneered. "You just want safety in rules. The visitor's a daring seeker. He should seek. The journey is what matters, not the destination."
"Seek death?" Nick replied. "I think he'll care plenty about the destination when his car shoots off into space."
There was an angry silence, broken by a sob. It was the visitor, who has tears running down his cheeks.
"All I know is I've yearned to go down Route 49 as long as I remember. Some kids mocked me, others ridiculed me and were mean to me, but the desire has always been there. I can't conceive of not wanting to go down Route 49. It's what my heart tells me to do, and I have to be true to my heart, don't I? I can't lie. It defines me. You can't separate this desire from me. I can't imagine not wanting to go that way. It fills my dreams. I even have a T-shirt. See?" He pulled open his blazer and displayed the garment.
"I understand," crooned Knack. "There is nothing wrong with you or with what you want. And there's nothing wrong with going that way. For you, it is the only way. And in fact, I want to help you. I will personally go ahead of you and remove all the blocks, chains, signs, speed bumps, and ropes that have been stretched across the road. I will mount a parade for you — a Route 49 Pride parade. I will lobby to prohibit people from speaking against traveling Route 49. I will side with you against all the harsh, rule-happy Route 49 nay-sayers. In fact, I will get my brother here fired, because he made you feel bad about wanting to go Route 49. He doesn't care about your feelings, as I do. He doesn't have any love or compassion for you, and I've got buckets of both. Nick's all about rules and maps and shutting you out and playing it safe; I'm all about love and compassion and justice and being bold and daring. Nick is shallow, reactionary and not helpful. I'm deep and thoughtful and helpful. So you just get in your car, and you go go go!"
As the visitor beamed, Nick sprang to block the door. "Whoa whoa whoa, not so fast! Look, friend — how you feel about Route 49 doesn't change the facts: the bridge is out! My feelings aren't the map, your feelings aren't the map. Go that way, and you will die! I don't want you to die. I don't think it's loving or compassionate to give you bad information that means your death. The people who put up those signs and those obstacles knew what they were doing, and they did it because they care about people like you. It shouldn't be easy an comfortable to go down that road. It wouldn't be compassionate of me to focus on giving you a smooth ride to your own destruction, and it isn't "bold" and "daring" to head off to certain doom. Enabling you isn't really helping you. And look, I can show you other ways to go, or I can try to find other ways to help — but don't go that way! It'd be the end of you."
Silence fell again for a moment, then:
"We could call a five-year moratorium on this," offered Knack.
"But I want to go that way now," countered the visitor.
"The map says what it says now, and it isn't unclear," said Nick. "It's said that for a long time, and nothing's changed. Nothing's going to change in five years."
The visitor looked back and forth between the brothers, confused. He knew which brother's advice he liked best, which brother told him what he wanted to hear, but... was that the wisest way to decide?
PREMISE: the bridge was indeed out, and the map was indeed accurate.
QUESTION: which brother actually showed love and compassion?