I see it in the distance as we approach. The chasm, it seems impossibly huge. Impassable. The car stops and I approach the edge of the gorge. I look over the edge. At the bottom of the gorge, there is a valley of verdant scrub. The valley is enticing, it is calling me to jump. The stark reality of the orange-brown rocks stops me. Looking up, I am reminded of the length of the gorge. The others, who brought me to the edge of the gorge approach. They move their hands slowly and grab me. Their hand lean me dangerously over the gorge. They speak, sometimes in unison, sometimes discordantly against each other.
“You must jump the gorge. Everyone here has jumped the gorge, so must you.”
I was afraid of the gorge. The gorge threatened to swallow me whole. The jagged rocks began to look like a crooked smile. The smile of a half-toothed mouth. It smiled as if to say, ‘Your failure will fill my hunger. Jump.’
I will not fail. On our journey to the gorge, we had carried supplies. The others removed the materials from the back of our transport. They laid the materials at my feet.
“Build what you must”
The mess of wood and nails seemed to have some structure to it. Pieces seemed custom built to slot into each other. There was not enough wood for a bridge. There was only one thing for it. A ramp.
So, I began my ramp. Most people take three years to build their ramps. My instructions suggested two years. So, I began to build. The pieces in my instructions didn’t seem to fit, or perhaps there were pieces missing. Others around me seemed to be far more successful building their ramps. They camped by their ramps and worked steadily as if they had completed a ramp before. Each night I returned to the car to rest.
One day I awoke and saw that, while others had built half a ramp successfully, my ramp sat sad and ready to fail on the edge of the gorge. I placed a foot on my ramp and felt the ramp begin to buckle under the weight of my foot. I abandoned my ramp. I approached those who had taken me here.
“I need a different ramp. This ramp doesn’t suit”
To my surprise, they accepted. I had been planning to use this ramp for some time and had abandoned it in a heartbeat. They took me to a different section of the gorge. On the way to the new section, I met a woman. She spoke to me of her ramp. She was putting the final touches on her ramp. Her ramp would be done by the end of the year. I was given a new section of the gorge and new ramp instructions. This ramp would take three years and lead to a different section on the other side of the gorge.
I set to work on my new ramp. The woman I had met was before a different section of the gorge. As I prepared to build my second ramp, I had heard that she had made the jump. She was still in the air by all accounts.
As I began my ramp, I began to talk to the other ramp builders. Some had no idea why they chose this design.
“We’ve all got to build ramps. Might as well build this one.”
Some had grand ambitions for their ramps.
“I’m building a three-stage ramp. The first stage will take me three years, the second stage will take two years, and the third stage will take two years. When I get to the other side, lots of people will be impressed by my three-stage ramp. Might even get a title for it.”
“This ramp is just to get across the gorge. Once I’m across the gorge, I’ll start making money selling half-pipe ramps to teens.”
I had no grand plans for my ramp. I just needed to cross the gorge, and I had had practice with this ramp design when I was younger. People need ramp builders, and through building this ramp I could offer people ramps. Everyone needs ramp builders was my mantra. There were some very famous, very rich ramp builders but I didn’t need to be either. I was happy just to scratch out a living making ramps.
Every time I returned to building my ramp, I talked with other ramp builders. I could talk to other ramp builders for hours about ramp building techniques knowing that we all had the same ramp instructions and that they would understand. Some spoke out against the ramp instructions.
“I don’t think the ramp really needs support struts. Ramps are just bits of wood. There’s nothing complex about them”
Yet they still read the instructions as the rest of us. They could no more escape the gorge than any of us. Years past as we all focused on our ramps. Some finished their ramps and jumped. I sat at the edge of the gorge, slowly building my ramp.
I fear the gorge. The gorge calls to me. ‘You don’t need a ramp. Just jump. Let the gorge swallow you. It’s easier than what’s on the other side of the gorge.’ I began to notice the dark shapes beneath the trees at the bottom of the gorge. Whatever I feared about jumping the gorge, falling into the gorge was infinitely worse. So, I plod along, working on my ramp. Fearing the fall, and fearing the flight.
What else can I do? We all must jump the gorge. No one can remain on one side of the gorge forever.