How long they had been walking they didn’t know. How they had gotten here they couldn’t remember. Darkness, flatness, and emptiness were the only dimensions of this prison world.
Suddenly, a speck of light appeared in front of them. Its distance was impossible to discern, for there were no reference points by which to measure.
Ralph and Smitty doubled their pace toward the faint lightness. It grew from a speck to a spot and from a spot to a star-like brightness. After much walking the spot became blazing whiteness in the form of a perfect ellipse on the floor surrounded by an unbounded void of darkness.
As they drew even closer, they realized that there was something in the middle of the ellipse. A thing. The thing. They both noticed it at the same instant and stopped in their tracks. Ralph said, “Do you see that? There’s something on the floor. It looks like a circle.”
“I see it, Smitty replied, “but it’s definitely not a circle-it’s a square.”
“How can you say that, at this distance?” Ralph responded indignantly.
“But can’t you see? It’s crystal clear. Frankly, I don’t see how there’s any room for doubt. It’s a square. In fact, it’s obviously a box of some sort. That’s as clear as anything could possibly be. You’d have to be an imbecile not to see that.”
“I’m not so sure Smitty,” said Ralph. “It still looks a little fuzzy to me at this distance.”
“Are you blind?” retorted Smitty, eyebrows pulled together as though trying to help himself comprehend such ignorance. “It is quite obvious that it’s a square box.”
“But I don’t see that at all,” Ralph said. “It looks circular to me. I think it’s a bucket. Yes, that’s it! It’s a bucket. I can see it as clearly as the nose on my face.”
Smitty said: “I don’t care what you think you see. It’s a box. That’s my position and I’m not budging.”
If there had been a third observer, uncommitted to their position, they would have noticed that the object was looking less and less like a box or a bucket. Its angles were too sharp for a bucket and too curvy for a box.
They were getting closer to the circle of light and the controversial object. As they did so, the object looked ever more like a box to Smitty and ever more bucket-like to Ralph. The argument got so heated that they turned to face one another—for now they were close enough that the light began to reveal their faces. There they stood for hours.
“It’s a box!”
“It’s a bucket!”
The argument continued. For how long cannot be known for, in that darkness, time does not go on forever—it just stands still. So long did they dispute over the nature of the object with veins bulging, faces crimson, fists tightening, and volume rising that they didn’t even notice the gradual fading of the light.
At some point, they realized that they were again in absolute darkness. Maybe even darker—if such were possible—for having seen the light, the darkness seemed to be even darker.
For the first time in a long while the men became silent. In that place they would remain forever—for it was neither a box nor a bucket but a door, the only door that would ever appear that could have led them out of the darkness.
Without realizing it, the two men ambled away in different directions. Smitty could hear the raspy breathing of Ralph in the distance. Turning his head toward the sound, he cupped his hands to his mouth and shouted: “It was a box!”
What are some lessons that you draw from this story? What does it say about leadership? What does it say about adaptation, learning, and flexibility? Please add your insights to the comments area below.
Greg Waddell provides consulting services for churches and organizations. Contact Dr. Waddell today at gregwaddell[at]leadstrategic.com to discuss the needs of your organization.