Monday, October 23, 2006

The Parable of the Grand Ship

Once there was a grand ship. It was the largest in the fleet, with the largest engines and the fastest time across the ocean. It held the most passengers, and scheduled the most activities for the passengers while on board ship. It was mighty and strong, and was able to withstand all the storms that were so regular in the ocean.

One day, the ship was sailing along, and it was said that there was not enough coal in the holds to run the engines. The bins next to the coal furnaces were indeed lower than they should have been, but in the storage areas, there was plenty. Somehow, the coal wasn’t getting to the bins, and therefore not getting into the engines. It seems that there were a few of the coal carriers who had decided not to carry any more coal. “We’re using too much coal, it’s needed in other places on the ship. The younger coal carriers aren’t carrying as much as they should, and we don’t like the places the ship is taking us. There is plenty in the bin for engine #1, you really just need to turn off engine #2. We don’t need two, anyway.”

Since the carriers were insistent on their need to use the coal in other parts of the ship, coal which the ships’ manifest clearly said was there, the rest of the crew decided that it was indeed Ok to continue with just one engine. They turned the other engine off, and they even moved some of the coal from engine #2,’s bin over to #1. The next time they were in home port, they removed engine #2.

Things proceeded well for a while, the grand ship continuing to sail across the ocean. It was going a little bit slower, yes. Some of the passenger’s activities were curtailed, also true. But it was still a grand looking ship, with a freshly painted hull, including a brightly painted red line at the waterline, and bright flags hanging off the smokestacks.

However, as regularly happened, a storm came up. To move out of the storm, they increased engine #1’s speed, and the ship did move forward more quickly. The storm moved even faster, however, and overtook the grand ship. This happened again and again, as the ship continued to sail. The flags were ripped from their lanyards, and blew away in the wind. The brightly painted hull soon became pitted with salt and sand from the storms and the waves. To make matters worse, engine #1 began to miss cycles, began to wear out from fighting the storms. The coal carriers, seeing that engine was slowing down, and beginning to fail, said “we must cut back on the coal intake for engine #1, because it isn’t doing the work for us it needs to. We must keep the coal in the hold safe against waste. See, the storm has overtaken us! It is the engine’s job to power us out of the storm!”

Seeing that the ship was no longer grand, no longer shiny, no longer fast, and had a failing engine, the passengers failed to come aboard anymore. The ship seemed to get caught in a storm every time it sailed, and successive engines could do nothing to clear the ship from any storm it came across. The ship was still floating, but it remained short of coal, because there were now fewer passengers.
To continue to make the crossings, without passengers and replacement engines that took less coal to run, but were weaker, the coal carriers suggested that they cut the ship exactly along the formerly bright red line along the hull, and remove the top half so that the bulk of the ship would no longer overpower the new engine.

This worked well, with the formerly grand ship powering along with great speed, taking very few brave and weather-beaten passengers and its load of coal back and forth across the ocean. Then came a storm. The formerly grand ship, now basically a keeled raft and open to the sky, was quickly swamped by waves that it used to power through with its strong hull and mighty engines. The ship sank quickly, its small engine driving it toward the bottom of the ocean and its hold full of coal giving weight to the descent.

The coal carriers, looking down into the ocean from life rafts floating on the surface, cursed the shipping line that gave them such a bad ship and such a small engine.

Let them who have ears to hear, hear.

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