Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Green Bus, a parable

Quite a long time ago in a country not far away, someone noticed that children liked going places. In fact, they were positively on a perpetual mission to get somewhere, so it was decided to help them get there. The best way to get a large number of children to a certain destination seemed to be a large bus. So the community united around the acquisition of a beautiful, grand, functional green bus.

The fact that not all the children wanted to go to the same place rather got lost in the shuffle. It became the thing to want to arrive where the bus was going. So any disinterested children felt an odd obligation to quiet their misgivings and just go along for the ride.

The bus was acclaimed a great success. Everyone loved how brightly green it was, how comfortable the seats were, how safely the driver drove and most of all, how all the children ended up at the same place after such a long journey together. Everyone commented on how it was such a boost for their socialization. As time flew by, the bus was improved: repainted (green, of course), reupholstered, dvd players were installed as well as a speaker system, head rests, blankets, and a nutritional food service.

As folks from the community developed a sense of pride in their bus, they sought ways to make their bus better than the buses in other places and a marvelous hodge podge of technological entertainment was installed in every nook and cranny of the bus. Clearly, this community loved and cared for their children.

For quite a while the bus was well-maintained, but it required more and more attention the longer it was on the road and the more high-tech paraphernalia it accrued. Gradually its oversight became burdensome and some minor items were neglected: oil changes, timing belt due dates, air filter replacements, to name a few. No one saw these things anyway, and as long as the bus was clean and the children were having fun, they weren’t felt needs.

It’s hard to say exactly when it stopped. In fact, it stopped gradually. At first there were a few days here and there that it just pulled over to the side of the road, usually for fuel, because someone hadn’t noticed the gauge. The children became accustomed to random stops and sometimes the bus didn’t move for a week at a time. But the children piled in each day, chattering happily, bouncing in their seats, being entertained and fed, shooting spit balls and having a good time. Not going anywhere didn’t seem to bother them anymore and their perpetual mission to get somewhere wasn’t as terribly important. Besides, the fact that the bus didn’t move as much made it much easier to hop in and out.

Finally, several years ago, the bus pulled over to the side of the road for the last time. No one realized that it would not be moving again. A few folks tried pushing it to get it started, but the children swarmed happily over their seats, watched their dvds, ate their snacks and certainly didn’t put up a fuss about not getting anywhere.

Now it doesn’t seem strange at all. Everyone sees the faded green bus on the roadside. The weeds are growing around the flat tyres. Most of the windows are broken, the dvd player plays as long as someone recharges the battery. But this is much simpler all around. After all, this way they don’t need a licensed driver, there is no danger of accidents, there is no needless expense for fuel, and maintenance costs are so very reasonable. Of course, there are a few malcontents who complain that the green is fading and demand a new paint job--after all, the bright green is so stimulating for the children. So it is repainted every now and then, and folks seem happier.

Now the children hop aboard the bus and sit or stand or jump in their seats; when someone reminds them they are traveling, they all make engine noises in their throats and pretend to turn steering wheels. The fact that they disembark where they embarked in the morning doesn’t bother them in the least. They know that they are getting somewhere because they have been told so.

And the green bus sits.