Friday, May 12, 2006

forward march

One is stepping right-left-right-left. The other is stepping left-right-left-right. Both, if asked what they are doing, would describe the march in the same way. “I’m alternating steps.” Perhaps one would say that it is as if he is stepping with one foot and then following with the other.
But suppose that there is a prescribed foot on which the marcher was supposed to have begun. If he steps off with the wrong foot, he can march on ad infinitum, and continually, without ceasing, do the right thing at precisely the wrong time. For upon every step, the opposite foot should be stepping. One may think, “this poses no problem, for I shall presently step forth with the other foot,” but of course, as soon as he does, he is on the opposite foot once again. And so on.

Suppose you find yourself marching along and note that all the other marchers are stepping opposite you. The immediate reaction is that you alone, have skipped a beat, missed a step, stepped off wrong, or committed some other momentary lapse. You try to correct, but in no time find yourself stepping opposite again. You may search your past, retrace your steps so to speak, to try and find where you’ve wandered. Was it two rights, or two lefts, or a hesitation? You can’t actually remember what happened. In fact, having given it considerable thought, you realize that you didn’t notice that you were mis-stepping, but that everyone else was stepping opposite you. No wonder you couldn’t make the correction.
Compelled by an overwhelming conviction, you send word to the drummer. Everyone is out-of-step. But to make the correction, would be like halting a stampede, or turning the tide. Wouldn’t it just be easier for a single person to right-right himself back into to step with everyone else? But you know in your heart-of-hearts that this would simply make everyone out-of-step and nothing would be solved. In the end, the music would stop and there would be a foot suspended in the air with no place to be planted.
So quietly from within, from the 36th rank, 16th row, you whisper to the guy on your left. He ignores you, so you whisper to the guy on the right. He hears you, corrects and passes it on. “Good grief,” he says, “how did you notice this? How could we have gone so wrong all together?” It goes on, in front – behind, until several of you are marching opposite the crowd. Part of you feels a sigh of relief at the quiet correction being made from within the ranks, but as you watch the affect ripple outward, you know that it won’t go unnoticed, and pray hard for the ability to keep putting one foot in front of the other with a hand planted in your chest.