A Fool on the Bluff



Wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.

Proverbs 2:10-11

I saw a fool on a sandstone bluff, high above a waterway, near the face of a dam. You could hear the water’s roar, below us and around the river’s bend—a hundreds yards, perhaps.

Overhead, the sky was blue and expansive. The air was clear, the view unobstructed for miles to the northern horizon, marked by farmland, to the western horizon, heavily forested, to the eastern horizon, where the river stretched on and on like an endless, silver ribbon, shimmering in the sun.

Behind us, to the south, were trees and canyons, trails and gullies and rivulets feeding the hungry waterway below.

From where we stood, high above the river, the breeze was strong, ruffling hair and causing clothing to flap like flags in the wind.

The sound of the powerboats and horns of the barges came loud to our ears, amplified as it carried across the water.

Birds were boisterous in the trees behind us and in the air above us, and squirrels chattered and scampered through the underbrush.

Placid. Pacific. Idyllic. You could close your eyes and let nature lull you into trancelike calm. The wind in your hair, the sun on your face, the white-noise roar of the water and the melodic call of wildlife in your ears.

Except, not 10 yards away stands a fool, perched on this same sandstone bluff. He hops the wooden fence intended to corral the curious, to hold them back from the sandstone’s crumbling edge. He inches closer, eager for a better view of the waters flowing far below. There have been other fools before him who have done just this and have fallen—have died on impact, or drowned, caught in the dam’s churning spin cycle.

This, however, is the fool’s fool. He not only inches himself to the bluff’s slanting, eroded edge, he has his young daughter in his hands. He extends his arms to their full reach until there is nothing between the girl and the water below except 100 feet of open space.

A spectacular view.

We look at the man, all of us, with breathless incredulity. What would it take? The slightest slip. A gust of wind. A distracting exclamation of fear from someone in the crowd behind him—his wife, perhaps. The slightest tilting of nature. A mere quiver from creation. A sneeze, a muscle cramp, a sudden shooting pain. A loose pebble underfoot, a stone smaller than a marble.

Here is the larger lesson of life, the universal truth:

There are those fearful circumstances, those moments of peril, when it wouldn’t take much ... and everyone knows it, except the fool.

Copyright © 2011 by James P. Long | Faith and Imagination