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On The Open Seas

Once upon a time, there was a large group of passengers all living in a ship.

Things worked out okay, mainly because everybody had their own stateroom. People could decorate, be clean or dirty, and generally live their life how they wanted.

Over time, some of the passengers—perhaps eager to upgrade their environment—began to drill holes into the metal skeleton of the vessel. They had good intentions: putting up shelves, hanging art, or adding a porthole.

And at first, this went well. Sure, there was the occasional dispute between neighboring compartments. But those issues could be worked out.

But then, calamity struck. Someone began to cut holes into the floor. They drilled downward into the hull of the ship, and water began gushing in.

Everyone began to debate what to do next. “It’s his room,” a few said. “Let him do what he wants.” Others warned that a leak could spread, but the counterpoint was made that this had not happened, at least not yet.

And so, the ship began to take on water. The moisture spread as it was tracked throughout the decks. The salt corroded metals. Stores of dry goods were damaged. And the whole vessel began to smell faintly of mold.

It wasn’t catastrophic. Most of the passengers barely noticed. But there was damage to the hull, frustration on the occasional panic, and water everywhere.

If anything changed, it was the refrain. People began to say, “We’re all in this boat together.”

And some of them even believed it.

As parables go, this one is straightforward. But I do think there’s a lesson to be learned.

Sometimes the holes we make might help us. Sometimes they create problems between neighbors.

But once in a while there’s a hole in the bottom of the boat. And while it might only be in one stateroom, a hole in the bottom of the boat is everyone’s problem.

It is sometimes hard to tell which issue is which. But it’s important to try and find out.

Because some aspects of our life on board are nobody else’s business, and some are.

But we are, in fact, all on this boat together.

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