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Verge 2012: Inverse

THE DONKEY DECIDES

Samuel Robertson

A boy, a voice, a sea, a sky.

A choice.

Boy stands along the horizontal line dividing Sea and Sky.

It begins.

Voice: You must choose between Sea and Sky.

Boy: Why?

Voice: You cannot have both.

Boy: Why?

Voice: When you gain something, you lose something.

Boy: That hardly seems fair.

Voice: Life isn’t fair.

Boy: No.

Voice: So you must decide.

Boy: First things first, I will assemble the facts.

Voice: Very well.

Boy: What will happen to the animals?

Voice: What do you mean?

Boy: Birds cannot swim and whales cannot fly.

Voice: No, they cannot.

Boy: So, what happens to them?

Voice: I do not know.

Boy: You expect me to decide between Sea and Sky without knowing what will happen to birds that cannot swim and whales that cannot fly?

Voice: The facts are unavailable.

Boy: It is impossible to make a reasoned judgment without the facts.

Voice: Make the impossible possible.

Boy: It is logically impossible to make the impossible possible.

Voice: Whatever the case, you must decide.

[Boy, incredulous]

Boy: Based on what!?

Voice: Any number of things.

Boy: Such as?

Voice: A coin-toss.

Boy: Too arbitrary.

Voice: A double-headed coin.

Boy: How do I choose which to assign heads – Sea or Sky?

Voice: That is for you to decide.

[Terse silence]

Boy: What do you suggest?

Voice: Faith.

Boy: Faith is an arms-reach answer.

Voice: It is a way of moving forward.

Boy: Forward to ignorance.

Voice: Forward to progress.

Boy: Without reason we are without progress.

Voice: You’re not making much progress with all these reasonable questions.

Boy: That is because you will not answer!

Voice: That is because there is no answer.

[They fall silent]

Boy: What if I do not choose?

Voice: Then you have chosen.

Boy: Chosen what?

Voice: Indecision is a decision.

Boy: Indecision is a decision not to decide?

Voice: Yes.

Boy: Now I have a headache.

[Boy rubs his head]

Voice: Have you heard the story of the donkey?

Boy: The one with the palm branches and the preacher?

Voice: No.

Boy: Then I do not know the story.

Voice: A thirsty, hungry donkey is standing in the middle of two identical tables with hay and water. It is starving and dehydrated.

Boy: And?

Voice: The donkey cannot choose between the tables and dies.

Boy: Why did the donkey not decide?

Voice: There was no reason for the donkey to choose one table over the other.

Boy: The donkey was irrational.

Voice: The donkey was perfectly rational.

Boy: The donkey was stupid.

Voice: If you say so.

Boy stands along the horizontal line dividing Sea and Sky and continues asking questions. It goes like this for many days, many months, many years.

Until

Boy: I have come to a decision.

Voice: What have you chosen?

Boy: It’s the only sensible decision.

Voice: What is your decision?

Boy: The only reasonable conclusion.

Voice: What is it?

Boy: Without all the facts I have no other choice.

Voice: What do you decide?

[Boy, forceful]

Boy: I choose neither!

[Voice is silent]

Boy: Did you hear me?

[Boy, fearful]

Boy: I choose neither.

[Voice is gone]

[Sea is gone]

[Sky is gone]

Verge 2012: Inverse

   by Samantha Clifford and Rosalind Mcfarlane