(I have taken to titling my posts in the style of an Alinea dish.)
I was reading one recent morning to my 2 year old boy a story from Frog and Toad. In this story, Toad is grumpy about Winter but Frog talks him into coming for a sleigh ride. Once the sleigh gets going really fast, Toad begins to forget all of his complaints and enjoy the ride. Unbeknownst to Toad, Frog is knocked off the back of the sleigh as the sleigh starts to hurtle faster and faster down the hill. Despite the sleigh being without a driver and completely out of control, Toad begins to feel more and more secure and at peace with the Winter.
Of course, something is going to happen to bring it all crashing down on Toad. In fact, what happens is not that the sled crashes into a tree, at least not yet. What happens is a crow flies by and upon hearing Toad describe what a wonderful ride he and Frog are having, points out to Toad that Frog is not behind him anymore. Its only after learning that there is nobody at the wheel does Toad panic and cause the sleigh to crash.
This is a recurrent theme in children’s literature. I think the quintessential expression of it is from the cartoons, especially the roadrunner/coyote cartoons. Here is the image. Coyote is chasing roadrunner through some rugged canyonland along a steep ridge and the chase brings Coyote to a cliff. He is so focussed on finally nabbing the roadrunner that he does not notice that he has run off the cliff. He keeps running. In mid-air. But then at some point he looks down and notices that there is no ground beneath his feet and at that moment that he falls to back to Earth. (At which point he turns to the next page in his ACME catalog and the chase is on again…)
If you run off a cliff you should make sure you are running fast and that the opposing cliff is not too far. It also helps to be like the roadunner: looking down is not in his nature and he always makes it to the other side.
I think of Obama’s first 100 days as running off a cliff. We have a pretty good running start. So far we are not looking down. I hope we get to the other side before somebody does. And please, pay no attention to the crows.