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Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Parable of the Tent

A family excitedly purchased a premium dome tent. They decided to try out the tent in their own yard. The night they intended to camp, they noticed very many pine cones on the ground. They spent the whole first night picking up the pine cones, and ran out of time to set up the tent. The next night, they began setting up the tent. Despite the apparent simplicity of the instructions, they struggled. The pictures seemed to skip necessary details. Through each step, the physical result made it clear that their previous understanding of the instruction was off slightly. Through experience, they managed to tweak their understanding of the instructions until the status of the tent vindicated their interpretation. 

After the tent itself was finished, the kids rejoiced. The father did not. He explained to the kids that they still had to put on the rain fly. This being a large, sophisticated tent meant that this final step was even more difficult a task than all the previous ones combined. After a struggle in getting it over the dome and rotated correctly (which included many trips around the tent to unsnag the many hooks that caught on just about everything), the fly was oriented correctly, and the many hooks and guy lines were secured. 

Finally, it was time to camp. As soon as the door was unzipped, the expectations of the experience began to collide with reality. The tent seemed more cramped than expected. Sleeping arrangements had to be shuffled. The ground was far lumpier than it had seemed before the tent was erected. This became a significant obstacle to falling asleep, as they had grown very accustomed to how their mattresses felt at home. All too frequently, just as you got used to the scenario, you would remember that you were confined in a sleeping bag and become very claustrophobic, waking you up completely. The father was awakened about every hour by a child's crying upon waking up in an unfamiliar place. In a half asleep, exhausted state, simple changes like being in absolute darkness without a flashlight became much magnified. This turned out to be a very different situation than expected. 

The children slept quite well, being much less used to normal life, but the father had yet to sleep. In exhaustion, the father stepped out of the tent for some fresh air. Suddenly, he noticed the broad expanse of stars, a much more marvelous sight once one had sat in absolute darkness for hours, allowing the eyes to become very sensitive. There were a few deep breaths to take it all in. It would take getting used to, but the father realized that the differences between this and normal sleeping arrangements were not annoyances--they were exactly what made it desirable.