The Ledge Game

Here’s a funny little thought game I just made up:

Imagine you’re on a narrow ledge on a very tall cliff, with barely room to stand. In the cliff face is a door. Someone there explains to you that by nightfall you will have to go one way or another, either jump off the cliff or open the door and go through it. She will describe the choices to you, but cannot advise you in any way about which choice to make.

If you choose the cliff, she says, you will fall forever. There is no bottom, but your mind will nevertheless be filled with the constant fear of hitting the bottom. You will never experience any real pain, but you will probably invent tortures to inflict on yourself as you fall, both as a distraction from fear and out of sheer boredom.

If you choose the door, she goes on, it will lead to a land of peace and plenty. You will stay with people who will love you, and whom you will probably choose to love back. You will spend your days playing like a child, creating things and studying the world around you. When you get hungry, there will be plenty of good things to eat and drink, and you’ll have your own little room with a warm bed for when you feel like resting. When you give someone a gift, they will accept it with gratitude, but in turn you will be expected to accept gifts as well.

There’s no one there to help you decide, not Jesus or Muhammed or Buddha or your mother or your best friend or your therapist. You’ve only got half a day to think about it. Which would you go for, the cliff or the door?

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