Allegory of the Room

by Michael Sharp

Allegory of the Room

Imagine for a moment that we are all sitting in one huge room. The room that we are in has doors and windows and is like any other room that any of us have been in except for the fact that the room is freezing cold. In fact, it is so cold that everyone in the room has several layers of warm clothing on: hats, gloves, and parkas to insulate us from the bitter cold.

And so there we are huddled in the freezing room, desperate for warmth.

Nobody really knows how long we’ve been in this room. We just know it is a long time. But suddenly, after what seems like an eternity, one among us looks up from her huddled crouch and realizes that there is some kind of strange contraption on her back. She strains to see what it is but cannot quite make out the details. After a few moments of examination, she notices that there is a string attached to the contraption. After a moment’s hesitation, she pulls the string and a soft humming begins to emanate from it. Nothing else happens for a moment or two and so she sits back down and huddles against the cold.

While she is examining her contraption and pulling her string, a few people notice her activity and stand to watch. After seeing what she is doing, they too notice a contraption on their back and an attached string but they do not pull the string. Instead they watch the girl as she pulls her string. They watch to ensure no harm comes from this. They watch as the girl sits down. Nothing happens and they immediately lose interest and settle back down to resisting the bitter cold.

After a few moments, however, the girl who originally pulled the string notices something. Something has changed in the air around her. “What is it,” she thinks to herself. And then she realizes! The air around her seems to be warming up, and rapidly. She can no longer see her breath and her body is becoming uncomfortable under the extra load of clothing. She strains her neck to look at the contraption and immediately realizes that the contraption is some sort of personal heating system. Surprised, she looks around and notices that everyone else is also wearing one just like it.

Incredulous, she wonders why nobody has seen this heater before or never pulled the string. Perhaps they were concentrating too hard against the cold and simply did not see beyond the frost in their breath and the ice on their clothes. Perhaps they simply believed that no other existence was possible. No matter, after a few minutes she is becoming decidedly uncomfortable and she now, with some degree of excitement, begins to remove her clothing layer by layer as the air warms around her.

The people huddled immediately around her have now looked up and noticed her excitement. What is more, those closest to her are also noticing a change in the air temperature. As it turns out, the heater on her back is so powerful that she has now affected the temperature a few meters all around her.

People have noticed.

People are warming up.

People are becoming uncomfortably warm.

They ask her what is happening and she explains about the heater on their backs. She suggests that if they turn on the heaters, they could warm up the room even more. She also advises that they should start taking their layers of clothing off because once their heater is on, their bodies will quickly become uncomfortable beneath the layers of fabric.

Some, but not all, of her immediate neighbors take her advice and pull the string. A few moments pass and the air around them rises a few degrees. Feeling uncomfortable, they also begin to take off their clothes.

Now, there is a small bubble of excitement in the room. A few more people (this time a little farther away from the center) are beginning to look up and wonder what all the excitement is about. There are even people standing off away in the corners who have heard the bustle and are straining their eyes and ears to see and hear. A buzz begins to move through the room and a few people here and there, perhaps the ones who are most resistant to the cold, look up, stand up, and wonder what is going on. They ask those around them but most of the freezing people they ask are too cold to worry and too bitter to care. Still, people are talking and the word is spreading. They’re saying something about warmer air and the availability of some kind of heating system.

Some are even saying that people are taking off their clothing but the skeptical ones laugh at this. However, the braver ones, the ones who are tired of being cold, the ones who trust the rumors, the ones who can see the small island of people beginning to dance in the warmth, strain to look at their backside and lo and behold, they see a string attached to a contraption. Getting swept up in the rising excitement, they pull the string and the air around them immediately begins to warm.

They begin to feel uncomfortably warm and they begin to take off their clothes.

Now as we pause and look around at the room we notice islands of radiant heat in a sea of bitter cold. Here and there, dotted throughout this huge room of individuals, people are starting to realize that the bitter cold is not something they have to live with. More and more see that within their grasp is all the heat they need to get warm and stay warm.

Still, and at first, it is only a few people here and there. The ones who are more adventurous, the ones who are tired, the ones who are desperate for a new world, these are the first ones to pull the string. Of course, they talk. They point out the rising heat. They excitedly exclaim “look, we don’t need too many clothes!” But most people in the room are too busy trying to keep warm to give them much thought.

“Crazy,” they think to themselves. “They’ll all just freeze to death.”

For a while, it seems, little progress is made. More and more turn on and heat up, but against the huddled masses, it seems like a drop in the bucket. However, the heaters are powerful; far more powerful than we initially think. And after a certain point, it is not just the local temperature around the individual heaters that is affected. When enough have turned on their heaters, and when the heaters have been running long enough, a shift occurs. Instead of localized islands of heat, the entire room is impacted and the ambient temperature begins to slowly rise. Once The Shift has occurred, everyone, no matter how inured against the cold, no matter how tightly huddled against the arctic blasts, begins to feel the rising temperature of the room.

After a certain point is reached, nobody can ignore what is going on.

At this point individuals in random locations in the entire room begin to look up to see what is up. Hundreds and, soon, thousands now notice the excited activity of a handful of their once frozen compatriots. They ask, with some confusion, “what is going on.”

They are told, “there are heaters! There is warmth. It takes only a moment. Just pull the string.”

They see the excitement, they feel the heat, and now, swept up in the growing excitement, waves and waves of frozen room dwellers pull the string. They don’t even wait to start taking off their layers. Even before they pulled the string, they felt the warmth and were becoming uncomfortable beneath the clothing.

Of course, now that so many are tuning in and turning on, the rise in temperature is no longer subtle. Now the thermometer rises a degree every few minutes and the consequent discomfort rises fast as well. It is at this point, as we gaze at waves and waves of people jumping to their feet, turning on their heaters, and stripping their clothes, that we begin to see the problem. Fear has begun to cascade in waves through the huddled masses. Many people, whose only experience had been to huddle against the bitter cold, stare around in total dismay. The room is now heating so fast, and people are stripping so quickly, that they are confused and befuddled. Questions flood through their minds. People all around them are staring and smiling and pointing and stripping. Some have even reached the point of total undress and are now running bare naked around the room jumping with the sheer joy of freedom. They are confused. “What is all this about?”, they wonder. What is worse, all this confusion is compounded by the pain they are in. The room is so warm now, and their clothing so thick, that they are literally beginning to bake inside their clothes.

It is a crisis, but it is one the people in the room seem able to handle. There are many who have already weathered The Shift and they understand the process. They reach out, they explain, they help, they calm, they smile, they respond and there are so many individuals with lightened layers of clothing that there is lots of help, lots of support, and lots of reassurance.

Most people respond.

Most begin taking off their clothes.

Some even turn on their heaters, but at this point there are enough people with backpacks on and heaters turned up that it no longer matters if the newcomers are turning on their heaters or not. In fact, at, this point, people are starting to advise against it. The temperature is a perfect 28 degrees.

The Shift has occurred and no more heat is required.

Still, there are problem areas.

A few, a small handful of people, cannot cope with the rapidity of the change.

They have to assimilate information too fast and they cannot.

They see the frenzied dancing and the smiling faces.

They see the naked people and, amidst all the odd sensations they are experiencing, they cannot process the pain in their body.

Some are mad.

Some are shouting and still others experience total panic, snap, and run screaming out of the room.

The others react calmly and with assurance.

Those that can be restrained are gently held until they are calm.

The new reality is explained and their clothes are gently removed.

Those that cannot be restrained, or who flail too violently, are left to themselves until they exhaust their reserves.

When they are silent, they are approached and assistance is given.

Those who “leave” too soon are lost, but only temporarily.

Eventually, they will return without clothing and everything will be ok.

How fast will the process unfold?

How many will panic?

How many will need to be restrained?

How many will “leave the room.”

How quickly will we restore calm?

It is hard to say.

It will all depend on the action and initiative of those in the room.

Just remember, there are no unknowns here.

There is no chance.

It is all up to you and the decisions you make.

If you are one of the ones that has gone ahead, reach back and help others.

If you are one of those that remain beneath the layers, reach out and accept our assistance.

Trust us.

There is nothing to fear.

A new reality awaits if you will just reach out your hand.

I am Michael Sharp.

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