Penguins on ice floes (an extended metaphor).

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As one penguin talking to another penguin please bear with me on this.

At one time we all lived happily on one huge slab of ice. So secure were we that we believed that the ice was sitting on solid land and that things would never change.

We observed that occasionally discontented penguins would hop onto adjacent lumps of floating ice and start to form their own penguin colonies. Many of them drifted off, some were never seen again. Some could be seen in the distance, or we could hear them yelling, trying to convince us that their decisions to split away were correct and how we who remained were all wrong.

But we remained content and seldom thought of the future – why should we –we’re penguins.

Then the penguin colony was abruptly rocked by reality. We found out that we did not live on solid land at all; we too were on a floating ice floe, albeit a very big one. The dawning of this fact came when the colony itself suffered a huge catastrophic split. The fault lines were always there but we did not see them; we just thought they were part of the landscape.

The split was not a neat half and half one, it was ragged and uneven, some bits bigger than others. It should have been clear from the beginning that each of the splits did not stand an equal chance of survival; some were going to melt and shrink faster than others.

From the penguin’s point of view; when the catastrophe happened; where you ended up depended on where you were standing at the critical moment.

The frozen scene has been chaotic ever since. Imagine an ocean cluttered with ice floes; which inevitably encouraged penguins hopping from one minor ice floe to another.

So, should penguins ponder the future? Or should we just go with the floe?

Tim Shaw


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