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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Fiscal Cliff: An Allegory

One day, the weather stopped thinking about what was happening on the ground, where weather lands. On that day, the weather decided to think only about what was happening in the sky, where the weather is made.

That was the day the weather ceased operations as a cohesive, atmospheric balancing of moisture and temperature, and became a clash of wills between two meteorological conditions: the sun and the clouds.

The breakdown in weather was a long time coming. For years, the sun and the clouds had taken turns having their moment in "the sun" (the clouds long bitter at that phrase). The sun would shine, hot and bright, until those on the ground began complaining of drought and sun burn. As if on cue, the clouds would roll in, full of drenching rain and cooler temperatures. When the grounds flooded and the skins pruned, much like fingertips after a long bath, the weather-receivers began demanding more sun. And on, and on. And on and on and on.

Finally, a new day dawned, one with a sun that was declared to be unlike any sun before it. This sun was special, many believed. This sun would keep us warm, but not too warm. This sun would welcome a little rain shower now and then. We can lie out in this sun without SPF 155. Yes, we can.

And there was much rejoicing.

There was no rejoicing among the clouds, though. The clouds were worried that all the new sun-lovers would forget how good a drenching, soaking rain can feel. How invigorating a sudden downpour can be for the senses, and the flower beds. How dangerous too much time in the sun can be. Melanoma. Leathery skin. Freckles.

The clouds got angry. We can't let the sun do this to us, they thundered. They gathered up all their water droplets and ice crystals, and they summoned the iciest ice crystal of them all. Tell us what to do, they begged of the iciest ice crystal. The sun wants to melt us all into filaments. Help us!

The iciest ice crystal exhaled a slow, steady breath. The only defense against a bad guy with light and warmth, he intoned, is a good guy with darkness and the ability to blanket the entire sky. The clouds thought for a minute, and then for another. After several, fairly awkward, minutes, they understood what the iciest ice crystal was telling them. If you want to beat the sun, you must never let it shine. 

This was something the clouds knew they could do.

And there was much rejoicing.

From that day forward, whenever the sun scheduled a shining, wherever the sun tried to appear, the clouds were there. They were bigger, they were darker, they were scarier. If you try to move us from the sky, they bellowed, your crops will die and you will never eat again! Life without clouds means life without water, they roared, and life without water means no life at all!

The sun tried to peak out from behind a wispy cirrus to point out that hydration will bring nothing if there is no sunlight to spark photosynthesis. The clouds quickly formed a cumulus around the sun, and threatened to crystallize into a cumulonimbus if the sun refused to stop spreading his scientific message. The sun grew duller. It could not even shine in Georgia. Or Arizona. Definitely not Texas. Florida, only sometimes, and depending on who was reading the weather.

Those on the ground quickly began to tire of being told what kind of weather they needed and wanted. They generally liked the sun, but understood a little fall of rain can hardly hurt now and again. There's room in the sky for you both, they urged. For years, you have shared the atmosphere, surely you can figure out how to do that again.

The sun and the clouds refused.

Months passed. The sun began to grow more confident. One day, the sun threw the Milky Way in front of the clouds and insisted a line was being drawn. You have got to let me shine, at least some time, every now and then, you guys. I am here for a reason! Seriously, I am!

Still, the clouds wouldn't listen.

Then those on the ground began to clamor. A tsunami was on the horizon! Those on the ground saw it. Even the sun and the clouds saw it. Everyone agreed that the only way to avoid the tsunami would be for the sun and the clouds to agree to a calmer weather pattern.

If you won't listen to us, those on the ground begged, surely you will listen to the threats from a disaster of your own making. We cannot survive another tsunami! Don't do this to us! Avert! Avert!

So the sun and the clouds went behind a mountain to confer.

Every so often, the sun would cast a ray over the mountain to spy on the tsunami's approach or give the weathermen something to talk about. Then the clouds would do the same. The only thing that those on the ground were sure of was that the sun and the clouds both still existed. The tsunami, too.

Weeks passed. Those on the ground could hear the raging waters of the approaching tsunami. They began barricading with sand bags, taking emergency swimming lessons, buying nose plugs. It appeared that the tsunami would strike and that the sun and the clouds would leave those on the ground to fend for themselves.

But wait! Weather reports that some truce was in the offing. Near-agreements that some days could be  "mostly cloudy," others "partly sunny." This might work! This might work!

And there was great rejoicing.

Not so fast, bellowed cumulonimbus. He cast around a condemning eye, which landed on a cirrostratus formation to his left. All these so-called clouds making deals with the sun? Clouds do not make deals with the sun! Let the wind try to push us away, let evaporation refused to occur, but let a cloud volunteer to step aside to allow for more light? NEVER. I see your "partly sunny," and I spit in its UVA/UVB rays.

The sun gloomily sank lower behind the mountain. The clouds began to gather above. The earth grew warmer, and the skies grew cooler. Convection! Convection! Those on the ground pointed at the air masses about to collide. Everyone forgot about the tsunami, because a massive thunderstorm was forming that stole the attention from the even-more-epic disaster on the horizon.

Nature was about to take its course.

That was when God rolled over, and He looked at Mrs. God, and he whispered: 

I swear, this is not what I intended.

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