The Fog: A Modern American Allegory
by Thomas Capshew – VA

man walking in fog

There is a thick fog over the land. The fog lays heavy on the dwellers of the valley, where most of the humans live. The fog affects their breathing. It slows down their bodies. It keeps them from seeing clearly, making the path forward hard to discern and making it easier to lose things. Or take things. The fog separates loved ones, even when they are physically close by, creating a sense of aloneness that is greater than the physical distance. The fog keeps people turned into their mind, spending more time trying to see and analyze what they see than time spent living in the joy of the now moment. When they find each other, their embrace is loaded with sobs of relief in reconnecting rather than squeals of joy in connecting.

The dwellers do not understand. When they settled in this land, their ancestors had recognized that the valley was prone to fog. The ancestors had gathered and decided on a two-part solution. First, they agreed that the heat of the Sun had a beautiful way of clearing much of the fog. In the early days, the morning Sun would burn off the fog and the dwellers would spend the balance of the day in clarity: laughing, living and loving. Second, for the days that the fog was thick and settled in, the ancestors constructed a type of machine that would pull the fog out of the valley of the people and help clear the fog enough for the Sun to bring light and clarity to the valley. These machines worked for years and years, assisting generations of dwellers to live happy, fulfilled and meaningful lives.

But few dwellers living today remember the sunny days. Fog has been a constant for many years. The elder dwellers who remember the sunny days are seen by most dwellers as daft, demented or delirious. There are also some dwellers who, deciding they have had enough of the fog, move up into the surrounding mountains to live in the light. These dwellers are also dismissed by the valley dwellers, for they speak of a way out of the fog. Most of the people living in the valley are more comfortable choosing the life they know rather than the life they imagine. The valley dwellers do not trust the mountain dwellers, calling them dreamers or idealistic.

The children born to the valley dwellers are often wounded in the fog. Even well-intentioned parents often teach their children to make the best of living in the fog and to forget their visions of brighter possibilities, crushing the spirit of the new generation. Some of the children with the deepest wounds grow up to wound themselves or wound others.

As always, some of the children, no matter the wound, grow up to be adventurous and curious young ones. These young ones venture much farther and wider than their caregivers wish or allow. They have visited the dwellers in the mountains and experienced the light. Some of them actually have snuck into the buildings where the fog-reducing machines are housed. The young ones are claiming loudly that the fog-reducing machines built by the ancestors are not working as originally designed. When the machines were built, the dwellers entered into a sacred contract with the operators of the machines. The operators had promised to perform their duties for the benefit of all. Over generations, the fog has separated the men (and a few women) who operate the machines from their sacred contract with the dwellers. Over time, slowly and almost without notice, the operation of the machines has been reversed. Fog is being pumped in to the valley instead of out of the valley. Today’s operators – some in error and others on purpose – keep the dwellers in the fog. The young ones who have watched from a safe place report that when the Sun begins to burn off the fog in the valley, the machines are activated and fog is produced to keep light and clarity out of the valley.

And things are changing. Most dwellers continue to believe that the operators of the machines are continuing the sacred contract of the ancestors, but more and more dwellers are questioning the truth of this belief. Each day in the fog the unrest grows.

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