26 December 2004
Dave was my lab partner in high school physics. Our assignment one afternoon was to observe water waves, using a wide glass tray, full to the brim. When the lab was over, we prepared to take the tray back to the sink.
Dave was on one side of the tray and I was on the other, as we lifted it from its perch above our lab table, cautiously holding it level to avoid spilling. We started to walk across the classroom, and the tray gradually rose higher, from mid-chest to eye level. Now we were lifting it over our heads. I was about to panic, when the tray steadied, and we slowly brought it down.
"Why were you raising it?" Dave asked me.
"I thought you were raising it," I replied.
We dumped the water in the sink, and Dave said, "I think I know what was happening." I listened to his explanation.
"The tray is very full. Both of us wanted to make sure we didn't get wet. So without even thinking about it, we each tried to keep the tray tilted slightly away from ourselves. Thatís what made the tray rise higher and higher."
"What made it come down, then?" I asked.
"I decided in a moment to start pulling it down. Just an instinct. I knew we were in trouble if it got much higher."
Much later, contemplating arms races and the reason nations go to war, I appreciated Daveís wisdom, and his maturity in that moment. Tragedy will only be averted if one nation has the courage to disarm on faith, making that first, unilateral gesture toward peace.
- Josh Mitteldorf