I was recently reading the book, Atlas Shrugged, when I came across an interesting scene that caught my attention. Dagny Taggart is riding a train that comes to an unscheduled stop in the middle of nowhere. The reason for the train stopping was due to a broken red signal light that was stuck in the on position. Dagny Taggart is impatient and ready to get the train moving again. Her discussion with the conductor, who stopped the train for an hour, is an interesting one:
Conductor: “I don’t think the signal is going to change. I think it’s busted.”
Dagny Taggart: “Then what are you doing?” (She asks this with frustrated impatience.)
Conductor: “Waiting for it to change.”
The signal light was broken and it was not going to change. But the conductor was so paralyzed that he was willing to wait for it to change even though he knew it wouldn’t.
The conductor’s absurdity seems to be common. There are some signal lights that are broken, yet, we look on in vegetative inaction waiting for a change. Marriages, parenting, spiritual lives and relationships are stuck in the on position but not working. The strange thing is not the failure of the signal lights, but rather, those who stand there complacently staring: the minutes and moments of life passing them by.
Waiting for the signal light to work is not reasonable. How can one define the madness of our social and personal apathy? Watching a red light that you know is broken –“waiting for it to change”.