tell it as it is
The wisdom of bridge building and the art of reconciliation
A bridge is a validation of human ingenuity. It starts from two different points far apart. It has to overcome many obstacles and opposing forces during its making. It is only when the two cantilevers running from opposite directions meet in the middle, with the one keystone put in place connecting the two previously discrete structures, that all the stress and strain on the two unfinished edifices, as well as their oscillations, vanishes. It's as magical as anything can be.
It is one thing to design a bridge, another thing to build it. Planning and executing the construction of a bridge is often very complicated. In fact, it is the most resourceful part of the entire undertaking.
Before any actual construction of a bridge is done, substantial legwork is needed in the form of tests and measurements. These are carried out to understand and record the conditions of the ground. They include geological maps, wind speed and direction surveys, water levels and velocity. Models and parts of the intended bridge are tested aerodynamically, hydrodynamically and mechanically. In the modern age, computer simulations may be used to supplement those tests, but not to replace them. A variety of applied forces have to be explored. There may also be opposition from a variety of human objectors that has to be overcome.
Not unlike mammals, a bridge's "embryo" configuration needs to be nursed by the builders through rough stages. The variation of stresses on an incomplete and immature structure is more concentrated, hazardous and severe than on a complete one. Until the spans are joined, wind, among many other natural factors, can cause extreme havoc.
And there is the one keystone, the last block, to be put right in the middle - which provides the first and final connection, and without which the structure cannot hold up. In and by itself the keystone is no more important than any other stone or concrete section that is used during the construction, but its special function - to bridge all the bridge parts - gives the keystone a unique place in the entire endeavour. It represents completeness and it honours the entire sum. It makes an arch stand, and the bridge does not drift away even though it still accelerates under the velocity caused by many forces. With the keystone, the bridge's momentum takes it past the equilibrium point.
But most important of all, for a bridge to come into being, there must be a genuine and strong desire by someone to build it.
There is wisdom that we can derive from this complicated and, at times, paradoxical invention called a bridge. It is pertinent to our fractious political environment that has become more toxic than at any time in recent memory.
To start, our national reconciliation process can only be possible if there is a genuine desire, not just lip service, to put an end to the rift, because the country has had enough.
Next, we need the "architects" and "engineers" to design and build the bridge of national reconciliation. This is where we need the best and the brightest, with no hidden agenda or ego that can get in the way and derail the effort. Their collective effort must be an ultimate balancing act, to be able to overcome the extreme obstacles and challenges.
We do not live in a tidy world, and things are much more complicated than they appear. People look at things in different ways, and the explanation they find in their own thinking can stay with them much longer than what they are told by someone else that negates their opinion. In the case of our national disunity, it is fair to say that everybody who is or has been part of the conflict at one time or another has been "wronged". Sadly, all seem willing to take the gripes to their graves. They do not realise that all roads of revenge and schadenfreude reach a dead end. The satisfaction rising out of revenge is merely a fleeting moment, while the resulting wreckage can last a long time, claiming the livelihoods of many innocents who deserve better.
These are the stresses and strains on the reconciliation process that must be overcome by its architects and engineers. In the real world of human behaviour, there are more moving parts than the imagination can easily grasp. But many great men and women have conquered them and rendered national reconciliation possible, making it a boon to millions in their respective nations. These examples are the reasons for us not to lose hope entirely.
And there is that keystone moment, when the opposing factions connect right in the middle, when all the stresses and strains disappear, and the momentum of the reconciliation carries beyond the equilibrium point. At that time, many will realise that it should have happened much sooner. The magical feeling of standing in the middle of a bridge, where one is in between two spatial directions while being in both, that gives one a sense of liberation, will multiple manyfold in the case of national political reconciliation.
As much as bridge building starts with two opposing spatial stances, political reconciliation starts with the two key opponents working out how to meet in the middle. As the old cliche goes, it takes two to tango - empirically and metaphorically. The result, however, will make it all worthwhile, as the enormous energy they possess can be utilised more constructively, not destructively as is the case these days.