long dark tunnel

You’re driving through a long, dark tunnel.

You know the tunnel ends. You have consulted a map and noted its length—longer than most, but certainly not the longest on earth—but the thing seems infinite. While you did not note your time of entry, you judge that it’s been at least a couple of hours. According to the mileage signs, you’re only an eighth of the way through.

You are bored. You left your phone at home, no signals are getting in, and you’re driving solo. You feel like sleeping, but you need to watch the road. So you eye the concrete walls, the lights above, the painted stripes below, and you observe how they change as you progress. But the changes aren’t interesting. Everything you see is either dull or ugly. The whole corridor is repulsive to you, and you see no sign of natural beauty or human artistry. If only the tunnel’s designer had included byways through ornamental gardens! If only the designer had created bright murals and lighted them softly!

You are free to exit at any time, of course. Off-ramps are plentiful, each leading to unique and potentially fascinating sights. You plan to take some of these other routes in the future. But why not now, since you are so miserable? The truth is, you’ve heard great things about this tunnel. Your favorite magazines and newspapers commend its brilliance and subtlety. Your friends and acquaintances speak of their own journeys through, and many say they enjoyed it.

So here’s your dilemma: do you finish the book? If so, you’ll be able to claim an informed opinion. Perhaps you’ll even change your mind and come to appreciate—or even revere—the work. Though perhaps you won’t. In either case, you’ll learn something from the experience.

Which is more valuable to you: time and enjoyment; or knowledge and insights?