I wish she wouldn’t have said, “Do not touch.” I’m defiant and when someone tells me not to do something, I get all churned up and triggered. I’m not proud of this, by the way, but it is in my nature.
So when the tour guide says do not touch the walls, or my surroundings, at Squire Boone Cavern, in Southern Indiana, I make a special effort to keep my hands clasped behind my back. I’m on a field trip with my fourth grade son and his classmates. We’re walking by the stalactites and stalagmites, and they look strange. But I’m fine. I can walk along the metal boardwalk like all the 10-year-olds in front of me and keep my hands to myself. For a while. I keep looking at the various shapes and textures, and I notice the formations look fake. I joke with some of the other chaperones that the cave is really made of plaster.
Then one of the students asks if caves ever collapse and we all laugh nervously when the tour guide says yes. Then the jokes start flying that they had to use plaster to cover all the dead bodies left in the cave after a collapse. Now I’m being enticed. What if this cave really is fake.
Must. Touch. Walls.
The temptation grows stronger. Logically, I tell myself that this cave is real, the minerals and water are real, and there is no plaster creating these funny looking rocks. As we get to the end of the route, the class goes ahead of me and I am left at the end of the cave. Right in front of me is a floor-to-ceiling formation. I mean, I nearly walk straight into it. Before I could pull my hand back, my index finger is on it. It was only a brief, light touch. What harm could it do?
Two of my friends are lagging behind and when they catch up to me, the temptation gets the best of me. I promptly admit my wrongs, saying what all defiant people say, “I couldn’t help myself.”
“Yeah, that’s what Eve said, too,” responds one of them. It’s true. I am so Eve. I was told not to touch, and I did it anyway.
My guilt gets worse when the tour guide stops to explain how the floor-to-ceiling formations are made. The stalactites and stalagmites meet together and make one large rock. Then she points to the formation I have just touched.
“That one back there,” she says, “is roughly 250,000 years old.” Great. I have just messed with something a quarter of a million years old. My chaperone friends tease me even more now. I want to protest and ask how many of those 10-year-olds have gone through the entire tour without touching anything. Yet, I am not 10. Besides, isn’t that just what Eve did? She tried to justify her actions by blaming the serpent. I don’t necessarily blame anyone, except my weak self, but I try to skirt the guilt and minimize what I have done. I was told not to touch, and I touched. It is wrong. Period.
I am not taking myself too seriously here, but this story makes for an interesting illustration for my lack of self-control. I wish it weren’t so. I wish I wasn’t so impulsive or irreverent. The best I can do is to continue recognizing my faults and working on them. And then, hopefully, someday I will have the maturity of a 10-year-old walking through an ancient cave.