Let’s say you’re in a room. It’s a medium sized room, and mostly undecorated. There are no windows, doors, no television, no books. There is a bed against one wall. Across from it there is a table. The table is of fine mahogany, and it is impeccably appointed with the nicest set of china imaginable. The curious thing about the table is that three times daily–at your general mealtimes–there appear on the plate the most amazing pancakes. These pancakes are fantastic. Every time you eat them they are the best pancakes you have ever eaten, and you never tire of the pancakes. You have the option of living in this room. You will eat the pancakes three times daily–with the best syrup, butter, whatever your ideal pancakes have on them–but you never get bored or obsessed with them, and you stay in great health. You’ll live in the room until you die a natural death of old age (the pancakes won’t give you an early heart attack or anything–you’ll just die a peaceful death whenever you’re meant to die). You are free to dream, imagine other worlds, soliloquize, do pushups, and so on, but you can’t leave the room.
Your other option is to die, right now. What is your choice?
The Brain–is wider than the Sky–
For–put them side by side–
The one the other will contain
With ease–and You–beside–
The Brain is deeper than the sea–
For–hold them–Blue to Blue–
The one the other will absorb–
The Brain is just the weight of God–
For–Heft them–Pound for Pound–
And they will differ–if they do–
As Syllable from Sound–
That’s basically my answer, except written by Emily Dickinson. Loves those dashes, Em does. (Get it?)
Most people answer with death, so an interesting way to extend the conversation is to ask them what would have to change about the room for them to accept the room over death. Would it be enough that they serve lasagna, or that the meals change? Or would they need a library? Would they accept the room if it had a television? A journal? Alternately, you can tell them that they’ve been put into a room like the one above, but that there’s a loaded gun there, too, and ask how long they think they’d go before pulling the trigger.
This one’s mine, by the way.