From a very young age Perdi had been fascinated by the sheer cliffs that dropped hundreds of feet from the plateau, on which he and his people lived, to the sand and sagebrush valley below. He would often walk near to the edge and gaze down, or sometimes just sit and watch the birds hover on the winds which swept up the face of the cliffs, and he sometimes longed to be among them. He was warned from the earliest age to beware of the cliffs, and was told of the death and pain that inevitably came to those who fell or jumped from such heights. There were of course, not many who had fallen victims to that tragedy, but enough that Perdi’s parents warned him frequently.
Still, Perdi wondered about how it would feel to jump from such heights and to let the winds blow past him as he plummeted, rock like, to the valley below. When such thoughts came to him, he would often hear the warning voices of his parents and the tribal leaders sounding in his ears, but they only softened the desire, and never removed it. At times he felt it was his destiny to jump from those cliffs, and sometimes even yearned for the excitement such a leap would bring. At other times, he realized how painful, even deadly, following that compulsion might be, and so feared and was never quite content.
On one occasion Perdi, spoke privately with his Father about his inner yearning, and his father told him lovingly, that over time the yearnings would leave, and would bother him no more. He reminded Perdi with a stern but compassionate voice that if he gave into the yearnings, he would never live to see the truth of his father’s wisdom. That counsel sustained Perdi in the younger years, but its wisdom seemed to fade over time and he would sometimes think to himself; “No, I am born to be a cliff jumper and one day I must jump from the cliffs!”
As he grew Perdi began to associate with a few others who also felt compelled to jump, though none of them had acted on those feelings, they found strength in associating with others who felt the same as they did. As the small group met on occasions, they began to challenge the tribal wisdom and to find reasons to disbelieve the counsel of their parents. It was clear to them, that none of the Elders or their parents had ever been jumpers, and so they could not understand nor intelligently guide others who felt so compelled. Additionally, the stories of pain and death were probably merely traditions, handed down by past generations and without any basis in fact, to control them. There were no eye witnesses, no former jumpers around to verify what the end state of taking such an action would be. For all they knew, the past jumpers had survived and were living joyous lives in the beautiful valley far below.
One restless night Perdi decided the time had come to give into the compulsion and to fulfill his pre-determined destiny. So he arose very early the next morning, bathed himself, dressed in his ceremonial robe, and began a slow walk to the edge of the cliff. As he began the slow formal procession, some in the tribe gathered around him with a sure knowledge of what he was planning, feeling the thrill mixed with fear of how it might all turn out. The commotion woke his parents who ran to Perdi and begged him to stop and to return to their hogan.
“Please Perdi, do not do this thing, it will only hurt you, even kill you, and we will be crushed to see you suffer so!”
The tears in his mother’s eyes and heartfelt love he felt in his parents pleadings caused his feet to slow, and he felt a wavering in his determination. But, as he was about to turn around, others from the tribe yelled out to the parents to let him be.
“He is of age and can make his own choices. Be concerned with your own problem and weakness and stop judging your son for his decisions. Let him live his life as he wants, remember our tribal creed to live and let live!”
The parents with visions of the crushed and lifeless body of the son they loved so much, filling their minds, cringed at the word "live," and could not believe what the others were saying. In desperation they yelled back:
“No, you do not love him like we do. We want only what is best for him, we want him to be saved!”
But the crowd had grown larger, some of them eagerly anticipating the spectacle that the scene might end in. With determination to see that end they cried more earnestly;
“You must hate your son, to try and stop him from fulfilling his destiny, you must want him to suffer forever the sorrow of a cliff Jumper, who never jumped. How can you hate him so!”
Perdi knew his parents well, and he was pretty certain that they truly did love him, but the cries of so many urging the parents to leave him alone, emboldened him and enflamed his yearning and he began again to walk toward his destiny. Perhaps, he thought to himself, my parents’ love has blinded them to the truth about what will really happen.
The contention and arguments of so many in the group soon drowned out the cries of Perdi’s parents, who had fallen in grief to the earth and sobbed. Some in the crowd even spit at them and called them haters, as they walked past, falling in behind Perdi to support him on his journey cliffward. They were determined to protect him from his parents' hate.
The tribal Elders, simply, stoically, watched the whole scene as Perdi moved on. In ancient times the Elders would have put a stop to such insanity and enforced the old rules, but the concept of cliff jumping had gained popularity among the tribe, and so the Elders determined that to interfere in this day and age was no longer within their power.
Suddenly, out of the crowd ran Perdi’s other associates, and similarly washed and robed they began to walk alongside Perdi toward the cliffs. They too were followed by pleading parents, but they had already been convinced by the yelling of so many from their tribe, and by the inaction of the Elders, that it was also their right and destiny to jump. They believed that those who sought to stop them were merely acting out of ignorance, selfishness and hate, and so they determined to join Perdi in his plan. Feeling surrounded by so many supporters, Perdi quickened his pace. Something deep inside him urged him to look back toward his grieving parents, but he resisted the temptation, empowered and compelled forward by those who had just joined his quest.
As the procession neared the edge of the cliff, there stood in the path the old medicine man who had, in earlier years, been Perdi’s spiritual guide. He was bowed over with age, and tears filled his eyes, so the entire group stopped and stared at the strange sight in silence.
“My son” the old man spoke, staring intently at Perdi; “You must not do this thing, to yield to those feelings will only destroy you and leave we who truly love you, only grief and sorrow! You must see that those who urge you on, do so only to your hurt….”
“Shut up old fool,” a villager yelled, and the group broke into angry chants. “Hater, Arrogant, Oppressor,” were among the labels they threw toward the ancient counselor. Soon the chants were accompanied by rocks, which, as they rained down upon the Elder, drove the man away from the group and opened up the way to the cliff.
Finally at the edge of the cliff Perdi, surrounded by his supporters, paused one last time, feeling dread as he saw how far below the valley really was. Though he would not look back, he did hesitate for just a moment, until the cries of the crowd found way into his heart.
“Jump Perdi, it is what you were born to do!”
“Use your agency Perdi, no one can tell you what to do, you are free to Jump”
“We love you Perdi, and want you to be happy, give in to your yearnings and find the satisfaction you seek!”
“Don’t let the haters stop you, if they really loved you they would let you jump!”
With renewed determination, Perdi closed his eyes and jumped, followed closely by each of his associates...
And all of them were lost!