John Bennison Words and Ways | Fall Guy: Part I

Fall Guy: Part I

[For a pdf version of this commentary to print and/or read, click here.]

Butch Cassidy: Alright. I’ll jump first.
Sundance Kid: No.
Butch Cassidy: Then you jump first.
Sundance Kid: No, I said.
Butch Cassidy: What’s the matter with you?
Sundance Kid: I can’t swim.
Butch Cassidy: Are you crazy? The fall alone will probably kill you.
Sundance Kid: Ohhhh, s-h-i-t ….

The news cameras capturing the images of camels in Cairo yesterday were not the type normally depicted on tourist’s postcards.   Supporters of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak galloped recklessly into the throngs in Tahrir Square, where protesters have been demonstrating for over a week now, seeking the ouster of the man who has held power in that country over thirty years.

In a drama of biblical proportions, a reversal of fortune is being played out, and the whole world is watching.  From within the palace walls, this modern day pharaoh does not hear the plaintive plea to “let my people go,” but rather the angry cries of his people, telling Mubarak to take a hike.

U.S. State Department officials and the White House are doing the diplomatic two-step, scrambling to figure out what to do about Egypt, once their dance partner is gone. Who or what kind of government leadership will take his place, in the impending power vacuum that’ll suck up half the Arab population in the Middle East?

Will radical extremists gain a new foothold?  Will there be a drawn out disruption in the flow of oil through the Suez Canal, with global economic ramifications?  What will happen with the uneasy truce between Egypt and its nervous neighbor Israel?

With other Arab leaders in the region taking pre-emptive moves to placate their own detractors, will the endless turmoil that has represented the status quo for so long now erupt into something even less containable?

It is a remarkable thing to consider how one man got out of bed this morning, asking himself, “Well, what shall I do today?” and the whole world seems to be watching and awaiting his decision.

Will he fight and lose, or simply leave?  Either way, the stars in the heavens have suddenly realigned themselves, and when push comes to shove Hosni Mubarak will not simply step down or get tossed out.  He will fall.

… when push comes to shove Hosni Mubarak will not simply step down or get tossed out.  He will fall.

What goes up, we learn, must come down.  And the higher one ascends, the further one has to fall sometimes, particularly if rapid descent is not what one had in mind. Everyone seems to be looking for a way to convince the Egyptian leader to leave, either by force or gentle persuasion.  But ask one who’s taken a fall, and they’ll tell you it’s the landing that counts.

While everyone else only seems concerned with when, and how, an 82 year old man — who reportedly colors his jet-black hair to appear more youthful and disguise some serious unknown illness — will take a fall, Mubarak himself might want to take a lesson from Adam Potter.

Adam, 36, is the mountain climber from Glasgow who tumbled 1,000 feet on Monday, cascading down the side of the 3,589-foot summit of Sgurr Choinnich Mor, in Scotland, but suffered only cuts and bruises.  Not only did he miraculously survive, the Royal British rescue helicopter searching for the body mistook him for another climber when they initially passed over him.

“We honestly thought it couldn’t have been him as he was on his feet, reading a map,” said the observer aboard the helicopter. “It was quite incredible. He must have literally glanced off the outcrops as he fell, almost flying.”

Maybe so. But Adam had already flared and landed. And, having survived the flight and the fall, he was already mapping out his next move.  As far as I’m concerned, that may be the greater miracle to this incredible story.   Shaken, but still alive, Adam Potter must have felt like a new man.

… having survived the flight and the fall, he was already mapping out his next move.  As far as I’m concerned, that may be the greater miracle to this incredible story.

The “fall of Adam” – or Hosni, for that matter – may be a good news story; but it is hardly a new story.  Those of us who have lived long enough to stumble, trip and fall more than a few times probably know what I’m talking about.  Question is, how do you survive the fall, and where do you go from there?

Being experts with regards to human nature, political pundits have all been speculating how Mubarak could possibly manage to fall and save face at the same time.  Conventional wisdom suggests the disgrace of it all may be unavoidable, and that may be so.  So a graceful departure may not result.

Grace itself is something we do not come by naturally, it seems; but is often only acquired and learned by circumstances beyond our asking, liking or choosing.  It can be a good thing.  Some say it can be amazing.

In theological circles there have always been comfortable armchair discussions on the subject of the paradox of the fortunate fall.  It is in the real world, however, that the drama unfolds, again and again.

Watching the headlines, I’m inclined to believe the  world will muddle on somehow.  But what of the man?

If the pharaoh of Egypt survives his inevitable fall, I hope he may discover his good fortune may still await him.

Next time: Fall Guy: Part II


© 2011 by John William Bennison, Rel.D.

All rights reserved.

This article should only be used or reproduced with proper credit.

To read more commentaries by John Bennison from the perspective of progressive Christianity and spirituality go to Words & Ways.


  1. Sharon /

    Looking forward to Part Two and the fall of the other shoe!

  2. André /

    Adam did not have the fall from grace. Hosni has a dilemma of how to exit while still holding face. Lessons from the Shah of Iran notwithstanding, Mubarek is at a pivotal moment that weighs with his choice, the future of Islamic rule and expansion in the region. Is there any place for Christianity within the Islamic religion? Adam, 36, got the better deal; life, liberty and a miracle all wrapped in one. – André

  3. I always am struck by your ability to find memorable images to illustrate events of the day, like calling Mubarak a “Fall Guy” and illustrating your piece with lines from one of our favorite movies. In preaching you never served up stale bread, but gave us provocative connections between ancient scriptures and life today. – Fred

  4. “The fall alone will probably kill you,” unless grace intervenes. That is a message worth pondering. The young think they are invincible. The “older and wiser” crowd may not be willing to take necessary risks. The best course of action is to act on behalf of others. Then– win, lose, or draw–you have acted in love and will be able to live at peace with yourself. The “Fall Guy” in Cairo needs to keep this in mind.

What do you think? Join the dialogue:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *