In the land of Mythiopia, each day an artist painted a colorful rainbow on a new canvas delivered that morning. The artist sold each painting at day’s end, donating part of the proceeds for the purchase of tickets so that Mythiopians might attend that night’s concert. In turn, their talented musician used part of the ticket sales to buy a fresh canvas for the artist to use the next day.

But one day the artist found no new canvas on which to paint a rainbow. And thus there was no money for complementary concert tickets and the concert canceled. The artist and the musician each blamed the other for the breakdown of what had been a harmonious system.

The black artist claimed racial prejudice; but the musician sent word that he was blind and had no such bias. He, in turn, accused the artist of not providing concert tickets because it often featured patriotic music. But the artist sent word that he was deaf and had no way of even hearing the patriotic music.

A culprit had stolen that morning’s new canvas to protest the government’s doubling the price of food in Mythiopia, a worthwhile cause perhaps but one not directly related to the art and music which the people had previously enjoyed. The artist and musician had a new and deeper appreciation of their mutual dependence, though each misjudged the other’s motive (in fact, there was no motive) since they lived in different parts of the same world, one part silent and the other part dark.

There’s often truth to the saying that someone cannot see the forest for the trees, a terrible near-sightedness since the greatest beauty is in the entirety of the forest, the collection of individual trees. Likewise, in the time domain, a decision that seems to make sense in the short run is often myopic and a recipe for long-term disaster.

Could left-wingers ever appreciate the goals, beliefs, and perceptions of right-wingers? And vice-versa. After all, they do—WE do—live in the same country on the same planet, though each seems to think the others are from Mars—on Mythiopia. A rising tide may or may not lift all boats, certainly not equally, but our boats are in the same river which just might be rushing toward the rapids if not over the waterfall.

Could NFL players (and their families) and NFL teams (and their fans) not step back from the brink and see the bigger picture that embraces their common interests? Participants in an interconnected, interdependent system might be able to reach a compromise, a third way which suitable satisfies—or accommodates—each one’s long-term goals, beliefs, and interests. Another old saying fraught with wisdom is “United we stand, divided we fall.” Or “divided we fail” since we should be concerned with everyone’s fate, not just our own.

The price of bread and milk in Mythiopia returned to normal. The deaf artist once again painted brilliant rainbows and the blind musician made the heavens glow with sweet music. Can we not strive for that kind of harmony—in football, in Congress, and elsewhere—and before we reach the rapids or the waterfall?

James F. Burns is a retired professor at the University of Florida.

Outbrain