There are lots of phrases with “the line” in them.
A fine line. Draw a line in the sand. Throw someone a line. The party line. Fall into line. Walk up to the line.
Cross the line.
I was thinking about “the line” this morning when I woke up after watching three episodes of “Breaking Bad” last night. I’m far into the final season.
When the series began, Walter White, physics teacher and scientist, never broke the rules. He lived the life of a good family man. He could always be counted on to do the right thing.
Then there was his young protege, Jessie Pinkman, who was not applying himself to much of anything but drugs. He was a drifter. In the old days he would have been called a hoodlum.
Then as the series progressed, the roles shifted. Walter, who has lung cancer, walks closer and closer to the line. Until one day he crosses it. Jesse ends up crossing it as well. But after awhile, the way they end up feeling about it changes.
The difference is, Walter is emboldened by this step. And Jessie ends up utterly defeated by it.
Jessie simply does not have the stomach for how far Walter is willing to go. And with every step he follows in the footsteps of who he calls “Mr. White”, the more demoralized he becomes.
The more money Walter makes, the more he wants. The more money Jessie makes, the more he sees it as blood money and ends up tossing it away to the disadvantaged on the street.
Two dichotomies at play here. If you were watching the first season of “Breaking Bad”, you probably would have decided that Jessie was going to be the bad guy.
But the roles reverse and Walter seems to become immune to the violence involved, while Jessie withers in the wake of it.
We all cross the line from time to time.
Some of us decide it’s too risky on the other side and step back. Others love the excitement at having crossed the line and keep on going.
The very definition of “cross the line” is: to go beyond the limits of something by doing something unacceptable. It’s pretty clear cut.
Or is it?
When you cross a line there’s no going back. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.
It all comes down to what you can live with.