Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What Must I do?

Many years ago and far away, an aged teacher was strolling contemplatively in the corridor of the dormitory that housed the students of his academy. As he passed the doorway of an especially favored student, he noticed that the young man was preparing for a journey.

“Where are you going?” the teacher asked.

“Master, I have heard there is a vicious warlord in the region far from here who is oppressing the people, stealing their land, taxing them into poverty and enriching himself while they starve. I have prepared myself for mortal combat and I am going to this region, where I intend to force the warlord to cease his outrageous conduct.”

Instead of being impressed, as the student had hoped, the teacher laughed derisively, “He will brush you away with the back of his hand. You will accomplish nothing but getting yourself killed.”

Perplexed, the student thought for a moment. “I know! I will use the power of reason, which I have learned from you, to convince the warlord that his violent ways can only result in an uprising of the people and the overthrow of his regime. Surely reason will prevail!”

Again the master laughed at his well-intentioned disciple. “Your reason will be as effective as reasoning with a river to reverse its course. You will drown!”

Frustrated but ever anxious to find the right answer, the student meditated.

Suddenly he smiled and returned to his master’s gaze. “I believe I see what you are saying, my esteemed teacher. I must invoke a force greater that my physical strength and my logic to make this wretched man mend his ways. I must invoke the power of God, showing the warlord that God despises the greedy and violent and will surely impose a punishment greater by a thousand times than the material rewards the warlord receives from his oppression.”

“Ha, ha, ha!” the old man nearly doubled over in laughter, “The thought of you invoking God, threatening to bring lightning bolts down upon this ruler! Your only hope is that the ridiculous nature of your posturing will move him to ignore you.”

Deflated as he had never been before, the student pondered once again, and then spoke. “I have it! I will forget force, forget reason, forget even God, and I will go in rags as a beggar. In the mirror of my humility, the warlord will see himself as he truly is and will decide on his own to change his violent ways.”

“He will swat you away as an irrelevant insect!” came the master’s response, again with derisive laughter.

The student was exasperated. Burning tears flowed down his cheeks and sputtered from his lips, as he cried, “Master, you yourself have said repeatedly that behavior like that of this warlord is wrong and cannot be countenanced. I have committed myself to putting an end to the injustice, to laying down my life if necessary. I have described the best plans I can devise, and you only belittle me and laugh at me. Tell me, please, Master, what must I do?

“You must fast.”

in Peter White, The Ecology of Being
Posted and thought about while fasting by Homeless with a Laptop that is my Name