Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Legend of the Whale's Back

I looked and I saw the People. They were on the back of a huge whale called Life. And the whale floated on the surface of a deep ocean, breathing. I asked a wise man who stood watching, "Sir, what will happen?" "It does not take a wise man to know," he replied. "After some time the whale takes a breath and dives deep down into the ocean depths." "And the people?" I ask. "They are dragged down and drown," he said.

I looked again at the People. Some were spreading blankets to picnic on the back of the whale. Others were gathering driftwood from the ocean and building houses on the back of the huge whale. Soon I saw that some became richer and more powerful, and they oppressed the poor. While some grew thin with hunger and fainted in the sun, others lay in their shelters, bored and fat. When they wanted to go from one part of the wide whale back to another, they demanded the poor to carry them on their backs. But still, they viewed themselves as decent and helpful people.

One day I walked on the whale's back myself. I met people arguing, preening, pursuing success. "Don't you know what will happen one day?" I asked. "What?" they replied. "The whale will dive down deep into the water and you will drown. Don't you know?" They looked angry. "It is quite rude of you to mention it," they replied. "There is nothing we can do about it so we might as well enjoy our lives." "Do you call your life enjoyable?" I asked. They looked at their over-busy, hurried lives of labor and boredom and said nothing. "If there were some hope or reason for our life, perhaps we would act differently," one thoughtful woman said. "Do you search for some hope or reason for your life?" I asked. She paused and considered.

"We have been told we are alive by chance and accident," she said. "Our wise men have told us we must each find our own meaning for our lives." "So you must pretend there is a meaning for your life and try to believe it?" I asked. She was silent but then nodded a little sadly. "And if your wise men are wrong?" I asked. "What if there is a purpose for your existence? It seems improbable that such a beautiful and complicated being as yourself is merely a series of accidents." She smiled at the compliment, then grew sad. "Don't tease us with false hope," she said a little bitterly. "It is worse than no hope at all."

She went back to counting strips of seaweed to buy a larger hat for her son.

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