Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Bad Directions - a parable

Once upon a time there were two brothers who embarked separately on a journey to see their mother who was dying of cancer. Their mother lived far out in the New England countryside, and her home was only accessible by taking a painfully circuitous network of back roads. Neither brother had yet made the journey to this, her newest residence, and as a result both had perilously little idea of how to get there. Both of them were quite familiar with the main road that led travelers out of the city and into the hinterland, but beyond that they knew nothing. Therefore, they were careful to remind each other to pack a map for the journey, and having thus said goodbye, they agreed to meet at their mother’s home later that evening.
The older brother departed from his home late in the afternoon and by dusk was approaching the turn off of the main road that he knew he needed to make. Now this brother, to his credit, was very expert in the use of maps. Indeed, he loved to study the details of maps, explore the various contours, and generally immerse himself in the discovery of the new places and attractions that each successive journey brought him. To be sure, he could find his way around the countryside quite easily using the map he had handy, so he decided to do a little exploring. He noted a couple of things on the map that particularly interested him, and seeing that his mother’s home was not far away from his present position, he embarked on a brief detour to visit these places.
Before he knew it, one hour had turned into three hours (absorbed as he was in his explorations), and he became worried because it was now getting to be very late in the evening. So, getting out the map again he quickly plotted a very direct and sure course to his mother’s home and sped off. But alas, despite the speed of transit made possible by his adept navigational skills, he arrived to the terrible news that his mother had died two hours prior. She had apparently died wondering why her eldest son, the pride of her heart, had not yet arrived to share her final hours.
Now the younger brother, who had left town earlier in the afternoon, approached the turn off the main road about two-hours before the elder brother. Unlike his older brother, he had never taken the time to learn how to read a map. Indeed, the very thought of trying to find his way by means of using a map was quite repugnant to him. Didn’t reading maps and planning ahead of time simply ruin the fun and excitement of the journey? Deep down he knew that his tendency to depend on others to show him the way was problematic, but he was too prideful to ask for help and figured that learning a skill that rarely had much relevance to him would probably be a waste of time. He had left town that afternoon fully aware of the problems that could lie ahead, but figured that he would make it through all right, just as he had always done before.
So, being confident that everything would be fine, the younger brother made the turn off the main road and hazarded a guess, after glancing briefly at the map, at what his next turn should be. Regrettably, the turn that he made was a wrong one and he was soon terribly lost. He tried making his way back to the main road, but his efforts only resulted in further disorientation, and he became even more profoundly lost than he was before. At long last, giving up on his efforts to find his own way, and delayed by numerous instances of road construction, he found someone who was able to successfully direct him to his mother’s home. But just like his older brother, he too was greeted by the crushing news that his mother had died one hour prior to his arrival. She had apparently died wondering why her youngest son, her baby, had not yet arrived to share her final hours.
Now I wonder what lessons we might be able to learn from the story of these two brothers about the critical importance of healthy self-analysis? On the one hand some of us get so caught up in exploring our own internal state of affairs that we become lost in the process itself, losing sight of the goal, and consequently damaging ourselves and others with our obsessively introspective tendencies. On the other hand some of us are so afraid to examine ourselves, or too lazy to take the time, that we know very little of what goes on inside and when a crisis hits we find ourselves lost in a strange wilderness with no idea of how to find our way out.

1 comment:

geoff said...

nice one, billy. i'm reminded that my introspection (or lack thereof) not only has an impact on my 'character', but on the lives of those around me...more hopefully, the reverse is true - that i might participate in (recieve/offer) salvation through my righteousness. also, as salvation comes to us - a collective/plural liberation - perhaps this parable might just as effectively be applied to our community of faith as we 'journey home'?