It Might Be Scripture

It might be scripture if it weren’t true, and so it was moved by the Great Council to purge it from the text lest the people be given reason to doubt. But the people could not read — not the Greek, the Hebrew, or the Latin. And so they made bricks instead, and weapons and ploughshares, knowing these things to be useful, and traded them in the marketplace for bread, silk, and corn.

A man was watching, a philosopher who spent his time sitting and thinking about the way things were. Because he asked so many questions, he had been cruelly beaten, and then barred from attending the Great Council. The world was at war. Every tribe of man distrusted and hated every other tribe, and assumed it had been deceived of its birthright.

Being a wise man and very patient, the philosopher could see quite clearly that all of the tribes thought and wanted the same things. Each tribe thought it was different from the others, and therefore superior and deserving of more — more land, more influence, more wealth, more power.

Within the tribes, greed and inequality formed the foundation of society, and were codified in numerous complicated laws that were put into place by the wealthy and powerful. The laws were used to protect what had been acquired by deceitful means from the masses, who, because they did not understand what had been done to them and had little hope of fighting against it, lived in poverty, fought in wars, and were cast into prison.

This is what the philosopher saw, and yet most people thought him lazy or insane. Some, being naturally more ignorant and arrogant than others, were happy that he had been beaten and proclaimed that he deserved much worse. Others, though they kept it to themselves, envied his courage to question authority. Few, however, lifted a finger to help the philosopher, who had been reduced to begging for his food and had been left without a home.

After many years of watching and suffering, there came a time when the philosopher was too old even to beg. The world was still at war. Countless more laws had come into existence, and each said one thing while meaning another. With his body and eyesight failing, he decided to seek a student, a young man or woman who was eager to understand.

For many days, he had been unable to move, and had been living on sunlight, air, and the meager grasses that grew within his reach. His hope dimmed. Then, from the depths of what he thought must be a dream, he heard the voice of a child, saying softly and with great respect, “May I help you?”

With the last of his strength, the philosopher smiled and said yes.

February 9, 2006

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