09 April 2009

An Allegory

Imagine that you are on a long road.  You're not at the beginning, but there's a lot more of it in front of you than there is behind you. You're carrying a bag, or sack, or rucksack, a weight that's not heavy enough to make you miserable, but a weight that's heavy enough to make you know it would be more pleasant if you could put it down.

Behind you on the road, close enough that you could turn around and walk to it if you were so minded, is a village. It's one of the best and most inviting of villages:  little houses with thatched roofs and cozy yellow light emanating from windows, streaming out of snug rooms.  You know that you could turn around and return to that village, wend your way through the small comforting streets to a given door, knock to be let in, and they'd be glad to see you.  They'd let you put your rucksack down, and they'd give you a cup of tea, probably even a meal.  If you had stories to tell about what you'd seen on your road so far, and how you'd responded to it, they'd love to hear those stories:  in fact, they'd almost certainly have paid attention to many of the same things on the roads they'd travelled, and they'd be thrilled to discuss those things with you.  They'd sit up late into the night talking with you about what you all had seen, and what you thought about it.

At the same time as you know that, though, you also know a couple of other things.  You know that for you that house is like a home, and the time you spend there, the topics you talk about and the way you talk about them, are special.  The people who live there are like family to you - or maybe like the family you would have picked, if you'd been given the option.  You also know, however, that for those people you're just a friend of the family, a traveller - one who may rank higher than all other travellers who pass through, but still a traveller, a friend.  And although they love the stories you bring, they don't love them as much as the same stories, or even not-quite-as-good stories, told by members of the family.  You know that, and it makes you sad. The people in that house never tell you you're one of the family - they never pretend - so all your sorrow stems from your own yearning.  You know that if you squint a little, and if you actively ignore certain events and certain knowledges, you can pretend that you're one of the family - but you also know you never will be.  You know that sometimes, perhaps even often as time goes on, the people in that house will act as if you're one of the family, but they'll do it unconsciously, and it won't be significant to them - although it will, of course, make you very happy indeed.

So you have two options:  you can turn around on your road, wend your way back, knock on the door of the warm house, knowing that you would be happy there, but that it would all be based on a lie for you.  You could have the pleasure of sitting at that kitchen table, drinking that tea, laughing over those shared opinions and thinking about and learning from those unshared opinions.  But you would have to know all along that, although the other people in the house are getting from and giving to you the maximum amount of enjoyment they can from you, you are always missing a central chip of the enjoyment you could get from them.  OR you can settle your load more heavily on your back and walk away from the village and the house.  You won't be lying, or always hoping that maybe the people in the house will give you more than, actually, they can.  And there may be another house down the road, someday, where the people will make you one of the family - and it's not as if this house and this family are the perfect house and family; you could keep your chin up and walk down your road thinking those thoughts.  On the other hand, you won't see the people in this house behind you anymore, and you'll walk down your road alone, having lost the pleasure you have in that house.  But that pleasure would always have contained some pain for you.  And this way you'll have your sense of worth -- but not much more. But you won't be lying, and you won't be accepting crumbs when what you really want is the loaf.  But you'll have lost the people in that house.

Here, it would seem, is a dilemma indeed.  Which option, my dearest reader, would you choose?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

what you're looking for is neither on the road nor in the house. you know where it is and its your choice whether you want to go there...

you know who i am :-)