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First Person Personal

My personal views on a variety of matters ranging from popular culture to quantum physics to religion to politics to history to bushido to ... well, whatever I feel like, really. Warning: we all have agendas. Trust no one totally, myself most specifically included. Email me at wbrerwolf at gmail.com

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Parable of the Towers

Let me tell you a story.

There once was a great and mighty country. This country had built many wonderful things, not the least being their enormous buildings, two of which were the tallest ever made. People called these the Twin Towers and every day thousands of people came there to conduct their labors in comfort and safety.

It happened that there were those who believed that the people of this great nation were evil and were spreading their evil across the world. Some of these men took over by force a few of the great airplanes whereby people traveled from place to place. Now, such things had happened before and had always been done in such a way as to allow the terrorists to take hostages for ransom or to trade for prisoners or simply to gain attention for their causes.

This time was different.

This time, the planes were used as weapons.

Two of the planes stabbed into the Towers, and all those on board both planes were slain in a heartbeat, along with those folk who chanced to be where the planes struck.

But the Towers had been built well, and most of those who labored in the Towers were not slain, nor even greatly injured.

And those workers argued amongst themselves, some saying: "Come, let us take the elevators and swiftly descend to the streets and hurry home to tell our friends and our families that we are well and have not been slain."

Others spoke against this, saying, "Even though the Towers are mighty and well built, no one knows how badly they are damaged. It may be that the elevators might fail, leaving us trapped in the heart of the building. We should take the stairs which were prepared against such an hour of need and go down in safety."

Yet others said, "Yes, but that way is long, and many of us are too weak or crippled to travel it. Further, there is smoke and dust and we know not whether the way down is blocked. We should take the stairs indeed, but travel up instead of down, and go to the roof where helicopters will surely come and carry us to safety."

Finally, some said, "Truly, this is a terrible day, but our leaders will tell us what to do if we are in real danger. We should return to our labors until we are told otherwise."

And outside the Towers, there were brave men and women who spoke amongst themselves, saying, "Behold, the Twin Towers have been sorely stricken. Our kindred inside them will need help and guidance to reach safety. Let us go into the Towers and labor to save those who yet live."

And as they said, so they did.

And on that day many died according to their choices, yes, even those who piloted the planes to their doom and many of those who rushed into the Towers to save others.

But many were likewise saved.

And no man knew in advance whether his choices led him to safety or to death.

Likewise, no man knows for sure which road will lead him to Heaven, and which to Hell. Indeed, those who stole the great planes apparently believed that that was their road to Paradise. Each man and woman must listen to his or her innermost self and decide his or her actions accordingly. For there comes a time when no book, be it the Bible or the Quoran or the Torah or the Marine Corps Handbook can be used as a map to lead one through life. The only maps that matter are engraved in our souls, and each one is unique.

Sermons are meaningless noise. Church doctrine is mindless custom. Laws may coerce, but cannot lead. Each one of us must decide what to do and how to live and, insofar as our choices harm no one else, no one should speak against another's choices. None of us, none of us know which is the best road to take; we can only do as our hearts and souls tell us to.

And we can hope that, given enough choices, some of us will be saved.

People who were convinced that they had the one, true way to live have given many great horrors to the world. The Inquisition comes to mind - rather than mindless torture and slaughter, many of the people involved were trying desperately to save those that they killed. Consider - if there is only one right way and if you know what it is, are you not obligated to lead others to it? Are you not required to do anything you can, up to and including torture, to persuade others of their error? Is it not better to sacrifice the flesh, which must perish in any event, to save the immortal soul?

Can you understand how terribly tempting the desire to do good to others regardless of whether they want good done to them or not can be?

In many ways a tyrant concerned only with his own comfort, wealth and power can be considerably less harmful than a charismatic leader determined to destroy evil wherever it resides and however it appears.

For evil, like good, exists in every human heart.

Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha, Mamoinides: each led by example and gave simple rules for their followers.

So did Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, and Pol Pot.

And each of these men had many followers, for many believed that these were the leaders who would lead them to a better place. In hindsight, the choice is clear; at the time each person had to make his own choice, ignorant of what his choice might lead to.

So I will not speak against the terrorists for following their beliefs, even though they slew thousands, for they surely died for what they believed.

But I will say that I do not believe as they believe.

Indeed, I believe that what they did is sin in its purest form, harming all and helping none, not even themselves.

I believe that, as a Christian, my duty is to understand what is going on in the world and share my understanding with others. If someone is wrong, I need to speak up and point out his errors. If I am wrong, I trust that those who recognize my error will strive to correct me. All of us make mistakes; all of us need to be corrected from time to time. Only madness and evil come from a belief that any idea we embrace is flawless and is to be applied to everyone regardless of the cost in human suffering.

One size most certainly does not fit all.