Crossroads: A Parafable

crossroads.jpgIt hap­pened that three men died at the same time. Since this oc­curred in such a syn­chro­nized man­ner, they de­cid­ed to trav­el to­geth­er to the realm of the dead.

The road was very long. Eventually the three men came to a cross­roads, one road wend­ed its way in­to a dark val­ley, the oth­er path led to a glam­orous moun­tain. They men part­ed ways, one went to­ward the moun­tain, one head­ed for the val­ley and the third stayed put, con­tent where he was. 

When the first man present­ly ar­rived at a moun­tain mead­ow he was a bit tired from his ex­er­tions and need­ed re­fresh­ment. Luckily, a well-ap­point­ed cot­tage was near­by, which he ap­proached and en­tered. Immediately he was seized by dev­ils and thrown in­to a cookpot.

The sec­ond man took much longer to reach the val­ley, be­cause his trail of­ten seemed to dis­ap­pear or lead through dan­ger­ous ar­eas. When he was com­plete­ly ex­haust­ed he chanced up­ong a rude hut. He en­tered and was im­me­di­ate­ly ac­cost­ed by an an­gel and led to a ban­quet.

The third man quick­ly grew quite bored sit­ting by the fork, but still couldn’t make up his mind which path to take. Eventually he turned in­to a stone.


This re­al­ly isn’t a sto­ry about re­wards for liv­ing a good life or do­ing good deeds. I specif­i­cal­ly tried to avoid giv­ing that im­pres­sion by not plac­ing any sort of judg­ment on the folks in­volved. This is more the re­sult of some­thing the slight­ly bum­bling Fr. Tom said at Mass on Sunday. I don’t re­mem­ber ex­act­ly what it was, since he doesn’t ar­tic­u­late his thoughts as pre­cise­ly as the pas­tor, but it trig­gered a thought that faith is al­ways a strug­gle or that one should nev­er as­sume that the work is done. A Christian who be­lieves that they have won sal­va­tion is guilty of hubris. AH! That is what Fr. Tom said… an ap­pli­ca­tion of hubris [over­ween­ing pride] that I had not thought of. Hubris used as an as­sump­tion of strong faith, good Christianity or sal­va­tion. Of course, this is al­so an­oth­er in­stance of Catholic ‘you’ll nev­er be good enough’-ness, but it got the gears turn­ing.

I sup­pose I’m try­ing to make a point that a per­son [or in this case read­er of the parafa­ble] should nev­er as­sume that faith is ad­e­quate. Or may­be slight­ly broad­er, that what is right and what is wrong are al­ways as­sump­tions. That, if one be­lieves in God, judg­ment, moral­i­ty and re­ward are things we as­sume we know about, de­serve, etc. So hope­ful­ly the read­er as­sumed that the guy head­ing to the fan­cy-pants moun­tain was go­ing to run in­to groovy­ness while the dark­ling val­ley was go­ing to lead to cer­tain doom.

This might be in op­po­si­tion to the rel­a­tiv­i­ty I wrote about last week. It might dis­sim­i­late too much. But then again, I think I might have un­der­stood that in­her­ent­ly by hav­ing the third man be stuck in a pur­ga­to­ry of in­de­ci­sive in­de­ci­sion. Hm.

13 thoughts on “Crossroads: A Parafable

  1. i didn’t re­al­ly think of it in those terms… and i think you are read­ing some­thing in­to it that i didn’t re­al­ly in­tend to say. i’d call it a flaw in the sto­ry.

    then again, who knows what af­ter-death is like… per­haps it could work that way. or may­be they on­ly think they are mak­ing choic­es and are ac­tu­al­ly now pre­des­tined af­ter death…

    or per­haps their trip was mere­ly an act­ing out of how they ac­tu­al­ly lived their lives? since there is no back­sto­ry given or any mo­ti­va­tion given for their choic­es, all of this is pos­si­ble.

    I’m not re­al­ly try­ing to say any­thing de­fin­i­tive with this, my goal was to make folks think.

  2. I would have to agree with the idea that on­ce you die…THAT’S IT. Do not pass go,do not col­lect $200. You have your en­tire life to de­cide how you are go­ing to live it. If you are go­ing to be­lieve in God or not. Then when you die,you are judged on how you lived your life. Not just if you are a good per­son and you did good things,but if you were a loy­al fol­low­er of God. So I would have to think that the sto­ry is a re­flec­tion on the lives they have led. It is al­ready pre­de­ter­mined what path they will choose and the fates that await them there. There is noth­ing they can do af­ter they die to change that. Just my opin­ion.

  3. Why does the road of ex­cess (or glam­our, if you wish), al­ways lead to some­thing dev­il­ish?

  4. And just as a friend­ly correction,I think you meant to say “Parable” in­stead of “Parafable” since a para­ble is a sim­ple sto­ry meant to tell a moral or re­li­gious lesson. Which is what that sto­ry is. I don’t even think ‘Parafable’ is a word. And al­so I think the road to ex­cess in the sto­ry lead­ing to some­thing dev­il­ish is kind of meant to re­flect the fact that as far as God goes..you are sup­posed to be a hum­ble per­son. Because ba­si­cal­ly the things you have while you are alive re­al­ly mean noth­ing. They’re just things. You’re sup­posed to live you life with simplicity,because lead­ing your life in ex­cess means that you are tak­ing your fo­cus away from your path to God. Again,that’s just my opin­ion.

  5. i in­vent­ed the word parafa­ble, com­bin­ing para­ble and fa­ble to­geth­er, be­cause i don’t think the lit­tle sto­ry is ex­act­ly ei­ther of ‘em.

    thanks for the com­ments! i’m dig­ging your re­spons­es.

  6. It was a rhetor­i­cal ques­tion. The road of ex­cess gen­er­al­ly sym­bol­izes temp­ta­tion of the mor­tal world, sin, etcetera. 

    I guess my point was that the sto­ries them­selves have be­come ter­ri­bly pre­dictable. Predictable fa­bles aren’t re­al­ly ap­plic­a­ble to most peo­ple any­more. They all seem a dif­fer­ent plot with the same moral at­tached to the end.

  7. I see your point. I guess I per­son­al­ly like para­bles be­cause it teach­es you lessons in sim­ple eng­lish. They give you sit­u­a­tions that you can re­late to in­stead of read­ing hard to un­der­stand scrip­tures in the Bible. Explaining the­ol­o­gy in terms I can un­der­stand. For example,I own the book ‘The Parables of Peanuts’ that us­es the comic strip to tell cer­tain moral sto­ries. Also,they al­so make you think. They force you to look be­yond the sto­ry it­self and see the re­al mean­ing be­hind it.

  8. Perhaps I am miss­ing some­thing, but the fact that ac­tive choic­es (and pas­sive choic­es) are tak­en AFTER death in your parafa­ble is throw­ing me off a bit. Wouldn’t one as­sume that faith is more a mat­ter of the MATERIAL world and that the choic­es (the jour­neys to­wards val­leys or mead­ows or choos­ing to stay in one place) are re­al­ly made THEN? Or do you mean to im­ply some­thing about faith car­ry­ing on in­to the next life?

    Because wouldn’t the choic­es (lack of choic­es) we make in this life to­wards our faith just be played out in the next life rather than be­ing test­ed even more? Isn’t that the whole IDEA of the af­ter-life?

  9. ok so my take on it is slight­ly dif­fer­ent:
    I think the road to the moun­tain is the easy path for those whom much is given, or for those who think that just be­ing rightoues and be­ing around like-mind­ed peo­ple will get them to heav­en.

    Whereas the per­son who goes down the dark­er road is some­body who is ei­ther born in­to a trou­bled life or choses to do good works in a dan­ger­ous area (like be­ing a re­lief work­er, etc.). 

    The guy who can’t de­cide is some­body who, while they might mean well, does noth­ing to help, nor do they have pre­ten­tion to think they are bet­ter. Their in­de­ci­sive­ness leads to their un­do­ing.

    In sum: Just be­ing good isn’t enough, you have to en­gage the world and LIVE life.

  10. i thought the path of ex­cess was bad be­cause you’re sup­posed to give any ex­cess you have to the church so that they can, you know, “put in a good word for you” us­ing their di­rect tele­phone line to god.

    i agree with jmay’s take on it though.

  11. i think its in­ter­est­ing that peo­ple are read­ing the moun­tain path as the path of ex­cess, con­sid­er­ing ‘glam­orous’ is the on­ly word i use re­gard­ing the moun­tain. i used glam­orous quite in­ten­tion­al­ly in the sense of “An air of com­pelling charm, ro­mance, and ex­cite­ment, es­pe­cial­ly when delu­sive­ly al­lur­ing. I sup­pose I was try­ing for a sense that the moun­tain was not ex­act­ly what it seemed to be, but it seems more peo­ple are read­ing ‘glam­orous’ in terms of rich­ness, priv­i­lege and he­do­nism.

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