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. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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?

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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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