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 Replies

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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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