A genuine, generic holy person received an e-mail from a generic person who wanted to know, in order to be approved of by persons and other significant beings, how well one should treat one’s neighbor, as well as who exactly one should consider to be one’s neighbor.
To best explicate the answer, and yet to provide the most widespread applicability and understanding of it, the holy person sent this story, along with an afterword consisting of commentary and a conclusion. Here is the story.
There was once one who was in all respects exactly like you, my dear questioner. This person knew that some people were nicer than others, and others not so nice. There was business this person had to attend to in a town, city or village, which existed on the far side of the very area where all the not-so-nice people had found to be an excellent congregating-place. To their credit, they were persons always interested in meeting new people. Unfortunately, most of them made their living as robbers and thugs. They would collect in groups, jumping out to surprise the unprepared. Their behavior was therefore considered unsporting at best.
Wearing clothing that you, dear questioner, would consider sensible and appropriate for the situation, wound up surrounded by what might have been an even mix of robbers and thugs. Unable to decide what to do, but feeling compelled to do something, the robbers robbed the person of everything including their clothing; after which the thugs beat the same person so badly that it caused a temporary loss of speech. Afterwards, the thugs and robbers, now working together, dumped this unfortunate in the mudhole by the road, left for dead.
Taking the same route a little later, a person very important in the religion, philosophy or life stance that you, dear questioner hold most dear, noticed that the mudhole had an occupant,. and engaging in self-talk, said “That person does not look well, and may need to be helped. I, however, am meeting other very important people and cannot be late. No doubt someone else has already taken care of this problem and notified those who need to know about it.” With that, this important person soon became one with the horizon ahead.
Coming along somewhat behind came someone from your favorite political group, dear questioner. That person, needing to appear at a political function at which clothing lacking a coating of mud was absolutely essential, pretended not to notice the inhabitant of the wallow, who was struggling out of it in a very slow and painful way. “Perhaps this person met up with a variety of inhabitants of this region,” thought our favorite political person, “or perhaps is a local who fell afoul of the local cohort — probably should not have been wherever this occurrence happened, anyway. Or maybe they just like mud.” Noticing the approach of some kind of conveyance, the well-dressed person hoped that whoever was in it would take care of this problem. Thus, a second person soon became one with the horizon ahead.
Up the road came a very large conveyance. In it was every sort of person that you, dear questioner, hates and detests more than anything in the world. As a matter of fact there wasn’t even one single person who was in any way similar to you in looks, politics, goals, virtue, decency, language or other qualities.. Many had the same skin tone as you, my friend, but many were darker, many were lighter, some were of a different shade. Some wished to reform society in ways that you, my questioning friend, know would be abhorrent to you. Others spoke languages that were entirely unfamiliar to you, which you find have a dangerous and frightening sound. Others of them I understand you would find queer-looking in the extreme, or wearing peculiar and inappropriate clothing, by the lights of you and your entire cohort.
Simultaneously, everyone noticed the wounded, naked and mud-encased person struggling out of the mudhole by the side of the road and, just as simultaneously, every last one of them called out “Stop this conveyance!” As one person, they emerged, and every last one of them went to the edge of the mudhole and helped pull that poor soul out of the mud, all of them becoming quite filthy in the process as well. They laid this person on the softest and most comfortable part of the conveyance, offering water, food and blankets as they continued on to the town, village, hamlet or city ahead.
Upon arriving, everyone in this helpful cohort at once walked into the local place where the sick are helped. I understand that they were a very disconcerting sight, with not one of them resembling any other, yet speaking the same words in unison. All spoke at once, offering whatever medium of exchange they had and saying out loud “Please accept my medium of exchange to secure this unfortunate person proper care.” After they had turned to leave, something occurred to them and they turned back around, again speaking the same words together, saying “When I return here from the place I am going, I will bring back more of my medium of exchange and make sure to pay for all charges incurred.”
I wish I could say that the morally curious questioner received some benefit from this curiously circumlocutory parable, but after becoming highly irritated at having been forced to read through an over-long parody of a well-worn yet pithy teaching tale, reported deleting the e-mail before reading the afterword, and then deleted it from the delete folder, this time irrevocably.
Since it would have been no doubt of great value to read in its entirety, I attempted to piece the entire e-mail correspondence back together from the several partially corrupted back-up files, an effort that ultimately failed. The sage’s conclusion, however, has survived. He wrote:
Go thou and do likewise, as soon as you figure out my point amid all this verbiage.
I would like to credit the inspiration of this post to