Sunday, March 09, 2008

a parable on exits and entrances

I've been reading this book I found in a used bookshop last Feb. 2, when Papa was still in the hospital. It has been helping me cope and come to terms with the struggle of his illness, and then his death, and mama's present illness too, and I hope you find the following parable as healing:

In Why Me?--

From "Gesher Hachayim" by Y. M. Tuckachinsky:

Imagine twins gestating in the mother's womb, speculating and challenging each other with the question, "What will happen to us after we leave the womb?" Since their entire frame of reference is the interior of the womb, there is no way they could conceive through their sense of sight or hearing what their future holds in store for them.

Suppose that one of the twins is a "believer", supported by his traditions that there is a future life in the next world, while the other brother, a "rationalist", accepts only what his logical mind perceives in the here and now. They each take firm stands and debate their respective positions with passion.

Basing his argument on a religious tradition that he is heir to, the believer maintains that when they exit from the womb they will be reborn into a life that is not limiting, that they will eat through their mouths and not be fed through their navels, that they will see a great distance, that they will hear through the funny things on the sides of the head they call ears. Feet will be straightened and they will be walking erect great distances on this planet Earth, in which deep oceans and gentle streams flow, nourishing all living things. Above them will be the wide expanse of heaven containing a golden sun, a silvery moon, and twinkling stars.

The rational twin roars with laughter at his brother, the simpleton. "Incredulous! Are you for real? No one has ever come back from the other side to tell us. It's all a myth. All we know is what our senses perceive, the objective facts that can be tested. Aside from this womb and its limits, the rest is subjective and has no basis in reality. What do you think will happen when you die?" presses the skeptic.

"Clearly," his believing brother answers, "when we exit the space of this world, we will enter into another world."

"Fool!" snaps his brother. "You will fall into an abyss from which you will never return. You will be annihilated as if you've never been."

Suddenly the water in the womb bursts. The rounded womb begins to shake and writhe. The believer makes a precipitous descent, is expelled, and gone from his brother's view.

The rationalist is shocked by his brother's fate and bemoans the tragedy that has befallen him. As he laments his brother's misfortune, he hears a piercing cry and loud shouts from the darkness into which his brother has disappeared. His fears of a terrible end are confirmed.

The skeptical brother is unaware that his supposed dead brother has entered into an exciting new world and that his own turn is near. The wail that he heard was a cry of a baby's health and the commotion was a chorus of congratulations from the doctors and nurses.

From the limited perspective of the fetus left temporarily behind in the womb, his brother had indeed died. He had been brutally torn from the unfamiliar world that provided protection, warmth, and nurture and hurled into the black pit of oblivion and annihilation.

From a larger view, that same event is called "birth". It represents a transition from a smaller world to a larger world, from a world bounded by the womb, where it passively received, to a wide, wide world where activity and free choice and responsibility open one to limitless possibilities.
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