Right now I’m reading Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra. I am both and at once intoxicated with Nietzsche’s brilliance and wine. And so, in this state of (not so) divine inspiration, I thought I’d write up a short story about a view on selfishness from a messiah’s perspective. (NOTE: I wrote this a little while ago; it has been in my drafts for a couple of months… I’m not drunk right now, it’s barely lunch time).
Wearing a long worn and holey coat woven of linen, He, the All Knowing, roamed about the village of Albertine without purpose. On his person only a knapsack full of pearls, a bastion, and a yellow cloth wrapped around the folded brows carved into his forehead.
An elderly woman approached him at his feet, in tears.
“Messiah, messiah,” pleaded the old woman, kneeling in the dirt. “I seek your wisdom, for I possess a dilemma that gnaws at my laurels and consumes my faculties,” the old woman shook her head from side to side, looked up to the heavens and cried like a new born, “I beg of you to help me, messiah, this dilemma is driving me to the brink of my sanity. I am afraid that I might soon plunge.”
The messiah rested his knapsack on the dirt beside the woman, lifting her to her feet. “Tell me, my friend, what is it that plagues you?”
The old woman, whose skin as dimpled as the moon and whose heart a heavyset stone of mourning, let her head sink into her hands: “My son,” she cried, “my son wants to leave me and travel the world. He wants to abandon his family. He wants to explore that which rests beyond the bind of our quaint countryside. He wants to venture; he wants to dig. He is selfish. So selfish. I do not know what to do.”
The messiah dove the point of his bastion into the ground and traced a large circle. He then grabbed the woman’s sides and guided her body into the circle’s grasp; the woman obliged without struggle, humbled by the messiah’s contact.
“Tell me, my friend, what is it exactly that worries you.”
The woman looked up at the messiah, incredulity cementing her face.
“Messiah, surely you understand my dilemma well. Not only because you are all knowing, but also because you know, and know well, the dynamic etching my village. Our son is sixteen years old. He must learn, in depth, the fashion of our simple ways. He is to take care of my husband and me, as we grow old and weary. It is his job to keep our company. It is his responsibility to provide for his sisters, his younger brothers, and our farm animals. This is how things work.”
Nodding, his attention fully concentrated, undivided, he said: “Yes, yes, this I understand. I know your village well, and have observed the ways of your people from afar for many years.”
Bursting into a tearful ball, the old woman lamented: “Please then, messiah. Tell me how I can convince my son to stay. Tell me how I can explain to him that he is being selfish, and that his responsibility rests here, with his family. Tell me how I can show him what’s right.”
The messiah, again with his bastion, pointed toward the circle he had drawn. Looking down, the old woman’s head fell to the side in wonder.
“Do you see this circle, my friend?”
The old woman nodded, yes.
“From this circle, you perceive the world. From this circle, the world perceives you.”
The old woman, her vision mystified by salty tears, her face balmy and collapsed, said, “Yes, of course. But what is it that you’re trying to tell me, messiah?”
“Is it selfish for your son to pursue his own destiny, or is it selfish for you to tell him that he shouldn’t?”
The old woman, baffled, shook her head and stomped her foot. “That is ridiculous, messiah. Of course it is he who is the selfish one, for he is abandoning not just me, but our entire family. Our entire people. He has a responsibility to us all, he is the one acting out of selfishness.”
The messiah responded: “But is it not you who demands that he stay? Is it not from your own circle that you implore him to obey your command?”
The old woman, again shaking her head, thanked the messiah for his time and said that she would figure it out for herself. However, as she attempted to step out of the circle engraved in the dirt around her, she could not move. The messiah had bent a barrier to confine her; she was trapped.
“Messiah, messiah. I cannot move,” she said. “What have you done to me?”
The messiah reached into his knapsack and retrieved a lucent pearl, a pulchritudinous pearl that reflected the old woman’s image back to her.
“The question is not what have I done, but rather, what are you doing to your son. Our responsibility lies with who is reflected in eye of this pearl. Show your son this pearl, let him gaze upon it, and the answer you seek shall surface if you are willing to receive the pearl’s message. Though be aware that what each of you sees may vary; it is your responsibility to decipher the pear’s message.”
There, the messiah once more hit his bastion into the hot ground, and the woman was free. Before she fell to her knees to kiss the messiah’s naked foot, the messiah caught the woman mid air and once more lifted her to her feet.
“We are equals, my friend,” said the messiah. “For this reason, stand tall. For if you don’t, the pearl’s answer will elude you, and you and your son shall quarrel until the dawn falls, and the dawn will always fall.”
Confused, the old woman thanked the messiah and returned to her family. Slinging his sack over his shoulder, wedging the bastion under his arm, the messiah continued on in his aimless wander.