Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The Incredible Tale of Phineas Schmidt (a Parable)

The world was simmering in a new plague called COVID-19 and people shambled about with masks covering their mouths. Neighbors fell ill and the news buzzed with gloom, contradictions, and fear. 

Phineas decided it was time to run, so he sold everything he owned, gave the money to charities for children, and spent the rest on a plane ticket and a backpack so that he could access the most remote wilderness on Earth. Better to die in the age-old struggle for survival than to perish a the hands of some unseen spectre conjured and sustained by the irresponsibility, ignorance and mishandlings of others. And, perhaps, he might even find happiness some in thre embrace of primeval, shadowy glade, immersed in silence...

The forest was thick and deep, and Phineas took only ways that were unmarked by the boots of men or the hooves of beasts. Some days, he moved mere yards forward, but what did it matter? He'd never have to be on time for anything again. The goal of each day was to simpy to live -- to survive, then to sit by a fire and ponder this most human of accomplishments: another day enscribed in the journal of Time. 

For many days he moved through the bush, knowing, per the map of his mind, that he must be approaching the belly of this forest -- a stretch of uninhabited land that spanned millions of square miles...

One day, he reached a little pond that was shaped very much like a grizzly bear. (In fact, in centuries past, the natives had called it "Bear Cub Lake," but Phineas did not know this.) He took off his pack and paused to drink. He smiled at the shape of this placid tarn. 

Before he put on his pack again, he bent to find a small, white rock, which he picked up and tossed into the cobalt blue. 

As he turned to walk away, a mosquito landed oh his nose, so Phineas squashed it with his hand. He then rubbed his face to be sure there were no more bits of bug gore upon it. Then, he walked away. 

A few weeks later, Phineas lay dead in a field of flowers. At first he'd felt hot; then, he had started coughing and, in his last few moments, gasping for air, he'd fallen in this field of flowers, amazed, as he was fading away, that he could smell none of them, though they surrounded his head in radiant abundance...

How could Phineas have known that, only a few hours before him, a young man who had also fled civilization, had passed that same "Bear Cub" pond, moving through this brief intersection of paths -- the Cartesian X to Phineas's Y; or that said young man had stood there, also admiring the water, and that a bug had flown into his mouth, causing the young man to spit; or that some of the young man's spittle would land on the very rock that Phineas would later pick up, with his bare hand, and throw into the pond before rubbing his face to clear way the body of the smashed mosquito?

Anyway, the last thing Phineas saw was the sky in which he saw a cloud in the shape of a bear. 

The other man hiked on to build a snug cabin in a primeval, shadowy glade next to a chuckling brook and he grew fat on salmon and venison and died in happy isolation -- instantaneously, of a heart attack -- at a very old age, completely unaware that the civilized world had destroyed itself, with weapons and political discord, decades defore... 

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