Saturday, April 25, 2009

Three Men and a Mountain


Once three men stood before a great and strange mountain.

All three men faced the ominous task of climbing the mountain.

The first man saw the mountain and said, "This mountain is too great for us to climb. It is too wide for us to circumnavigate, and too high for us to scale."

The second man was blind and said, "I do not see the mountain."

The third man saw the mountain but said to the other two, "The mountain is only an illusion; the mountain is not real. Even if the mountain is real, it is only temporarily so. If we wait long enough, the mountain will change with the tides or floods or winds, and then we can climb the mountain or detour around it with little problem, or perhaps the mountain is truly as I say, merely an illusion, and will completely disappear and become the faint etching of a faded dream upon our memories."

The mountain that rises before the three men is Evil. Respectively, the three men who stand before the mountain of Evil represent the theist and two kinds of atheists.

The first man is the theist who sees the mountain of evil and admits his impotency to navigate and scale the mountain. "This mountain is too great for us to climb," he says, "and its expanse so great that we cannot get over or around it. Someone Else must do that." The theist knows the mountain is there, but he cannot explain the mountain, or how it came to be.

The second man, the blind man, is the typical atheist who, while denying the existence of God, is blind to the mountain Evil. He does not see that, if he says in his heart, "there is no God," to be logically consistent he must also declare "there is no Evil"; but he is blind to his own illogic; he does not see the philosophical contradiction; he is blind to the ominous mountain that overshadows his boastful claim.

The third man is the logically consistent atheist. He is somewhat reticent to admit the truth of his convictions, but he recognizes that, if he admits the existence of Evil as an absolute entity, he must therefore admit its opposite, absolute Good, for absolute Evil demands the corollary absolute Good; and absolute Good demands the absolute existence of God. The consistent atheist recognizes this trilemma, and with cavalier boldness he decries the mountain as "only a temporary illusion, or an ultimate chimera." To him, Evil is at most only relative, not absolute; Evil is defined by individual or social opinions and, depending upon the tides of time, the floods of circumstances, and the winds of change, the mountain of Evil will erode or evaporate from one generation to the next. The logically consistent atheist knows, embarrassingly, that Hitler and Jeffrey Dahmer were temporarily Evil only in relative individual and social terms; exterminating six million Jews, and murdering one’s homosexual lovers and eating their flesh, are Evil only in terms of prevailing opinion as to what is right and wrong. After all, should not the strong survive when nature itself is "red in tooth and claw"? The consistent atheist knows that Raskolnikov was correct when he said,

"Without God, everything is permissible,"

or Kurtz in the Heart of Darkness,
"Exterminate the brutes! Kill them all!"
Where is this Raskolnikov, this Kurtz, this Wise and Fearless One who says,
"Evil is no-thing, just a charming chimera, an elusive illusion, an imaginary mountain."
I have seen the blind man standing before the mountain; he is all around the mountain on every side but cannot see the mountain.

I have heard that the third man also stands before and around, and even on top of the mountain, the Wise and Fearless One with perfect vision of the relative height and depth, the illusory length and breadth of the mountain . . .

I have heard a rumor that he exists, but . . .

I do not see him, and . . .

I do not hear him, only his faint echo . . .

Could it be that this third man, this Wise and Fearless One, is himself an illusion?

1 comment:

Hippie Fringe said...

There is a hardwired equilibrium we all understand well. Whether or not we see the mountain or convince ourselves that it is an illusion, we still sense the up and down of things.

The first sounds we hear in our mothers womb are the steady rhythm of her heart beating and the soothing shh of air moving in and out of her lungs. Whether or not we see the mountain, we know the sound of our own lungs and heart laboring in the thin air of depravity. We know the steady comfort of love and the erratic distress of hate.

Surely every Kurtz knows the foreboding descent into madness; every Dahmer knows the frenzied pulse of darkness; every Hitler knows the frantic gasps of the hunted beast.

Every mountain has its peak and I think we all know intuitively that the journey is destructive and ultimately futile.