An Old Man Went Before Heaven
(a fairytale for moderns)
An Old Man went before heaven. Saint Anthony, the Saint of Lost Things, was waiting for him.
“I cannot allow you to pass through the gates until you tell me one good thing you have accomplished in your life.”
The Old Man thought hard for a long time and said, “I held a job for thirty seven years. I always obeyed the company.”
Somewhere in his subconscious the Old Man could hear Heaven’s bulwark peeling with layers of hilarity.
“The job you did never brought any good to anyone, not even yourself.” retorted Saint Anthony
The Old Man began to sweat a little. That little sick feeling that had filled the bottom of his stomach for so many years began to grow into a blaze of discomfort.
“What do you mean? I worked night and day! I worked every holiday, to the disappointment of those around me, until one day I looked up and no one was around me! I cut corners whenever the company asked me to. Don’t you think it was difficult to watch others suffer for my efficiency? Efficiency! Oh how I wish I had never heard that word. How I wish mankind had never brought it into existence! But, I never bucked my responsibility! I held fast to it! I filled my life with it!”
“Tell me about the dreams you gave up.”
“Well, it is so difficult to remember now. Those things were all lost in the flurry of youth. But, one thing I do regretÃ¢Â?Â¦ I had dreamed of traveling. I remember now. I had a map hanging on my wall. I had put red pins into all the places I was going to visit. But of course I needed money to do that. I joined the company when I was only seventeen. I remember that day like it was yesterday. That day I had everything good in life ahead of me. I tried to get away for a little vacation here and there but the company was so much more efficient when I was around. I guess eventually I didn’t have anyone to travel with and so I didn’t go. But, I had friends of course. I chatted with them online at night, when I wasn’t working of course. But, those people were never really the sort of companions a person could go traveling with. You understand. They were distant, just associates really.”
Pitiful tears welled up in the old man’s eyes. His stomach scratched and clawed him like a wild animal.
“Tell me, what did you do for this company? What were your days filled with?”
The Old Man tried to think through his grief. Nothing specific came to mind.
“There were just papers that needed to be read and signed. Every time I looked up my in box was filled with papers. There were so many details. You really wouldn’t understand. My job was very detailed.”
“It was all very detailed or was it just details?”
The Old Man’s face fell as the truth dawned on him.
“It was details, all just details. I hung onto every one of them. I have filled my entire life with details. I lived in a technological age in which my life was consumed by details! My God! What did I become?”
The horrible pain in the pit of the Old Man’s stomach blazed and burned. All those years he had thought it was an ulcer. Who would have thought a person’s conscience was located in their stomach?