The Bite Stuff

A blog about paleontology, paleoecology, and the problems involved therein. You will see me discuss the issues of diet, teeth, taxonomy, and the reconstruction of biomes and dietary conditions in a host of extinct organisms, and even those animals that have no teeth.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

A Parable On Two Doors

Prof. P.Z. Myers has a post over at Pharyngula from last March (over a week ago!), discussing a parable on the choice of two doors. There are some obvious symbolic inferences, but I was not satisfied by the given scenarios, which only seem to attest to a particular bias on the part of the author on how to choose between two apparent positive options (though the description quickly diverged into one being more positive than another, obviating the given choices we are being asked to make) . I chose to muddy the waters a little by recasting the parable.

The parable begins:

A man named George comes into a chamber with two doors before him. Before each door is a man dressed in a white robe. Each man is identical save for an ornament around their neck. The first man wears a gold key with ornate designs in the handle, while the second man wears a silver key without any ornamentation. The doors they stand before are also distinct, though identical in size; the first is made of a golden brown wood giving off a soothiung scent, covered in fine brass filligree. The second door is made of a fine paper mesh covered in scroll work and small lines that, upon closer inspection, would reveal intricate writing, and the door's frame is a light cork and balsa.

George, curious, steps forward, choosing at random the first filligreed door and the man before it. "What are these doors?" he asks.

The man with the golden key about his neck steps forward, and, bowing his head, answers: "Truth."

George, never one to accept things too simply, walks over to the second door and asks the same question. It's guardian steps forward and responds, "Truth."

George ponders this for a moment. "Surely both doors cannot have the same thing behind them?"

The first man answers, "Light derives from the candleflame, so that in the presence of light, one knows there is a candleflame. Look, and you will see."

George turns to the second man, who answers "Blindfold a man, and he can feel the flame. Is this faith? Take the blindfold off, and you will know."

"What must I do to go through those doors?" George asks.

The first man answers, "I will escort you. There are pitfalls in the path, and I am knowledgeable of them. Without my aid, you will stumble."

George asks him, "What is at the end of the path?"

"Truth. There is peace and light, joy and no suffering."

George turns to the second man, who answers, "You must go alone. I do not know the path, therefore my guidance would be as youthfully unknowing as yours. What lies beyond this door, you must find for yourself."

"Have you been through his door?" George asks the first man, guesturing toward the second door.

"I have no need, for I am at peace with where I am," he answers.

George turns to the second man, who answers, "I have looked through there, I did not find the path so challenging, but I found myself curious, and there was nothing to see."

George looked at the first man. "It is true," he said. "There is nothing beyond the door to see. It is a place where there is both everything and nothing. Yet, as I said, there is joy and peace. There is no suffering beyond this door, if you are but guided to its end. But consider, beyond his door, there is nothing as well."

The second man responds, "There is nothing only because we stand here. Neither of us has been through the door to investigate. Would you listen to a man who says each leaf that falls from the oak is the same? Would you listen to a man who says that each leaf he has seen fall even from a single oak is different? One must consider for himself."

The first man responds, "It is through revelation and guidance that danger and pitfalls are avoided. How else to live in a words of flames and tigers?"

The second man responds, "Should I trust the flame that does not burn? How should I consider the flame but through all of it? Do you know the flame burns or the tiger bites without someone being burnt or bitten? Were you guided to this, or felt it yourself? It is through experience and living that one learns."

The first man responds, "Yet through such living there is pain, strife, suffering, death. Why live through such horrors and instead seach unity and peace? Converge, collect, and reconcile. The world is danger, thus guidance is required to gain peace. Absolution cannot be sought and learned, it must be given, revealed to the consolate man, that he may be at peace."

The second man responds, "The world has pain and suffering, yes, but there is joy and life. Consider my hands, they are calloused, and this comes from much toil. But for me, my works are my own, and I was not given these callouses without effort. Would you be lazy and slothful to be given something without question?"

The first man responds, "What would you do when all effort finds you nothing? Where is the goal of life? My path has but one goal, and I have been there and there is peace and joy. Would you strive and never gain?"

The second man responds, "My goal is life. A goal need not be concrete and placed so as to touch. It is no game for sport. A goal can be anything, the measure of effort, the product of toil. But what of this door? Why would I know what lies beyond, for I have never been? Would that you joined me to discover?"


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