To Love > To Coexist: A Parable

Long ago, there was a small village crammed right up against a menacing wood on three sides and cliffs high above the ocean on the other. The villagers had no idea why their town existed in such a precarious place, but they accepted it as just the way things had always been.

Each year, the cliffs crumbled a bit more, and the villagers had to give up a bit more of their land. The villagers had talked about cutting down the trees for more room, but, secretly, they were afraid of going into the darkness. And, anyway, they didn’t have saws or axes.

So, this crumbling went on. But, you see, the villagers had something more important to worry about. They wanted to make sure that everyone lived peacefully together. Sure, they had their disagreements. Some people liked to wake up early, and some preferred to stay up late. Some ate carrots, and some hated them. But they coexisted. That was their highest virtue.

One day (as is so often the case in such stories), a man named Peter woke up and had a strange idea. He realized that he and all the others could just leave the village. It may not seem like much to you, but for the people of the village, leaving just wasn’t something you did. You coexisted, but you didn’t leave.

But this new idea gripped Peter. He thought of nothing else, and he knew it could save many people from the encroaching cliffs. So, he started telling people about it.

At first, only Peter’s family listened. Some of them thought his idea was pretty good. Others laughed. A few even got ticked. But they had to coexist; so, the disgruntled listeners let him have his crazy fantasy. For a while.

But, then, Peter had another funny thought. He felt something warm bubble up in his gut. Suddenly, he didn’t want the other villagers to fall off the cliffs one day. He had to do something. So, he started telling people that his idea was the only way to be saved from the coming disaster. What was worse, he even had other people talking crazy like that. Dozens of people agreed with him and shared this idea all over the place.

Eventually, those who simply wanted to coexist got the mayor to make Peter stop talking. Of course, they didn’t say he couldn’t talk—that wouldn’t be tolerant of them. Instead, they made a new law that said anyone wanting to share ideas had to have a permit. Said permit had to come from the mayor, who only gave permits once every year. He was fresh out whenever Peter asked.

Meanwhile, the crumbling cliffs had reached the first few houses at the edge of the village. Peter, who couldn’t help himself, tried again to get those living at the edge of the village to leave. They refused, and, in fact, complained about Peter to the mayor.

After having his tolerance pushed to the limits of what any tolerant person should have to bear, the mayor finally had Peter thrown out of town with his followers. Peter didn’t stop trying, though. From the woods, he convinced a few others in town that leaving was the only chance. These new believers would share this message until they, too, were tossed out.

Eventually, just as Peter had warned, the village and the villagers all fell into the sea.

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