Monday, March 27, 2006

An Allegory

Once upon a time there were two brothers. The older brother was not terribly bright, but had a temper and was quick to resort to physical means of showing his disapproval. The younger brother was a more sensitive sort at heart, but was quite insecure from having to live in the shadow of his older brother's physical prowess and from the beatings he had been subjected to by him over the years. Beatings which only got more severe as the years went on.

Hearing his brother's raucous friends, the younger brother thought he needed to be more like him to be popular. But the truth was that most people preferred the younger brother because of his kind and caring manner. Indeed, his desire to be like his older brother only seemed to alienate those who genuinely liked him for who he was. When his brother would lash out and call him a wimp or, wose yet, gay, he would stare silently, wounded, off into the distance wishing he were more like his brother.

The older brother had a bad habit of slamming heavy objects down upon the floor in anger and as a result, the wooden boards were dented and damaged, the finish worn off in many places. Everyone who saw the floor of their home thought that it was such a shame that a once beautiful hardwood floor had come to this state of disrepair.

The older brother, seeing a nail sticking up from the floor board declared that before such a nail would cut his unsuspecting stocking clad foot, the brothers would take care of the floor. The younger brother thought to himslef that the floor would not be in such poor condition if it were not for the short-sighted belligerance of the older brother, but said nothing lest he risk subjecting himself once more to his rage. He would go along with whatever plan the older brother would devise.

The older brother, not being one to plan, came home with paint that he would use to cover the floor. It would make the problems dissapear in one quick coat he assured everyone. It would be simple to apply and stand up to years of wear.

But it turned out that he had bought the wrong sort of paint. And he had the wrong sort of brushes. And it would not adhere to the treated wood in large areas of the floor. But the younger brother said nothing.

So the brothers painted, and painted, and painted. After three hours, the brothers realized that they had painted themselves into a corner of the room from which they could not move. Looking out over the room, the floor had splotches of paint in some areas, none in others. The gashes in the floor held puddles of paint that refused to dry. The floor no better than before, indeed, some might opine that it looked worse.

The brothers could not continue painting, they were trapped. The younger brother suggested walking out of the room across the wet paint even though he knew that they would have to tred upon their work, destroying the few spots that were evenly covered. The older brother angrily yelled that the younger brother was betraying the family. No one could deny, he argued, that the floor had been in terrible shape before they started. "You want us to go back to that terrible floor?! The floor that posed a threat to our feet? Why do want our children to suffer cuts and possibly infections, gangrene? Do you hate this family this much?"

They could not keep painting; the more they painted, the tighter a corner they were in. They could not leave, it would leave the floor in worse shape yet. They could not just leave it as it is. When the younger brother got angry and said that it was all the fault of older brother. The older brother said that this was no time to play the blame game, that what they really needed was to look forward and determine what to do next. If the younger brother did not have a better idea, the older brother said, then his idea of continuing to paint would have to be the plan.

The younger brother was listening to his heart beat. His stomach felt queazy. He could not stand up to his big brother, yet he knew that continuing on this path would only make things worse. He grabbed his kness and rocked in the corner sobbing quietly.