The Master and the Pilgrim
The master listened as the young man who stood before him was introduced. Despite all he'd been through, all he'd endured, he still showed a hint of nervousness, or was it because of all that he'd invested in this moment that his lip quivered ever so slightly and his forehead was dotted tiny beads of sweat. He was disciplined, had to give him that. His stance was perfectly steady, his gaze did not shift.
"Thank you brother." The master said excusing the devoted priest who'd escorted the young man this far. It was as many words as anyone had heard him speak. He led by listening as he sat upon his mat in deep contemplation for hours at a stretch.
Now, alone in the room with a pilgrim who had been watched by all over the last two years, since it was first noticed that he was making it through the ordeals more rapidly than any other in the history of the faith. That it seemed he would make it all the way was exciting beyond measure, but that he would do it without ever once having to repeat a trial inspired a sort of fanaticism amongst the throng of believers, usually not prone to such emotion.
"So, you've made it through every ordeal?"
"Uh… wow. Congratulations, that's… that's amazing."
The disciplined and intense young man stood perfectly still. He was not asked a question and so, he did not offer a response.
"Um, okay… listen, the thing is, it's great that you got here, that you made it, we all applaud you. I look forward to finding you a great place within the ministry and I think its safe to say, you'll be well compensated for your… your um… your ministry."
The two men sat in intense silence. The young man began to wonder if this was another test, another ordeal. He stood, still and stared straight ahead. He would pass it.
"Uh, that's it. Thanks. Look, I'm not playing or speaking in riddles or anything, we're cool here. Let's see if we can't find you a prayer mat eh? I'll call Brother Kelly back in," and as the master took a deep breath, prepared to holler for his most faithful dedicated follower to return the young man spoke.
"I need to know. What does it all mean? I went through all of those ordeals, the night of one hundred odors, the week of truly awful films, and I still don't get it. I'm sorry, but I just, I just don't feel any closer to understanding what it all means; Why I'm here, why I exist, why here exists."
"Oh, that, yeah, well... um... Meaning is meaningless in the eyes of a goat. He just wants to eat your sweater."
"Okay, look kid, I'm gonna level with you. It's really quite easy. It doesn't mean jack. It's all biological imperative."
"I don't understand?"
"Biological imperative. It's about progeny living on, a bit of you living on. It's what the plants are all about, the ants too, the birds, and us. We just want to make something that carries on."
"So that's your great wisdom? Just have a bunch of babies!"
"No, no, no. Kid you're getting all worked up. Listen, it might be your babies, or it might be your ideas, the influence you peddle. The books, art, music, poetry, technology, whatever your thing is man. You want to make it and you want it to live on."
"No it's not."
"No, really it's not."
"Look, if that's what its all about, then why be moral. Why not rape and kill and plunder? As long as it's for the good of me and mine it's all good yeah?"
"It would seem that way wouldn't it?"
The young man looked particularly distressed and disappointed.
The master continued hastily, "But no, it's not really that way... because, you see... Well for instance, lets say you write a book. You're book won't be read anymore if the neighbors you piss off are burning down our libraries right? You're kids won't fair to well if the planet can't support life, will they? A more peaceful and healthy planet is the most selfish thing we can hope for, for me and mine, you and your's, them and there's. In the long term doing whats best for us all has its rewards."
The two men stood, staring at each other, one smiling, one not as a breeze carried the scent of burning Pop Tarts from another room. At last the pilgrim spoke.
"So that's it?"
"Well then why the two dozen nights of itchy bedding or the three hours of cable News viewing. I suffered through "The ordeals" so that you could tell me, biological imperative?"
"No. I didn't need to tell you biological imperative any more than I needed to tell the newts. You were already livin' it. Look, we never meant for you to get through all that crap. That stuff was there to not kill you, while making you stronger, and keeping you praying and paying. Fact is you're either smart enough to get that being a dick is bad news or your not and we weren't going to do much to help you, but hopefully we keep some of the dicks busy for awhile."
"You believe in some kind of pre-ordainment or something? You don't believe that people can learn?"
"Well… not quite. Let me put it this way kid. A higher level intelligence has not yet really proven itself to be a biologically successful trait. Of course I, much like the average dodo bird, think that my traits are the ones that should live on, and so I do the best for me and mine as you say, but the truth is there are a-lot of dumb people out there and they're pretty good at taking care of the biological imperative, at least in the short run. We'll see. Just do what you can, and we'll see, eventually."
And now the master, whose name is actually Ron, noticed his guest clenching his jaw and fist, tears forming in his eyes. Maybe he'd overestimated this pilgrim.
"Hey, look buddy, we're going to give you a good position here and there'll be plenty of time for more study. Maybe I'm wrong. Shit, maybe there is something to be found. You'll have plenty of time to find it."
It seemed it was too late for these words. The tears came, the shoulders hunched. "It's meaningless. It's all scam. I should tell everyone. I'd love to see you off your damn mat, standing in the unemployment line." And then the silence was back. The two men sat, neither uttering so much as a word for an excruciating fifteen minutes.
At last, the young pilgrim spoke in a calm, peaceful voice, "So... this position in the ministry… is there a good retirement plan? And what about flex time?"