Monday, January 16, 2006

The Parable of the Three Men In The Boat

Once there were three men: a Paranoid, a Journalist, and a Cynic. They were firm friends and one day they decided to go on a fishing trip together. So, they hired a boat and took it to the nearest harbour and sailed away.
As they drew away from the shore, the Paranoid became increasingly nervous, and began to fidget and twitch. This caused the Journalist to ask him what was wrong; but he replied, nothing, and all three men continued to fish. But as they continued to sail ahead, the Paranoid became more and more nervous, until finally, the Cynic could not stand it any more, and asked his friend what was wrong.
"Oh, I am so worried!" wailed the Paranoid then.
"Why are you worried?" asked the Journalist.
"I am worried that we will sail off the Edge of the World!" he cried.
"Pish!" scoffed the Cynic. "That is a mere story!"
"What's wrong with mere stories?" huffed the Journalist with his hands on his hips.
"They are invented by men like you to scare men like him so that men like him will buy papers written by men like you!" sneered the Cynic, pointing first at the Journalist, then at the Cynic, then at the Journalist again so that he tied his arms up in a very pretty knot indeed.
"We report on stories of interest and importance. Ours is a noble profession!" said the Journalist, lifting his head high.
And with that, the three men continued to fish.

Next day, the Paranoid man had taken to leaping out of his seat at sudden moments, and looking wildly around.
"What on earth is the matter with you now?" asked the Cynic. But the Paranoid did not reply.
A little later, the Journalist sat down with the Paranoid, and spoke very gently to him, and said to him, "Tell me, my friend, what is on your mind. It's no use saying that you are carefree, and have no worries in the world, for we can see that, laugh as you will, there is something great troubling you."
At this, the Paranoid burst into tears, and nodded his head; and it was not until he bought a handkerchief out of his pocket, and dabbed at his eyes, that he was able to continue.
"It's just, I am dreadfully afraid that, as the day draws on, we draw ever nearer to the Edge of the World. And then, we will fall off! And what will happen to us after?"
"Not that story again!" snapped the Cynic.
"But my friend," continued the Journalist, patiently; "There is a mounting body of evidence to suggest that what he says could be true."
"Posh!" scoffed the Cynic. "They are stories invented by men like you too ..."
"No!" said the Journalist then, waving his hand in the air and cutting his friend off mid-sentence. "They are scientific facts, gathered together by a body of respected experts who have made it their life-work to study the World and what we should do about it!"
"He's right," sniffed the Paranoid, wiping at his nose. "And even if it isn't true, we should at least do something about it!"
"Ha!" laughed the Cynic then. "You believe that we should Do Something Now to Prevent Something that Might Not Happen!"
"A good point, my friend," said the Journalist. "Thank you for making a valued contribution to this debate."
And with that, the three men continued to fish.

By the next day, relations on the boat had become rather strained. The Paranoid, when he was not fishing, huddled in a corner of the boat, whimpering and shuddering, with his arms wrapped around his legs. The Cynic, with his face turned away from the other two, sat at the other hand, nonchalantly continuing to fish. And the Journalist walked from one to the other, taking notes for an article that he intended to write on the subject when he got back to the shore (if, indeed, he ever did).
Finally, the three men agreed amongst themselves that this situation was ridiculous; and they decided to hold a debate on the subject at noon, chaired by the Journalist.
"Thank you for coming" said the Journalist. "I appreciate the time and effort you have both put in."
The two men said nothing to this, so the Journalist pressed on.
"I think it's high time we had this discussion, for I think you'll agree, with many scientists who study this subject pressing the Government for a decision to be made on The Edge of the World, we had better settle this matter one way or the other."
Neither of the men replied to this either. The Journalist bravely continued:
"Firstly, I'd like to ask you," he said to the Paranoid, "What is your argument in regards to this matter?"
"My argument is," wailed the Paranoid, "That the Edge of the World exists, and we are going to sail over it now unless we don't!"
"And what is your position?" said the Journalist, turning to the Cynic.
"My position," replied the Cynic, calmly, "Is that the Edge of the World doesn't exist, and that, even if it does, there's nothing wrong with it and we should leave it where it is and continue to do what we are doing now."
"But we might DIE!" howled the Paranoid.
"But why," continued the Cynic, "Should we Do Something Now to Prevent Something that Might Not Happen?"
"Because," replied the Paranoid, "Anything at ALL might not happen, and we certainly have to prevent it from happening or, er, who knows what will happen!"
"Thank you for having this debate," said the Journalist then. "I think you'll both agree that we've had some fruitful discussion, and now it's time to have an audience poll on the matter."

Since there were only three men on the boat, and the Journalist could not very well vote on his own (that would be unfair), they all decided to have a vote. They took two pots out from their stores, and painted them different colours (one for either side of the debate). Then they cast a fish into the pot of the colour which represented their side of the debate. It fell upon the Journalist to count them out and, even though the Cynic suspected that he might be cheating, he let his friend do this. And, as it turned out, the votes came out in favour of the Paranoid.

"Right then," said the Journalist. "I think we're all agreed that We Should Do Something Abo..."
Just then, a terrible wail came from the Paranoid. Both men raised their eyes and saw that the Paranoid man was indicating something with his outstretched arm in the far distance. They followed his finger, and saw then what was causing the Paranoid man so much grief: the Edge of the World. Waters fell from the Edge of the World into empty space: and they were being inexorably drawn by strong currents towards this void!

The three men then rushed up and down the deck of the boat, adjusting this sail, and tying that sail, and casting the anchor, then pulling it up again, and falling over one another and leaping up again in a great flurry of activity: all to no avail. Nothing could stop them being drawn closer and closer to their doom. Then, seeing that it was all in vain, they fell to their knees, and prayed to God, beseeching him in tearful voices to hear them, and save them from Falling Off the Edge of the World. And they drew ever nearer to the chasm. Then, as their prayers had become loudest, and the rushing of the waters of the world off the edge of the world became quite deafening, a piano fell out of the sky and splintered their boat to a million pieces, and caused the men to fall to the bottom of the sea.

And nobody ever heard of them again.


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