Two different stories originating in antiquity on the Isle of Right provided two theories about how the island had come to be.
According to one story, a giant rock fell from the sky. The rock was so big that a third of it still stuck out of the water. And that third is now the Isle of Right.
According to a different story, the earth growled beneath the ocean. Hot molten rock burst forth in great quantities. Eventually the sea and the air cooled the molten rock. And that once-molten rock is now the Isle of Right.
Sometimes, after a day of hard work, some of the people who believed that a giant rock in the sky birthed their island sat together around a fire and debated with some of the people who believed the island sprung from beneath the sea. Some of the people really enjoyed debating. But many more people enjoyed watching and listening.
And, it happened on rare occasions, that someone spoke up and said, “It actually makes little difference how the island got here. But here it is now. Here. And, in this moment, there are things that need to be done. And we could think together about how best to do those things so that they would be effective and enjoyable and cause as little harm as possible. And we all want those things. And we all know how to think and how to do things. So let’s work together on that.”
Such a one as this was met with blank stares, however. And the people went back to their debates.
Small harm done. Things were not quite as effective and fun and safe as they might have been, but on the whole, people spent the vast majority of their time working together to get things done regardless of how they thought their island was formed. Because, although the people enjoyed the debate, as a practical matter, they understood that they all needed fish and that the fish came from the sea and they traded ideas about how best to catch the fish and thus improved their fishing. So, by and large, the debates were little more than entertainment.
Those who did not themselves debate but enjoyed watching began to cheer for their favorite debaters. And since people liked a contest between bests, eventually one storyteller from each side would argue their side of the case. And, all the people listened.
The storytellers, to make the stories more interesting, began to embellish their creation myths with many further tales. For example, when the rock sank into the mud two third with only one third remaining above, that was, according to the storyteller, a sign that we too are sunk two thirds in the mud, and we must follow the “Way of the Rock” if we are to live a good life. And, by the way, the Rock makes the Sea look beautiful! (BTW, “The Way of the Rock” was something he or she totally made up at the moment).
“Oh, yeah!” Said his worthy opponent. “Well, if you follow “The Way of the Sea” you will not only live a good life here on this island, but after you die, you’ll go to a whole other island and another and another and another forever! For -EV-er! So follow the Way of the Sea! For it is the Sea that makes the Rock beautiful!”
The opponent however, was not so easily crushed, though they had to admit the unprovable claim of infinite reward was pretty cool. “Hogwash. Offering someone a reward, even if a bogus reward, doesn’t mean that if they take that reward and agree to believe as you say — that’s no argument for the validity of your position. That’s only an argument about the moral character of your followers. Not to say that that is why all your followers believe as you do. But the ones who take the bribe certainly don’t add any weight at all to the truth of your argument.”
Over time, as the storytellers became more and more skilled at rousing the passions of their audiences, they began to intimate that people who held the other point of view were not all that good at fishing, or farming, or raising children, or making love, or fixing meals. And because of this animosity, the people who believed their island came from Rock began to call themselves “The People of the Rock.” And they tended to avoid “The People of the Sea” whenever they could and for their part, “The People of the Sea” were equally loath to work or play with “The People of the Rock.”
I don’t need to belabor you with the details. You can guess the ending, right? All “The People of the Rock” and “The People of the Sea” are no longer arguing. They’re all dead.
And, they never did find out whether their island was formed by a rock from the sky or an undersea volcano. Ironically, if they had kept working together and focusing on what they could do, their science would have reached a point where they could actually and factually answer the question. It turns out, it was formed by a volcano…. But that’s kind of not the point.
There’s no-one left on the Isle of Right to care.
The coyotes certainly don’t care —just as long as there’s fresh meat aplenty.
And there is.
Myths of the Veritas: The Forgotten Field
Valerie Cullers said:
An excellent parable…and in the end it will be the same for us!
I haven’t given up yet. But … no, it doesn’t look good.
Peter, great work. I kept thinking of Rush’s song “The Trees.” Here is the first stanza:
There is unrest in the forest
There is trouble with the trees
For the maples want more sunlight
And the oaks ignore their pleas
The ending is similar to your story.
Wow! Great lyrics. You know, I used to buy LP’s and the albums generally came with written lyrics. When I hear most rock bands today, I have no hope of catching the lyrics. I should really go find them on-line so I can appreciate them.
Peter, thank goodness for the online lyrics. I am often surprised at my “mishearing” words. One of my favorite websites if http://www.kissthisguy.com which is what many people heard when Jimi Hendrix sand “‘scuse me while I kiss the sky.” Many of Rush’s songs were written by its drummer Neal Peart, who penned some sensational lyrics. My favorite is “when you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” Keith
Thanks for the pointer to the lyrics website!
tx for a beautiful post 🙂
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