by Roy Obriecht
With the onslaught of multiple plagues (many self-inflicted), a great frustration enveloped all the land. In spite of having the largest military in the world, thrice over, we are unable to feel safe from terrorism. We are still reeling from a mindlessly irresponsible financial crisis. Each day we spew ever-increasing amounts of CO2 into the only atmosphere we have. The best education system in the world has been turned it into the 27th ranked education system—and falling. We cannot provide enough jobs nor slow our runaway debt. And all of these problems have been known about for years, without any sign of real improvement. How could we not feel hopeless, helpless, and angry?
I need to blame someone. If we can get the bad guys, our problems will go away. I line up the usual suspects: predatory bankers, unscrupulous businessmen, union thugs, welfare cheats, greedy rich, slacker poor, heartless right, spendthrift left. I point to one, “You’ll do,” I announce, “You and anyone that looks like you.” My vindictive crusade unfurls: I criticize and condemn, berate and belittle, and proclaim from the middle of our town square that these scumbags-of-evil are responsible for all that is bad in the world.
But it’s not enough. As the clouds overhead darken, I pick up a rock and let it fly at someone who might be one of them. I cheer as the rock clunks off his forehead, but the sense of satisfaction is fleeting, and I realize that it has made nothing better. So I throw more rocks, even harder. A woman walks by, picks up a rock, and joins me. Soon, many people are throwing many rocks, and yet somehow, the world’s mass of problems persist.
Fatigued and forlorn, I lay down my rocks, dust off my hands, and rub my temples in a state of absolute despair, staring blankly at everyone around me who is either still throwing rocks or who has, like me, given up in full.
Then, as the wind begin to calm ever so slightly, an old man approaches and asks me to follow him. He leads me out of town and we walk together until we are standing before a range of mountains so immense and imposing they block out the very sky itself.
“This is what we need to move,” says the old man, and then he tells me to pick up a shovel.
I look at the old man, then at the mountains, and then back at the old man.
“Yes,” he says, “They are mountains.”
Under sober-grey clouds, I bend down and pick up a shovel and then thrust the blade forward in to one small area of dark, dense dirt.
A woman walks by and comes to stand next to me. She picks up a shovel.