Note: The following comes without attribution from an acquaintance of my father’s.
Once upon a time there were people who lived in a valley near a mountain. On the mountain there appeared a large rock formation which resembled a face. You could almost see the nose and eyes and mouth. Some people claimed that it was the face of a God and they claimed that if you looked closely you would see that for yourself and once you did you would be able to live a happy and comfortable life.
The problem was that not everyone could see the face as others. The fog and the rays of the sun and the afternoon shadows would cover the face so that even if there were a true face they just couldn’t tell because they never could see it clearly. No two people saw it the same.
But those who saw it said it was important because if only you could see it clearly you would know who you were and what was expected of you. And so the people studied the the face every day in the hopes that eventually they would see it clearly and eventually most everyone was convinced he/she had seen it…
They created stories about the great face and told how the face had spoken to them and told them the dos and don’t of how to live. Unfortunately, no two lists of rules agreed. But they still tried to see it because they became convinced that there was so much at stake if they were to get it right.
As they believed they understood the message in the stone face, they did try to live in the ways they felt the Great Stone Face meant them to. Usually they felt it meant to be kind to one another and to help each other, to be good neighbors , to work hard and to make their valley a nice place to live. Although some of the people began to try to gain power and riches more than other folks, they claimed they had spoken to the Great Stone Face and their way was what he intended.
From time to time there were other folks who said that was all nonsense, that there was really no Great Stone Face after all and what people thought was true was really a construction. a myth. It was certainly true that if there was a face in the rock it was so high up that no one could be sure what they were seeing, that in fact it truly existed.
Yet by now others were saying that without the Great Stone Face and all the stories about the face, the people in the valley wouldn’t be so eager to be kind and to help one another. Then what kind of a place would that be to live? After all, they said, they had to have something to live for and some sort of rules to live by.
As any objective visitor could see, if there were a face up there on the mountain no one could say for sure. It was too high up to climb and the sun and the dim light obscured the face so badly that in reality the people only had stories about the Great Stone Face and they lived by them. If they could never see it clearly and couldn’t get to it safely, maybe the stories would be all they ever had, that and the willingness to live well together. If someone had said the Great Stone Face wanted them to live in a mean and hateful way, why should they believe that and who would have cared anyway.
Well, as you can see the questions asked are still being argued about, either in the valley or else where in the world. We are all free to listen to the stories and determine which make sense in the way we live our lives and how we affect other peoples lives. Let us live in a way that is useful to us and helpful to humanity. Those are the highest values we can live by.