© 2001 by Mark Macy
Once upon a time there was a town nestled in a rich, green forest, surrounded by blue rivers and streams twisting their way gently through the countryside. From a distance it seemed like a place of such purity, decency, and harmony.
Prosperous families lived at the west end of town. Their streets and sidewalks were exquisitely maintained, and their modern homes had nice yards with flower gardens. The most elegant estate contained a large complex of luxury condominiums perched atop a hill overlooking the town, with sculpted shrubs, a manicured lawn, large picture windows that glinted in the sun, and a spacious guest house. The 278 members of this wealthy extended family enjoyed plush private bedrooms, playrooms, and dens—963 rooms in all—with TV sets, computers, and other technological marvels spread generously around the place. They held family meetings every week. Everyone in the family encouraged each other to be creative and independent. As a result, this family had developed ingenious ways to make life better not just for themselves, but for much of the town in the valley below.
The east section of town was an older, more populous neighborhood where big families crowded into large, old homes and housing complexes. The largest family consisted of 1,273 people living in a large condominium complex with 960 rooms. They had learned over the years that the only way to keep all the family members happy and satisfied in such tight quarters was through hard work and strict discipline, and by teaching all children the importance of sharing. The needs of the family had to be considered more important than the needs of any single family member, or else their lives would quickly turn to chaos. Family history had proven that. The family members didn’t have many luxuries, but they respected each other, and as long as they all shared in a selfless way there was always plenty to go around. When they saw the rich people in the west enjoying an abundant, free-wheeling lifestyle, they knew that they too could one day have many luxuries if they all worked together, worked hard, and didn’t outgrow their house. Indeed, some of their neighbors here on the east side of town were already enjoying the good life, thanks to hard work and sound family planning. One family, for instance, lived alone on an island in a nice 38-room mansion. There were 127 family members sharing the mansion, and while it was a bit cramped for space, their home was a well-kept, technological wonderland with many modern conveniences.
Between the east and west was a neighborhood of homes made of mud bricks, earth-tone plaster, and other simple materials. Directly in the center of this modest neighborhood was a magnificent temple, stunning in its intricate beauty. Its imposing, central presence suggested that religious values provided the framework for businesses, schools, and families here in the midsection of town. Indeed, almost everyone in this part of town had a strong belief that one of their ancestors was "The Chosen Prophet" for the town, and the common acceptance of The Prophet’s teachings gave them all a sense of kinship. The temple was one of two structures that stood out in this part of town. The other was an immense gasoline station with dozens of pumps. There were a few other gasoline stations in different parts of town, but this was by far the largest supplier of gasoline. Traffic flowed in and out of the station all day from all over town because of the high quality and low prices of gasoline here. The largest home here in the midsection of town was a condominium complex with 190 rooms shared by an extended family of 23 people who were not only very religious, but also very wealthy because of their part ownership of the biggest gasoline station in town. They used their religion to pursue lives of self-restraint, and they used a lot of their money to build schools throughout the neighborhood in which children were taught virtues of generosity, modesty, and a steadfast trust in God.
Also in the midsection of town, next door to the wealthy, religious family in the large condominium complex, was a small but solidly built house constructed on sacred ground with only 2 rooms on the ground floor plus a basement. This sacred house had been juggled among many families over the years* and was currently occupied by a small family that was different from the other families in the neighborhood. This family didn’t believe in The Chosen Prophet. Instead they believed that they themselves were The Chosen People because their earliest ancestors had been proud and rugged nomads who had settled on that land under a pact with God more than 3,000 years earlier. The house could only accommodate 6 people upstairs. Hence, as the family had grown in recent years, most of the family members had moved away, out of the neighborhood, and settled on the west side of town among the wealthier families. Several of the family members had married into the rich family on the hill, where they lived in comfortable condominiums. But regardless of where they lived in town, most of them maintained a heart link with the small, sturdy home that had been inhabited by their ancestors so long ago and was back in the family’s possession today. The family shared the 2-room house with another family from the area. This was one of the traditional families who prayed to The Prophet, and they lived in the basement. There was some question around town as to who really owned the small house, since the traditional family now in the basement had lived upstairs for many years too and had only recently been moved to the basement when the family upstairs had moved in. Most people in town, especially the family on the hill in the west section of town, recognized the family upstairs as the legitimate owners of the small house, but the question of ownership persisted.
Last and, sadly, in many ways least, was the neighborhood at the south end of town where the poorest of the poor lived in ramshackle huts and hovels. Nobody wanted to think about those miserable families and the suffering they endured each day. A few compassionate souls elsewhere in town tried to help in small ways, by sending a bit of food or a few medical supplies, but those small efforts barely scratched the surface of the deep crisis underway to the south. The poor families didn’t even have enough money to pay for roads, water, and heating fuels. They rummaged for food, and to keep warm they burned whatever wood and paper they could find. In recent years the shrubs and trees had begun to disappear from the neighborhood, the surrounding forest had begun to shrink, and smoke was starting to fill the air.
Every month the rich family on the hill hosted town meetings in their large guest house. Grown-ups from all over town would ride bicycles, cars and buses up the hill to the meetings. They would talk about the plight of the poor, the quality of the air, the growing tension in certain parts of town, the fights and crimes that helped fuel hatred and suffering, and many other things that affected everyone. They discussed solutions to the town’s many problems, but it wasn’t easy to draw a consensus on just what to do, when so many men and women of such diverse backgrounds were involved in the decisions. During the meetings in the guest house, everyone could look out the windows and see what was going on in the town below. If they saw something terrible happening down there, they might agree to respond quickly. For example, if people were suffering from starvation and plague, they might send food and medicine. If a powerful family was trying to force a neighboring family out of their home, the men and women on the hill might agree to send someone down there to try to keep the peace. But it was impossible for the folks in the room to do what was necessary to bring a lasting peace to the town; they didn’t have the authority. Each neighborhood and each family wanted to control its own fate, so the town didn’t have any extensive laws, and even if there had been laws there was no permanent police department to enforce them. It was reminiscent of the Old West, where land barons, ranchers, and homesteaders had lived under lawless conditions of land-grabbing and murder until the townspeople had gotten fed up, had written some town laws to compel people to behave decently, and had hired a town marshal to enforce them.
Over the years, the air became thicker over the small town nestled in the forest, not only because of smoke spreading from the poor neighborhood to the south, but also from the many cars and other fuel-burning conveniences developed in the west and sold around town. It became more difficult to get a clear view of the town from atop the hill, and the rich family began to spend more time in their back yard, enjoying their home and each other. They reflected on their own religious beliefs which centered not around The Chosen Prophet, but around The Chosen Savior, another enlightened Master who had walked the Earth many years earlier. In the west, not everyone prayed, and not everyone believed in The Savior. The hilltop estate had become a melting pot of sorts, with people from all over town moving out of crowded neighborhoods and coming up the hill to find work or, in many cases, to marry a member of the rich family. So the family living atop the hill now included family members from all the neighborhoods, and they followed many different religious customs. With all these different religious beliefs under one large roof, they were certainly a microcosm of the town, but even so, most of the hilltop family prayed to The Chosen Savior. Town meetings were still held every month in the guest house, when adults from all around town would gather, but somehow they now seemed less important to the members of the hilltop family, who were more interested in their weekly family meetings. During the family meetings, the grownups would sometimes discuss the troubles in town, but their main concern was how those troubles might affect them. They had come to rely on the talents and products of people in every section of town, and it could be a disaster if their sources of goods and services dried up. That was especially true of gasoline. They had a large fleet of luxury cars, sports cars, and other vehicles, and they were the biggest customer of the biggest gasoline station in the midsection of town. It's fair to say that the family as a whole had become rather addicted to gasoline. If the folks down in the midsection ever decided to close the gasoline station, it might throw the entire town into chaos, and especially the family on the hill.
That was a valid concern because troubles were brewing in the midsection of town. Religious groups typically resist change, and that was true of most of the families in the midsection who prayed to The Prophet. The fact that these families resisted change in a quickly changing town provided a source of both refuge and conflict for the residents. When many of the people felt intimidated by changes going on elsewhere in town—especially on the affluent west side where technological marvels were integrating families and transforming their lives at a dizzying pace, and where music, movies, and drugs numbed the intellect, stirred the hormones, and, in many cases, offended the sensibilities—the residents of the midsection of town could find refuge in their temple, praying to The Prophet. When the children found themselves attracted to the technology, bright colors, flashing lights, and raucous noises coming from the west, the more traditional parents tightened the reins on their children. They did their best to preserve the customs by keeping their neighborhood isolated and insulated, and as a result there was a growing, mutual mistrust between this midsection neighborhood and the rest of the town—especially the affluent west side.
Things got especially tense in the 2-room house, where the family upstairs continued to grow in number. While many of them moved to the west section of town, some insisted on staying in the small house where there was a lot of ancestral pride but not much room. Facing crowded conditions, a few family members had little recourse but to move into the basement, which involved evicting a few members of the traditional family who’d been living downstairs. The two families might have learned to live together as one family, but their respective beliefs—that the upstairs family was The Chosen People while the downstairs family had The Chosen Prophet—were basically incompatible, making peaceful coexistence difficult not only today, but throughout much of their troubled history. So the family upstairs set up tents in a makeshift backyard camp where the displaced people could live until they found more permanent homes in the area. This angered many of the traditional families in the area because homes were not easy to find nowadays—and anyway, why should the family downstairs be forced out of their home in the first place? As years passed, the camp-dwellers suffered degradation, abuse, and even murder, and many people—especially the traditional neighbors—blamed the small family upstairs for the injustices. Yes, things were getting tense.
The family in the hilltop estate used to look out their back window to see what was going on in town. They often saw conflicts erupting in the two-room house down below, and they’d almost always take the side of the upstairs family, who comprised a small minority in the region and was thus in need of support. The relatives of the upstairs family had become prominent family members here on the hilltop. There were also relatives of the downstairs family living here on the hilltop, and they all seemed to get along here in peace, which begged the question: Why could they coexist peacefully here on the hilltop, but not down below in the midsection of town? Perhaps it was partly because religion was not allowed to play the primary role here on the hilltop. To avoid religious conflicts, the family had agreed long ago that family matters and religious matters would remain separate, and family matters would always take priority.
In any case, the family on the hill had always supported the small family living upstairs in the two-room house in the midsection of town. When abuses were planned or enacted against that family by other families in the area, the hilltop family acted quickly by sending money and/or weapons. When the fighting was especially heavy, they might fire a grenade launcher from the hilltop down into the midsection of town. They were able to aim their grenade launcher at encroachers with great precision, but when shooting into a crowded area, even with pinpoint accuracy it was impossible to avoid killing innocent people and destroying their homes. That caused hard feelings in the midsection of town.
At the same time, the family on the hill kept close watch over the large gasoline station. When someone seemed to want to destroy or take over the pumps, the family acted quickly, sometimes fighting the encroachers themselves, and sometimes recruiting factions of supporters in the troubled neighborhood to fight for them. They would give money and weapons to these supporting factions, which sometimes consisted of thugs and murderers who often used the weapons to do terrible things to their neighbors.
The resulting death and destruction caused by the grenade attacks and by the ruthless factions of armed thugs caused tremendous grief and outrage among the traditional families in the midsection of town. They lacked the strength to rise up in arms against the wealthy hilltop family or even against the armed factions and friends of the hilltop family. Instead, the intense resentment compelled the families to withdraw more deeply and with more conviction into their religion. It also bred the growth of a network of activists and strategists whose aim was to disrupt and maybe one day destroy those families whom they viewed as aggressive and intolerant. These networks of vengeance grew quietly through the midsection of town like a cancer.
Now when people around town thought about the hilltop family, they had mixed feelings, which still included admiration of the family members for their ingenuity and talents and the great works of art, science and technology they had introduced to the town, but it also included a growing resentment toward a small, militant group of decision-makers who were causing a lot of death and destruction in town.
It was at this troubled time that the town had visitors from the Ethereal provinces beyond the forest and streams. A group of seven special messengers bearing wisdom of the ages made their way to the town to offer their support. They had a message for the people, but they didn’t want the message to get twisted for political or religious reasons or to be filtered by human egos and personalities. They didn’t want to make a big splash in the town either. Instead, the messengers chose one of the smallest homes in town that was inhabited by a modest and sincere young woman. The messengers would enter the town quietly and unobtrusively through the life of this woman, and they would communicate with her directly through her radios, telephones, computers, and other modern devices.
It was in this way that the seven messengers informed the woman that they had a message for the town. It was an important message, they said, and they would deliver it not to her alone, but to an association of townspeople from various families. She would have to get people together. After some trials and tribulations, an association was established, and the seven messengers, with gratitude to the woman and her associates, delivered the message to the new association. They said they had observed the town for many thousands of years and had come close to offer support and guidance on six very crucial occasions, beginning long before recorded history, whenever civilization had reached an apex, or major crossroads. Now they had come for a seventh time, and they offered to help guide the town through its current troubles "toward a free, wealthy, and sane future" in which the townspeople could develop a "fruitful, endurable relationship with the light, ethereal realms of existence." The messengers said it didn’t matter to them what religion people followed; it was only important that people chose the path of "decency" and that they tried to work together in a degree of harmony, with purity of intention. If the townspeople could commit to those simple principles—decency, harmony, and purity of intention—then they could expect powerful help and miracles to come to their town from the realms beyond the forest and streams. That’s what the seven messengers promised, and they asked the new association to offer the message to the town. Then the town would have to decide whether or not to accept or reject the ethereal assistance. Indeed, the town would have to decide whether to believe the association’s claim of having received the message directly through electronic devices from beyond the forest. After all, such miracles were uncommon in this town in which many people believed that nothing at all existed beyond the forest. Meanwhile, the seven messengers would wait quietly for the town’s decisions, and observe.
The association discovered very quickly the enormity of their mission. They worked hard to spread the word around town, but most of the townspeople were skeptical. The members of the association struggled to maintain resonance and decency among themselves, but as months turned into years there grew doubts, fears, and insecurities which eventually erupted into conflict which tore the association apart. The various members withdrew into their families to lick their wounds and decide what to do next. Should they reunite? To some of them, getting back together would be like petting a dog that had just bitten them. How could they be sure they wouldn’t get bitten again? They might have known in their hearts it would take courage, love, trust, and self-confidence for the association to come back together and complete its mission, but they would first have to conquer their doubts, fears, and insecurities. And so they waited.
As these final lines are written, the town has been given a wake-up call. The network of vengeance that has been growing in the midsection of the town in response to injustice and cruelty, has now launched an offensive against the family on the hilltop estate and the small family in the 2-room house in the midsection of town. First, living seeds of destruction were hurled into the condominium complex atop the hill, killing two beloved twins. In outrage and grief, the adults on the hilltop have passed out weapons to the young men and are deciding upon the next step. The strategy is to root out pockets of vengeance wherever they are, and bring the perpetrators to justice. Will they react carelessly, killing many innocent people, or will they carefully bring the guilty individuals to justice? Will they act quickly and strike ruthlessly, removing one pocket of vengeance then moving onto the next, or will they work closely with other families to remove these pockets and, once removed, replace them with food, clothing, and other gestures of unconditional love, kindness, and genuine good intentions? In other words, is their mission to destroy or to heal? Is their aim further vengeance and cruelty, or forgiveness and decency?
A more crucial question for the hilltop family concerns its addiction to gasoline: Will the decision-makers prolong the family addiction or try to overcome it? Will they protect their gasoline interests in the midsection of town with whatever means available, possibly under the guise of "rooting out terrorism?" Or will they apply treatment to their dependency—perhaps adopting aggressive family standards to reduce gasoline use (say, 40 mpg for all new vehicles by 2004, and 60 mpg for all new vehicles by 2007)? After all, as addiction therapists know, overcoming addictions often requires inner strength, inner changes, and connection to a higher spiritual power—that is, the path of decency. Many addicts choose a darker path out of weakness and desperation, such as robbing gasoline stations or kidnapping hostages or ransacking homes in other people's neighborhoods—all to protect their supply lines to the addictive substance.
Many people believe that if the path of decency is taken now, in response to the attacks on the hilltop family, the town will start to heal, and the entire network of vengeance will slowly be absorbed, like cancer in a healing body, until it is gone. Meanwhile, the network of vengeance continues to formulate other plans and strategies of further death and destruction, monitoring the reactions to its recent attack.
The entire town awaits decisions by many families that will determine its fate. On a positive note, throughout its history the town has been unable to reach complete agreement on any laws, having come close on only a few issues such as protection of the town’s waterways, and the use of outer space for the broader good of the town and not for the narrow benefit of any single family. Now, led by outcries from the hilltop, there is widespread consensus on the need to rid the town of networks of vengeance. If all the families in town can agree, then it could be a first step toward a set of basic town laws that will help to ensure peace for future generations. An important step toward harmony.
But the town faces one decision today that it isn’t even aware of, and it’s the most important decision it has faced in eons. Do we want to back off from the precipice where we find ourselves today? Are we willing and able to commit to decency, harmony, and purity of intention? Those attitudes are not easy for human beings in groups to embrace for long periods of time, as egos, hormones, and personalities steadily chip away at them. Still, if we try, we will receive help and support from ethereal realms beyond the forest, and if we succeed we will reap miracles and rewards beyond our wildest imaginings. We have been promised help by powerful visitors who never make promises lightly.
Legend of statistics
Actual national population is approximately equal to fictional family population times 1,000,000
Actual area of nations in sq km is approximately equal to the number of rooms in fictional homes times 10,000
Afghanistan: Population: 27,000,000. Area: 650,000 sq. km. = 27 people in 65-room mansion
China: 1,273 people in 960-room complex
India: 1,029 people in 328-room complex
Iran: 66 people in 165-room complex
Israel: 6 people in 2-room house
Japan: 127 people in 38-room mansion
Jordan: 5 people in 9-room house
Lebanon: 4 people in a 1-room house
Luxembourg: 0.4 people in a 0.25-room flat
Saudi Arabia: 23 people in 196-room complex
Syria: 17 people in 19-room house
USA: 278 people in 963-room complex
* Israel, Palestine, and the Land of Canaan are different names for the 8,000-sq-mi country that has been juggled among national powers inhabiting the area or just passing through during the past 4,000 years: Philistines (2000 BC), Hebrews (1100 BC), Assyrians (721 BC), Babylonians (586 BC), Jews of Judah (538 BC), Macedonians (333 BC), Christians (AD 100), Arab Muslims (640), Christian Crusaders (1100), Ottoman Turks (1291), Israeli Jews (1948).
The following statistics were distributed in 2001 on the internet, author unknown.
If our world had only 100 people instead of 6 billion, there would be:
14 from the Western Hemisphere both north and south
52 would be female
48 would be male
70 would be non-white
30 would be white
70 would be non-Christian
30 would be Christian
89 would live heterosexual lives
11 would be homosexual
6 people would possess 59% of the entire world's wealth
and all 6 would be from the United States.
80 would live in substandard housing
70 would be unable to read
1 would be near death
1 would be near birth
1(yes, only 1) would have a college education
1 would own a computer
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