The Game
(a parable)

(C) 2002, Don Mize

Once two boys went on a great adventure.  They decided to explore the woods that beckoned to them beyond the pasture.  They packed some food, placed bottles of water in their backpacks, and entered the dark coolness of the woods.

They followed a trail for about an hour when suddenly they saw a huge snake coiled in the middle of the trail.  Defiantly, the snake lifted the end of its tail and rattled a whirring warning to come no closer.

“What shall we do?” asked John.  “I suppose we will have to kill it if we want to go ahead.”

“How do we know it will really bite?” Fred replied.

But John had already found a huge rock, and he hurled it onto the snake’s head.

The two boys made their way carefully past the dead snake and continued along the trail.

“How do you know the snake was dangerous?” Fred asked again.

“It was a rattlesnake,” John answered.  “Rattlesnakes are poisonous.”

“How do you know it was a rattlesnake?” Fred pressed.

“Because it had a rattle.”

“But how do you know it was poisonous?” Fred continued.

“Because I’ve read about rattlesnakes in the encyclopedia, and I’ve seen programs on TV about rattlesnakes.  All of them say rattlesnakes are poisonous.”

“But how do you know they are right?” Fred continued.

“Because encyclopedias are written by experts,” John replied, becoming irritated with his friend.

“But how do you know these experts are right?”

“I just do,” John answered.  “Quit this Fred.  You’re a real pain.”

Soon the two boys stopped for lunch near a waterfall that cascaded down into a swiftly running stream.  Little animals scurried around, and they even saw a bear for a moment before it disappeared into the thick forest.  After they rested a while and enjoyed the picturesque scene, they continued their journey through the forest.

After a while, they reached a hilltop and looked down to see that the trail skirted a marsh that stretched as far as they could see.  From their vantage point they could see that the trail made a big half circle around the marsh and continued up a high hill on the other side.  “We could save lots of time if that marsh wasn’t there,” John commented.  “Look how long it will take us to follow the trail.  Too bad we can’t go straight across.”

“How do you know we can’t?” Fred replied.

“The trail goes around the marsh for a reason,” John answered.

“How do you know there’s a reason?” Fred replied.  “How do you know the first person wasn’t just lazy or scared and everyone else followed the trail that person made?”

“I don’t, but I’m following the trail,” John replied as he started down the hill.

Fred didn’t follow him, and the last time John looked back Fred was picking his way carefully along the edge of the marsh.

John walked for a long time, worried about his friend, but he reminded himself that he would have a good view from the hill on the other side.  If Fred needed help, he should be able to see him from the hill on the other side.

As John trudged through the trees and up the hill on the other side, he finally came to a clear area.  There sat Fred on a huge rock, looking smug.

“I’ve been here thirty minutes,” Fred said.  “What took you so long?”

“So you were right,” John replied.  “Don’t rub it in.”

They drank some water and let John rest from his long climb before they started out again following the trail.  When they reached the top of the hill, they saw something frightening.  A huge fire far below was burning rapidly and was circling the hill they were on.

“Look at that,” John shouted.  “We’ve got to get out of here.  We’ll be cut off.”

“How do you know it will make it all the way to the top of our hill?” Fred asked.

“Come on, Fred,” John shouted at him.  “Look at all those hills below us where the fire has burned.  Come on, let’s get out of here.”

“How do you know fire really burns, or that this fire will burn?” Fred continued.

“I’m leaving,” John said, and started running down the trail ahead of the fire.  By running hard, he made it back to the stream and the waterfall and found firefighters who had come into the forest to fight the fire.  He told them about Fred and begged them to hurry.

Later they found Fred’s body on the top of the hill.

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