PRIEST

I would like to tell you of an old man who lived in our village of Technoville. Ordinarily, I would choose someone more attractive and interesting to write about but there was something of the unusual about this man. I am sorry I did not pursue my uneasiness about him while he was still alive. Since his death two years ago, thoughts of who he was, how he lived and what he said have bothered me.

He was the oldest man in the village. His name was Priest. Not much was known of him. He was there when most of us were born and we either forgot to ask our parents about him or our parents, by design, did not tell us his story. I do not know whether Priest was his first name or last name. No one in Technoville knew him personally or why he was called Priest. I have never heard any one called by that name. It was a strange name but for as long as anyone could remember, the old man was called Priest.

The village had become accustomed to Priest. We never noticed him. Something like the peculiar shaped tree in the centre of Technoville. It had lasted through the conflagration which destroyed much of the country many years ago. It was twisted and knotted as if the twisting and the knotting were its only defense against the scorching heat and the deafening noise of that nuclear attack. It stood there, deformed and peculiar, a sad symbol of a time when our society was almost annihilated because of indifference and hatred. We saw the old tree every day but we never gave it much notice. To the children, it was a queerly shaped tree; to the adults, we had become accustomed to the old tree and to the old figure called priest. Both of them were always there.

My knowledge of Priest came from idle, non-consequential conversations. It never did occur to me to speak to him or to come to know him personally. Like the tree, he was an interesting oddity, nothing more.

The story was about that he belonged to some long forgotten sect who worshipped a man who lived at a time when the world started to count the years. He wore a long black robe, tattered, soiled, torn and repaired: patches on patches. He was a pitiable excuse for a man, too old to be taken seriously, decrepit beyond limits acceptable to technological society. He just didn't fit.

He looked to be a dirty trick of nature; an unusual result of the genetic dice, a refugee from another age, a man who should have died many years ago.

He spoke rarely. Few of the villagers had ever heard him utter a sound. Those who had spoken to him said that he must have been, at one time , a well-educated man. His turn of phrase, although old fashioned, had a hint of some long-forgotten human elegance. They said he was anxious for humankind to remember that a God had created them and that same God loved them. That story caused gales of laughter among those listening to the story. We all knew that such unreal stories had been dismissed as nonsense many years ago.

As a child, I remember seeing him dressed in his dishevelled gown, walking the streets praying to his God. Often, he would stop in front of the oldest building in our village. He would bow and indicate that he had great respect for that old building. A village official explained Priest's behaviour by telling us that, at one time, the building was a house where Priest and others like him gathered to worship their God.

My interest in Priest was piqued once again when I noticed him in his long black robe, tattered and crusty with dirt, struggling up the face of the hill near my home. At first, I didn't realize it was Priest. I spotted a strange looking creature from the highway which passes below the hill and my curiosity urged me to investigate what it was. I recognized Priest as soon as I made a few steps toward the hill.

I realized I should not be interfering in the life of another and I could be charged under the laws protecting the individuality of every person. "The best help one can provide for another is to look after oneself" is the motto of our state and I have always kept that law. I realize that it is a law which brings great dignity and promotes each of us to be strong enough not to call on others for help. Regardless of my admiration, I must confess that there have been times when I felt some strange compulsion to stop and help people hurt and lying on the side of the road, but I always resisted and felt good and strong that I was able to mind my own business and look after myself. That has been a sacred principle with me. For example, I prepared and left the vial of poison for my old and feeble father. I realized that there was virtue in his dying when his productive years were over. Such action was dignified and there was no need to feel sad. My father had lived; he exercised his intelligence and strength and now he was dead. " Long live the living and their ability to produce."

For some reason my curiosity concerning Priest was causing different feelings in me, unusual feelings which ran counter to my whole training and education. For the first time in my life, I could not identify what I was feeling nor relate that feeling to any other happening in my life. Priest was different; he was unsettling. From my vantage at the bottom of the hill, I realized there was something different about Priest's attempt to scale the hill. He did not move like one who understood his productive years were behind, that a place could not be held in society for one who was not productive. He was struggling with a determination which I had not seen before in any other human. It seemed undignified for one so old to be so determined. I climbed the hill to obtain a closer look. As I drew close, I noticed his spotless white hair, his body frame had not one wisp of extra weight and every laborious step taken by his legs was accompanied by his hands clawing at the ground. He was extremely thin and emaciated. His old dress like garment flapped about his legs. He seemed determined to reach the top of the hill.

I moved up beside him and said, "Priest, what are you attempting? Why are climbing the hill?

He stopped his climb, turned his sweaty face to me and said, "Golgotha, the world must know of Golgotha."

Suddenly, he threw his arms apart fell on his back and with a heavy sigh uttered, "Abba."

I never heard the word before and I have never heard it since. I knew he was dead and I knew I was breaking the law by interfering with him. I turned and walked down the hill determined not to let anyone know that I had been close to this old insignificant creature, especially when he made such an undignified death. I reached the bottom of the hill. I looked back at Priest lying on the side of the hill, his white hair standing out starkly against the dark mud, his arms stretched out from his body; his long black gown caught by the wind, flapped around his thin, stick like legs. As I walked to my vehicle, his last word "Abba" kept recurring in my mind. It was a peculiar word. It must have been some gibberish caused by his lack of breath, diminishing coordination of his tongue and his confused mind.

TFM 2008

TO THE READER:

THIS STORY IS A FORM OF PROPHETIC LITERATURE; THAT IS, IT SELECTS CERTAIN CONCEPTS OR SOCIAL TRENDS IN OUR SOCIETY AND PROJECTS THEM INTO THE FUTURE IN ORDER TO SEE THEM IN A MORE FULLY DEVELOPED STATE.

I AM SURE, YOU HAVE HEARD OF PROPHECY IN SCRIPTURE. SUCH RELIGIOUS PROPHECY HAS THE GUARANTEE OF DIVINE INSPIRATION. GOD INSPIRES CERTAIN PEOPLE TO INTERPRET THE TIMES FOR HIS PEOPLE AND TO PREPARE THEM FOR THE FUTURE. THIS STORY DOES NOT CLAIM PROPHECY IN THE SENSE OF ANY DIVINE GUARANTEES. IT IS ASTORY SET IN THE FUTURE. IT DOES NOT PURPORT TO BE TRUE, NECESSARILY. HOWEVER, WE CAN READ THE STORY AS ONE PERSON'S VIEW, NOT IMPOSSIBLE OF FULFILMENT.

THE STORY, BEING SET IN THE FUTURE, CAN SPEAK OF PRESENT DAY VALUES PROJECTED INTO THE FUTURE AND ASK US TO JUDGE OUR AGE, OUR SOCIETY AND ITS VALUES.THE ROLE OF PRIEST IN OUR SOCIETY IS THE PREDOMINANT ISSUE EXAMINED IN THIS STORY. HOWEVER, ISSUES NEVER DO EXIST ALONE. THUS THE TIME AND PLACE DESCRIBED IN THE STORY HAS MANY VALUES WHICH ARE DIFFERENT FROM OUR AGE.

IS IT POSSIBLE WE ARE DEVELOPING A SOCIETY WHICH FINDS VIRTUE IN EACH PERSON STANDING ALONE? IS OUR CONCEPT OF NEIGHBOUR SO VULNERABLE TO SELFISHNESS THAT IT COULD DISAPPEAR? HOW DIFFERENT WOULD OUR SOCIETY BE WITHOUT PRIEST, WITHOUT NEIGHBOUR?

1. IN THE CONTEXT OF THE STORY, WHAT IS THE STATE OF PRIESTHOOD IN THE FUTURE?

2. DESCRIBE THE NARRATOR OF THE STORY.

3. DESCRIBE HIS SOCIETY.

4. HAS HIS SOCIETY IMPROVED?

5. IS THIS STORY PESSIMISTIC CONCERNING THE FUTURE OF PRIESTHOOD?

6. PRIEST HAS BEEN DESCRIBED AS THE HERO OF THE STORY.DO YOU AGREE? IF NOT, WHO IS THE HERO? WHY?

7. IF YOU WERE THE NARRATOR OF THE STORY AND WERE ASKED TO PROPHECY, WOULD PRIEST HAVE ANY PLACE IN YOUR PROPHESY?

 

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