The Self Made Man – a parable

I’ll begin this blog with an admission – I’ve written many first posts before.  So does this count as a first post?  I guess it’s a silly question – it’s the first post for this blog, for this iteration of the recording of my own thoughts.  I’ll save all the reasons for re-starting this process for the ‘About’ page, and instead start things off with a parable of sorts, a story I came up with the other day to express an idea I am often wrestling with.

There once were two men who were drawn into a simple competition.  Being just overgrown boys it wasn’t difficult for them to get swept up into such a thing, even though they lived very far from each other.  One man lived in the mountains in a small remote village, surrounded mainly by his relations.  It was a harsh environment and one had to be strong to survive there.

The other man lived near the sea.  His village engaged in a great deal of trade.  The land was flat and fertile and the area was always bustling with activity.

The contest they were drawn into – it doesn’t matter how but of course there was plenty of taunting and bravado – was a feat of strength.  Both men agreed to lift an object of a specified weight above their heads and hold it there for 5 seconds.

Since they lived so far from each other they could not do this in the same place, so they agreed on a certain time and a certain weight and designated observers to make sure the simple rules were followed.

Both men trained hard and felt confident as the day arrived.  Since the contest had become public of course many of their peers had to get involved.

Though there was only a short time to prepare, the people of the man in the fishing village, having materials readily available and roads to transport them and time while their crops, grew built him a sturdy platform to stand on for the ground was soft and wet.

The man in the mountain, being in a remote village with few resources, prepared himself for the task and on the specified day arrived at the appointed place – the flattest area within walking distance, since he did not have access to a car and there were no roads.  It was still a hill with loose gravel and sand, all things he was used to growing up there.

The man in the fishing village lifted his weight high to the cheers of a watching crowd, standing firmly on his platform.  As you may have guessed, when the mountain man lifted his weight his foot shifted on some loose gravel and he fell, crushing his leg and maiming him for life.

The people in the fishing village rejoiced at how strong and capable their man was, and the man himself boasted about his own prowess, scoffing at how the mountain man was lazy and untrained and how mountain men would never be able to accomplish the feats of a fishing man because they were not smart or strong enough.  He loved to talk about how he trained himself to lift the weight, and how he alone accomplished this fantastic feat and so deserved all the praise and honor bestowed upon him.  He garnered a great deal of wealth – all of it well deserved as he had worked hard for it, as he would often say.

Very little of my blogs will be in this format but I will admit that the story of the self made man or woman is a cultural fallacy that I am determined to destroy.  I feel like it is at the root of so much of the ignorance and injustice that pervades our political, economic, and social systems.

I’ll always try to give homage and thanks to those that have lifted me up and provided the platforms that allow me to carry my own weight and be ever mindful of the fact that my hard work bears fruit only because so many have built an infrastructure that supports it.

Thank you for reading.


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