A tale of pessimism

THE OPTIMIST AND THE PESSIMIST: A FABLE by RANDY FLOOD

A long time ago in a land that was not too far away from here, there was a king who had two sons. One son, Adam, was an incurable optimist. The other son, Argot, was a pessimist. Adam and Argot were twins, and there was great debate in the kingdom over which son should take the throne when the king died. Before he died, the king decided that the council of his closest advisers would make the decision.

After the king died, the council decided that Adam and Argot should walk through the kingdom and have a debate over whether it was good or bad. The brother who won the debate was to be king. And it so came to pass that Adam, Argot, and the council walked through the kingdom.

AS THEY WALKED, THEY CAMЕ UPON SOME STARVING PEASANTS.

 “Look,” Argot said, “they have no food and they are starving. Surely this is proof that the world is a terrible place.”

“No,” Adam replied, “for lack of sustenance refines the soul. They may have no food, but they are learning a great lesson. Patience is more valuable than food.”

WALKING A LITTLE FARTHER, THEY CAME UPON A BLIND MAN.

“Surely the world is a terrible place, when God allows men to go blind!” Argot said.

“Again you are wrong,” Adam replied. “Though this man cannot see, his other sense have grown stronger. He can tell if men are lying by the sound of their voices. He is better off blind.”

FINALLY, THEY CAME UPON A SICK MAN WHO WAS ABOUT TO DIE.

 “This is terrible!” Argot exclaimed. “A man dies by the side of the road, and no one cares enough to help. This is proof that the world is a terrible place.”

“All men die,” Adam answered. “It is not a bad thing to die. This man will soon be with God.”

“I have heard enough,” said one of the council members. “It is obvious to me who would make a better ruler. Adam showed that the starving peasants were learning the lesson of patience. He showed that the blind man has superior senses, and that the dying man was better off dead. What can Argot possibly say now?”

“Permit me, if you will, to give a small demonstration,” Argot said. “Is the primary goal of the ruler to help the people?”

“Yes, of course,” the council agreed.

“How can a ruler help the people if he cannot see their problems?” Argot asked.

“I would be able to see their problems, if they had any,” Adam said. “But I assure you that they don’t.”

“You believe that the blind man was better off blind?” Argot asked them all.

“Yes,” they answered together.

“Then close your eyes,” Argot instructed. “All of you, close your eyes. Now do you believe that patience is better than food?”

“Yes,” they answered again, their eyes tightly closed.

“Then I ask that no one open their eyes until I command it,” Argot said.

Silently, Argot drew his sword and slew his brother. He then cleaned his sword and put it away. “Open your eyes now,” he said.

“Oh, my God,” they cried, “Adam is dead! You have killed your own brother!”

“Then your decision should be an easy one,” Argot replied.

“But we would have chosen Adam!” one of the council members said.

“I have won the debate,” Argot explained. “Being blind prevented you from stopping me from murdering my brother. Thus, being blind is not so good. Being patient kept you from opening your eyes and seeing what I was doing. Thus, being patient is not so good. And if people are better off dead, then my brother is better off death, and what I did is justified. Adam is dead, and so you must proclaim me King.”

“Well spoken, Argot,” the highest council member said. Then he turned to the others. “I believe that Argot is the new king.”

All the council agreed, and so it was Argot the Great ascended to the throne. He ruled for many years, and though he was unhappy most of the time, the land and the people prospered.

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