I’m from around these parts. I’ve been here a long time. So I know what I’m talking about. Now, every so often, once a week at least, a person driving by will stop and ask: “How much further along is Green Pastures?” Well when they ask me that, I have to judge the situation thoughtfully for I am about to impart an inconvenient truth. Fact is this road doesn’t go to Green Pastures. I know! I know! All the road signs say this is the way to Green Pastures. And the new map they’ve come out with says this road goes to Green Pastures. And the engineers building the road say that’s where it’s going. Why would they not? If folks don’t come this way then there’s no point building the road and if the road don’t get built then the road engineers don’t get paid to build it. You see where I’m going with this. So everyone will tell you that this is the road to Green Pastures. All the motels and stores along the way and the gas stations will all agree that this is the road to Green Pastures. But all you got to do is look up, look around you. That way you see there are hills with green pastures on them rising a way off to the left and more hills with green pastures off to the right, but ahead, where the road is going, there are no Green Pastures. So that’s why some of them pull over and ask for directions.
So it’s left to me to tell them that no, this isn’t the way to Green Pastures. In truth this is the desert highway that goes nowhere. To get to Green Pastures you have to go back the way you’ve come; you’ve got to go back a distance and then take one of the small windy roads that go away from the highway up into the hills, either to the left or to the right. In fact I always say you should drive around a lot just to see which of those little windy roads you like best.
But when I say this to the drivers who stop they get angry. They always get angry: “The map says this highway goes to Green Pastures and now you’re telling me it doesn’t. I think you’re telling me Bullshit.”
Well, when they say that I just walk away. No skin off my nose they don’t get to reach Green Pastures. That’s their problem, no-one else’s.
And sometimes they will say to me: “Sir, the reason I stopped was for you to give me hope, for you to inspire me by telling me that this is the right way, that I am on the right track. And now, wow! I can’t believe it. How insensitive can you be? You’ve just taken all my hope and crushed it and crumpled it. You have let uncertainty take up residence in my soul. What you should have done, sir, is assure me I am on the right road. Then my heart would have sung anew and I would have driven off with new hope that soon I would reach Green Pastures. That’s what you should have said to me.
And there are others who think I am just trying to trick them into deviating from the path. They say to me: “I do not wish to deviate and I do not wish to have this uncertainty tainting my thoughts. So I am going to assume that you are trying to trick me and maybe that you are planning to get a dollar or two out of me. Your purpose is mercenary, sir.”
And there are others who say something like this: “Sir, can’t you see I have already made up my mind to drive in this direction to Green Pastures. Your telling me I am going in the wrong direction is not useful to me.”
And there are others who panic, who throw their arms up and say: “But the map says this is the right road.” And they glare at me as if I am the cause of the problem.
And some come to me saying “I’m lost! I’m lost!” And I try to calm them down. I tell them I know the answer, that I can help them. But they continue to say: “I am lost! I am lost!” As if their ignorance cancels out my knowledge.
And there were times, in the early days, when I would wake up at three in the morning and ask myself: Am I mad? Everyone says the highway goes to Green Pastures. Who am I to say it doesn’t? What do I know? What qualifications have I got? But then I let my mind consider the whole thing, the terrain, the ways of getting there, the direction the highway is going in, the arid wastes ahead. Then I feel comfortable again. I have that confidence again that I am right.
And if I were a patient man, I could say to them, it will not take you far out of your way to follow my directions so that you can see for yourself whether what I am telling you is true or false. And as for money, this diversion will not cost you much, and will indeed this cost will be repaid tenfold in the currency of knowledge. You can go back and try one of the short windy roads and if they bring you to Green Pastures then well and good – and if they don’t then you’ll know I have misled you and you will be able to warn others. You will be able to say to them: “If you see an old fellow who says he knows the terrain and suggests you return and take a different road, well don’t believe him sir.” Yes, you will be able to say that not from prejudice or assumption but from the truth derived from your experience. And what is more, my friend, if, by following my directions, you find yourself in Green Pastures, you will be able to say: “That man told me the truth. I was lucky I stopped and asked him because everyone else was telling me lies.”
Yes sir. That’s what you will be able to say.
© Jonathan Chamberlain 2013
Jonathan Chamberlain is author of The Cancer Survivor’s Bible – www.fightingcancer.com