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Friday, May 29, 2015

The Priest And The Farmer... A story about survival

(The following story was shared with me many years ago by my college roommate, a jovial fellow named Trevor Palmer. Trevor became a minister of the Moravian Church in Jamaica. He passed from this life in 2011. I still remember his great sense of humor. I have taken some liberties with the details, but the salient points remain.)

A rather portly parish priest who fancied himself well educated, was out on one of his few pastoral trips when the area in which he served was deluged by heavy rains. In a matter of a few hours the rising waters destroyed the only bridge that connected the rural part of of his parish from the more urban area where he lived. After two days without relief, a local farmer finally readied a boat that he had been working to repair for sometime.

Being a person of prominence, the priest pressed the man to provide him transportation down and across the river back to the his side of the town. After some consideration the farmer warned the priest that he had some doubt about making the journey in what was an untested boat. The priest insisted of course, assuring the man that “the Lord would take care” of them. The farmer finally gave in to the pleadings of the priest after reiterating the concerns he had about the age and sturdiness of the vessel. Anxious to get back to the comforts of his home, the priest brushed aside the farmer's trepidations.

They set about the trip later that day, even though the waters were still rough. As the farmer rowed, the priest sat back at the other end of the boat with his arms folded across his rather massive stomach. At times he appeared uncomfortable in the presence of this seemingly unrefined stranger. Not being accustomed to holding informal conversations with the common folk, but wanting to demonstrate the “depth” of his wisdom and learning, the priest thought he would ask the hard rowing farmer a few questions.

“So, my dear man” he began, “how much do you know about philosophy?”.
Puzzled by the awkward irrelevance of the question, the farmer replied...
“Philosophy sir... I can't say I know much about that."
The priest continued...
“Well I suppose that means you wouldn't have any ideas about eschatology then, huh?"
“And what would that be?”, the farmer asked disinterestedly?”.
“Well, my good sir, that would be the doctrine of the last things... You know, what will happen at the end of time”.
“No sir”, the bewildered man responded.
“It would suit you to spend some time learning about such things my good man”, the priest said, bursting with pomposity. He continued... “You know, this flood we just experienced reminds me of the great flood in the days of Noah. The Bible teaches that next time it will be fire that will destroy the world."  Feigning a cursory interest in the priest's little homily the farmer interjected...
“And I guess that would be an example of...” Before he could finish the sentence the priest burst out:
“Yes! Eschatology dear sir”.
“I see”, said the unimpressed farmer.
“You know man...”, the portly passenger continued,  “...without the knowledge of these things one cannot really live life fully... It's as if half your life is missing”.
“Really?”, the farmer said, at which the priest looked out at the waters ahead of them in anticipation of the balance of this tedious journey. Realizing that the farmer's interests were not exactly the same as his he lamented:
“I suppose it's no use trying to talk to you about psychology then...". The farmer did not respond; he just kept up the pace of his efforts to rid himself and his boat of this annoying cargo.

They were silent for a while as the boat continued through the deepest part of the river. Suddenly something scraped violently against the bottom of the newly repaired vessel. Less than a minute later, water started to seep through the flooring. Looking up quizzically at his captain, the priest became pale with fear. They were about a quarter of a mile from shore with no life vests. With what seemed a mischievous smirk on his face, the farmer turned and asked the priest in a somewhat mocking tone:
“My dear sir, do you know anything about swimology?"
“What!?” asked the now sweating passenger... “This is no time for jokes man; I cannot swim, and we are still a ways out..."
“Well sir,” said the farmer sarcastically, “...without the knowledge of swimology it is impossible to survive a situation like this. In fact you can't live fully, or maybe even at all without this knowledge”.
And with this the farmer relieved himself of the oars and jumped overboard; leaving the sweating, fear-filled priest ...to fend for himself.

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