Chapter 16: The Fence

Home is somewhere between here and there.

My friends are there, my family’s there, and I know everything and everyone. But there’s no peace, no place to rest, no… freedom there.

Here is my job, my house, my bed, my car. I can do what I want and when I want, but there’s no one to do it with. When I’ve been cooped up all day and I need to get out, there’s no one to go with, and I don’t even know what there is to do.

There life goes on without me, and here it hasn’t quite started.

/* Anyway, since this is my 100th post (yay me!), It’s going to be a little more scattered. */

Let me count up the hours of travel I’ve subjugated my body to this week…

Friday I drove 1 hour. Waited 2 hours. Flew 1 hour. Waited 2 hours. Flew 4 hours. Rode in a car 15 minutes.  Total time = 10:15

Saturday and Sunday, rode to Sonora and back. Total time = 5 hours.

Monday, rode in the car for 15 minutes, waited 2 hours, flew 1 hour, waited 30 minutes, flew 1 hour, waited 2 hours, flew 3 hours, drove 1 hour. Total time = 9:45.

Tomorrow, it’s off to London for the first time in 23 year. 23 years!!! I mean, I had a passport and was in a foreign country before my best friends were born. That’s just plain crazy to me and makes me feel really old. It doesn’t matter that I was only like 3 or 4 then, I still can remember it. Like the museum, the roman baths, the pigeons, the palace, the super cool knight village thing, the tea…

Here’s a passage from a book I was reading called Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card. It’s actually a quote from a made up book at the beginning of the chapter. I’m quoting a made up book in an actual book. Fakebook -> Realbook -> Blog -> Facebook. See? It all works out.

A great rabbi stands teaching in a marketplace. it happens that a husband finds proof that morning of his wife’s adultery and a mob carries her to the marketplace to stone her to death. (There’s a familiar version of this story, but a friend of mine, a speaker for the dead, has told me of two other rabbis that face the same situation. Those are the ones I’m going to tell you.)

The rabbi walks forward and stands beside the woman. Out of respect for him the mob forbears, and waits with the stones heavy in their hands. “Is there anyone here,” he says to them, “who has not desired another man’s wife, another woman’s husband?”

They murmur and say, “We all know the desire, but Rabbi, none of us have acted on it.”

The rabbi says, “Then kneel down and give thanks that God made you strong.” He takes the woman by the hand and leads her out of the market. Just before he lets her go, he whispers to her, “Tell the lord magistrate who saved his mistress, then he’ll know I am his loyal servant.”

So the woman lives, because the community is too corrupt to protect itself from disorder.

Another Rabbi, another city. He goes to her and stops the mob, as in the other story and says, “Which of you is without sin? Let him cast the first stone.”

The people are abashed, and they forget their unity of purpose in the memory of their own individual sins. Someday they think, I may be like this woman, and I’ll hope for forgiveness and another chance. I should treat her the way I wish to be treated.

As soon as they open their hands and let the stones fall to the ground, the rabbi picks up one of the fallen stones, lifts it high over the woman’s head, and throws it straight down with all his might. It crushes her skull and dashes her brains on to the cobblestones.

“Nor am I without sin,” he says to the people, “but if we allow only perfect people to enforce the law, the law will be dead, and our city with it.” So the woman dies because her community was too rigid to endure her deviance.

The famous version of this story is noteworthy because is is so startling rare in our experiences. Most communities lurch between decay and rigor mortis, and when they veer too far, they die. Only one rabbi dared to expect us such perfect balance that we could preserve the law and still forgive the deviation, so, of course, we killed him.

5 thoughts on “Chapter 16: The Fence

  1. Patrick Atkins

    Well, it was really good to see you! Also you have to come back HERE for this summer! Because HERE is the only place you can enjoy Pinecrest, Yosemite, and all the lakes and streams to go fishing at!

  2. stefani

    Orson Scott Card is one of my all-time heroes.
    I haven’t read nearly enough of his stuff.

    When you get through the books surrounding Ender and his time(s), you should check out “Enchantment.” It’s a sci-fi fairytale of immigration, Russian folklore, “barbarism,” and love. sooo good.


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