I was reminded recently of a parable Leo Tolstoy once told.
Regarding the meaning of life, Count Tolstoy wrote that life’s like a traveler who jumps into a well to escape the “infuriated beast” that has been pursuing him, only to find that there is a dragon at the bottom of the well. The traveler grabs hold of a twig growing in the well, effectively placing him in limbo between the infuriated beast above and the nefarious dragon below. Then, much to his dismay, he sees two mice nibbling on the twig.
All seems lost, but then the traveler notices a few drops of honey at the end of the twig, and he thus begins licking the honey.
Here, Tolstoy lends voice to what it means to be human and to wrestle with our own finitude.
Tolstoy is showing how we, in effort to avoid looking at the death that awaits us, seek any available pleasure to anesthethize and assuage our fear. This doesn’t, of course, refer only to immediate pleasure; all things calculated to set up some future pleasure count as well ( in other words, everything we do).
Even those of us who believe in eternal life are all too familiar with this existential reality, this fear of our own earthly mortality and this desire to find some sort of pleasure by which we can avoid facing the realities of our temporal time on earth.
I have done– and continue to do– so many things that, though I am never aware of it in the moment, are designed to bolster confidence in my immediate identity so as to quiet my fears about my future identity. In other words, while hanging from the tenuous twig of life, I search frantically for new sources of honey.
And, at the end of the day, when I’m thinking straight, I thank God that He is the ultimate honey and that, while some deride this mentality as the recourse of a weak person, of a person who needs to use “God” as a crutch, I take joy and solace in the fact that, at the very root, if approached with a humble and pure heart, that’s precisely what God intended to be, and that’s just the type of person for whom God intended to be it.