Purplevania: A Parable of Tolerance, Dance & Death

The people of Purplevania, more than any country on earth, loved ballroom dance.

The waltz. The tango. The fox-trot and the quick-step. The paso doble and the rumba. Year after year, the greatest ballroom dancers in the world came from Purplevania.

Yet all was not sunshine and roses.

Purplevania endured a minor yet long-running dispute about ballroom dancing lessons.

Some people in Purplevania believed that everyone deserved free ballroom dance lessons. They loved the beauty of ballroom dance, the thrill of competition, the benefits of exercise and the really cool hairstyles.

Others believed that no one deserved free ballroom dance lessons. They were not against ballroom dance lessons. They too loved the beauty of ballroom dance, the thrill of competition, the benefits of exercise and the really cool hairstyles.

They believed that any Purplevanian who wanted ballroom dance lessons should pay for those lessons themselves rather than forcing all Purplevanians to pay for them.

For decades, the two groups of Purplevanians lived in peace with one another. Each group thought the other was wrong, but each group tolerated  the other’s contrary beliefs.

It was a peaceful, happy and beautiful time to be alive.

Until one day, when…

A charismatic, powerful figure rose to a position of power: Fabulous Frederick Flaminco

Fab Fred, (as his supporters called him), was a fiery speaker, aflame with passion for ballroom dance. He believed – passionately – that everyone deserved free ballroom dance lessons. On the strength of that message, he was elected Prime Minister by the narrowest of margins.

In a stunning departure from Purplevanian traditions, he commanded the creation of a special committee charged with collecting money from all Purplevanians to fund free dance lessons for all.

Naturally, the Free Dance Lessons for Everyone crowd loved Fab Fred.

The other crowd – the “if you want it, then pay for it” crowd – was horrified.

“Why are we forced to pay for other people’s dance lessons”, they rightly asked. “It violates our beliefs!”

They two groups of Purplevanians had coexisted for decades with those differing opinions. But now, one group had chosen “progress” over “peaceful coexistence” and was forcing their beliefs on the other group.

Of course, this story ends as all true stories do: with death.

A civil war broke out.

Purplevanians by the thousands were killed, wounded and horribly maimed by the war. Purplevania lost its stature as the ballroom dance capital of the world. The war destroyed all the ballroom dance studios and killed most of the teachers.

No more champions ever came from Purplevania again.

In the end, Fabulous Frederick Flamingo was deposed and fled the country to live out the rest of his life in Argentina, (naturally).

Some people still loved him. Some would forever revile his name.

Purplevania never recovered.

Today, where once there was prosperity, happiness, art, beauty and cooperation, there is only poverty, pain, sickness, destruction and suspicion.

And very few Purplevanians even remember how to dance.


 

Believe whatever you want. But let other people believe whatever they want, too. It’s not okay to force other to pay for your beliefs. Everyone loses in that situation.

 

Artist or Accountant?

Do the Scales Balance?

Portrait of Luca PacioliA guy driving back from a fishing trip is killed when a rock thrown from an overpass crashes through his windshield. Shit happens.

An otherwise-healthy 32-year-old mother of 5 small children contracts breast cancer and dies within 4 months of the diagnosis. Shit happens.

A cab driver steps between a man and the girlfriend he is hitting. The man turns on the cabbie and beats him into a coma. He dies within weeks without regaining consciousness. Shit happens.

Or at least, that’s what some people say.

Other people say that what goes around comes around. Karma’s a bitch. You reap what you sow. The scales must be balanced.

I wonder: Is the universe fundamentally just or not?

If the universe is just…

…then there is an accountant in charge who balances out every debit with an offsetting credit and every extra credit with a debit.

The universe is a zero-sum game. Everything must eventually balance.

But if it is not…

…then there is room in this universe for the unexpected and unbalanced to occur. Not just shit but grace as well. Not just bad luck but gratuitous fortune.

As it happens, we almost never see stuff get balanced. We almost never see a debit offset with a credit. Bad things tend to happen to good people, for no rhyme or reason. Good things happen to bad people, and they get away with it.

If the universe is just, and we don’t see every debit offset with a credit, then we tell ourselves stories to explain why.

Either we project the credit off into the distant future beyond death, (heavenly reward), or we place the debit into the distant past, beyond birth, (karma’s a bitch).

Both explanations require faith because neither is subject to proof.

If the bad stuff  is balancing undeserved fortune, then perhaps the good stuff is balancing undeserved misfortune, right? And vice versa?

Is shit happening to you because something from the distant past is finally catching up with you, (the sins of the fathers are visited on their children), or is the shit something you’ll get a reward for after you’re dead?

How can we know? It’s more than enough to drive you crazy.

Artistry, Not Accountancy

Of course, if the universe is not just, then perhaps it’s because there’s an artist in charge.

We’ve all known artists. They are messy. They are disorganized. They are extreme in their actions and reactions. Often they don’t make sense. They tend to over-indulge their senses and neglect the necessities of life. All for the sake of art.

“Shit happens,” yes – but to me it is just part of the great messy canvas the universal artist paints upon.

Oh, and grace happens on that canvas, too.

So breathe. In and out. In and out.