Monday, October 14, 2013
The Three Gold Miners
Here is another allegory from my analogy-wizard correspondent. This one was not originally intended to describe NFP, but I think it might be appropriate. Says my friend about his essay, “I was originally thinking more along the lines of protestants like the Joel Osteens of the world, but the same metaphor might apply just as much to EWTN and Catholic Answers and the NFP promoters.”
The Three Gold Miners,
Imagine that there are three men who go out to search for gold, and they each choose a different mountain in which they are going to begin digging.
The first man actually strikes gold. He finds real gold, and he is happy with his discovery.
The second man believes he has struck gold. He digs away for a long time until he has amassed a pile of gold, and then he takes it to be valued, and he discovers that it is only pyrite, fool's gold. He throws down his tools in anger, returns home, and resolves not to waste any more time on such foolishness.
The third man works away, and like the second man, he thinks he is building up a pile of gold, but when he goes to have it valued, he finds that it is only fool's gold.
The third miner, however, does not just walk away like the second miner, but instead he thinks of a plan. Since he now owns a mountain of fools' gold, he is going to start marketing it and turn his lemons into lemonade. He opens up a business called, National Fabulous Pyrite, Inc. (lol – sort of an inside joke, but I’m sure most everyone gets the NFP part!). He convinces jewelers that pyrite is the latest must-have trend. Soon the stores are full of pyrite jewelry.
The third miner is elated at his success, and so he increases his production. He installs automated machinery to turn out pyrite even faster and cheaper than before. Soon giant bulldozers are loading pyrite into tractor trailers and train cars and shipping tons of pyrite around the world. The third miner starts running advertisements in magazines and on television, and he gets famous celebrities to endorse his pyrite. His company goes public and overnight he becomes fabulously wealthy, much richer than the first miner who found real gold and who continues to toil away, digging for his gold and earning enough to make a living.
If this were an allegory about the American "can-do" spirit, then we would all be expected to admire the third miner. Right now, in fact, Joel Osteen and Rick Warren and Joyce Meyer are bidding for publishing rights to include this allegory in their next volume of inspirational stories, and all of them intend to make the third miner the hero of the book. This is how they view the world.
But in the spiritual life, the only thing that matters is true gold.
In the long run, it is just as true in the pragmatic world as it is in the spiritual world that having true gold is the only real wealth. The overnight success and riches of NFPI will soon crash and burn. Women will get tired of wearing jewelry made of fool's gold, but they have never tired of wearing real gold.
The wealth of the third miner is all phony. He took fool's gold and bartered it for paper money and speculated in the financial markets, and he feels rich when he looks at his bank balance. But none of it can buy him any happiness either in this life or in the next world. In the long run, all paper money eventually returns to its intrinsic value of zero, but gold has never lost its value over all of human history.
In the meantime, however, those who are impressed with activity and motion and bustle and progress and prosperity look at the operations of the third miner and they see the bulldozers and the trucks and the television advertisements, and the movie stars, and they admire all of this and they see it as success. In fact, they judge the amount of activity to be the measure of success.
The third miner himself sees himself as a success. He set out to search for gold, and now he doesn't have any true gold, but he is rich, and that's all the same to him. He didn't get what he came for, but he got something just as good, or even better, he tells himself.
And so one lesson we learn from this is that people who are motivated and ambitious are not deterred by failing to find true gold. They just ramp up the production of fool's gold. Their failure to strike gold makes them increase their activity, not decrease it, like the televangelists who don't really care whether they are living in God's grace as long as their television ratings hold up and the donations keep pouring in.
But what about the first miner who found true gold? He has not become rich in the eyes of the world the way the third miner did. He simply toils away at his mine, and he enjoys the real, true, lasting happiness of holding real gold in his hands. The satisfaction and contentment and security of possessing real gold is something that he would not trade for all the office buildings and television stations and movie stars in the world.
Unfortunately, while sitting in his office tower, or perhaps looking out the window of his private jet, the third miner views the small, simple mine of the first miner, and he is envious. He knows that the first miner has real gold, something that he lacks despite all his fabulous wealth. He covets the real gold of the first miner, and he says to himself, "I have hundreds of employees and tons of heavy equipment, and I have access to the media and I am friends with the powerful of the land, and so there is no reason why I should let this fool hoard all the true gold. I will invade his mine and take it from him."
Which is just what happened when King Ahab and his wife Jezebel grew jealous of the small vineyard of Naboth, and they murdered him in order to steal it. They owned all the kingdom of Israel (the northern 10 tribes) in which they worshiped Baal, but they coveted the one small vineyard where Naboth was faithful to the Lord.
And it helps to explain why King Henry VIII would attack the abbeys and murder the monks. The king had all of England in which to glorify himself and his new wife Anne Boleyn and to practice his new religion, but he accused the abbeys -- which were educating the young and feeding the poor and treating the sick -- of hoarding all the wealth.
So the third miner and his followers murder the first miner and steal his mine. But just like the men who killed the goose that laid golden eggs, they turn out to be disappointed. They don't find in the mine the hordes of vast wealth that they had portrayed to the mobs when they incited them to murder the first miner. Instead they find that the miner worked hard in heat and cold and hunger and thirst and darkness in order to bring forth real gold from the mine. And they have no interest in that at all.
But the first mine does have many mounds of pyrite that the miner had discarded in his search for real gold. "We will just continue selling pyrite," they decide, "but now it will be even better. The first miner has conveniently left us with large stores of discarded pyrite that we can sell, but now we can tell everyone that it comes from the true mine, the source of real gold. And when we show them the pyrite from the true source of real gold, and we compare it to the pyrite from our own mine, everyone will see that it is the same, and our own pyrite will be valued as though it came from the true mine."
Two final points: First, this explains why Catholic Answers has to attack "radical traditionalists," why the bishop of Detroit has to attack "Church Militant TV," why the Vatican has to attack Bishop Williamson, and why the NFP fanatics have to attack "providentialists."
Secondly, if the story ends here, then it seems like a tough luck story for the first miner. If you're the first miner, it seems like STBY. Shouldn't there be a happy ending for our hero? In real life, unfortunately, stories don't have the same kinds of happy endings as in fairy tales. There wasn't any happy ending for Naboth when Ahab and Jezebel wanted to steal his vineyard, and there wasn't any happy ending for the monks living in England when King Henry VIII wanted to steal their abbeys. From the point of view of the world, the third miner always wins. If you look at the life from the perspective of the world, then you will always want to be the third miner, not the first miner.
But there is one more fact that we have forgotten to mention, the reason why the three miners were motivated to search for gold in the first place: because in the world of our story, true gold has magical properties. Once upon a time in the kingdom of our story, everyone knew that true gold had magical properties, but gradually the advertising for pyrite made most of them forget. There are still some people who know the magical properties of real gold, and they would rather die than to touch pyrite, but they are becoming a smaller and smaller remnant of the citizens of the kingdom.
We will mention two of the magical properties possessed by the true gold.
1. When you hold it in your hands, you can communicate with the magical kingdom of fairyland which exists side-by-side with the kingdom in our story, but which is invisible to everyone except for those who possess true gold. Pyrite does not have this property; in fact, the more pyrite you own, the more you build up a shield around you which prevents you from perceiving the magical kingdom or being touched by any of its inhabitants. However, a second magical kingdom exists side-by-side with the kingdom of the three mines, one that is inhabited by hideous goblins. They are attracted to pyrite the same way that the fairies of the magical kingdom are attracted to true gold.
2. True gold comes with you when you die. While you were alive, true gold only allowed you to perceive the magical kingdom, but when you die it transports you to the kingdom itself.
And so the first miner who was murdered by the followers of the third miner was happy in this life because he was always in contact with fairyland despite the fact that he worked hard and suffered in the mine to extract true gold; and then when he died, he brought the true gold with him to fairyland. The third miner and his followers who murdered the first miner, however, never possessed any true gold; and when they die they leave all their pyrite behind them, but they take themselves to the land of goblins.