Monday, September 12, 2011

The Best Answer I Can Find to Religion

Many summers ago, as a teenager staying at my grandparents' farm in Suffolk County, Long Island, I read this short story by Ursula K. LeGuin: "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" It was just a few pages out of an immense stack of paperback library books, mostly fantasy and science fiction. Looking back, years later, this parable is still probably the best and most concise answer I can find to dilemmas of religion, morality, and ethics.
"These people go out into the street, and walk down the street alone. They keep walking, and walk straight out of the city of Omelas, through the beautiful gates. They keep walking across the farmlands of Omelas. Each one goes alone, youth or girl, man or woman. Night falls; the traveler must pass down village streets, between the houses with yellow-lit windows, and on out into the darkness of the fields. Each alone, they go west or north, towards the mountains. They go on. They leave Omelas, they walk ahead into the darkness, and they do not come back. The place they go towards is a place even less imaginable to most of us than the city of happiness. I cannot describe it at all. It is possible that it does not exist. But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas."
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