Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Parable of the Garbage Pile.

Once there was a man who had a very large garbage pile in his back yard. The top of it was so high that the tip could just be seen from the street, although since the back yard was fenced with a high wall, he denied that such a pile existed.

But when the weather was warm, it got particularly stinky, so from time to time he would sheepishly confess that he had "a little garbage" back there.This man had a habit of dumping his chamber pot back there. You can imagine what it smelled like, mixed in with all those rotting banana peels, moldy bread and cheese wrappers. Every day, the chamber pot added to the pile, more frequently even than banana peels. Even the man's wife, who was more used to the smell than anyone, began to complain. And the man began to realise that he had a problem back there. So he decided to do something about it.

He took a pail, and, armed with a small trowel, removed the feces from a small section of the pile, and disposed of them. "There", he thought proudly. "I am making good progress!"The next day, of course, he added more to the pile. As he did so, he realised he'd better find a different way of disposing of this waste. So he began from that day to dispose of it as everyone else did-- he put it out and it was taken away. "There," he thought proudly. "I am making good progress!"

The pile still stunk, though, and his wife complained, while the neighbors also whispered indignantly to one another.So he decided the only thing to be done was to make a point of going out every day with his trowel, and picking out the feces from the garbage pile. He did this diligently for months and months, and after a time, the stench from feces did diminish. "There," he thought (with some sweat on his brow). "I am making good progress!" And he was, as far as that noisome element was concerned.

But all those banana peels and moldy bread and cheese wrappers and meal scraps and paper towels with the who-knows-what all absorbed in them, along with the toilet paper, had not been removed. It was still pretty offensive!

Now, to be fair, the neighbors weren't much better. They had piles too, but some had figured out different ways of hiding them. Some took the stuff to storage rooms, away from the house. It still stunk, but at least no one could pin it on them, and their yards looked pretty good.

Meanwhile the man had almost picked out all the feces from the pile. "There", he thought. "I have made great progress!" And he had, for it had been a huge job. The pile was smaller, and it didn't stink-- well, not as much. His wife was feeling hopeful.

But the pile still stunk. In fact, the whole city stunk. All those piles of garbage, out of sight, some of them, but still there. There were backhoes available, and trucks, and a garbage dump, where everything would be buried forever, all free and included in the town budget, but hardly anyone used these because then they'd have to show how much they were producing, and that was embarrassing.

Better to keep it in the back yard, where it couldn't be seen, and pick out the "really" stinky things with a trowel....

copyright 2007 by Eleanor Grant


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