What if the Rich Fool in the parable did not physically die that night but his soul - the very thing that made him human -was repossessed? What might it mean to be soul-less; to be a dead man walking with whatever there was of real life in him gone forever? A damned soul but not yet a dead man?
Thank you for joining us this morning for an interview with our special surprise guest, the Rich Fool.
INT: Earlier, when we heard it was your last day we quickly put together a program to feature your life and achievements. What a shock to wake up and find you are still with us. So, welcome and we are anxious to hear more.
RF: Yes, as Mark Twain said, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” Here I am in the flesh. It was touch and go there for a bit but all is good.
INT: We’ve had various reports about how you learned there were threats on your life. What actually happened? Did you really hear a voice?
RF: Oh, no! Nothing like that. Actually, someone hacked my Whatsapp account and left a text saying this was my last night alive. I won’t say I get those often but you know how great success makes small people angry. It was enough of a concern to make me call in security and they are 95% certain they have traced it. I'll know more soon.
INT: What was your first response? How did you feel?
RF: I felt very little at all. I was calmer than I would have expected but still did not discount the fact that someone wanted to rattle me. As you know, I’m not easily intimidated. I’ve been up against the best of them and never backed down.
INT: But we’ve heard it was not only a threat but whoever texted you had a list of complaints. Maybe it was a disgruntled former employee or competitor?
RF: None of those. Even the complaints were ridiculous and a total misreading of the facts.
INT: Which are?
RF: They complained I had accumulated more than my “fair share” of wealth and my new building project was nothing more than conspicuous consumption. No one needed that much. As if anyone has the right to tell me how much I needed! After all, I created the wealth with my own hands. Yes, the land was good but good land just sits there until smart people make it profitable. Besides, that project was creating jobs for the community. Isn’t that more productive than leaving a little for the poor to glean? The economy has never been stronger and they have me to thank for it. The name of the game has always been growth even if you only build more space to store it. There is no such thing as enough. The whole idea of having enough would take us all down. That’s just plain socialism.. or worse.
I remember the very moment of clarity. I was at dinner with friends and had just finished the third course. I was completely full but as I glanced over at the person seated next to me they had not quite finished. There was still one slice of steak on the plate. Whatever it was I don’t know to this day but when he turned his head for a moment something made me reach over with my fork and take that remaining piece. I could not eat it but neither could I keep from taking it. For the balance of the dinner it lay there on my plate untouched but I felt a new satisfaction that was far more delicious than being full. I could not eat another bite but I needed to have his. I had always been rich so that was not the issue. I wanted it to be mine. I now wanted what belonged to others.
INT: So, you have cheated friends and now death as well?
RF: Yes, when you are a rich fool you can do anything you want. You can even cheat death.
As he rose to leave I could see what might have looked like a smile for anyone else. But on his face, while it was a smirk of satisfaction, there was the slightest momentary tinge of something else. He seemed lighter and smaller somehow as if he had actually diminished even in the short time we had together. It was more like gradually disappearing than simply leaving.
I thought about the words from Perelandra by C.S. Lewis:
“The forces which had begun, perhaps years ago, to eat away his humanity had now completed their work. The intoxicated will which had been slowly poisoning the intelligence and the affections had now at last poisoned itself and the whole.. organism had fallen to pieces. Only a ghost was left - an everlasting unrest, a crumbling, a ruin, and odor of decay.”
Maybe he had cheated death. Then again, maybe there are other ways for losing your life.