People choose the seventh option every day. It’s easy to throw a dice, or throw a stone, or fire a gun, if you don’t have to look at the consequences. The worst development in all of war was when we found a way to kill over a distance. Once, killing meant committing violence against a tangible body. Now, you can do it without thinking or knowing or caring or understanding.
Seeing is a gift, but gifts are more trouble than they’re worth sometimes. It’s easier sometimes to not see, to look in a dark corner and be blind, or to have a thought and not follow it through it its conclusion.
Let me tell of a man who rolled the dice and couldn’t look.
Shaka Zulu was a 19th century Zulu king who won a kingdom and defended it against enemies black and white. He was successful on the battlefield and plagued by witch doctors at home.
The Zulu held shamans in high regard as a class of lawyer priests. It was customary for shamans to receive half of a convicted man’s property, and they grew overfond of accusing wealthy people of crimes so as to share in their wealth.
One day, the actions of a particular witch exceeded Zulu’s patience, and he decided to punish her.
He imprisoned her in a hut and – because she claimed a hyena as her familiar – he put a fully grown male hyena in the hut with her before barring the door. He did not wish her to be lonely.
Hyenas are not timid scavenging animals. When hungry, they are dangerous predators. Snarls and barks came from inside the hut. The people in the kraal heard these sounds, and knew that a king’s vengeance was underway.
But then there was silence. No more snarls and barks. No sound at all came from inside the hut. The beast was quiet, and Shaka’s subjects whispered as to the meaning of this.
A few days later, Shaka ordered the hut burned down. He did not want the door opened, or for anyone to look inside. Flames devoured the hut with a million sucking mouths, and the secret inside was lost to history.
Behind Shaka’s back, there were whispers.
He’d been afraid.
Afraid of the hut being opened.
Afraid of seeing the hyena lying in the witch’s arms, sucking on her nipples. So he’d set the hut to burn. He threw the dice, and then turned his eyes away.
That this is the right way is hard to accept. Walking around with one’s eyes shut seems dangerous. You might fall into a hole in the ground.
But there’s a hole in the ground waiting for you anyway. There’s one waiting for all of us, and it will take everyone, blind and seeing alike. But you don’t have to think about that, if you don’t want to.
Please be blind.
Please don’t look.