THE TIGER AND THE STRAWBERRY--A PARABLE

  1. A man standing at the edge of a steep cliff was startled when a tiger leapt from the jungle behind him. The man slipped and tumbled but as he fell he snagged a vine hanging against the side of the cliff and held tight.
  2. The vine did not reach the ground, which was far enough below that the fall would certainly kill him, so the man began to climb, hand over hand, until the tiger poked its head over the lip of the cliff and stared down at him, teeth gleaming.
  3. Waiting.
  4. The man paused, hoping the tiger would grow bored with waiting before his arms grew tired. A moment passed, and then two white mice emerged from their burrow in the side of the cliff, nimbly hopped to the vine and began to gnaw upon it.
  5. The man howled with disbelief and despair, but stopped when he heard a voice that urged him, “Look at the side of the cliff."
  6. The man looked at the side of the cliff and saw a large wild strawberry growing there.
  7. "Eat the strawberry," said the voice.
  8. “I see what you’re doing,” said the man. “Took a Buddhism class sophomore year. Imminent death, all that. It’s a parable, right? I get it. Very clever. So, would you please help me down?”
  9. “I cannot,” said the voice. “I am just a voice.”
  10. “Hold on,” said the man. “You can’t be just a voice. I can hear you, which means you’re manipulating sound waves and air, which means you have some physical aspect. Can you just chase the tiger away, at least?”
  11. “You’re not hearing me with your ears,” the voice said. “You’re hearing me with your heart.”
  12. “No,” said the man. “My heart doesn’t have an auditory canal. I don’t want to be trapped in a parable, all right? Get rid of that tiger and hand me down a rope or something. Seriously."
  13. "Eat the strawberry," the voice said.
  14. "I'm not eating that fucking strawberry," the man said. "I'm not playing this game of yours. But how about this--I'll use the strawberry as bait to catch the mice, then throw the mice up to feed the tiger, and then I'll--"
  15. Before the man could finish his thought, the vine snapped and he fell to his death.
  16. "Oh shit," said the voice.