A Parable of Death and Life

A Parable I first encountered 30 years ago.  The author is unknown to me, but many variations of this story circulate on the Internet.

Once upon a time, twin boys were conceived in the same womb. Seconds, minutes, hours passed as the two embryonic lives developed. The spark of life grew and each tiny brain began to take shape and form.  With the development of their brain came feeling, and with feeling perception – a perception of surroundings,  and of self.  When they perceived the life of each other, they knew that life was good, and they laughed and rejoiced in their hearts.

One said to the other, “We are sure lucky to have been conceived and to have this wonderful world.”

The other chimed in, “Yes, blessed be our mother who gave us life and each other.”

Each of the twins continued to grow and take shape. They stretched their bodies and churned and turned in their little word. They explored it and found the life cord which gave them life from their mother’s blood.  They were grateful for this new discovery and sang, “How great is the love of our mother – that she shares all that she has with us!”  And they were pleased and satisfied with their lot.

Weeks passed into months and with the advent of each new month, they noticed a change in each other and in themselves.

“We are changing”, one said. “What can it mean?”

“It means”, said the other, “that we are drawing near to birth.”

An unsettling chill crept over the two. They were afraid of birth, for they knew that it meant leaving their wonderful world behind.

Said the one,  “Were it up to me, I would live here forever.”

“But we must be born,” said the other. “It has happened to others who were here before.”   Indeed, there was evidence inside the womb that the mother had carried life before theirs.   “Might not there be life after birth?”

“How can there be life after birth?” cried the one. “Do we not shed our life cord and also the blood tissue when we are born?  Have you ever talked with someone who was born?  Has anyone ever re-entered the womb after birth to describe what birth is like? NO!”

As he spoke, he fell into despair, and in his despair he moaned, “If the purpose of conception and our growth inside the womb is to end in birth, then truly our life is senseless.” He clutched his precious life cord to his breast and said, “And if this is so, and life is absurd, then there really can be no mother!”

“But there is a mother,” protested the other. “Who else gave us nourishment? Who else created this world for us?”

“We get our nourishment from this cord – and our world has always been here!” said the one. “And if there is a mother – where is she? Have you ever seen her? Does she ever talk to you? NO! We invented the idea of the mother because it satisfied a need in us. It made us feel secure and happy.”

Thus while the one raved and despaired, the other resigned himself to birth and placed his trust in the hands of his mother. Hours turned into days, and days into weeks. And soon it was time. They both knew their birth was at hand, and they both feared what they did not know. As the one was first to be conceived, so he was the first to be born, the other following.

They cried as they were born into the light. They coughed out fluid and gasped the dry air. And when they were sure they had been born, they opened their eyes – seeing life after birth for the very first time. They saw what they yet did not understand as they found themselves cradled lovingly in their mother’s arms. They lay awe struck before the beauty and truth they a few minutes before could only hope to know.