The Killer From The Forest

Suppose you are minding your own business, standing on a dusty street corner in the Old West, your six-shooter in your holster, when out of the forest staggers a bleary-eyed man holding a machete. You have never seen him before in your life. His shirt is soaked with sweat, he’s barefoot, and his pants are ragged. When he sees you, his eyes bug and he points his machete your way. “Kincaid!” he cries. “I found you. I’ve been searching the forest for three years for you, and now I’m going to cut you into pieces and make a pie out of you before you kill again!”

You tell him your are not Kincaid.  He does not believe you. That’s exactly what Kincaid would have said. And now he’s coming at you, machete over his head, eyes wild and unseeing. And so you pull out your revolver and shoot him dead.

I feel this is how most problems are solved. The problem, of course, is that this poor fellow believes something that is not true. In this way, there is no problem at all, just a misperception. The truth is, you don’t know him, he doesn’t know you, and no one really wants to hurt anyone. So that is the Truth – the absolute truth.

The other truth is that he has a machete and appears as though he will use it to kill you. What are you to do? How long do you wait to find out if he will actually use it? No one, myself included, could blame you for using the gun, but when you do, you must enter his dream world where you are a threat, where because of his misperception you become the very enemy he believes you to be. Perhaps you are Kincaid after all.

This is how it always works when I try to kill one of my problems. I can’t kill it unless I enter the dream world where it is real because I can’t kill something that doesn’t exist. Yet how would you convince the madman you aren’t someone he believes you are? How can you be any less of someone you already aren’t? The only possible solution, the one that requires the most courage of all, would be not to shoot him, let him come, machete and all. When I do this, I look up and see that he does not have a machete, and I do not have a gun, and I am not even on a dusty street corner but at my desk and a thorny chapter may find its resolution after all.

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