Villagers rush to the side of a man with an arrow in his heart who lies bleeding and gasping on a dusty path. "Who shot him?" inquires the first man to arrive at the shaking body.
"Do you think there was an argument?" asks the second.
"Of course there must have been an argument," says a third. "Otherwise, why would he have been shot?"
"What do you think the argument was about?" asked the first man.
As the villagers pause to consider this question, the man on the ground tries to say something, but is interrupted by a fourth villager who says, "I imagine there was money involved,"
"The man who shot him must have been wealthy," advocates a fifth. "Look how beautiful the feathers are on those arrows, probably from a peacock or other expensive bird. Did I ever tell you about the time my cousin was shopping in the next village and wanted to buy some peacock feathers for my niece's second son? Not my niece who married the rock farmer, but my other niece--the one whose left leg was shorter than her right. She was at the local school learning how to combine dirt and water when she thought a cow tried to proposition her. She would never say which cow. So, one day..."
I have too much respect for my gentle readers to subject them to any more dialogue about the family of the fifth villager. Because I know what you're thinking or at least I know what I hope you're thinking: these people need to stop talking about what the arrows were made out of or the recipe for mud and get to work saving the life of the person who lies bleeding and gasping by the side of the path.
Listening to a mother and father talk about their son Donald's failing grade in math the other day reminded me of the modified Buddhist story above. "If only we weren't getting divorced," Donald's father begins.
"If only you hadn't had an affair with that tootsie in your office," counters Donald's mom.
"Well, if you were more available to take care of your family instead of working all the time," replies dad.
"You know very well Donald did better in math before you moved in with the bimbo," continues mom.
"Do you want me to move back in, is that what you want?" replies dad.
"Donald's math teacher in seventh grade was terrible," mom says.
"At least we can agree on that," dad replies. "She never even graded the homework."
"If only we had sent him to that math camp after elementary school, then everything would be different," says mom.
"You know very well that I am the one who found that program and was in favor of it from the start. It was your mother who said that..."
And off they go, spouting interminable nonsense about that which cannot be changed and makes no difference. As long as his parents keep arguing, that which actually matters-homework, the quadratic formula, getting help from the teacher after school, forming a study group, graphing quadratics, hiring a tutor-goes unremarked upon.
And Donald meanwhile, about whom the conversation was ostensibly concerned to begin with, continues to lie bleeding by the side of the path.