The Pirate King: a parable
Constance had a small shipping business, delivering food and clothing at charitable prices to people all over the world in her private boat. Being a realist, Constance knew that because of where she sailed and the amount of time she spent on the water, it was only a matter of time before she was confronted by pirates. There was nothing she could do about this, and Constance was resigned to face the situation bravely when it arose.
Sure enough, one day Constance’s ship was boarded by pirates. She thought it would end there, with them either killing her or making her pay something and letting her go on her way. But instead, Constance learned that she had been captured not by ordinary pirates but by someone calling himself the Pirate King!
“Now,” said the Pirate King when Constance was dragged before him, “we will decide your fate. Tell me, have you dedicated your life to following the commands of the Pirate King?”
The question took Constance by surprise. “No,” she said. “In fact, I didn’t think you even existed. I’d heard stories, but they said you were as old as the sea itself and rode in a magic ship. There were no reliable witnesses and the stories were so old and ridiculous that I saw no reason to believe they were true. They just sounded like legends, and the book that’s supposed to be by you was obviously written by a bunch of other people.”
The Pirate King laughed hearty and loud. “What foolishness! You will know my wrath for rejecting me.”
“I didn’t reject you,” Constance replied. “I just wasn’t convinced that you existed.”
“Denial and self delusion will not save you! So tell me, have you stored up enough treasure to make you worthy of being in my presence?”
Constance shrugged her shoulders, “How much would that be? I have cargo worth about half a million dollars.”
Again the Pirate King laughed. “Even if you had a million such cargos it would not be enough to make you worthy. Have you accepted my son, the Pirate Prince into your heart and asked him for forgiveness?”
“Who?” asked Constance.
“The Pirate Prince! Me! My son! Have you asked him to forgive your debt?
The question took Constance by surprise. “No,” she said. “In fact, until this moment I had never even heard of him.”
The Pirate King laughed even louder than before. “Ridiculous! You knew in your heart that the Pirate Prince existed. If you had accepted the gift he offered, he would have used his infinite wealth to pay the debt you owe me and you could have become an honored member of my crew. Unfortunately for you, although I am infinitely forgiving and would love to just let you go, I am also infinitely just. As such, and because you did not pay your debt and are not worthy of being in my sight, I will take your ship and all that you have and order my crew to beat and torture you until the end of your days.”
“Hang on,” Constance said. “Now that I’ve got all the facts, I’m more than willing to change my mind. I’ll accept your son’s offer to pay this debt you talked about and become a member of your crew.”
“Too late! If I let you accept the Pirate Prince now that you’ve been captured, that wouldn’t be fair to all of the people who trusted in him when they had no solid proof that he was real. You had plenty of time to search your heart and find the Pirate Prince back when you were sailing blithely about, but instead you decided to be apiratical so you could indulge your seafaring ways without regard to the rules of the sea.”
“But I obeyed all the rules of the sea! I’m an excellent sailor!”
“You may have obeyed the rules, but why did you obey them? Not out of fear of the Pirate King, so you said yourself! Where did you think those rules came from if not from me?”
“Well, they just made sense, and I earned plenty of honest treasure following them.”
“Ha! All the treasure you stored while following those rules is barnacles to me! You did not truly follow the rules. Only my son has sufficient treasure to pay your way clear and you rejected his offer. Take her away!”
And Constance was dragged screaming from the room and thrust into the bowels of the ship where she was starved and whipped, her cries of pain and anguish pointless and unheard. It made the Pirate King sad to hear those cries, but what could he do? Justice had been served.