Dead Right

By: Dr. Paul Mach, DN

Stories and parables have been used throughout history to give us the opportunity to think. Here is a story that occurred a long time ago. It took place in an old, old European village when powerful kings and queens walked the earth. In appearance it was a happy healthy prosperous community. The rich got much richer, and the poor didn’t know any better. Their role was resolution and submission. They all maintained their positions in this functional community. The “haves” profited off the sweat of the labor of the “have-nots”. They functioned in synchronicity as their history dictated.

This story is about a young lad. His father was a noble lord of honorable yet mediocre nature. This young man was assigned his place in time through his birthright. He was a unique sort of chap. He was able to interact and be accepted with all the levels of hierarchy. He schmoozed with the pompous and went out to the fields to chat with the countrymen and laborers. He was loved and accepted by all. He was pure and sincere, not afraid to be himself. This was unconsciously perceived by all.

Then one early summer day as he was out in the fields visiting the common folk, he noticed that many of his friends were ill. He went to the house of a close comrade who wasn’t in the field, only to find that he had died the night before. He had suffered from severe stomach distress, vomiting and dehydration. It had taken him several days to pass. Everyone was frantic and awaited the church and kings men to save them. “Black Death” as they called it always seemed to be lurking around every corner waiting to “get them”. They felt tormented and powerless. There was nothing they could do. These simple folk believed they were subjected to a punishing and self-righteous god. They were not in good favor with him, that’s why they were, what they were. This was their lot in life. They were constantly trying to petition and appease their god. To be in gods good favor meant peace and health. To be in good favor with the government, king, high priests, doctors and his magicians was an added insurance policy. Through their intercession the security of the system would take care of and provide the basics for them. They felt that trading their lives for security was a fair trade.

Well our noble young lad rode back, past his home and off to the castle. This was a matter for the king. The castle was not entirely immune to the plague. Some of the royal family along with many personal servants and military were also falling ill and dying. Indeed it was an unfair and unjust world. The commoners were expendable, but when the royal family is stricken it is a different matter. The priests prayed for them. The royal physicians and magicians had been summoned days earlier, and had been working round the clock looking for the secret potion, concoction or pill that would end this scourge. Burn it, kill it or poison it. Neither wing of bat nor eye of newt could bring reprieve to those who had been stricken. A cure was needed and they used the best that science and alchemy could offer. Sometimes these cures killed the patient or caused more horrendous side affects than the plague did. Our lad was horrified at what was happening. He intuitively knew there had to be an answer. He rode his horse home late that night in solemn thought.

At daybreak he arrived at home. He was relieved to find his immediate family was untouched, yet many of the servants in their fields were ill. Our young lad’s family had barred anyone, including their son, from entering the courtyard and inner housing circle. This was to keep the demons and the contaminated away. This was standard protocol so our lad rode off to the family cottage where he would be safe and have a chance to think. He arrived there parched, because his water from the family well had run dry in his wineskin. He was relieved to go to the spring at the cottage and sit and drink its cold refreshing water just like they had at home. They were lucky to have had ancestors who had built their properties around the springs.

In quiet desperation our lad ate dinner and sat by the fire thinking. He wanted to erase this whole ugly experience. He knew he wasn’t as learned as the magicians and doctors with their big words, incantations and secret formulas. He knew these were good people and felt in his heart that god wouldn’t be so ruthless as to spite them all for the sake it. After several days our lad loaded up spring water and supplies and headed back home. Upon arrival his family was fine, but many of the servants had died and most were ill. He sadly rode off to the castle and the surrounding village. It was a horrible site. The dead in the streets and those who were too ill to bury their loved ones. At the castle it wasn’t much better. The few who were healthy were the royal family and some of the magicians. They had been drinking teas and potions and lots of spirits to maintain sanity. There was fear and animosity between those who were plagued and those who were spared. Our young lad rode off with confusion in his head. There was too much fear and animosity. Instead of working together, they were in competition for a cure. Some even felt “the others” deserved it.

That night outside of town he built a fire and emptied the first of his three wineskins that had been filled with the fresh spring water. He put it in a pot over the fire to make some tea. He knew there had to be a solution. So he thought and thought and thought. As he was drinking a swallow of grape juice given him by the king, he had an insight. He thought outside the box.

He hopped on his trusty steed and rode off to the castle where he was greeted with animosity and distrust for being healthy. He observed, questioned and thought. He went around the village and into the castle. He found that most of those who were well were the alcoholics in the street who only drank liquor, the royal family who was drinking boiled potions and concoctions and the isolated groups where the mother of the household boiled special soups or “healing teas”. He and his family were of course well. They had their own spring water.

He was ecstatic. The correlation was obvious. He went to tell the villagers, his friends, about his discovery. They only viewed him with fear and apprehension. Some even threw rocks. He pleaded with them to listen; health for them was really as simple as boiling their water. They chased him out of town, fearful he was evil. He than went to the king because surely he and his learned men would understand. During his audience with the king, his friend, he was laughed and ridiculed. Boil the water? It was only the special potions and the fact that the gods smiled on the royalty that they were spared. Such a simple practice was ignorant, heathen even. How dare he question the high magicians and doctors practices?

Our young lad was taken into daily service by the palace. Not as the hero as he expected, but as a gravedigger. Daily he was forced to dig huge common graves because he was healthy and able. He would try to explain to any of his old comrades that he would meet, that health was as simple as boiling their water. Most laughed and jeered at the geek. Occasionally a person would listen and would be spared illness and death. But soon winter approached and an early freeze killed the bacteria that inhabited the river where they all got their water. The magicians were ecstatic because their cure had saved the royal family, the priests were ecstatic because they had petitioned the god with prayer, and the villagers were just glad the whole ugly mess was over. They never knew what hit them and never bothered to find out why. The masses remained ignorant, in the shadow of the king and his reign.
As for the young lad, the future years brought the same plague to the people due to a new bacterium. No one listened, no matter how much he would cry out. He became resolved. The townspeople came to know him as the crazy gravedigger. Looking out of the pit where he buried the masses he knew the answer was simple, but no one would listen. Everyone was so busy being self-righteous, or shall we say… dead right. The End…or the beginning? © 1999 Dr. Paul C. Mach DN, ND, CCN