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Evil and Stupid Thoughts
My grandfather went his entire life believing that the Earth was flat. He had grown up in a small, Southern town. He could not read. But he respected God and the Church, was a hard worker, and was kind to everyone he met, so he was liked and well-respected amongst the town.
Of course, I only saw him when my family went down to visit him. The times that occurred were by no means frequent, but they were filled with joyful memories. I remembered my grandfather as a wise, almost sage-like, figure. He taught me to appreciate the natural beauty of the world, to love one’s neighbor, to follow the good book, and to grow into a strong, young man. I read to him from my childhood books and he smiled when I did. And when I turned my back on God, after one too many hate-filled sermons from my own pastor, he respected that, when no one else would.
And so it surprised me, when one day, on Christmas Eve, I had gone down to visit him and he had told me his belief on the planar shape of the Earth. I was in college at that time, I was in the middle of a Degree in Engineering, and I was shocked that I had never known this about my grandfather until now.
I can’t even remember how we got on the subject; all I can think of is the subject itself. But my grandfather insisted that the Earth was flat, and said it like it was the most common, well-known thing in the world.
But that’s not true, I explained to my grandpa. And he looked at me funny, like I had just said 2 and 2 did not make 4. But it wasn’t true. I explained. I took out some ornaments and demonstrated how it all works. I used logic and reasoning to explain it all.
But when I was finished, I looked at my grandfather and I saw a look of shock on his face. Then, the shock slowly turned into amusement, like when you look upon a small child playing a children’s game.
“Now son,” he asked me. “Do you really believe all that?”
2 months later, my grandfather died. As I stood at his funeral, as everyone else was lost in grief, I was lost in contemplation.
My grandfather was the greatest man I ever knew. But he believed such a ridiculous thing. What did that mean? I had grown up and decided for myself that fools shouldn’t be tolerated. Thinking backwards led to hatred, violence. What did…what did it mean then, for a wise man to think foolish thoughts? Aside from that one crazy thing, that one foolish thought, my grandfather was wiser than any university professor or pastor or person in general. How could those wise thoughts and foolish thoughts co-exist in the same head? I couldn’t understand.
I looked around at all the people gathered at the funeral. I saw my father, whom I hadn’t spoken to in years. Why had I stopped talking to him? Was it because we disagreed about God? I couldn’t remember. I saw Darrel Rice, a young fellow I had known in Grammar School. I had stopped being friends with him after he had told me he thought “fags” were unnatural. But as I searched my memories, that was the only vice I knew he had. I looked at Susan, my lady of 2 years. I remembered at how when I first met her, I had thought she was a radical activist who believed all men were pigs. But then one day, I finally crept round to one of her meetings. I listened outside. And I saw that she wasn’t so bad. She certainly wasn’t normal. Even some of her fellow activists found her a tad extreme. But I soon found her to be the greatest woman I ever knew.
But then I remembered my pastor, the one who was here even now. His mind and thinkings were just as twisted and evil as his body, and I cringed at having him bury my grandfather. I had every right to turn away from my father and Darrel. They thought like this man, this hate-monger.
Or did they? If the only thing I had known about my grandfather was that he thought the Earth was flat, I would have thought him stupid. But beneath that thought, there lay a good man. Evil and stupid people existed, certainly. But did that mean that everyone with an evil and stupid thought in their head was evil and stupid? Or did it just make them human?
I stood there in silence, for the rest of the ceremony, and long after it was over, just thinking. My gaze was forever locked onto the tombstone of my grandfather.
I suppose you could say I puzzled my puzzler ‘til my puzzler was sore. And that wouldn’t be an awful way to put into words what I did. I tried to wrassle the cognitive dissonance in my head, and as I did, I heard a voice call out to me.
When I turned around, it was my father. I stiffened as he approached, expecting an argument. But then as he came closer to me, I saw on his face the same sense of grief and loss that was etched on my own. He came all the way up to me, and tentatively, frightenedly, moved his hand in a comforting gesture my way. I did not resist.
And after that, we talked. I told him I still did not believe, and he told me he still wanted me to desperately. But then he said, even if I couldn’t accept the Lord, I was still his son. And he still loved me and cared for me. And I realized I felt the same.
As I stood there, with my father, I decided something. Everyone has evil and stupid thoughts. But they are human. We are human. We all are human. And I supposed that, even with evil and stupid thoughts, we can still be good. Maybe I could never agree with my father on God. Maybe I could never agree with my grandfather on the Earth. But I could still love and admire them for the people they were.
For now, that was enough.