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The Four Compass Directions

by Dahl Clark

 

There can be many things that influence how people act throughout life, but of them all, there are four that are crucial. One of them is love, the other experience. The third, reason, and the fourth, greed. Love builds a person, teaches him about the goodness of life. Experience allows the person to look back on the path of life and see where he has been. Experience prevents mistakes. Reason allows better decisions to be made about the direction one wants to travel on the road of life; it allows goals to be reached faster. But greed is a downfall. It occurs only when, even with reason and experience and all those other things, one decides that it takes too long to reach a goal or that one particular goal is not enough. A person then wants more and more from life that life itself cannot give. When a person becomes saturated with greed, love, experience and even the great quality of human wisdom cannot save him. Nothing short of the Lord himself. Take this example:

 

There was once a man who had spent his early life on the streets of the small town of Dunnesbury. At an early age his relations had all died of one cause or another, and therefore he had been left alone to fend for himself. Back in those days, one couldn’t imagine a harder time than poor Amario. The days were long and cold, the streets bleak and desolate to him. Houses stood off to the sides filled with gay, merry people celebrating for whatever reason, but he was all alone. Surprisingly, the underpaid streetsweeper showed up at the corner of the block, and by the end of midday virtually every scrap of food had vanished from the barren roads.

Within his pocket, however, Amario had saved up an amount equal to three dollars worth in pesos---a lot to carry around, but not quite a lot to spend. Around his neck he wore a gold-gilded cross, the only reminder of his early life with the exception of the old, worn-out socks he wore on his feet. He portrayed quite a shocking appearance---years of desperate poverty showed on his torn cloth wrap he hung over his shoulders to shield from the cold; underneath, the blemishes of famine creeped forward upon the rungs where the rib-cage was supposed to have been hidden. He was not quite alone in his hunger; dogs doing a little better off than himself prowled the streets at night, and on more than one occasion he had been met by a savage, ravenous set of knifelike canine teeth. However, he has reasoned that it must have been for his lack of anything else but skin and bone that drove away the dogs; he had even become unwanted by the dogs, so to speak. While it was fortunate for him that he was still alive, every day that passed strengthened that one unmitigable fact that his life was without purpose. He would never be anything, he would never have a friend to keep him company on the dark, cold nights in the town.

Life continued on barely until sometime later, he decided that life had become worthless in his state of despair. He had managed to acquire a new set of outerwear that looked moderately decent for a lower-class man, and in his depressed state of mind had gone to the local bar to grab a few swigs or two. He walked over to a table with all the other merry people, and for the first time he cloudily understood why all these people were making merry.

One of the men he met was a man named Carlos, who sat rather ruggedly against a pine wood chair, and whom Amario had seen fall back repeatedly. Everytime he would lose his balance and fall down, the others burst out in gay laughter, and soon the whole bar was up in smiles and broke out into a frolic dance. Carlos came over and put his hand around Amario’s shoulder. "Come on! Come over and join us! We’ll all---"

He fell back into the crowd as the others fell down and got up and then fell down again, and Amario decided that it was quite fun. So he joined the party.

Amario was quite a jolly person, for someone who hadn’t had much chance to converse among the general crowd. To make even a more amiable audience, he tokenly grabbed out his bag of pesos and spread about a handful of its contents among the crowd. Everyone truly did become good-natured after that, and after that night, most of the men in the bar decided to become Amario’s good friends. Indeed, even Carlos wanted to do something good for his newfound friend. He invited Amario over to his house to stay until he could acquire a better place, and Amario pleasantly agreed.

Even though Amario got to know Carlos quite well, it wasn’t until Carlos had left one day unexpectedly that he finally found out what his friend’s position had really been. Carlos had left a note along with a small envelope on the table before he had left, and later, Amario had found it and opened it. It instructed him to take out the contents of the envelope and apply it to good use to better his condition. It was a total in paper bills equal to one hundred dollars. At the sight of this, Amario silently exclaimed.

But there was also an accompanying letter. It was also from Carlos, giving more rather specific instructions. It told him that he could do whatever he wanted to do to better his condition, but never to forsake who he was. A commoner he was, and a commoner he would always be. If you ever choose to do otherwise, there would be severe moral consequences. The message was then restated more firmly, almost as if it was a warning. Amario took this to mean that it wouldn’t be keeping a promise if he did something otherwise and that it was a breaking of a promise that was the "severe moral consequence." Oh, well.

"Oh yes, a commoner, but a rich commoner!" he shouted in joy. His mind had suddenly made a quick association: Carlos had been no ordinary low-class bar man; he was one of the more socially elite of this small town, and luckily, he was one to have been made easily merry that Amario had acquired this virtual fortune. With some advice from his bar-mates, he learned of a nearby town where there were plenty of opportunities. Without looking back, he left town.

In another town, La Ciudad de Fernando, Amario made his first appearance. Within that town, surprisingly quite close by in fact, there was a kind of social dysymmetry. It so happens that there was a half of the town that were supportive of their appointee, Fernando, and the other half of the town who were against his plans for trying to calm this social unrest.

Fernando was a great man; in Amario’s eyes, the greatest man he had ever seen. He owned a huge plot of land in the southern part of the city, on which a great structure was built exclusively for him and him only. His followers were rewarded with all the necessary and unnecessary amenities of life there could possibly be; wages were plentiful, not a poor man in sight---at least on that side of the town. On the northern side, however, Fernando’s opponents had set up a miniature kingdom of their own, ruled by a common man who was in fact Fernando’s brother, but no one knew of that fact; conditions were less pleasurable and more like his home town of Dunnesbury, it seemed. However, a good living could easily be achieved, and all the necessities of life were easily gained if needed. There were few but contentedly happy people living there, compared with the many but regulated and confined people of the South. Both sides, at first, seemed equally propitious.

When he first entered the town, he could barely take a second step before he was stopped and looked over by one of the appointed middlemen from both sides. The view and the opportunities he could have in this city quickly overwhelmed him; he wanted to go on and take his hundred dollars’ worth of pesos and do something with it, as his old friend Carlos had told him. But this man before him was like a gnat; he constantly bothered him with remarks on the way he carried himself.

"What do you want?" Amario asked, quite impatiently.

"Just wanting to look you over," the middleman said. "You do realize that this is not much of a welcoming city."

Amario grew even more impatient and irritated. "Yes, sir, I am well informed. Now, please, can I go along with my business?"

The middleman looked at him curiously. "Then you don’t realize," he said quite jeeringly as Amario took it. "This city is divided into two sides. One is with the great Fernando; the other, against him. All of our citizens are either with him or against him except me, that is. I’ve been appointed so I don’t have to choose sides. However, you must, if you do so desire to make an honest living here."

"Take sides? Must I choose now?" Amario asked.

"Before you move any further. Fernando’s law."

So Amario thought. Should he live under Fernando, with the luxurious households and extravagant wages, or against all of that, with the common men, of which he had once been? Should he or should he not?

Finally, after a quick judgment, Amario spoke. "With him. I will make a decent living there. Who should think that I would want to live among the common men?" he spoke rather upwardly, as if in a high position. He pompously strutted along past the middleman and took a right; into Fernando’s land he walked.

For a while, as a home was made out to him and a job given him, Amario made a decent living, as he was determined to do. He remembered Carlos’s instructions, telling his to use the money to better his condition. And what a betterment it was! Every day, he lived lusciously in luxury, wading in it until the waves came in and washed ashore money from all directions. All the people under Fernando respected him, but always for some reason kept a bit of distance from him. They were too immersed in their own affairs. And so was he, immersed in the sudden fortunate turn in his life, that he failed to see the sudden tidal wave come, the great wave that would soon drown him in his own luxury. More was better.

Near the winter season, there was news that Fernando’s brother had arrived in town. He was very eager to see his brother, indeed, and was a little lax with managing the town. It so happened that one day, Amario happened to be on the street looking at the different shops that lined the sides, when just by chance Fernando had also been walking down the same street. He walked forward and shook Fernando’s hand with courteous respect; Fernando was used to having his hand shook many times. They stood and conversed for quite a while in the middle of the street; Amario’s interesting personality kept Fernando there for quite a while, even when he said he might have to go to meet his brother, who was later supposed to be coming down this same street to meet him.

Out of respect and also to strengthen their interests, Amario gave Fernando a small portion of what he had earned that week. Fernando accepted the offer; he would later add it to make up for his other expenses. They stood talking for a little while longer, until Fernando was called by one of his hands that his brother was coming soon to join him. Amario thought that he had made a fine impression on Fernando; with Fernando’s type of character, Amario knew that later on he could even expect a raise, among other things.

Amario, quite content with his good deeds done for the day, stood back and whistled while the hand came forward and Fernando walked up to his brother to greet him. At first, Amario could not see who Fernando’s brother was, but Fernando and he were talking about the pleasurable conversation that he had undertaken to have with another man, whom he will surely shortly meet. And so Amario saw his old friend Carlos, and as Carlos stepped forward and saw him, he looked at him with quite a stare.

"Look at all this I have made for myself with what you have given me! Look at me! My life has become grand, certainly better than it had been back there in Dunnesbury," Amario boasted. He had looked around for Fernando’s brother, since the hand had said he would be coming along soon for Fernando and his brother to meet. "Hey, where’s your brother, Fernando? I’d certainly like to meet him," he said, in his renowned friendly manner that he thought would bend something else his way.

Fernando stopped, and he walked forward to Amario. "This is my brother," he said, pointing to Carlos. "And by the way, since we know each other quite well, I’d like to share with you something that I’ve only shared with a few others I have complete trust in."

"What’s that?"

"You know the northern side of town? My brother owns it all. Together, we both own this whole great town of mine, La Ciudad de Fernando. I should also say La Ciudad de Carlos for the northern part, but it already has a proper name."

Amario stood there, looking at his old friend Carlos, with a rather composed but secretive expression Amario had never seen before. But still, he could tell why Carlos looked that way. It was the end of him. There was only one more thing to ask to secure Fate’s finality:

"And what name is that?"

The sentence had already been drawn. "Dunnesbury," Carlos told him.

 

Everything Amario had, he lost. He had strived for so much in greed that now it was even a far greater calamity that he had lost everything than before when he was without adequate clothing and only scrap meat for the dogs. He was sent back to Dunnesbury; if that was all, he should have been glad. But, on Carlos’s ordering, he was sent to a building just outside the town’s limits where all were sent there to stay, but none would ever leave. The commoners from Dunnesbury and the noblemen of Fernando’s city escorted him into a quite adequately sized room, in which he was thankful for being in after seeing all the cramped, foul cells lining the hallway as he first entered. It was rather dark and for some reason, putrid; his escorts left him alone on the room and shut the door. There was only one small window in the ceiling and an even smaller one on the door itself; there were no other exits to the outside world. Just like before. Dark and cold, desolate, barren, alone.

So when the movement among the shadows began to come forward, Amario realized that it would have been much better if he had been alone. At least out on the open streets he had had a chance to live. In here, there wasn’t much of a chance. The haggard, brutish men straggled forward into the dim light from the ceiling, just as a pack of dogs. Amario’s thoughts wandered uncertainly; it would have been much better if they were a pack of stray dogs, but they weren’t dogs. They were more comparable to wolves. Wolves that didn’t care whether one had much meat on his person; all they cared for was the fact that he had betrayed the common society. The sentence was the same for all of Fernando’s men who happened to cross the line into Carlos’s land, and for all people who had forsaken their God-given way of life. It was the same for those who desired greed over contentment. Because see, in this cell, no one followed Fernando’s law or Carlos’s law or anyone else’s law. They were the law; they were the judges, the jury, the outcome.

And so the middleman was right when he said that this town was not much of a welcoming city. Amario had never known it before until then that Dunnesbury was actually owned and governed by Fernando’s brother, Carlos. The background to all this: The North and South had been divided, and to end social unrest, a truce was called in the form of a treaty. This treaty was made by both Fernando and Carlos stating that all men are to retain their rightful positions; upperclassmen under Fernando, and lowerclassmen under Carlos. Because there were some men who had rebelled against Fernando’s position, they had been allowed to create their own state under Carlos, but because of that, they became forever commoners. And because of that, no one could ever be allowed to leave their given position. That was the law.

It was too bad that Dunnesbury had broken off from Fernando’s city. If it hadn’t, there would have been some money to clean up these cells here. There would have been some money to build larger windows. And so there was no one out in the hall that could see what was going on behind that door; nobody could see Amario; the pack of wolves was furtive as always. Curse Dunnesbury! There could have been larger windows! But one thing he failed to do was to curse himself, for it was himself who had brought it all upon himself. Greed had taken its course, and greed had won.

There are four things that influence how people act: love, experience, reason, greed. Love was denied him; experience was cruel. Reason was stunted, and for that fact, greed found a way to overrule. This crucial imbalance in life exists upon all; it is just a matter of personal choice which way on the road of life one wants to travel. It is like a compass: if one follows one’s path, they may be certain never to stray. As long as one does not set out in the direction of greed, one is fine. All people should keep a constant eye on their compasses; for the moment the eye wanders, all may become lost. If Amario could only see it as so, he had the experience of few. Reason allowed him to survive as long as he did. And for love, he had the love of God himself. If the love of God isn’t enough, what is? If life is not enough, if one is greedy for more, there is always death. And there, greed overcomes all.