Fred looked up from his beer, hesitated for a moment, then blurted out, “I need gold.”
I had suspected as much and was hoping that he wouldn’t ask to borrow any. I wasn’t exactly rich myself, and my sword was starting to show signs of wear. It would soon need repair, and that wouldn’t be cheap.
“Have you tried the Oracle?” I replied, attempting to head off any request for funds.
“Aye,” Fred replied. “It did not go well.”
“Really? I found it easy. What was the problem?” I asked with renewed interest. Fred frequently demonstrated what could delicately be described as some unique thought processes, and I was curious to learn how the Oracle had responded.
“Well, it started off alright. She asked if I sought her counsel and the Blessing of the Virtues, or whether I had come seeking advice on her protection. Then she offered to test me on my knowledge of myself. I wasn’t ready for the test just yet, so I told her I was seeking her counsel. That’s when things got a little weird.”
“Oh?” I responded. “We all know she spies on us. That should come as no surprise.”
“Oh, it’s not that.” replied Fred. “She offered me her advice on any of the virtues that I may have forsaken and also offered to answer as best she could regarding anything I have encountered in my travels.
Well, I didn’t really need any help in forsaking the virtues – I’ve done that all my life and consider myself something of an expert. So I said, ‘In my travels I have found that the most direct route is often the most difficult, and that it is usually easier to stick to the clearly marked but more circuitous path. Is this a metaphor for life?”
I suppressed a smile and listened with renewed interest as Fred continued to recount his experience with the Oracle.
“The Oracle responded, ‘By the path of the virtues, I speak of the path that you are on, Fred. Your arrival has been foretold in prophecy, and the road that you travel is also preordained, and it will shape all of those that you meet on your way.’ Well, as you know, I’m a great believer in the duality of freedom and responsibility, so I didn’t take kindly to the Oracle’s claim that my actions were preordained!”
“I can well imagine!” I agreed.
Fred continued, “I responded with the question ‘If the road I travel has been preordained, does that mean I lack free will?’ All the Oracle could come up with was, ‘I don’t understand. Could you explain?’ So naturally I continued saying, ‘It’s simple. If my future is preordained, then I have no personal responsibility for my actions. Therefore I am no more capable of being judged virtuous or otherwise than a rock.’ That’s when she told me to leave.”
“You’re kidding!” I responded.
“For real. She said, ‘Do not waste my time with idle chatter. Please leave so that the next in line may proceed.’ Pretty damn rude if you ask me. And I didn’t get any gold.
“Oh, is that the time?” I said as I bounded out of my chair. “Sorry, I’m missing an appointment. Gotta run.”
And with that I rushed out the door.