He has been thirsty 30,000 years.
We are momentarily appalled. With concerted effort we dismiss this frameless plight. We shunt it into a mental dumpster hoping that today is pick-up day. It’s not pick-up day. Reluctantly we have to measure his 30,000 years of thirst against our 60 plus or minus years of whatever we have experienced thirst to be: a hike on a hot summer’s day, after playing a game or watching a game, on a beach, after sex … Embarrassed, we realize that we can’t dredge up a comparison and whatever empathy we express toward the man who has thirsted for 30,000 years is just a self-serving feint to sooth our ego.
Then someone comes forward and offers the man who has thirsted 30,000 years something to drink. He offers him Kool-Aid, anti-freeze, aquarium water, gasoline, mountain runoff. The man who has thirsted for 30,000 years reaches for it all. He opens his smiling mouth and pours in all that is offered to him. We stand by watching and appalled. How stupid is this man who has been thirsty 30,000 years? Look, he’s drinking poison! Look, look how happy he is. What a fool. He must be mad! What’s wrong with him! Doesn’t he see that the provider of these drinks is a charlatan, that he is a deceiver, con-artist, manipulator, fiend?
The degree of our being appalled evidences itself within the limitation of our inability to frame the thirst, the thirsty, all of those who have thirsted for 30,000 years. Suddenly, we have regained our footing. Suddenly, we now know best. We think we can at least guess how it might be being thirsty for 30,000 years because we are smart. With righteous indignation we can damn the thirsty man, damn the purveyor of liquids, damn the whole thing. Suddenly we are the self-appointed chair umpires sipping spring water, adjusting our sunglasses, watching the line.