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thing inane, like “Nice to talk with you.”

Whether he intended for me to hear it or not, the mariner had a coda: “Know what that preacher says to me? Looks me over and says, ‘Well, what did you want that apple for if you wasn’t gonna eat it?’ ” ••••

What shall we give up for Lent? Why not give up the self- absorption that makes us thieves of the plans and hopes, the small gestures and pleasures of love with which our neighbors each enrich a commonplace life. Why not give up the glorious iron armor of pride and put on the hand-me-down clothes of genuine humility? Even a jackstraw preacher, disarmed before the world, might first read the face of a mariner before acting on presumptions. For the mariner’s bright red apples are worth no less than the golden apples of the Hesperides. These grew in the fabulous garden that the daughters of Atlas tended at the west- ern extremities of the world. So rich were these apples that it took a hero to find them and bring them back: Hercules. On his way to the garden, this hero overcame lawlessness in the person of Antaeus, a son of the Earth, who regained strength whenever he touched ground. Hercules, therefore, had to hold him aloft and there stran- gle wickedness in its own throat. Hercules performed epic deeds to gain and keep the golden apples. He abolished the horror of human sacri- fice. He crossed the sea in a golden barque that the Sun had given him. He took the whole world upon his shoul- ders that Atlas might be free to do him, Hercules, a service in return. Consider the glory and the splendor. And then consider how like the hero Hercules is my mariner. He, too, performed important deeds to gain and keep that bright red apple. Don’t measure him against the standards of

a cinema-spectacular world—bigger, better and you-should-see-the-special- effects. Nor against the grandeur of nations (actual or self-proclaimed). Measure him against the intensities of his own emotion, against the values he puts upon his plan, his hope and upon the purity of his gentle gestures of love.

But we must give up something in order to gain this hero and to serve him. To people like me, the mariner’s apple and his quest are nearly insig- nificant. This is why I would rather have pushed past him than paused with patience among the produce to hear his tale told.


So, then: what shall I give up for Why not give up time? Why not

Do something inspiring…

the world needs you.


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give up the hard-charging time that can neither notice nor attend to the voices that cannot be fulfilled except in a listening ear?

Children tell such tales. And the

helpless. And the tired. And grand- mothers. And people whose lives seem altogether unremarkable, they have tales. And even mariners as obsessive as mine in the market. That it is a tale told too frequently does not disqualify it as one that must be heard. Give up the gorgeous robes of outward rank and holiness (robes, as Dante notes, which are on the inside leaden). Come out. Catch a breath of fresh air. Dress light. Listen. M

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