8/09/2007

A certain Prince threw a party.

A certain prince traditionally threw a major gathering of his closest 800 or so friends once a decade. He was very clear that he could invite anyone he wished. He tried to invite everyone of, let us say, a certain stature.

Invitations went out in plenty of time so that not only could his butcher kill the fatted calves, his farmers could fatten them up first. His secretary felt an early response would be helpful so that the granary could be informed, and the farmer, and finally the butcher, all in time for the feast. And of course the vintner would be asked to lay by a large supply of wine and spirits and it wouldn't hurt to know now what was to be needed then.

Everyone wanted to come and invitations were in high demand. The invitations went out.

As with any group of 800, there were some who were just not speaking to others. So there was some grumbling that the list might include this or that person or group, even before invitations were sent out. When they were sent there were several persons not invited. Great muttering followed.

Suddenly some of the invitees got the idea that they might use their response as a tool to serve their mutterings of displeasure. So they let the prince know that they did not like it that some were not invited and they did not like it that some others were, and unless things got sorted out to their liking they would not come.

However the invitations stood and life went on, with mumbling in the background. It looked like a number of people might not accept the invitation to come.

We don't know if the prince was appalled, but it could not have been a very plesant thing to hear.

The Prince was beginning to feel like King John in the poem: "King John was not a good man, he had his little ways, and sometimes no one spoke to him for days and days and days." He didn't want to make attendance a command performance, and was not sure he even had the power to do so. Besides, he was actually a very good man, even if he had his little ways. So he waited.

Then he got a note from some friends in Australia saying that they couldn't reply to his invitation until they knew just what some of the other invitees from America had to say about a meeting of some highly placed friends earlier in the year and that they would not come if those Americans answered wrong and were still invited. They asked the Prince to please extend the time for them to RSVP.

The Prince must have begun to wonder if anyone was interested at all in a bit of fatted calf, some port, or anything else about the great gathering. All they seemed interested in doing was controlling the list of invitees, in which case the gathering would not be so great and grand.

But still, he felt a bit as if no one thought him likeable enough or great enough to simply accept the invitation with delight. So, the Prince said, "Sure. I'll put off until after September 30th the need for a RSVP." Some said that he put off the final cutoff date for the invitations because not all those invited had gotten their invitations. It was hard to tell. Still he worried.

"What shall I do?" he wondered. Everyone is telling me what to do and why they will only come if I disinvite or invite others. This is a mess.

Then he thought, "I know what I will do. I have 800 places set. I will insist that everyone come and if they will not come I will fill the hall with other guests (say Methodists or Lutherans or Jews or even free-thinkers) and if that doesn't fill the hall I will invite Buddhists and Hindus and Moslems. Of course I'll have to change the provisions list… no pork, some non-alcoholic beverages served in equally attractive vessels, maybe more vegetables. Maybe we will have to stick to chicken, but, still, it will be the feast of the decade."

Now the Prince was wise and his solution had its effect. Everyone who wanted to come realized that they were guests of a Prince of a fellow who had many friends of all sorts of religious persuasions. They were lucky to be there at all. Instead of seeing invitation as a right they saw it as a privilege.

Almost all, save the few who were blinded by the hope that they were in control, accepted the invitation. The few open chairs were filled with really interesting people, including a variety of amazingly ecumenical and intriguingly inclusive guests.

And in the end it all worked out.





6 comments:

  1. Or maybe the Prince could just say, "You know, with the global warming and Darfur and all that, let's just skip the party this year and do something good for a needy world around us." Would any of the invited guests really be sorry? Or would they all be secretly relieved?

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  2. Artfully done. And also, I appreciate any reference to Milne.

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  3. That WOULD be worth seeing.

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  4. From your lips to Rowan's ear, Mark.

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