PERSPECTIVErnPilgrim’s Digressrnby Thomas FlemingrnMany generations after Christian had made his way successfullyrnto the Celestial City, one of his descendantsrndecided to attempt the same journey. The young man camernfrom the Modern branch of the Christians, a recent but powerfulrnsect that had taken over all the Christian clans. Frank, forrnthat was the young man’s name, had no wish to quarrel with hisrnparents, whom he loved, but he was by nature argumentative,rnmore interested in finding out the truth than in getting alongrnwith people. He had early on rejected his parents’ creed of spiritualrncontentment through social progress and pronouncedrnhimself an atheist at the age of 12, but as he read of his ancestor’srnquest, he began to find fault with his father’s interpretationrnof the Pilgrim’s story as an allegory of self-actualization.rn”The Celestial City,” his father explained, “is only arnmetaphor for being in touch with ourselves and sensitive to therndignity of every human being. The creator—call him ‘God,’ ifrnyou must—all he wants is to have a relationship with us.” Butrnthe more his father talked of social justice and the true spirit ofrnthe Gospel, the more Frank longed to follow in the Pilgrim’srnfootsteps. He decided to leave the four bedroom mock-Tudorrnvilla that his family had recently moved into and to set off towardrnthe Celestial City.rnSince Frank had no idea of where he could pick up the trailrnto the wicket gate, he went down to the local bus station to buyrna ticket back to Christian’s hometown, a decaying village thatrnlay not far from an interstate highway. Things had surely notrngot any better in 250 years, he thought, and perhaps the bestrnway to find the truth was to go back to a time before truth hadrnacquired so many layers of trompe I’oeil wallpaper, each onerndarker than the last. As he entered the waiting room, he feltrnoverwhelmed by the sight of so much human misery: winos,rndrug-addicted prostitutes, derelicts of every age, sex, and color.rnThe picture of the Celestial City that had been haunting hisrnmind for weeks began to fade, and he wondered what could berndone to help these unfortunates. But, as he thought about it,rnwhat could he or any man do in the face of human suffering?rnThis was only one bus station in a world full of bus stations,rncrack houses, and brothels. The planet was one vast Calcutta,rnan open suppurating wound that even a hundred million doctorsrncould not heal.rnLost in his despondency, Frank did not hear what thernstranger was saying to him.rn”1 said, ‘You shouldn’t let it get you down.’ I know whatrnyou’re thinking, that this world is a sewer of vice and corruptionrnand that there is nothing that you or anybody can do to help.rnMaybe you’re right about these types here. Even so, I comerndown twice a day to hand out pamphlets and preach the word.rnSome days one of them might listen, and I’ll take him to thernSalvation Army and fix him up, but usually they’re back in 48rnhours. I’m Preacher Fearwell.”rnFrank commented on the name, and the preacher explainedrnthat the family name was originally Farewell. “It’s the samernthing I figure, because the Fear of the Lord is the beginning ofrnwisdom.”rnlO/CHRONICLESrnrnrn