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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Pearl of Great Price

The Pearl of Great Price
A short story by Jonathan Erdman

The fantastic is generally that which leads a person out into the infinite in such a way that it only leads him away from himself and thereby prevents him from coming back to himself…
But to become fantastic in this way, and thus to be in despair, does not mean, although it usually becomes apparent, that a person cannot go on living fairly well, seem to be a man, be occupied with temporal matters, marry, have children, be honored and esteemed – and that it may not be detected that in a deeper sense he lacks a self. Such things do not create much of a stir in the world, for a self is the last thing the world cares about and the most dangerous thing for all for a person to show signs of having. The greatest hazard of all, losing the self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all.
- Søren Kierkegaard The Sickness Unto Death

Religion is the opium of the masses...
- Karl Marx

Chapter 1

The elevator capsule came to a stop and the thin but virtually indestructible ivory colored doors smoothly parted at the center. The two riders exited the capsule as their warm and genial conversation became audible in the now empty hallway of the offices of PFR-Checker, a medium sized logistics firm towards the outskirts of the city of St. Augustine.

A woman stepped into the hall, slim, attractive and professional in her late twenties. Beside her a young man who, interestingly enough, fit the same profile. They soon finished their brief but very cordial conversation and the young man, John David by name, turned to the left while the woman parted to the right.

“Enjoy your jog, Mr. David,” said the woman as she allowed herself a glance at him with the briefest expression of interest. “It’s a lovely day.”

“Thank you, Deena,” replied John David. “I will. And best of luck on the Highland’s Project. There’s no one better for it than you.”

"Well, your too kind,” said Deena, raising her voice a little as they had each started walking the opposite direction.

“Oh, no!” was John David’s hearty rejoinder. “Everyone knows this!” his voice was now noticeably louder to cover the distance that separated them. He was smiling now as he turned towards the exit.

After a few more steps Deena turned down one of the halls and noticed John David’s back as he was disappearing down the hall. She allowed herself a few moments to notice him. Tall, intelligent and warm, he was a popular young member of the Company. His strides were long and purposeful, but at the same time there was a certain easiness about him that seemed to convey the fact that he was prepared to stop and engage anyone who might cross his path. On this particular day he was wearing a close fitting white shirt. It was a comfortable short sleeved shirt with a blend of cotton and silk that fit him well. His pants were loose and comfortable as well – comfortable, but not casual. He was well put together, which certainly seemed to describe all aspects of his life.

As John David walked down the hall his thoughts began to shift from the work and people of the Company to the enjoyment of the jog that was soon to follow. As he thought about his run he could suddenly feel his feet. He was wearing a very stylish black loafer that he had recently purchased from his favorite clothing store. The shoe was light, and fit his foot like a glove, better than a glove.

He was now at the exit and activated the sliding doors with the combination of his key card and a scan of his thumb print. These kind of security precautions were a rather curious measure these days considering there is little to no crime in most parts of the world, especially St. Augustine. Nonetheless these precautions still remained these last few centuries. Crime still occurred in some parts of the world, albeit on a small scale, but security measures were only precautionary in most areas.

John David exited the building and took a breath of the fresh afternoon air. He stopped short for a moment and took another gulp of the delicious day before continuing on. He was on his Exertion. Every worker these days, without exception, takes sixty to ninety minutes for exercise each workday. This is what is called an Exertion. As everyone knows, and as it has been proved over and over again in research studies, physical fitness is absolutely indispensable for one’s mental health, work productivity, and overall well-being. John David had always enjoyed his running, but these days it seemed an even greater necessity in addition to being a pleasure.

At John David’s recent “Meets” he had described having a sense of “restlessness.” The Meet, as it is called, is a weekly meeting with one’s Personal Physician of Mental Health (PPMH or simply “doctor”) in regards to general health and well-being. A PPMH is the most prominent of all physicians, and will only rarely change over the course of a person’s life. It is the best case scenario to have the same PPMH from the cradle to the grave. A person is often referred for Meets with other specialized mental health doctors, but all decisions on mental health begin and end with the PPMH.

A person’s life literally rests in the hands of their PPMH as much as anyone else. In today’s world people are evaluated by their PPMH in infancy and parents are thoroughly instructed on all the proper techniques of childcare for their particular child. Psychology is unique to the individual and the environment in which one finds himself or herself is unique for that person. This is why a PPMH is necessary to guide one through life and thoroughly explore the self.
Furthermore, and this point must be emphasized, the life of psychological health is available for all – all ages and all people. No class or race of people are left out, everyone enjoys the goodness of mental and emotional well-being. And so it follows that all people enjoy the good life.

These days in all civilized parts of the world, which is the majority of the world now, psychology and mental health is the primary health care need. It is now simply taken for granted that the primary health need for a person is psychological. Any supposed “suspicion” of psychology is quite literally ancient history. It is similar to the ancient suspicions of science and technology: The more people were able to see the advantages of science and technology to make their lives better the less their suspicions became.

Similarly, as people began to see the benefits of being thoroughly “psychologized” suspicions of psychology disappeared and psychology was simply embraced as a part of life. And so psychology is now as integrated and as essential as the wheel. It is now indispensable and simply a part of the fabric of culture and society in a way similar to computer devices. Of course, computer devices also had their own hurdles to overcome in the early days of suspicion, and it was much the same with the “psychologization” of humanity. This, of course, was partly the fault of psychology itself. In psychology there were mistakes and embarrassing errors that had led to misdiagnosis or pure speculation in the same way that technology and science had its own share of blunders in its early days.

And the more psychology became crafted and fine tuned the more people could see the benefit it could bring to their lives: Stable family relationships, greater self-knowledge, a better feeling of the self, and the list goes on. But the greatest of these benefits, of course, was greater work-place productivity. Greater productivity eventually led to more stable economic situations worldwide. Economic stability, amongst other things, led to peace on a global scale and the elimination of poverty and hunger. These had once been simply the lofty goals of dreamers who called themselves “humanitarians.” But now these dreams were a reality, and it was because of centuries of psychological research and integration.

Mental health is now the right of all citizens. Besides, with all of the economic blessings that society has reaped from psychology it was a bargain price. Peace on a global scale, harmony with one’s neighbor, the elimination of world hunger and disease – these are the things that always held humanity back from its full potential. The training and developing a grand force of psychological doctors was a very small price to pay for such things.

This society in which John David lives is a good thing, but this goodness has been a part of the human race now for so long that things like “hunger” or “poverty” are no longer even a memory. They are only academic subjects now for discussion only. No one knows anything goodness and mercy.

In light of its greatness and the prosperity of humanity it is little surprise that psychology is now the staple of society. It is no longer a speculation; it is now the unquestioned given. Psychology is science. And, in all actuality, it is better than science.

[chapter 2]