Monthly Archives: February 2013

Carl and Alfred: A tale of two Extremes

Carl and Alfred 

Carl was sitting on the edge of the sail boat.  Alfred was guiding the boat.  The other people were waiting by the shore.  The storm came unexpectedly and Alfred tried very hard to control the vessel.  However, the winds proved to be more powerful.  Carl hung on the rail of the boat, praying hard. 

“Hang on!” yelled Alfred as the winds continued to pick up speed.

“I am trying but it’s getting slippery!” shouted Carl back. 

Their voices were becoming less and less audible because of the noise of the salty waves that continued to hit the sail boat.  Alfred maneuvered the boat the best way he could, but with no progress.  The  winds and waves threatened to flip the boat.  Alfred desperately tried to control the vessel, but the water in his eyes and hands made his attempts almost impossible.  His heart began to beat faster. Carl looked around for signs of land in the midst of the chaos, but could not see anything except the gigantic waves and the falling rain.   He prayed for his family, and to give Alfred the strength to control the vessel.  He wished he could help Alfred in any way, but his lack of experience and fear paralyzed him. 

All of a sudden a big wave abruptly pushed the vessel and flipped it over.  Both men found themselves under dark water.  The noise of the wind suddenly vanished, as they could only hear and feel the pressure of salt water against their ears , face, and whole body.  Alfred was the first to be able to swim to the surface. He frantically looked around for signs of Carl.  He then spotted a white elongated dome above the turbulent waters.   He automatically registered that it was his sail boat, upside down.  He quickly swam towards it.  Still no signs of Carl. He reached the flipped boat, looked around, and saw nothing but gigantic waves and dark clouds.  He desperately tried to lift the boat, but knew that his attempts were futile.  He then thought of sliding around the edge of the upside down boat to see for signs of Carl.  He also thought of swimming down to the deep water to look for him, but feared losing the boat.  He continued to move himself around the boat.  As he began to see the other side of the boat, he spotted Carl a few feet away, struggling to remain afloat.

“Carl!” shouted Alfred, “swim towards the boat!”

Carl did not seem to hear him.  So Alfred repeated his shouts, trying to compete with the loud waves and winds that overcame him. Waves covered Alfred as he struggled to stay afloat, holding on to the boat, and trying to keep an eye on his partner.  Carl would sometimes disappear behind the waves, but would surface again.  Alfred continue to shout, and finally noticed that Carl began to get closer to him.  Alfred reached out with one hand while holding the boat with the other as Carl got closer.  The two men finally met and continued to hold on to the boat. 

“Don’t let go of the boat…!” shouted Alfred into Carl’s ears, “it is our only means of survival now!”

Carl simply nodded and remained put.  Two hours passed and the winds finally subsided.  The sun was already down, about to hide under the horizon. The clouds were clearing up. 

“We got to get to the top of the boat, but need each other to do so…” Alfred said, in a calmer tone of voice.

“How…?” asked Carl, trying to keep the water out of his mouth.

“One of us would have to serve as a ledge for the other to be able to climb up….” Alfred said between splashes. “then the first one would have to lift up the other one from above…!”

“Ok…you go first!” said Carl.  “You are stronger than me!”

“Are you sure…?” asked Alfred.

“Yes…! Please..!” answered Carl.

“Well then hold on to the boat, as I try to climb up…” stated Alfred.  He then climb up on Carl’s back as he struggled to move up and use Carl as a ladder.  Carl was plunged under the water, but without letting go of the boat.  He felt the inmense weight of Carl on his shoulders as he felt water coming up in his nose.  Alfred managed to obtain enough strength to reach the top of the bottom of the vessel. He quickly turned around to face his partner. “Are you ok? Can you reach up?”

“I’ll try…!” Carl answered, spitting water out of his mouth,  as he lifted up one of his arms.  Alfred grabbed the top part of boat as he reached down to Carl.  Carl was able to lift himself up with Alfred’s help.  Both men finally reached the top of the bottom of the vessel.

“I am sorry…” Alfred said after he finally caught his breath, laying flat on his back staring at the clearing but darkened sky.

“For what…?” asked Carl.  “It wasn’t your fault…”

“No, but I could have prevented it by going back to the shore sooner…” said Alfred.  “I could have also controlled the vessel more by moving to the south…”

“It’s not your fault, Alfred….” Carl insisted as he too stared at the orange sky.

They both laid there, contemplating the sky as the stars began to be more apparent.

The night came, and the only source of light came from the stars above. 

“When it’s light again, we’ll have to look for any signs of rescue. ..” Alfred broke the silence.  “I lost my radio, so all we have is the possibility of someone spotting us…”

“They should be coming soon, since we did not return to shore on time…” Carl reassured.

“Right….!” answered Alred, “that is the only hope we have at the moment. Although if we see land, we could swim towards it…..”

Both men continued to stay laying on the vessel, feeling the rocking of the boat as the waves fit them gently.  The  night was getting colder.  Their wet clothes made the temperature less bearable. 

“Are you asleep…?” asked Carl.

“I cant’….” answered Alfred. “I am thinking about tomorrow….can’t wait until tomorrow. But I guess that if we want to save some strength, we better get some rest”


The morning arrived.  Alfred has been looking around since the first sign of sunlight, for any signs of rescue. Carl woke up shivering.
“Seen anything…?” Carl asked.
“Nothing yet. But I am not giving up”

Three days later, the two men remain isolated in the middle of the ocean.

“It’s been three days now….!” Carl mumbled, almost crying.  “What if nobody ever finds us…?”
“Stop talking like that, Carl…!” interrupted Alfred.
“You know it is still possible that nobody will find us…!”
“I am not giving up, so you sure are not going to give up either as long as I am alive!” shouted Alfred.
A long pause.  Then Carl broke the silence.
“Are you afraid of dying…?”
“No…. but I don’t want to…”
“But what if you do….?” insisted Carl, “what do you think will happen… after you die..?.”
“Do you believe in God….?”
“There is  no such thing…..” Alfred answered immediately.
“God is not a thing….” Carl said. “He’s a Being… a deity”
“There is no such thing, Carl…” he repeated as if talking to a child.
The two men continued to look around at the horizon. The hot sun was burning their skin every minute.
“I am starving…” Carl said.
“If it rains again like it did yesterday, we could live out of water for maybe 10 days….”
“And then what….?”
“What do you mean?” Alfred asked.
“What will happen after 10 days? After we die?”
“Carl…. I don’t believe in the after life if that is what you are asking about….”
“You don’t?  How can you explain…?”
“Do you want to engage in a philosophical conversation now about life after death in the middle of the ocean?” Alfred interrupted,  showing his frustration.
“It is not a philosophical question, but an important question to ponder given the circumstances…” answered Carl.
“It is pointless to believe in something that cannot be proven….!”
“Can you prove love, greed, creativity…?” asked Carl.
“Those things you can experience and feel…. God is an imagination to try to explain what has yet to be explained! It is an old psychological crutch to try to give meaning to a chaotic universe.  But science has proven that life can be explained, without the belief in a deity!”
“We don’t know everything about the universe, how can you conclude that God does not exist?” Carl was sounding confrontational.
“Because we keep evolving, and eventually, we will know everything about the universe, but in the mean time, we just need to keep exploring using science, not ancient superstitions and blind faith that just serves as a way to keep us from growing.” explained Alfred passionately.
Carl was getting furious, “The only way that we actually grow is with God’s help!” insisted Carl.  “God has given us  the consciousness to even have knowledge…”
“That is what you religious people want to believe, but consciousness is just another result of evolution…!” Alfred insisted.
“And how did this ‘so called’ evolution start?  How did the universe came to be?” Carl asked with insistence.
“There are several theories….”
“Theories?   All you can come up is theories?” Carl interrupted.
“Yes, theories can eventually be proven. Faith cannot,  understand the difference?” Alfred talked in a condescending tone. “There is the Big Bang Theory, and also the theory that the universe ‘just is’, with no cause”
“And that is the same as saying that God has no cause, you are talking about an eternal being: God!”
“Just because the universe can ‘just be’ does not automatically imply that there must be a God that must also ‘just be’. The universe is an accident, Carl, get that through your head!  Everything you look around you, no matter how beautiful it is, and how it seems that is has a purpose, really does not…!”
“So the universe, life itself, has no purpose?”
“Only the purpose that you choose to give it.  We create our own purposes.  We are masters of our own destiny, not to an imaginary fairytale.   And that is why we atheists appreciate life more than you religious people do!  We live in the moment, in the here and now.  You, on the other hand,  live hoping to go to heaven someday, not fully appreciating what you have right now!  And no matter what you say, you don’t give a damn about the rest of us who don’t believe either….!”
Silence.   Both men were catching their breaths.
“I give a damn about you, Alfred….” Carl broke the silence.  “That is why I am talking to you about it….”
“Out of self righteousness, I’m afraid!!.  To make yourself feel good about converting someone to your God…!”
“OK.  You have a point there….  I do want to please God…. but I do want you to be saved…” Carl said in a calmer tone of voice.
“I don’t need to be saved from anything except from these waters…” Alfred stated. 
Long silence.
Carl continued, “Assuming you are right, Alfred, that we create our own purpose.  Does that include morality?  Do we create our own morality?”
“Yes, we do….” Alfred answered calmly.
“So can I say that my morality is to save you?  Is that acceptable?”
“If it is acceptable to you….” Alfred answered.
“Ok then, I want to save you by talking to you about how to get to heaven…”
“I don’t believe in heaven, hell, or anything like that, Carl, don’t waste your breath! If you want to save me for real, then focus on the here and now, which is this problem we actually have of being in the middle of the ocean, three days with no food or water to drink.   If you are going to think about this real scenario, then we can talk about saving me!”
“God loves you, Alfred….” Carl said in a soft tone of voice.
Alfred almost chocked.  “How can you even say that?  How the hell can a loving God allow innocent children starve to death?  How can God be so loving and let natural disasters kill millions of innocent lives?  Can you explain that to me, Carl?  No you can’t, because suffering proves that God does not exist!  Period!” Alfred became increasingly angry.
“Is suffering bad?” asked Carl still remaining calm.
“What kind of a question is that?” Alfred responded.
“Just answer… is suffering a bad thing?” Carl insisted
“Nothing is good or bad, things are what they are.  Suffering is simply a negative interpretation of an undesired situation.   If we  desire to eat, and do not, then we call it suffering.  If you desire to convert me to your religion, and you cannot, then you suffer.  Get it?”
“Then why are you angry at the notion that we believe in a God that loves us if suffering in neither good or bad?”
“Because it creates pain, besides, not everyone is aware that suffering is neither good or bad” answered Alfred.

“But you still get angry at the fact that it happens.  You get angry that people desire and therefore interpret it as suffering.”
“I am angry at people like you who claim that God exists and loves us when evidence shows the contrary….!”
“Even if people’s suffering is neither good or bad? Your source of anger is not our claim about God, but the suffering itself, which you just said is neither good or bad.  And why do you want to be saved from this situation, if you know that your suffering is not bad?”

“Because I want to go back to my regular life, and I haven’t been able to do so for three days….”

“But you can choose not to desire to go back to your life, but stay here instead, and avoid suffering, right?” asked Carl.

Long pause.
“You are right” Alfred responded,” I am choosing to suffer, I should not be angry at you then…Can we just not talk for a while? My mouth is dry …”
“So is your mouth suffering…?” Carl said jokingly.
Alfred giggled and continued to look at the horizon.

Two hours later, both men spotted land, and began to swim frantically towards it. They swam until they finally touched land.  They both dragged themselves to the shore.  Alfred then crawled farther towards a palm tree’s shade.  Carl  followed.
Night was falling, and the two men were slowly recovering their strengths.
“Alfred…. Carl spoke. “I am glad I went through this ordeal with you…better than alone!”
“Me too, Carl!” answered Alfred.
“And I am sorry for trying to impose my beliefs on you…. it was disrespectful.”
“It’s ok…. I understand that you feel strongly about religion and want to share it. I feel strongly about my views too. ”

A long pause.

“Thank you for reminding me about focusing on the present, not just the afterlife.  I was taught the same thing when I was told  ‘don’t worry about everyday affairs, but about loving our neighbors as ourselves.'”
Alfred was surprised to hear Carl speak this way. “Religion can sometimes be a good thing .  I admire some of its teachings.” Alfred stated.
Carl was pleased to hear this from his partner.
“You know what we have in common….?” asked Carl.
“What?” responded Alfred.
“Neither of us wanted to die….. We desired to live instead.  We chose the same thing…!” Carl said.
Alfred pondered on his partner’s reflection.  “I guess you are right….We are both the same on this level.”
“I choose to call this unity and communion, God working through us…. you probably choose to call it an evolved behavior that accidently turned out to help us survive.”
“Right.” Alfred agreed.
“But no matter how we call it, it united us even more, in spite of our different beliefs.”
“Good point….” Alfred said.  “If I were to create my own religion, I would centralize it on unifying people in crisis in spite of difference of opinion.”
“Funny you say that…” Carl stated.  “I believe that religion already exists.”
Both men finally fell asleep.

Alfred wakes up.  The sun was beginning to rise.  He quickly turned to his partner.  Carl was still sleeping.  Alfred stood up.  His whole body ached.  He still did not see signs of rescue.  He also started looking for food.  He spotted some fallen coconuts.  He quickly brought them to Carl.
“Carl! Wake up! I got breakfast here!”
Carl appeared to be deep in sleep.
“Carl, buddy! Come on!  We need to eat this!”
Carl remained motionless.  Alfred began to worry.  He checked his pulse.  Did not feel anything.  Checked his breathing and heart beat putting his head against the Carl’s chest.  Nothing.
“Carl! Wake up, my friend!” He started doing CPR on Carl .  Alfred began to panic. “Don’t, Carl! Don’t die now! We can do this!” he continued to shout as he continued CPR.  But Carl did not respond.  His skin felt cold.  It looked pale as the sun continued to rise and revealed more of what was happening.

Alfred began to cry. “You said you would not give up! You said we are united to survive this!”
Alfred stopped the CPR and fell on Carl’s body, weeping and crying.
“Why? Why? Why?!!” Alfred kept repeating.  He pounded his friend’s chest with all of his might.

“Live, damn it….Live!!” Alfred yelled as he tried to resuscitate his partner one more time.  But He came to realize that it was no use.  Carl was dead.
Thoughts began to raise in his mind.  How will he survive alone? What if nobody rescues him?  What if he runs out of things to eat? Will he die as well?

After finishing digging the hole in the sand, Alfred slowly dragged the body into it.  He did not shed a tear while doing  this.  After finishing filling up the hole, he sat on the sand, staring at the grave.

“Carl….” he called as if still talking to a living being, “I am suffering now because I miss you…..” His eyes remained fixed on the sand that was covering the body.  “And although I don’t believe in your God…. I believe that I became something new because of your companionship….” Alfred closed his eyes trying to remember his partner’s face.  “Thank you for being with me during this hard time….”

Two hours later, Alfred spotted a boat that was sailing his way.  Alfred was being saved.