In the Village: The third moral dialogue

Published: Thursday, Oct. 6 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

Last of three articles

Jack: I get it, Bishop. The story of that quarrel between your children — I don't suppose it was really about knocking down blocks or hitting your sister. Or about what a patient father you are.

Bishop: I need to ask you the same question I asked my kids. And I think you came to me so you could answer that question.

J: You asked them both, "What did you do?"

B: They wanted to tell me how they felt. What they were thinking. Why they did what they did. But the beginning of everything is: What did you do?

J: I had an inappropriate relationship.

B: I think I have to insist, Jack. Not what did you have. What did you do?

J: I slept with a woman who wasn't my wife.

B: Thanks. Now we can start talking.

J: What is there to say? I didn't plan for it. It just happened.

B: You tripped, and suddenly …

J: That's how it felt.

B: Like you were just watching it happen.

J: Yes!

B: I get it. This woman was a co-worker at your old job. You're talking, face to face, you're telling her how bleak things are. How you can't find a job, you feel like a failure, how your wife is nagging you, how lonely you are. And sometime during the conversation, she reaches over and puts her hand on your hand. Is that how it happened?

J: More or less.

B: But her hand didn't go there accidentally, Jack. And it wasn't an accident when you turned your hand over and took hold of her fingers. It was a decision.

J: It felt natural.

B: We have most of the same DNA as chimpanzees. It's natural for chimps to take every opportunity to mate.

J:?I'm not a chimp.

B: We're all chimps, Jack. But we're also rational humans. If your wife had been there, the other woman wouldn't have put her hand on yours, and you wouldn't have turned your hand over and taken hers.

J: That would have been insane.

B: But nobody was watching, so you let the chimp do that one little thing.

J: It felt so harmless.

B: And it felt good. A little bit exciting. And even when the rational man was saying, Don't do this —

J: It was actually saying, "Don't do this, you idiot" —

B: But the chimp kept saying, Feels good. Feels natural. Feels right. Until the chimp was satisfied. Then the rational man has to deal with things.

J: Rational, that's the thing. I realized that I didn't believe in the commandments. In God, in Joseph Smith, the whole thing. I never did.

B: So if there's no "Thou shalt not commit adultery," what's left?

J: The mess that used to be my life.

B: With or without religion, civilization still depends on the rational man being able to keep the chimp under control. You made a contract with your wife. Did she break it?

J: I did.

B: You also led your children to believe they could count on you.

J: I've got to have room for some happiness of my own, don't I?

B: Oh. I didn't realize you were happy.

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