Friday, December 10, 2010


A man went to trim his hair and beard. As always happens, he and the barber chatted about this and that, until--commenting on a newspaper article about street kids--the barber stated:

- As you can see, this tragedy shows that God doesn’t exist. Don’t you read the papers? So many people suffer, abandoned children, there’s so much crime. If God existed, there wouldn’t be so much suffering.

- You know something? Barbers don’t exist.

- What do you mean, don’t exist? I’m here, and I’m a barber.

- They don’t exist! – insisted the man. – Because if they did, there wouldn’t be people with such long beards and such tangled hair.

- I can guarantee that barbers do exist. But these people never come in here.

- Exactly! So, in answer to your question, God exists, too. It just so happens that people don’t go to Him. If they did, they would be more giving, and there wouldn’t be so much misery in the world.

from Paulo Coelho's blog


Deb Shucka said...

What a wise storyteller he is.

Kathryn Grace said...

I'm glad the statement did not blame the victims for their plight, which is where it seemed to be going. We have a tendency to blame people for their plight: If they had only done this or that, or not done the other things-- Surely their poverty, homelessness, abuse is what they deserve. Otherwise, they would pull themselves out of it somehow. If they trusted in god more, he would help them.

Still, the implication is there, until almost the end, so lodged in the brain. I'm pretty sure Coelho is such a skilled writer that he chose to leave that implication for our minds to image and our hearts to feel. Yes, he implies near the end that it is the haves who, if they believed in god would be more giving and therefore assuage the hungers of the world. But this too is an implication, and not as strong as the first image already swimming in our heads.

Sometimes, no amount of prayer and beseeching brings the miracle we ask to lift us from a misery over which we have no control. Still. I pray. Still. I believe that prayer has power. Still I believe that we can choose our attitude in a situation, and sometimes that is enough to make a difference.

Carrie Link said...

I agree.

Wanda said...

Kathryn...I am glad, too, that it doesn't blame the victim. If I felt that it did, I wouldn't have posted it.

What I see is how we blame God for what we do and don't do. And for some, that means that God doesn't exist. And that, I think, is what the story addresses.

I know people who are atheists who (by my definition) are far more godly than many religious people (for example, those who are picketing Elizabeth Edwards funeral--give me a break!).

For me, this is a story of not blaming God for what we do. We do, after all, have choice.

Kapuananiokalaniakea said...

Perfect story for me to read today. Thank you!!

Wanda said...

In my follow-up comment, I meant to say, "people who are atheists who (by their definition)...."

Kathryn Grace said...

Wanda, thank you for getting back to me. I knew there was another way of looking at this. I just wasn't seeing it. Interesting about blaming god. We also have a tendency to thank god when things go right, as in winning a game. Ball players, skaters, Idol winners, all thank god for giving it to them. I saw an interview with that curly-haired, blonde comedienne the other day, Kathy _____, who said when she won the Emmy, she did not thank Jesus. She said Jesus had nothing to do with her getting the Emmy. It was all due to her own hard work and the work of other humans.

She's not my favorite by any means, but I understood what she was saying. Whenever someone thanks god for their big win or their success, I always wonder if we're supposed to imagine that all the so-called losers, the runners-up and those not-even-close, were not kissed by god, are not blessed, not deemed worthy by god. Seems to me, whoever wins the big prize on a given day has a combination of hard work, practice-practice-practice, lots of support, a good dose of good luck and an absence of bad luck.

But I digress. Thanks. Your insight is helpful.