There once lived two brothers named Dante and Peter. They were orphaned fairly young where they lived, just outside a small remote village far, far away.
Dante was the younger brother and had bright eyes; Peter, the elder, had a timid spirit but a warm heart. They were the best of friends and kindred spirits.
When both brothers came of age, Dante said to his brother, “I will go into the world and put my mark on it, start a family, and work for my keep.”
His brother Peter said to him, “I beg you not to leave. The world is a dangerous place. It is filled with lions that maim, disease that kills, and pain that ensures. Stay here where we are isolated. Live to a long life with me!
But Dante was stubborn and left anyway, bidding his brother well.
Peter built a respectable hut for himself and hid away. He knew the dangers of the world and the pain it could cause. He had seen firsthand his parents die and wanted protect himself so he could live to a long life.
Dante, meanwhile, travelled the world and experienced its fruits and its sorrows.
Dante would occasionally write to his brother, but he would never hear back.
60 years went by.
Dante finally returned to the edge of the village he had left. His brother was there; he tried to run to him.
“Don’t come any closer!” Peter hissed at him as he approached and neared six feet from whom he loved.
“Brother, it is me, Dante. I have returned to see you!”
“I know who it is. The world you disappeared into has terrible poisons and diseases. It is one filled with sorrow and dispair. It is encased in hate, racism, poverty, and misery. I want nothing of this world. I still love you greatly, Brother, but I have lived my life protecting myself from this evil. I have lived a long life; and, indeed, plan to live much longer still! I have chosen life; you have chosen selfishness.”
Dante stood there, six feet from the brother he loved. He stared him in the eyes for a long time; he looked over his best friend and felt pity well up in his soul. Finally he spoke:
“My dearest friend. My brother whom I love more than myself. Alas, it is with great regret I must tell you that you are wrong. So very wrong.”
Peter sneered as he stood there.
Dante explained, “yes, I have seen, endured; and immersed myself in this world. And it indeed is often a horrific and heart-breaking place. I have felt the touch of disease on my brow. I have experienced seasons of grief and sorrow like which you cannot imagine. I have felt the pains of hate for me by my fellow man. I have felt the disease of hate grow inside me at times against my fellow man. I have seen much evil and blight. My crops have failed, my family tired and sick, and my station has often been low.”
Peter raised an eyebrow, as if to gloat at what he was hearing.
“But, brother, I also have LIVED. I have watched a family grow. I have seen their families grow and prosper. I have seen sunsets blaze on fire atop hillsides; I have bathed in crystal waters at moonlight; I have experienced love and fullfillment. I have experienced warmth of family and dear friends. I have risked sickness and death to share their company and their hearths! I have laughed much, and loved more. I have lived, Brother! I have lived and it was worth the risk to do so.”
Peter stared him.
Dante concluded, still looking his brother in the eye, “Life is more about just surviving from day to day. Dare to live, brother; I implore you. Risk disease and sorrow for a chance to truly live. Do not just feed your body, but your mind and soul! That is life! Life cannot happen while secluding yourself away from life. We have but one life to live and we cannot squander it. Choose life, brother! Do not sacrifice life on the alter of living!”
Dante finished speaking, tears in his eyes and great pity in his heart.
Peter looked at the ground finally. But he, too, was stubborn. “Brother, I thank you for your visit. You have indeed, as I feared, brought the sorrow and sickness of the world to my doorstep. And I will be saddened even more when I bury you. Disease will take you; and I shall surely live to see it. It is one more coal you heap on my head.”
Peter turned from his brother to return to his hut.
Dante died that very night. Peter buried him next to their parents.
Peter lived for another 16 years. A long life did Peter have.