Among a row of houses sat a solitary great house atop a high hill. This great house was an old house, by and large considered one of the “better” houses. Nevertheless, like all material things, it was not without its blemishes: in some of its support beams were termites; in some of its closets, lingered ghosts; in a few of its cellars, rats; and several of its many bathrooms cultivated mold in sinks and tubs worse than a petri dish. As such, we can uncontroversially say that it was a great but imperfect house.

The resident of this house had inherited it-like most others-and he generally saw to it that it was somewhat kept, but was loath to ever do too much, or at least, any more than that immediately required. For all intents and purposes, it was his house, but he didn’t feel that way—he’d added nothing to the original structure, he hadn’t arranged for new rooms or new designs, he hadn’t done anything quite so avant-garde or altogether impressive. In his view, all of his work was incremental and it meant a paralyzing indifference came easily to him. As a rather shortsighted man (he wore glasses for his condition), he viewed life through the narrow lens of days, not years, and so influenced were his perceptions of progress. This isn’t to say that he believed all he did to be totally useless; to him, it was simply that the home took much of the benefits of his labor and left little for him.

Further, he suspected, given that he’d inherited this great house, that some of his neighbors secretly thought him spoiled. Saddled further with the wariness that the house’s history and size dwarfed him; he was always known as “that fellow that lives in that home” rather than “that fellow that owns that home”. You could say that the house owned him more than he did it.

One day, when his general dissatisfaction was too much to bear, he slammed one of the home’s many doors in frustration. Having been abruptly shut, the door shuddered and the hinges rattled and the doorknob slowly fell off, its particular slowness comical in comparison to the broader suddenness. Had he any wider perspective, he would’ve found this a mild inconvenience, if somewhat funny, and more importantly, trivially repaired. But alas, for this apathetic man, this pushed him over the edge: “surely other homes don’t have doorknobs that fall off”, “surely other homes are made of a sturdier and better stuff” he thought to himself. It is often called a fallacy, but in this line of thinking, this man was indeed tumbling down a rather slippery slope, as sloped as the hill upon which this great house sat. He began to hate his home. And not with that burning visible hate, at least not just yet. For now, it was that hidden, contemptuous hate, a hate where upon seeing something broken you don’t bother to fix it because your mind says it’s just as good broken as it is fixed.

After this event, which we should be clear, was accompanied in quick succession by several other disappointments of varying consequence, the resident flipped completely. He began to actively pick apart his home. To the glee or pity of onlookers—some of his few envious or fewer reasonable neighbors—he would destroy the banisters, he would peel the paint, he would determined to forgo any and all necessary repairs, he would dent the gutters and shatter windows with rocks he’d throw, he’d deride his home to anyone that’d listen. As was mentioned, some things he did to “show off”, for there was a certain energy from the gathering crowd that he fed off of. In doing all this, he at least felt more than his home. Through destructive action after destructive action, he grew steadily superior and his home steadily inferior (relatively speaking)—his labor no longer appeared incremental but extraordinary…revolutionary even. Some things he justified as careful measures against the termites or the rats, and in his defense, it is true that as he pillaged the cellars, attics, and closets, the rats and their cousins dispersed.

He would tear down and tear down and tear down his home until he became himself worse than any termite infestation. Finally to an end, the home was in near total disrepair, and his scorn and disdain for the home was now easily apparent. He’d sucked dry from the home (and himself) any ounce of pride or gratitude for what he possessed and this vacum was made manifest. He continued to labor to a disastrously low minimum, only that which was strictly necessary to guarantee himself a cot to lay at night. As seeing, however, that he was the most energetic and impassioned he’d ever been, it goes without saying that he didn’t need sleep very much and thus less diligent about even this mild upkeep.

The slope was slippery, but the slope has a bottom, and he was at rock bottom, or very near it. It all came to a head when one night things were taken too far. As an evolution of the orgiastic disassemblies of his home, he’d started a bonfire in the front yard with pieces of his home and invited whoever wanted to attend, the fence gate was left open. As an audience, they would together take pieces, all of which incidentally turned out to be inconsequential (otherwise the house would’ve toppled over then and there) and hurl them into the fire. The passions of man are like a fire—it can spread like fire, it is immaterial like fire, it can be directed towards destruction or production like fire, it can be snuffed when starved of its fuel or incentive like fire, it is unpredictable and fickle in the presence of changing moods, winds and trends, and like fire, easily agitated and overwhelmingly greedy.

It was a breezy night, and so the wind coaxed the fire and it grew and grew. All weren’t ignorant to the inherent danger the burning of the effigy posed, but in this danger was a beauty in the way the flames danced and twirled; it embodied so well the bright and hotly burning zeal that had totally seized the crowd. So thorough was the hypnosis that there was no objection from any of the onlookers and certainly none from the participants.

Lest we forget that fire is fickle and winds ever-changing, a sudden strong gust of wind took the flame and pressed it like a big thumb against the whole house. It was not too long until the entire building was ablaze and gradually devoured by the greedy fire. His neighbors all ran to their homes, none were firefighters. At this moment, all anyone cared about was their own home and that the wind not carry those greedy, lice-like embers towards it. Atop this great hill burned this great house, now a lighthouse akin to the sort that warn of the impending rock faces that shred mighty ships.

Against the backdrop of a blistering cold night, the warmth from the burning of his home was a good and pleasurable feeling. A warmth that came at great cost, the despoiling of his own inheritance. Doubly tragic because that same home had a fireplace, plenty of firewood, and a functional chimney. Even this man, as shortsighted as he was, flames flickering in the lens of his glasses, could see that the building, as great as it was, could only continue burning for so much longer. Soon the last ember would die out, and he’d be left by himself. Alone and shivering in the cold.