Death or MeeChee - You Can't Escape Either

Cannibal tree

I have a dear friend who is also a famous physician, and he passed along this story which says a lot about life; it describes a situation where there are no good answers, just a series of increasingly worse ones. This story was said to be most popular with oncologists, where it is particularly apt.

There was an expedition going through the heart of a country where fierce tribes were living. The group consisted of native porters and three explorers, an elderly minister of the Church of England, a young and fit white hunter, who served as a guide, and a mining engineer. They encountered one of the most feared tribes, who set upon the party, screaming [translated] Death! Death!, whereupon they slaughtered all of the native porters and took the three white men captive and shoved them into a small hut.

The next day, the chief came into the hut and dragged out the trio. He then singled out the middle-aged engineer and shook his spear in his face and screamed "Death or MeeChee?!". Having seen the porters get slaughted, the engineer decided to try the only other alternative, and he said "MeeChee!". The chief then began kicking him, breaking his ribs, arms, etc, and then the other natives also started pummeling him until he finally died. The remaining two exporers were taken back to the hut.

The following day, they were again led out, and the chief selected the young guide and shouted "Death or MeeChee?". The guide had seen what happened the day before, but he figured that he was much younger and stronger and could survive the ordeal, so he said in a brave voice - "Give me MeeChee!". The chief smiled and began kicking the guide as before. Then the rest of the tribe joined in, and after a while they took out their knives and began to cut off his fingers and toes. Since the guide was in such good shape, however, he survived. They they cut off his ears, his balls and removed his eyes. However, he was still alive, so they then cut off his arms and legs, and he finally died. The old minister, shaking in fear, was led back to the hut.

The third day, the chief came for the minister and asked him the same question "Death or MeeChee?". Since the minister had long ago made his peace with God, he did not fear death, and, of course, he had seem what had happened to the others, so he said without hesitation "Death, please." The chief looked at him for a moment and then replied "OK, but first, some MeeChee!"

The teaching here is that being smart, strong or brave does not necessarily offer any protections from the suffering that can come with living. Even accepting one's fate, as in the case of the minister, may not alleviate suffering - especially if medical personnel are involved... The only defense might be humor, hence this story.