"I think there is no problem so great that it cannot be solved by controlling the mind," said X, who was usually turned inward.
"I think there is no problem that cannot be solved by controlling the things around you," said Y, who was usually turned outward.
Z remained silent and enjoyed his drink. He rarely had any comments on anything. He was turned neither inwards nor outwards.
"Ah, that's where you are mistaken, my friend," said X, addressing Y. "Life is nothing but spirit. Leave it to the highest in man and let him follow that highest, as shown by the teachers, by the various philosophical systems; let him become more religious, let him follow the great leaders, let him have discipline, enter spiritual organizations and obey spiritual authority, and be guided through fear, and he will eventually conquer circumstances and environment."
"I don't quite agree with you, my boy," said Y, reacting instantly. "My belief is that thought can be changed " altered, controlled " through organization, whether of work or of the means of production and distribution, and so forth. Man is like clay, conditioned by environment, and so by the controlling of that environment and in the perfecting of the group, the individual will have an opportunity to express himself. That is, he will no longer be antisocial because, being mere clay to be conditioned, his environment can be controlled and so his ambitions, his outlook, his desires will never be opposed to the group and be antisocial. Man then will be conditioned according to a new set of ideas and theories so that he can never, as an individual, come into conflict with the group or with society. What do you think, Z ?" he asked, looking for confirmation as usual.
"I don't understand why you guys are discussing all this. Anyway, let me think! I guess both of you are exaggerating. I don't think anybody even cares about all this."
The evening passed by, and their drinking continued, and each seemed to lose some of the superficial controls that their minds had been able to exercise thus far. X became more and more verbal. Y started smiling more mechanically, which seemed to indicate that mentally he had just reacted to some idea that had made him feel comfortable and was presently deriving pleasure from it. Z's face and body seemed to be hanging downwards and it seemed that his senses could hardly perceive sound or vision.
"I always keep thinking, because I firmly believe that thinking can solve any problem," stated X in an introspective tone. "Life is nothing but thought; if I do not think I will not exist."
"I don't quite agree with you," said Y, and here he paused and searched his memory and started again, smiling. "For instance, I don't actually think at all, I let others do the thinking. I have so many people and ideals to do that for me that after a time, their thinking becomes my thinking. My thinking becomes established in their pattern, but of course these patterns do keep changing from time to time, since I get bored with the same pattern after six months. I actually try not to think at all; somehow, I don't like to think or to go deep, it makes me uncomfortable. Even if I do it unconsciously sometimes, I quickly erase the after-effects by indulging myself and getting lost in some form of entertainment, whether it be my work, some movie, a book, or the company of friends like you; and also I go to the temple and pray every now and then. I don't let myself be bothered by thinking at all, and when I am, there are always innumerable escapes at my disposal. I like my mind to be engaged in something external all the time. I think I have always disliked thinking. As I said, I like to follow what other people have said, who are greater than me. I learn by following them and their great ideas. I follow these ideals and it makes me feel comfortable and secure, gives me a sense of purpose in life. Without these ideals, these beliefs, the authority of others over me to guide me, I would not exist," said Y, now feeling somewhat self-conscious at having revealed so much and being a little surprised at himself for having acknowledged it at all.
Z said, "I don't even care about existing or not existing. The whole question neither bothers me nor makes any sense to me. And I never think," he added, taking another sip from his drink.
It was midnight and they were still talking, more earnestly now, more engaged in their discussion and themselves. They seemed to be lost to every other thing around them.
Suddenly, there was an explosion. Shock and silence followed for one long moment. Their senses seemed to have been pierced by some sharp instrument, and they felt that they had become temporarily deaf, hearing a resounding echo of the noise inside their heads. There was smoke and dust all around. Gathering their senses, they looked about. Fire and smoke were coming from the kitchen. The explosion had been caused by a short circuit in an appliance in the kitchen. Another long moment passed before they could grasp all this.
Soon, the fire began to spread and the fire alarm went off. It had quickly crept onto the curtains, other fabric and wooden material. One third of the three-bedroom apartment was soon covered in dark gray smoke and fire. The three friends moved to the hall, which was more spacious than the other rooms. Fire had crept on towards the main entrance door which was towards the extreme left hand corner of the hall. The apartment was on the tenth floor and there was only one exit. Soon, almost the entire place was ablaze except for the hall and the balcony adjoining it, which looked out onto the street below.
X took stock of the situation first and started thinking. "It's a bad business, we're almost trapped and the fire is spreading all over. I must quickly think of a solution. Where's the fire extinguisher?" he asked Y, who was mostly looking towards the X and Z for a way out.
"It's in the store room, on the right hand side close to the main entrance door," replied Y. "But don't you think it's hard to reach because of all the smoke? And even if we get it, would it help us?"
"Let me think, Y! If I just go from the left and try to jump over that table next to the door, I might easily get inside the store room. Even though the smoke is quite thick there, my estimate is that it won't have reached inside the store room and that it would be safe from fire and smoke. I can then get at the extinguisher and start using it in every corner of the apartment. This way, I think with some time we will manage to extinguish all the fire," said X, deeply engaged in thinking.
Y seemed quite satisfied with this since it was a solution and quickly agreed to Intellectual's thought. Z was looking out of the balcony and said nothing.
X remained, still lost in the same stream of thought, going around and around in it. Y had also started thinking in the same direction, following X's lead. Z appeared a little troubled and was still looking out at the balcony.
X seemed to have made up his mind. Carefully and thoughtfully he moved towards the store room. Fire and smoke covered his pathway. He took a high stool from nearby, stood up on it and then jumped. Y waited expectantly.
Ten minutes passed, and there was no sign of X. Z was still looking from the balcony, oblivious of what was taking place in the background.
Y was pacing the floor in a heat of excitement and fear when he heard something behind him. Z was no more to be seen. Had he jumped out in madness? A chill passed through his blood. For the first time he was shaken out of his mind and with full force realized his situation. He rushed towards the balcony. Z had jumped out and lay on the terrace of the ninth floor apartment, which was more than 30 feet below. He seemed to be in great pain, his leg broken. X was still out of sight. Y called out for him, and moved in his direction.
Z looked up. There was another explosion. The entire apartment blazed with a sudden burst of light and flame; and then there was silence and huge clouds of dark gray smoke.
The fire brigade appeared and sounds of vehicles and people could be heard from outside the building. It was all over in a few hours. Z had fallen unconscious. When he came to, he was in an ambulance. His right leg was fractured and in bandages.
"That was a brave thing you did by jumping out from such a height. We found two bodies in the apartment. Were they already trapped in the fire when you jumped out?" asked the police constable, sitting besides him.
"We were together for the most part," said Z. "It was only when one of them started thinking and the other following him that we parted. I could neither think nor follow, so I jumped."