So one day Bob was walking the Earth. He came to the edge of this glorious valley and really wanted to go inside, but before he could enter, a glowing light formed and this Reified Philosophy/alien being/God appeared before him.
“Whoa!” said Bob.
“Right?” said Reified Philosophy.
Bob put aside his wonder. “Hey, so, I’d really like to walk down into that valley.”
“Of course you would,” said Reified Philosophy. “That valley is the best! So what’s stopping you? Walk right in! You’ve always been free to walk in the valley. In fact, you’re free not only to walk in there, but to run, skip, sashay, whatever you want.”
“Hey,” says Reified Philosophy. “Take this piece of paper, though.”
“What is it?” Bob asked, taking the piece of paper.
“It’s the Writ of Walking.”
“What’s it do?”
“Nothing really,” said Reified Philosophy.
Well, Bob took that Writ anyway and carried it everywhere he went. He loved it so much he hung it on the door of his lean-to, to which he retired when he wasn’t out skipping around the valley. Bob enjoyed a good skip.
Well, one day Bob was out walking and came across Jim, who also carried a Writ of Walking.
“Dude!” said Bob. “You get that from the Reified Philosophy, too?”
“Totally,” said Jim.
“Isn’t this valley the best for walking in?” Bob asked.
“This valley sucks for walking.” Jim said bitterly. “The tree limbs snag my clothes, I keep tripping over logs, and the pollen is playing havoc with my allergies. I hate it!”
“Whoa,” said Bob, taken aback.
But Jim wasn’t done. “So you know what?”
“What?” Bob asked.
“This!” Jim said. He dropped his Writ of Walking on the ground and started walking all over it, stomping on it, grinding it into the earth with his heel.
“Dude!” Bob said, aghast. “That’s the Writ of Walking! Dafuq is wrong with you?”
“With me?” Jim said, as he jumped up and down on the remainder of the Writ. “Dafuq is wrong with you?”
Now Bob was getting angry. “You’re defiling the Writ!”
“Fuck the Writ.”
“Fuck the Writ?” Bob screamed. “FUCK YOU, BRO!”
“NO! FUCK YOU!”
And just as Jim and Bob were about to come to blows, Reified Philosophy formed between them.
“Whoa!” said Bob.
“Whoa!” said Jim.
“Bros, what’s going on here?” asked Reified Philosophy.
Bob pointed at Jim. “Look! He defiled the Writ!”
“How?” asked Reified Philosophy.
“He walked all over it! Jumped on it even! Look at it! It’s all dirty and torn and stuff.”
Reified Philosophy made a puzzled sound. “He IS free to walk here. Even to jump.”
“What?” Bob said. “But not on the Writ!”
“The Writ is just a piece of paper,” Reified Philosophy said.
“It is not! It’s way more!“
“The Writ doesn’t have any value by itself,” said Reified Philosophy. “It’s a symbol, Bob, a symbol of your freedom, and Jim’s freedom, to walk and jump and skip, and do that weird loping thing Jim does when he thinks no one is watching.”
“Dude!” Jim said, embarrassed.
“But freedom to walk can’t mean freedom to walk on the Writ!” Bob said.
“It must mean exactly that,” Reified Philosophy said. “Or the freedom to walk means nothing at all. “
“Huh,” said Bob.
“Elevating the symbol over that which is symbolized is error, Bob.”
“Huh,” said Bob again.
“Now, go,” said Reified Philosophy. “Walk on. Both of you.”