A blurred image of two different worlds



During my business years, I admired the entrepreneurial spirit of settlers in historic Massachusetts, where adventurous men built enterprises in the depth of the dense old forests, along the rivers, which supplied the power for their “mills”.  These mills then expanded to become small “mill towns” giving work to many other settlers.

Much later in life, I visited with small native settlements along the tributaries of the upper Amazon, where enterprising native families built small villages on suitable spots along the smaller tributaries in the midst of dense jungle.

One day, I looked at old photographs, still called “slides” in those days.  Two were superimposed and gave an intriguingly blurred image.  But then, the blurred image made sense.  Here is the resulting double story that developed in my mind:


An enterprise in a Massachusetts mill town, a hundred years ago, had to go through a generational change of management.  The aging founder had to retire.  His young heir, active in the business already for some time, brought new force and had already brought superior new ideas to the enterprise.  What had started as a family business, now had to become a “corporation”.  A large loan from a local bank for expansion was offered and needed.  The bank had to receive only one more document:  How would the ownership and management structure in the new corporation look like?

To provide stability of management and to do justice to his entrepreneurial ideas, the new heir assigned to himself the largest number of shares.  What was left for the old founder?  The young heir just put in 7% of the remaining shares for him.  Wasn’t it time for the old man to retire – as he had said himself?


That native settlement on the upper Amazon, deep in the jungle, had grown from 20 inhabitants to almost 30.  How could they feed themselves?  The village elder and his wife had grown old.  The village decided to elect a new and younger one, to bring new energy to the village.  The young man had good ideas and initiative.  He immediately built a pier on the river and wooden steps up the steep embankment from the river to the village.  That helped.  Now, a medical team from an international charitable organization could stop by from time to time.  The result?  Less babies died and all the people got older.  The village would soon have 40 inhabitants.  Food became very scarce. 

The wife of the young village elder had left on a trip to the distant village from where he had brought her in.  She had taken her sweet little daughter along, the only granddaughter of the old village elder’s wife.  The old woman was quite sad that she could not see this joyful continuation of her life for a long time.

One day, the new young village elder saw himself forced to address the question of the now very old prior village elder and his wife.  Native tradition told him what to do.  He prepared two food packages – a few handful of wild rice with an orange-green fruit on top, a kind of fruit only used for this occasion – all neatly wrapped in two banana leafs.  Then he invited the old couple for a walk in the jungle.


When the old Massachusetts entrepreneur learned about the new corporate structure, assigning a certain number of shares to each founding team member, he inquired with the young heir – where would he end up?  He said that he did not want to run the company any longer – but holding at least 10% of the shares would correspond to his past accomplishment and to his desire to still be involved.

The figures he obtained looked quite different.  There were only 3.5% new shares left for him.  Counting in the value of some older shares, however, a total of about 7% of the new corporation remained for the senior.

As the old man argued for more, things actually became even more difficult.  New key employees had to be hired to build the company with the new loan from the bank.  They wanted shares in the company, too.

In the end, the new heir and now new entrepreneur did assign merely 1.5% new shares to the old man. 

This young man was supposed to leave the next day on a trip to bring back his wife and very young daughter from a trip to the distant land she was native of.

The wife of the old entrepreneur asked when they would return.  She had not seen their only granddaughter in many months!

No answer came.


The young village elder invited the old couple into his dugout boat on the river.  The old woman said “when can I see my sweet little granddaughter once more?”.

“Oh, when I return from my trip to fetch them” the young man said.

  They paddled for a while, actually beyond the last trail his clan ever used in the jungle.  There was one more distant trail, hardly ever used.  That’s where he stopped. 

He gently guided the old people up the embankment.  Then they walked into the deep forest – for some time – for some time. 

The trail got ever less distinguishable in the maze of tropical plants.

At a fallen tree they stopped.

The young man bade the old folks to sit down.

He handed them each their food package.

Then, he swiftly moved away.  Only a few seconds later, he could not be seen or heard any longer.

The couple sat there as the day drew to its end.  Finally, they opened the food packages.  There was that orange-green fruit!  Was that their END?

A wonderful golden sun cast some rays through the very tall trees.

The wife put her head on the old man’s shoulder and began to cry.  “If I just could have seen my granddaughter one more time” she said.

Then darkness and silence fell upon them – only pierced by the distant shriek of one of those animals of the night.


 The old entrepreneur wrote one more letter to his heir explaining why he should get more shares in the new company – giving him a more meaningful position in the enterprise.

He did not even receive an answer to his letter as his son, the heir, had left on his trip.

Was that the END?

The old couple sat on some chairs on the terrace behind their house, looking into the garden as the sun set.  The wife put her head on the old man’s shoulder and began to cry.  “If I just could have seen my granddaughter one more time” she said.

Then darkness and silence fell upon them – only pierced by the distant shriek of one of those animals of the night.




Years later, a young missionary hiked swiftly through the jungle.  It was getting late and he still wanted to reach the next native settlement on the river. 

Suddenly, in the half-darkness, he saw some bones, as if sitting on a tree trunk.

He stopped.  Then he bent his head, said a short prayer, and quickly hurried on.


Years later, there was a garden party for the neighbors in the house were the old entrepreneur and his wife once lived.

Some people still remembered them.

One said: “Those two rusty chairs on the terrace remind me of the old people who once lived here.”

There was a moment of silence.

“What happened to their little granddaughter?” one asked.

“Nobody really knows”, came the answer.  “First, she moved to France, then to Lebanon or Algeria, then nothing was heard from her again.  Not even her parents heard from her any longer!”

Family bond is a strange thing.  Families can be really close.  Love in the family, however, is mostly forward inclined – strong from the older to the later generations – a bit weaker back from the young to the older ones.  That’s nature!

“Let’s just be grateful for what we have now – and be nice to others who may be lonely – – – or who are marginalized”, one neighbor said.

“After all, we don’t live in the jungle!”