Last month (March) I regaled you with my wit, or half of it, at least. (I have plenty more where that came from.) Humor is essential in writing. Especially the self-deprecating kind. It warms up your audience when they sense you’re not holier-than-thou (even if you are.) If you haven’t noticed, I tend to be a wee bit harsh on political ignorance and religious intolerance. So anyway, Me, Myself, and I discussed that all last time, and we would like to present our little offering on a talk with God.
SEEING THE ELEPHANT
© 2016 rev 2018
My University of Florida philosophy professor challenged us to find a way to explain God and religion to various groups of people. This seemed a near-impossible task. Greater minds than mine had sought a perfect answer for eons. I struggled into the wee hours of the night thinning my patience and pounding the keyboard with ideas that fell short of perfection. I’d been sketching out similes and metaphors to no avail when I thought I’d try an Aesopian fable or a perfect parable. I needed something catchy, yet plausible to hook my reader and explain what God is like to both religious and political zealots, because they occasionally wear each other’s hats which do appear similar, being made of the same zealot cloth.
A pot of coffee and a jog around the college dorm eventually failed to keep my head from slowly sinking to my keyboard where my nose landed on the ‘z’ key, rendering a visual interpretation of my state of mind: zzzzzzzzzzz.
I’d barely had time to relax before being commanded by a powerful voice. “Daniel! Walk down the hall to the elevator. Inside, press the H floor at the top of the panel. Be extremely careful that you do not press the H floor at the bottom of the panel.”
I chuckled, mumbled something unintelligible, and sighed a little drool onto the keyboard.
“DANIEL! NOW. ELEVATOR. H-BUTTON. UP. DO YOU COPY?”
Was that my father? When Mom couldn’t shake me out of bed on school mornings, Dad’s bullhorn barking always shot me up out of bed like I’d had a steel rod shoved up my spine. “Uh, yeah Dad.” I rubbed grit out of my eyes. “Elevator H. Up.”
Still groggy, I did as told. Before I could release the H button, I was jolted awake by my stomach dropping into my undershorts as a 7g-force got me wherever H was and the doors opened.
The light blinded me. “Dad?”
“Heh, heh, you might call me that.”
“What’s going on? I can’t see you.”
“Tom Edison? Turn down the lights, will you?”
The lights faded to normal. My jaw dropped. I found myself facing…Him! His Eminence, His Holiness, His Holy…mackerel…. God!
“There are no flies in Heaven, but shut your mouth anyway, Daniel. I’m real.” He laughed. “Do you want to pinch me and see if I am real?” He extended an arm.
“Oh, God, no!” I cringed. “Sorry, sorry. Don’t smite me. I meant no offense. It’s just—”
“…an expression. I know. Relax, Daniel, I just want to help with your school project. You’re a decent fellow, just like that Daniel who ended up in the lion’s den a few years back. Had to help him, too. Remember?”
“Uh, well, not really. I read about it, though.”
“Oh, yeah. That time-and-space thing down there. Well, good for you. Reading is how you learn things. Then, like Solomon, you can figure the best way to do what’s right to help others.” He shifted on his throne and adjusted his scarlet sash. The gold letters read NELSON MANDELA. He answered the question I didn’t ask. “I wear a different one every day for someone here who has led an exemplary life. Tomorrow is ELSIE WELLINGTON Day.”
“I never heard of Elsie Wellington.”
“Nobody has. But I saw her rescue a child from drowning off Brighton Beach. Now, would you please silence your thoughts? They distract me.” I nodded and he continued. “What you should do is simple. Spread the word that I am as blind men find the elephant.”
I drew and released a calming breath. “Dear God, do you remember Moses?”
“I do, indeed. Pleasant chap. A bit shy at first.”
“Then you remember giving him a speech impediment by sticking a live coal in his mouth?”
“Actually, Gabriel did that. Purely to save the chosen child, you understand.”
“Um, yeah. Well, I bring him up because I have a speech problem, too.”
He clicked a few things on His computer keyboard. “Just checked your genetic code. No speech impediment there.” With one eyebrow arched to a perfect inverted ‘V’, God stared at me over His glasses.
“I’m a writer,” I said. “I often speak in metaphors. Uh—maybe too often.”
“I know. I’ve read your stuff. That’s okay. I’m used to it.” God shook His head. “Oh, those ancient prophets and their parables and metaphors and similes. I think there would have been a lot less bloodshed down the centuries, and I’d be much better understood today, had they been plain talkers.”
“That’s sort of what I’m getting around to,” I said. “I feel like Gulliver, stranded in a frightening land of mental midgets always on the edge of war over what or who You are, what or whose side You’re on.”
God frowned. “Gulliver? Mental midgets?” He waggled his index finger at me. “That’s another simile. I’m counting. Get back to Moses, please,” He sighed his impatience and settled back in His golden throne.
“Okay, okay. I have a-uh-mental speech impediment. When I think I’m going to get beat up or ridiculed for saying what I think, what I’ve learned, what history tells us —I stumble, I mumble, it all comes out jumbled whenever I am attacked.”
“Stumble, mumble, jumble? You write poetry, too?” He clicked His keypad, scanned the screen and then laughed. “Aha! Stick to prose, kid.” He looked at me. “Why don’t you practice what you’ll tell others about me. Now. Here.”
“For You?” My heart double-timed. “T-Tell You about You?”
“Sure.” He snapped His fingers and a host of angels surrounded Him. “Just think of us as Heavenly Toastmasters. Go for it.”
“I-um-I have a message from God…”
God held His hand up. “Hold it. Scratch that unless you’re in the Bible Belt. It will work there. Start with what your assignment is about. Sex and politicians, right?”
“Uh, no, Sir. Explaining You to sects. S-e-c-t-s. Religious sects. And politicians.”
“With words? Humph. Sounds like you could use a few well-placed lightning bolts instead.” He pushed back in His throne and waved a hand. “Go on.”
I nodded, took a deep breath, and tried a different approach.
“The story of the Blind Men and the Elephant is said to have its origin in India, and is told in various ways. The essence is that several blind men were brought to an elephant and asked to determine what they believed the creature looked like by touching it.
“Aha! Good.” God grinned, and the Toastmasters nodded approval.
Encouraged, I forged ahead with my tale. “The first blind man felt the tail and said the elephant was like a rope.
“The second stroked the trunk and assumed the creature was akin to a tree branch.
“The third touched a leg and declared the elephant similar to a pillar.
“The fourth disagreed, for rubbing his hand along the tusk had convinced him an elephant is much the same as a solid pipe.
“The fifth, his hands spanning the side of the belly, said the elephant was identical to a wall. The sixth, fingering the ear, announced, ‘The others are so very wrong! The elephant is like an umbrella, a plant leaf, or perhaps, a fan.’
“A wise man passing by heard the argument, scanned the elephant from head to tail and said they were all partly right because the elephant contains all of those features.” Winded, I paused and smiled at the assembly.
“So-o-o?” God rumbled. “Summary, please.”
“So, my friends, because we see from different perspectives, that does not mean that one belief is completely right and the other is completely wrong. God is the whole elephant that none of us can see. And no matter how loudly one bellows that he holds the only true view of God, remember—he may be holding only the elephant’s tail.”
“Or pulling my leg!” God guffawed, which tickled the angels to titters and giggles, which grew to hearty laughter, and ended in a harmonious sigh. “Perfect! Not that I like being compared to an elephant, mind you, but there wasn’t a stumble, mumble or jumble in the whole thing,” He said.
I grimaced and shrugged. “Well, it’s pretty easy when you’ve got God and a bunch of angels on your side. It’s a lot different on Earth.”
His warm smile said He was about to tell me what I should have known all along. “Daniel, my child, in whatever you do that is noble and good, I am always in your heart and by your side.” He winked at me and added, “And I’ll also be by your professor’s side when he grades your report.” His eyebrow shot up. “With a few lightning bolts within reach, just in case.”
I felt my heart warm, my face radiate joy, and renewed courage straighten my body. “Thank you! I’ll remember that, Sir,” I called as I caught the day’s last elevator trip down to Earth. As the doors shut on a final glimpse of His radiant face, I thought, Whoa! An interview with God! Now who’s going to be teacher’s pet?
I hope you’ll try as I do to see others’ opinions, religious or political, as part of the whole process to reconciliation, mediation, and agreeable compromise for the good of all. If we bring our puzzle pieces to the table and work them together, we may one day see the whole elephant! Or donkey. Or giraffe…who sees clearly above and beyond the common fray around him. I vote for the giraffe as the symbol of working as one to restore humankind’s growth through simple common courtesy, a thing as endangered as the white rhino species.
Any argument here? Can I get an “AMEN!”?