THE OWL, THE ELEPHANT, THE DONKEY AND THE DREAMER
It was a fine summer day in the Magic Forest, where a Wise Old Owl, perched on the limb of one of the lovely old oak trees, kept turning his head (as owls are wont to do) to peer wide-eyed at the impressive sight behind him. Just that morning, he had come upon a huge stone wall through the middle of the forest, and no matter how high he flew, he could not get over it to the other side. Nor could he discover an end to the wall, in either direction. It was now well into the morning and the owl, being a nocturnal creature, was ready to call it a night and go to sleep. Unfortunately, he could not rest. The puzzle of this huge wall was in itself distracting enough – but what was on the other side?
Even though he had turned his back to the wall, he was unable to resist turning his head to look at it, time and time again. After a while, he began to discern what appeared to be a door, or a closed gate in the wall. The more he focused on the potential opening, the more clearly it began to take shape. Finally, it seemed as though a huge wooden door, shaped and hinged much like the door of a medieval European castle, was now as solidly embedded in the wall as the wall itself was an unchanging and solid part of the landscape. The magical nature of this phenomenon did not bother the Wise Old Owl, because he was perfectly aware that he lived in a magical forest, where strange things sometimes happened.
But the occurrence of strange things in magical forests is usually a sign that something of importance is coming into being. Being wise, the owl knew this to be a fact. So, giving up the idea of sleep altogether, he flew to the door in the wall to investigate. The first thing he determined was that it was very real and very solid, as he was quite elderly and in his sleepy state he misjudged his flight pattern and bumped into it. Rubbing his sore beak with the edge of a wing, he cautiously approached the wall on foot. He tried the latch, (did I mention that he was a very tall owl?) to see if he could open the door. He could not. Next, there appeared a keyhole just below the latch, and in his wisdom, the owl understood that the door was locked. Lacking the key, he would not be able to open it.
Just as he was gathering himself to fly back to his perch in the oak tree, the wall delivered a final manifestation – a sign shimmered into place above the door. Peering through the morning sunshine, the owl sounded out the letters:
The Wise Old Owl grew very excited. Because of his wisdom, he had always sought Truth. And now here it was, just on the other side of this locked door in an impenetrable wall. Surely, as old and as wise as he was, he could review all of his knowledge and past experience and discover how to open the door to Truth. So he set his mind to it.
Meanwhile, crashing his way through the Magic Forest, there came a very large, very noisy and very ponderous elephant. Upon seeing the wall, exactly where it had never been before, (and he remembered this, because he was an elephant and as everyone knows an elephant never forgets) he became enraged, lowered his head, and charged the wall….. And charged the wall again, and again, until he knocked himself silly and had to sit down.
Determining that the elephant was now quiet and still enough to hear him, the Wise Old Owl asked the Large, Strong Elephant if he could see the door. Once the stars from banging his head against the wall cleared, sure enough, the elephant could clearly see both the door, and the sign above it: TRUTH. He gingerly stretched out his sore trunk, and tried the latch.
“It’s locked” the Owl told him. “Any lock can be forced open” the elephant grumpily responded, still convinced that his wealth of size and power was the answer to everything.
“Listen to me! I not only have the experience of this particular wall and door, but I have reviewed all of the learning and experience since the beginning of time in the Magic Forest,” trilled the Owl. “If you will hear what I know, perhaps we can open the door.”
“Nonsense,” replied the Elephant. “Only my strength and persistence will open the door.”
Several days later, after multiple periods of alternating rest, arguing, and failed attempts to open the door of Truth, the Owl and the Elephant were joined by another wanderer in the Magic Forest. The Burdened Donkey, a descendant of the very colt that carried Jesus the Messiah into Jerusalem on that famous Passover week, had found her way through the forest to the Door in the Wall. Her entire life had been one of compassion and advocacy for the burdens of others; as well it should be for one of her noble ancestry. She cared nothing for power or size, though in all honesty she thought a little wealth would have been nice, in order to have something to share with those who had nothing at all.
The Burdened Donkey readily became part of the group, despite stating quite firmly that the others were wasting their time. She insisted that if they gathered more seekers to the wall, whoever – or whatever — controlled the Magic Forest would have to hear their combined voices seeking Truth, and unlock the door.
Weeks later, our trio of Truth Seekers were each even more determined than ever that he or she alone had the right answer to opening the Door. But they were still on the wrong side of the Gateway to Truth when a beautiful, radiant human-like creature seemed to just suddenly appear in their midst. OK, sorry – that phrase was a little too Biblical for a fairy tale. The Dreamer/Adventurer appeared like a mirage taking shape before their eyes (Better?). This rare being was androgynous, (a blend of male/female, not either-or) but only when appearing in its magical, ephemeral state. It will be correct to refer to the being as s/he.
S/he was actually more able to see and understand the Wall and the Gateway to Truth better than the other three combined. Being a dreamer, s/he could imagine possible solutions from ideas that the others had overlooked, because even though they had a lot of combined knowledge and experience, they lacked the gift of imagination. Because they therefore lacked the gift of dreaming, they also lacked the magnificent will to risk adventure. So the Dreamer might have added surprising and wonderful routes to the search for Truth, but the four Seekers nevertheless each continued to argue that their own talent was the sole means of opening the Gate, and to individually try old and new ways to unlock the door.
Almost another year passed, and one late night our quartet of seekers was once again outside the door of Truth. As usual, the Owl was perched on his oak tree limb, his back to the Door. The Elephant stood in front of the owl and to his right, where there happened to be more room to accommodate his huge size. To the owl’s left, and facing the Elephant, was the Burdened Donkey. Weary from her many tasks and the futility of debate; she reclined on a mat of fallen leaves. The Dreamer/Adventurer was directly facing the Owl, but far enough back not to invade the sight line between the Donkey and the Elephant. The dreamer, therefore, was the only one who consistently looked forward, to the Gateway of Truth. This pattern had become the default physical setup for their frequent, but fruitless, debates.
By now, each member of the group was unshakably entrenched in their own belief about the correct route to a solution, and the debates were bitter and filled with accusations that cast aspersions on ancestry, intellect and integrity. In other words, the debates had become ugly, and personal.
An aside: Rumor has it that this is when and where major basic political views were founded and named: The Traditionalist (the owl, wise but always looking back), the Donkey (the liberal, burdened with concern for the poor and oppressed), and the Elephant (with wealth, power and size, who was channeling Puritan predestinarianism in his belief that these things indicated that he alone was a Chosen One). The Dreamer/Adventurer, though strong in the days of our Founders, would have no counterpart within the bounds of this rumor, representing a view that is no longer taken seriously by our rational world. But I believe the rumor to be completely unfounded and without merit. After all, even in a fairy tale there is no discernible connection between the Gateway to Truth and political activity.
To bring our fairy tale to its conclusion…as our quartet was fiercely and loudly debating the reasons for their failure to solve the problem of the locked door of Truth, they were joined by an excited colony of bats, all clamoring about the Gateway to Truth. The bats had somehow heard of the Gateway phenomenon, but being blind, were not even aware that they were just outside that much-to-be-desired place. By using their sonar, however, they sensed the presence of our Seekers and inquired of them if they knew how to find the Gateway.
Rendered both cynical and uncaring of others by their prolonged debate, the four Seekers each offhandedly responded to the bats:
“Of course. As always, it is directly behind me,” said the Owl.
“Can’t you see it?” the Donkey responded crossly, then…”Oh, sorry. I am so sorry for your disability. Please, can you locate it if I describe where it is? It is directly to my left.”
To which the Elephant trumpeted a huge blast of disgust, remarking “Even my strength has not opened that door! How do you think that a colony of tiny, blind bats is going to achieve this? But never mind. Be my guest! Go ahead and try. The door is to my right.”
The Dreamer, withdrawn and wan after suffering prolonged ridicule and rejection, was only barely aware of the presence of the bats. As usual, s/he was staring dreamily at the gate, imagining all the wondrous truth that lay just beyond. S/he finally murmured: “You are all wrong. The door is in front of ME.”
As each member of the group spoke his, her or its truth, a solid gold nugget appeared in the hand (trunk, wing or hoof) of the speaker. By the time the Dreamer said the final word, all four were staring dumbfounded into their respective appendages. Then, as one entity, they all ran toward the gate, golden shapes held before them. One by one, each tried to open the gate with their piece of gold, turning it first this way and then that. They tried inserting the gold pieces in a different order, then with yet other permutations of that order. Alas, the gold pieces did not unlock the door of Truth.
Dropping In a sorry heap of adrenaline withdrawal, the group had finally returned to their original places. The bats, having been quiet as they tried to interpret the chaos of sound and activity, now tried to question the Seekers. “What happened? What did you do? Did the Door open?”
As a final gesture of complete submission to their failure, the Seekers turned the pieces of gold over to the bats. “Here,” they told them. “Follow our directions to the Door, which has a key hole but no key. Take these pieces of gold, since they appeared when we told you where the door was, but they do not seem to be of any use.”
“But you each told us something different,” challenged the bats. “How do we know which one of you was telling the truth, or if any truth is in you at all? How do we know where the door really is located?”
The Seekers looked around, and recognized that they had fallen into their accustomed formation. So they told the bats that they would repeat their directions, and the bats should use their own bat sonar to identify where each speaker was located. They could then use at least three points to triangulate the location of the door from the positions of the speakers, combined with their spoken directions. “We have all told you the truth,” they chorused.
And of course, the bats did just that and of course, it worked. They were now hanging on the wall, as well as on and around the door. They located the latch and the keyhole. But also “of course,” they could not open the door, either. But they kept touching the pieces of gold, and then reaching into the keyhole, feeling around and chattering to one another in bat-speak. The air became tense with anticipation, for it was well known that the blind bats understood the magic of the forest better than any other beings. Unlike other beings, they felt things about the environment, and heard more. Suddenly, the bats came together in an outbreak of cooperation and began to reposition the pieces of gold. The Magic Forest once again intervened and did its thing, and the pieces of gold became welded together in the shape of a key. The key opened the Gateway of Truth, and they all (including the original Seekers) went through the Door to the land of Truth and lived happily ever after.