This story came to me today. Make of it what you will. I think what is wonderful about writing is that we can all make our own interpretation. And, in fact, all reality, in my opinion, centers around the way one interprets that reality. Of course, some things are unchangeable fact. But even those facts can be viewed a thousand, billion ways.
Just so you all know, this story is entirely fictional. I say again, make of it what you will.
There once was a tribe of people who lived near an oasis in the center of an arid desert. This tribe had a traditional initiation ceremony. When boys of the tribe turned twelve years old, they were cast out into the desert several miles from the oasis. They were told simply, “if you make it back alive, you become men”.
Slowly, over the years, the tribe became filled with old men. These men, these ancient greybeards who had survived this test of manhood, looked around them, and saw that for the past two or three generations, every single boy who had attempted the challenge had died or been so severely crippled that he was of no use to the tribe and, thus, cast back into the desert.
In a circle, these old men sat, and they were four in number.
One harrumphed. He cleared his throat and raised his hand in the traditional signal that he was about to speak. When he spoke, his tongue was swollen in his nearly toothless mouth. His long beard wagged. He said to the others, “where are the young men who used to bring me water from the wadi? And where are the young men who used to trim my beard?”
The others spoke in unison: “They have gone, they have gone, and our beards grow long and we are thirsty.”
Another man spoke and said, “where are the young men, proud and fierce, who used to defend our tribe?”
In unison, the others spoke: “they have gone, they have gone, and we are unprotected.”
A third man looked around the circle and said, “where are the young men who used to stalk the gazelle to bring us tender meat?”
Again the others answered in once voice: “they have gone, they have gone, and we are hungry.”
The first man who had spoken was the eldest. All eyes turned to him, and one of the others asked him beseechingly, “Wise Father, what are we to do?”
The elder considered, and when he spoke, all within the circle listened carefully:
“I have had a vision,” he declared. “I saw a pride of lions who forced their young out into the world. I saw those young cubs become adults, and become caretakers, hunters, and protectors. I saw those adults put their young ones out into the world. But the world itself had changed. Where once there was water to drink, now, there was none. Where once, there was food to eat, there was none. Where once the groves of Acacias provided shade, shelter, and protection, there was dry earth.”
“The adult lions had become old. They had not noticed that the earth itself had changed. They only noticed that their cubs stopped returning. They only noticed that their manes’ were unkempt, and that they were attacked by rival prides, and that they were hungry and thirsty.”
“These old lions, with their rheumy eyes, could not see the change all around them. They put their faith in tradition, and by it they were betrayed.”
One of the other men in the circle stood. He clapped his hands. He said in a troubled tone, “Old Father, I see that your vision, this pride of lions, refers to our tribe. We old men sit hungry, thirsty, and unkempt while the desert dances around us, drawing ever closer. But why, after hundreds of years, has our tradition suddenly failed us? Why has the earth changed? Why, instead of returning as men, are our boys no longer returning at all?”
There was silence for many minutes. Every man in the circle rocked back and forth, eyes closed in contemplation. But the eldest, after a time, raised his hands above his head made the gathering gesture.
All eyes opened and to him all the circle’s attention once again returned.
“I have seen the change,” he said. “I have seen the change, but I have not discerned its source.”
“I do not speak to you of why. The change has made itself known. It has occurred. There is no time or place in which it has not already become manifest. Therefore, to question it has no use.”
“Instead let us draw our attention to what we must do. The question occurs to me: can we stop or reverse the earth’s changing? The answer makes itself plain: we cannot. It follows, therefore, that we must change with the earth, or the desert will swallow us up, and we will be no more.”
“And thought my heart is sad, I believe that indeed we cannot change with the earth enough to return our tribe to balance.”
“And thus, we are meant to be swallowed up.”