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Thursday, January 26, 2012


I recently read the twenty-five Tarzan books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The one creature throughout that brought the most security was the elephant (Tantor in the language of the great apes). Out of all the animals, and most humans, only Tantor didn't fear Tarzan. It says "with Tantor he made friends." Tantor carried Tarzan at times on his back, and at times, when Tarzan was captured and rescue seemed impossible, Tantor would come crashing through whatever obstacles to rescue his friend.

If we had never been brought a revelation, it seems natural that man would worship the sun as a god---the sun who brings warmth and light and life and goes to bed at night and comes up each morning to watch over us. And it seems natural to regard the elephant as sacred, the mighty creature who should, by rights, be called the king of the jungle, who fears no one (except perhaps mice). But we have been brought revelations, which some choose to believe and some choose to reject, and the world is tossed into confusion.

Most remember that Indian object lesson about the blind men and the elephant. There were three blind men who had heard that the elephant was a very strange creature, and they wanted to know more about it. A passing elephant merchant led each blind man to feel the elephant to learn what the animal was like. The first man felt the elephant's legs, the second its trunk, and the third its tail. Then they thanked the merchant for his kindness and left, later to sit down and discuss this creature. The one who felt the tail said, "This queer animal is like our straw fans swinging back and forth to give us a breeze. However, it’s not so big or well made. The main portion is rather wispy." The man who felt the legs said, “No, no! This queer animal resembles two big trees without any branches." The man who felt the trunk said, "You’re both wrong. This queer animal is similar to a snake; it’s long and round, and very strong." And so they argued, each insisting he was right, and of course never came to an agreement, because none of them had examined the whole elephant. The moral of the lesson is: How can anyone describe the whole until he has learned the total of the parts?

This story has been told countless times by those who say it's impossible to know God and that no one can say that another's concept of God is wrong. This is largely true; God's infinity is a mystery to our finite minds. But there's a fact in the blind men story that many pass over: That each had to venture to be with the elephant in order to get any personal experience in the first place. They weren't satisfied simply with the hearsay of others. Instead of illustrating the confusion of who or what God is, this story should bring home the example of the three men who took the initiative, despite their disabilities, to learn about God first-hand. If they had not been blind, they would have become familiar with the whole elephant.

Now let's say I'm a prophet. Let's say you've never heard of or have seen an elephant, and I've come to present to you a revelation. There is a mammal living naturally in Africa and Asia, the largest land animal on earth. It eats almost five hundred pounds of vegetation each day, and spends sixteen hours eating it. It can drink up to eighty gallons of water a day. It lives in tight social units, each led by a female matriarch. It has the largest brain in the animal kingdom, and almost hairless skin an inch thick. It has a long, flexible, prehensile trunk---a fusion of the nose and upper lip---with forty thousand muscles in it, and this trunk can hold two-and-a-half gallons of water. The creature loves water, can swim long distances, and uses its trunk as a snorkel. It has enormously enlarged incisors that can grow into tusks many feet long, never stop growing, are made of valuable ivory; and in the same way you and I are right or left handed, this animal favors either the left or right tusk over the other. It has the longest pregnancy of any animal---twenty-two months. It sleeps standing up, and has a very sharp memory. It uses its feet to listen, and can pick up sub-sonic rumblings made by others of its kind, through vibrations in the ground. It purrs like cats do, as a means of communication, and can make sounds too low for us to hear.

Would you believe me?

If you liked this post, you may also enjoy the following:
This is a Honey of a Post, but Will You Read It?
A Letter telling of My Catholic Conversion
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1 comment:

  1. I learned alot from this post today on Elephants which are such awesome animals. I loved it when they crashed through and sasved Tarzan and they had the telepathic communication, or maybe they used ground vibrations. I would believe you because I have great hope that their or wonderful creations we are all joined to and don't know about and can give us inspiration to have joy in living in spite of the suffering signs(the Elephant is a definite)also because prophets reveal truth and I am seeking truth, and you are a great story teller Dale!