Sunday, September 9, 2012

The parable of the zoo

As I emerge from my secular study of storytelling and folklore, I see great value in what I have learned in application to my faith. Jesus was a storyteller, who told many parables. Parables were stories based on cultural symbols and imagery, and the ordinary things that people were familiar with in their everyday life. These parables however drew on the familiar reality of the times to communicate spiritual truths.

I wish to be like Jesus and be able to cultivate my own parables based on the symbols and imagery of modern society, in order to communicate to people of my times and era spiritual truths. As such, I want to share this parable of the zoo.

There was once a zoo that had on exhibition a monkey and a man, side by side.

When visitors came to the zoo, many flocked the cage with the monkey to see it do tricks. They even fed the monkey treats. As such, the monkey was always the star attraction and the centre of attention, and subsequently well nourished and cared for.

Few visitors however stopped by to visit the man's cage. Those who did were able to be inspired by his work of art or by conversing with him about life in the zoo as well as about books he read. He was able to help people solve their personal problems, sometimes offering advice and listening to them pour out their personal stories and woes.

However, the monkey soon became overfed, and stressed out. It was getting old and no longer young and energetic, nor willing to perform tricks. People eventually lost interest in visiting the monkey and subsequently  lost interest in the zoo. Losing its attraction, the zoo keepers eventually gave it less of treatment and attention that they had paid it when it was the star attraction and eventually the monkey died, and the cage was empty.

The man on the other hand, though under-nourished, lacking in attention, lived on longer, writing and drawing and creating works of art to leave behind to inspire those who would in the future view and read his works. Eventually the man died. But unlike the monkey, the man's cage was filled with writings on the wall, and works of art telling about his history and life, and how he survived in the zoo and what life was like. He told of how the monkey got all the popularity and attention. He also told of how while he was living he was so desirous of meeting new people and talking with them so that they could realise their destiny. He wanted to ask and answer questions about life, purpose and meaning. Yet people, chose to be entertained by the antics of the monkey reacting to different stimuli.Hence few came to converse with the man about life, get insight or discover more about him and their common humanity.

The man recorded how he watched and observed the many who came and how he longed to share with them what he had learned from reading, conversation, revelation and reflection that would help make their lives better. For since being in the zoo, the man had gained much wisdom reading many books of knowledge, reflecting in silence on life and conversing with persons.

But at last, few paid any attention to the cage with the man. Few saw his works and conversed with him. Those few who did, left better off than they came.

Meaning of the parable:

The man in this story represents the human soul and spirit, while the monkey represents our flesh and body.

The visitors of the zoo represent humanity. Those visitors who only visited the monkey represent the majority of human beings who pursue the gratification of the body and flesh, or the ideas of science (physical and natural laws) and earthly wisdom. Those visiting the man in the zoo represent the seekers of God and his ways and spiritual truth. They settle not just for the contrived, artificial and entertaining reality, but the reality beyond the natural and man-made earthly systems. Instead, they seek for the unseen and unobserved reality that can only be attained through conversation and relationship with God and other truth seekers.

Let those who have ears to ear, let them ear.

And please feel free to share! No charge for this 1.  :)