Sunday, November 1, 2020

The Elephant and the Donkey

On an island in the sea there lived an elephant family and a donkey family. They were not exactly friends but since it was a great big island they usually kept out of each other’s way and lived their lives peacefully by pretty much ignoring each other. At times they had to interact because, as the donkey was trying to build something, he needed the elephant’s strength and discipline to haul stuff. And when the elephant was trying to figure out a repair job he needed the donkey’s brains and resourcefulness to figure out how to fix it. But all in all, they spent their days avoiding each other as much as possible.

The elephant spent his time stomping about, making sure that nothing was disturbed in his domain. He liked things to be nice and tidy. His waterhole undisturbed by foreign creatures, the sandpit where he liked to roll around in, nice and dry and his little elephant babies all in a row, marching to his beat behind him. And no one dared to oppose his wishes, seeing that he was a great big elephant.

The donkey also liked things his way. He made up for what he lacked in bulk, by his wit and stubbornness. He was an adventurous little fellow. His brood showed him respect even as they wandered off to explore some foreign-looking object on the beach. He didn’t mind that much. He himself was endowed with a curious nature and instinctively realized that stunting his children’s sense of adventure wouldn’t serve them well in the long run. He was clever and because he was so small compared to the elephant, he often covered himself with a lion skin when he went foraging. Even the elephants ran off as they saw him approach, which made him chuckle.

As the island became more popular with the outside world, things started to change. Many other animals were drawn to this beautiful, bountiful island. Some liked to play with the donkeys, others liked to march with the elephants and for a long time life was good on the island.

But the donkey and the elephant realized that they were going to have to make some rules to watch over their respective dominions. After all, even this great big island had its limits of space and resources and letting everyone take what they wanted willy-nilly wasn’t going to work any more.

Besides, the elephant liked to hoard things, whether he needed those things or not, and having to share with all these strangers started to give him an ulcer. He felt very threatened. So he sought the advice of the elephant God ‘Mammoth Maximus’(Maxi for short). As he was kneeling in front of the sacred shrine a booming voice said: ‘You dumbass. All you need to do is tell your children to stand guard over each waterhole. Whoever wants to drink has to give them the secret password. Either that or pay up. Of course there is no secret password, so soon you will be richer than you could possibly ever imagine.’ And sure enough, the elephants soon gained control over most of the island.

The donkey, in turn, who was very unhappy with the course of events, went to see the god of the donkeys, ‘Jacobus Assinus’ (Jack for short). He wasn’t as formal as the elephant, so he said simply: ‘Jack, dude. What should I do? I don’t mind sharing some of my stuff, but it’s the elephants. Whenever we need their brute strength they want a fortune in return. And now they won’t let us even drink from the waterholes!’ ‘That’s a no-brainer’ said Jack. ‘Tell your children to ask for a waterhole in return for each repair job. Soon the donkeys will be in control of the island again.’ And sure enough, the donkeys soon regained at least half of the island.

The donkeys and the elephants were mighty pleased with themselves. Even with their differences they made things work! Their children however, had tasted the forbidden fruit of power and since there is always a donkey or an elephant who is bigger or more crafty than the rest, these self-anointed ones started to hoard waterholes and believed it was their birthright to own them, the greater good be damned. They became rich and powerful and suffered more and more from delusions of grandeur. In their paranoia, they started to dig deep trenches around their waterholes and every time some thirsty ‘stranger’ attempted to cross, the trenches were made deeper and wider.

Eventually the ditches were so deep and so wide that pieces of the great big island began to detach themselves. Some started to float away on the current. Others slowly sank to the bottom of the sea. The pieces without waterholes were so overpopulated that a shortage of food and water caused a famine and everybody died or took to their dinghies and left.

So the great big island that once was, now became rudderless and directionless, bobbing up and down in the vast ocean. Every so often, a lone whale swam by on its migratory route south. It looked at the island from afar and thought to himself: ‘sheesh, I am glad I don’t have to live THERE.’ leave comment here