Sunday 18 November 2012

The rhino and the giraffe - a story about division and unity

The following is an original story by me. I hereby grant free and unlimited rights to use and modify this story so long as it is credited appropriately. - Andy Pakula

In the deep, deep jungle, it happened one day that a baby rhinoceros had grown strong and adventurous enough that his mother allowed him to wander out of her sight for the very first time. On that very same day and at nearly the same time a mother giraffe also judged that her young daughter was at last old and sensible enough to wonder out of her sight.

And so it was that a young male rhino and a young female giraffe bumped right into one another in a small jungle clearing.

"Hello there!" said the young rhino. "Hello to you!" said the young giraffe. Having known no other animals besides their mothers, both young creatures were curious and eager to explore.

They looked each other over carefully. "Your neck is longer than my mother's" said the rhino. "Your skin is greyer than my mother's" said the giraffe.

Having no idea what they themselves looked like, they very soon accepted their differences and began to frolic together. They ate some tasty leaves. They jumped over low-lying vines - an activity that the giraffe seemed to excel at. They knocked over some slender trees - a skill that seemed to belong mainly to the rhino.

After a while, they heard the mother rhino calling and they knew it was time to part. "Let's meet here again tomorrow" said the giraffe. The rhino beamed a big rhino smile. They had become fast friends.

The next day, they frolicked and explored together again. And then the next day and the next. The two friends joined together every day now and took every opportunity to enjoy each others' company.

As months passed and the two young animals grew and matured, they increasingly appreciated the strengths of the other. The rhino was delighted when the giraffe would reach high in the trees and bring down a fruit that he especially enjoyed. The giraffe loved the way that her solid, heavy friend could clear a path through the thickest jungle with his body.

One day, as they played together and enjoyed their shared adventures, an adult giraffe happened to come along and see them. Looking first at the giraffe and then at the rhino, the adult giraffe spoke to the younger giraffe with a tone of shock: "what are you doing with this... this... creature" he said nodding in the rhino's direction. "We're friends" said the young giraffe brightly. "We're playing."

The older giraffe drew himself up to his fullest height and stared in disbelief. "You are a giraffe! He is a rhino. Giraffes and rhinos do not get along. Now go home immediately!"

The young giraffe hung her head from her long neck and obediently headed toward home. The young rhino watched her go and trudged off toward his own home, leaving a trail of large wet rhino tears behind him.

The next day, the young rhino awoke from a dream of playing with his dearest friend and then remembered the events of the preceding day. Sadness overcoming him, he tried to go back to sleep and to his happy dream. His mother nudged him. "What is wrong? You are not yourself today." He began to cry and his sad story came tumbling out. "I'm sorry you're sad, said his mother, but that older giraffe was right. Rhinos and giraffes do NOT associate with one another. You need to forget her and stay with your own kind."

The young giraffe, too, moped around. She ate some leaves and even noticed one of the fruits that her rhino friend loved so much. It only made her sadder.

The days and weeks and months passed and the two friends began to get over their sorrow at the loss of their close friendship. They began to make more friends of their own kind too.

And then one day, a strange and frightening noise was heard in the jungle. It was a roaring noise the animals had never heard before. In the distance, the rhino heard loud voices that did not belong to any animal he had ever heard. And then he heard a voice that he did know well. It was the voice of a giraffe - a giraffe who was once his dearest friend. That voice was yelling for help.

The rhino, now quite a large and imposing creature, turned toward the yelling and ran through the jungle as fast as he could. Trees and vines tumbled ahead of him. He didn't care what he might run into as he ran.

And then, he emerged into a clearing and there he saw strange creatures with only two legs. They had odd fur of different colours. And worst of all, the creatures had tied long ropes to his friend and at the other end the ropes were tied to a strange creature with four black circular legs. It made the terrible roaring noise and this creature was pulling his friend along. Other giraffes were standing just at a safe distance and they were watching helplessly.

The young rhino did not give it one more moment of thought. He charged at the strange animal with the round legs, struck it hard, and knocked it onto its back. The two-legged creatures began yelling and running away.

The rhino's friend was free and she and the other giraffes ran away. The rhino too ran with them.

When they had reached a safe distance, the young giraffe and rhino came close together. With tears in their eyes, they vowed they would never be separated again, whatever the other giraffes and rhinos might say.

The elder giraffe who had caused their separation then spoke: "I have never seen such bravery from any animal before." And then he spoke directly to the young giraffe and rhino: "I was terribly wrong when I separated you. I was a fool. Please forgive me. From now on, rhinos and giraffes are friends."

There was great joy in the jungle that night as rhinos cleared a space for a great feast and giraffes brought them their favourite high-growing fruits. Rhinos and giraffes have been friends ever since.

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Original story - a ritual of peace and love

The following is an original story by me. I hereby grant free and unlimited rights to use and modify this story so long as it is credited appropriately. - Andy Pakula


Many hundreds of years ago, there was a good and just man by the name of Tarkan. He had little in the way of material possessions, but he was happy. He lived peacefully with his neighbours and helped others whenever he could. He cherished his family above all - his wife and his two young sons.

As a young man, Tarkan developed a habit that he would maintain throughout his life - it was a habit that helped to keep him kind and compassionate toward others. Each day, just after rising, Tarkan would go to his window and look out toward the houses around his. He would think individually of each person who lived in each of those houses and he would whisper all of their names to himself. As he did, he would tap his chest just over his heart with the mention of each name.

Having finished his listing of all of his neighbours, he would do the same for all of the animals he knew of. And then, Tarkan would close his eyes and imagine all of the cities he knew of, all of the nations he knew of, and he would whisper their names as well, always touching the area of his heart with each utterance.

Finally, Tarkan would say a prayer wishing peace and happiness to every sentient being on the earth.

With this ritual completed, Tarkan would go about building a fire to warm the house, waking his sons, and preparing for his labour of the day.

As Tarkan was an early riser, his sons only occasional witnessed their father's morning ritual. When they did, they were at first baffled, wondering who he was talking to and why he would stand at the window in this way every day. As they grew older, they sometimes tried to copy their father's ritual, although they were too young to fully understand.

One terrible day, soldiers burst into Tarkan's modest home. A division had arisen in the land and the people were taking sides against one another. Everyone was compelled to choose or be considered a traitor. With swords brandished, the soldiers dragged Tarkan outside and demanded that he join their faction and fight those of his neighbours who were on the other side. As his wife and young sons watched, they demanded that Tarkan join them in destroying homes and driving the opponents away. Tarkan refused. "I love all my neighbours" he said, "both man and beast. I will not raise a hand against anyone."

"If you do not join us, you will die!" shouted one of the soldiers, and he threatened Tarkan with his sword. The young boys began to cry. "Say yes, father" they begged. But Tarkan simply shook his head gently "I love all my neighbours. I will not raise a hand against anyone."

There was a sudden movement and Tarkan doubled over in pain, his hands clutched to his belly. The soldiers stormed off and Tarkan's wife and children bent over him weeping. Minutes later, there was blood in the sand and Tarkan was dead.

Tarkan's wife and sons fled to the safety of a nearby land. At times angry about Tarkan's refusal to cooperate with the soldiers, their admiration for his courage and bravery grew. When his sons were grown and on their own, the older son moved back to their homeland and the younger remained in the neighbouring land. Both sons independently began to imitate their father's morning practice each day. They taught it to their own children, and they in turn taught it to theirs. The practice grew in both lands as others heard about it and learned the story of Tarkan's love of peace and his bravery. Eventually, thousands and thousands of people practiced the ritual each day.

As the two sons had been separated by considerable distance, the tradition in the two locations grew separately. Many years later, members of one group learned about the other group. They were delighted to learn of a kindred movement and they arranged for a grand reunion at a village near the border between their lands.

Hundreds attended and they celebrated joyously with food and drink and great words of praise for the memory of Tarkan. The leader of the reunion ascended the platform to speak and announced the key event of the gathering. Everyone would join together the following morning for the ritual. "Please assemble here at 7:00 tomorrow morning" she said.

A rumble came from the crowd. "7:00?" someone shouted angrily. "The ritual is always performed at 6:00. It dishonours Tarkan's memory to practice at 7:00." There was worry and some arguing in the crowd as the convener spoke with the elders of the two communities. She returned smiling. "Your leaders have agreed that we will meet at 6:30." There was a low murmuring and neither group was completely happy, but everyone eventually agreed and went off to sleep with excitement about the next morning's events.

The next morning, the moment that they had all been waiting for finally arrived. Hundreds assembled to perform the practice just minutes before 6:30. As they gathered, half of them lined up facing south and half faced north. "Turn around" they shouted at each other. "You're facing the wrong direction!" "No," others yelled, "you are facing the wrong direction." "How dare you disgrace Tarkan's memory like this?"

No one knows who threw the first blow, but once again there was blood on the sand and the north facing and south facing Tarkan followers became bitter enemies, and remain so to this very day, just as they continue their daily ritual of peace and love.