The Shining Elephant


A tale by Madhuri

Once upon a time, in a jungle far away, lived a huge elephant, white as the snow on the endless peaks of the Himalayas. In his youth he had tramped through all the forests and verdant wildnesses of Asia, trumpeting with his long trunk, and many were the folks who feared him, and many more still those who loved – for he trumpeted great truths that shattered through the bones of liars, and then rescued them up as little children, and wafted them about for a ride high above the earth. And they too bowed in spite of themselves, and their hearts turned pink and living within their breasts, and their tears flowed.

In his latter years the elephant sat at one place in the jungle and he spake through his trunk and all his skin glowed and tiny gold motes seemed to come away from it and hang shimmering in the air all about him. And many more again…came through the portals of that vast jungle, to seek him out and listen and be bathed in the tones and sounds of his emanations as in a healing waterfall. And many went then to faraway lands and some did speak of what they had seen; and some held silent, as at too great a mystery, unwilling to be led into error by trying to cry its name.

White elephant in jungle

Naturally enough, in the ways of the world there came occasionally a newspaperman to check out that regal and luminous pachyderm, and when such a person had seen and was amazed and perchance had stumbled into consternation, or joy, or even a hug with some glad denizen of that place – for hugs were many there, all shapes and sizes, freely given – he went back to his country and tried to write of what he had seen.

And then the newspaperman’s great editor, who had not been there, for he was far too busy and important to see things for himself, and was all the while doing bidding of those still more important than he – saw the copy, smote it down and thundered, “Make that elephant look bad! Make him look bad! This will never do!” For those who paid that editor had decreed it so, for their own secret reasons.

And so distorted things were written, through clouded lenses, and all who read them believed.

Now, in that land of jungle and mist, magic and rainbows, monsoon and drums, were two young sisters, and they grew older there, and wiser, and more richly rooted and joyous all the while, through their tribulations and their loves, their meditations and the guidance of the White One. And one of them, in her fiftieth year, went back to the land of her birth, far away, and travelled about there, beaming on her relations and dressing herself in the finery of freedom. And one of her relations-by-marriage, a mother, and a longing, graceful seeker in her own right, asked her: “I have heard that in that jungle where you have lived is an evil wolverine, who snatches away girls’ underthings and takes them off to line his den; and that he sits there like a spider, and dispenses horror and awfulness in the guise of good.”

And the visitor laughed and said, “My god, I have lived there all my adulthood and never heard whisper of such a thing!

Besides, it is an elephant there, and wondrous fair, not a wolverine!”

And the woman said that she was glad.

Many years later that traveller, she who had lived so long in the Jungle of Blessing, in the fulness of time (for Time leads us where she will) came to live in a large and pretty house on a great plain, where she planted many trees for wistfulness, and painted things that the gods and goddesses sent her in their whimsies; and in her heart she still dwelt in that faraway land where the Elephant was… but now he had departed his body and had gone to dwell in All That Is. And she herself had a visitor – a young relation, just seventeen; and this shy maiden reported that her mother and grandmother – who was the selfsame lady who had asked the question regarding wolverines – had told her that that Elephant was in fact a wolverine, using chimera to magnify his form; and that not only did he steal undergarments but he rolled in them, and danced a dread tattoo upon them, and flung them about in the madness of the moon; and that indeed he had done this to the two sisters’ private laundry – and had nipped them sharply in the bargain, about the thighs and hips.

“But,” said the Great-Auntie of the child – for this was their familial connection – “I told your granny that this was not so!”

“I had wondered,” said the young one, “Why you would have stayed there then.”

And Great-Auntie marvelled at how one who worshipped a Golden Lion – for such was the faith of the granny, and strong she kept it – a Golden Lion who had himself been reviled as a Tortoise and a Fool, and hung painfully upon a naked tree – could so counterfeit a tale. For here was the crux of the matter: had not that granny never been to the Rainbow Jungle, so could see nothing – not a thing at all – with her own eyes?

“And have I not been there,” she continued, “and seen only a most marvellous elephant glowing, old and wise?”

The moral of this story is: Waste not your time believing what you have never seen, nor parroting such beliefs abroad; for thus you only show your foolishness, and your sorrow; and perhaps too your peculiar fascination with underwear. If you would know something, go to it, and touch it gently, and perceive its truth; only then is it meaningful to praise or to deride – and even then, I say to you, even then – look to yourself first, and see what you have hidden; and let it flame before you as a thousand sunsets and then die away. Do this a thousand times. And then if words still insist within you – and your audience is amenable – speak.

Madhuri, Missouri, 2009

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