You may have read the story about the Lion and the Lamb. But now, I am going to tell you a story about the Elephant and the Monkey. Be still and listen carefully.
We all know what elephants and monkeys look like and how they behave. You’re probably picturing them in your mind, right now. So, I invite you to place them in a living forest, among the trees and other animals.
This Elephant and Monkey were a cut above the rest. The Elephant’s sharp intellect and the Monkey’s bright mind worked in wonderous ways that left all the other animals in awe. So, they both decided to work together to create one kingdom.
You see, the Elephant’s speciality was to gently ease his way into the hearts of the most venom spitting animals and to extract the nectar from within. The Elephant would then imbibe that nectar into himself and use all that weighty authority for the benefit of all. It is worth noting that the Elephant would only go to the vicious ones, because he knew that where there are thorns, there are treasures worth saving. All the rest were only squawkers, having had their fill and dropped it too.
The Monkey, on the other hand, had the speciality of deterring the animals’ attention away from their internal squabbles and quarrels and to unify their efforts, which, more often than not, was directed at trying to banish an unpunishable monkey! Of course, the cheeky Monkey was quick and nimble and always managed to stay out of reach.
At nightfall, the Elephant and the Monkey would sit together to reflect on their activities of the day and to discuss plans for the next day. This pattern continued for a long time, until one night the Elephant said “That’s it. No more for me. I am complete. I am saturated. I am satiated. I want no more”, and he sat down, eyes half-closed, into a deep silence.
The Monkey was a little perplexed. He always relied on the Elephant’s wisdom and was now left alone to decide what to do. It was just the two of them in the little cottage, in the middle of a clearing, in the middle of the forest. The other animals kept at a respectful distance mainly due to the Elephant’s authority. But as word of the Elephant’s retreat started to spread, a circle of glowing eyes began to appear after sunset around the clearing of the cottage, and their number was growing with each passing night.
The Monkey was adamant, he had to protect the Elephant. Although he knew most of the eyes belonged to well-wishers and harmless nosy bodies, there were still a few among them who would attack his friend at this most precious time. He had to do something before it was too late.
The Monkey then remembered the Elephant’s most honoured friend, the Tiger. Not many knew about this most unusual friendship. Generally, elephants and tigers are not friends, and are known to have an altercation or two. But our Elephant was special, and this Tiger was no ordinary tiger. She had the markings of a fierce, yet munificent character. But she lived apart from everyone else, not wishing to associate with gossiping animals.
Early next day, the Monkey set off on a journey to find the Tiger. He hurriedly swung through the trees to the other side of the forest, mindful of the fact that he had to get back to the cottage before sunset. As the sun crossed the half-way point, and there was still no sign of the Tiger, the Monkey considered heading back to the cottage. Just as he turned around, a flash of orange appeared in front of him, startling him to his knees.
“Oh, honourable friend of a friend, please do not eat me. I come to you for help. Our mutual friend the Elephant is in a crisis and hidden foes circle for the kill.” Bowing his head, the Monkey waited for a reply. Or to be eaten.
The Tiger gave a roaring laugh. “Silly Monkey. Our friend the Elephant is not in a crisis. He is in a chrysalis. So, it’s true…” the Tiger mused to herself, “the last time we met, he did say it was time for him to combine with the One. Hmmm, that would explain the whispers in the forest and the uneasiness I sense in the air.” The Tiger sauntered away to a nearby clearing and lay down to contemplate this news.
Quietly, from a distance, the Monkey waited, for he knew not to disturb a tiger in meditation. After some time, the Tiger stood up and called out “Come Monkey. Let us go to your cottage before the sun sleeps”, and off she ran. The Monkey, who had dozed off, quickly gathered his wits, and swung through the trees, after her.
The sky had turned a deep blue-orange as they approached the threshold of the cottage. It took the Monkey a little time to adjust his eyes, as there was no physical light in the cottage. But the Tiger’s eyes were perfect, and before she could control herself, her jaw fell open at the sight before her. Even she wasn’t prepared for the brilliance radiating from what looked like the Elephant’s ‘old’ body seated in the middle of the cottage. In her mind the perfectly poised body was ‘old’ because there was no way to reconcile that with this new radiance that was surrounding it.
The Monkey’s belated bark of recognition pulled the Tiger out of her reverie, and she started to check the interior walls of the cottage for any weaknesses. Finished with her inspection, she walked outside, stood tall in the centre of the clearing in front of the cottage, and gave one big roar. Waited. Roared again, and then sat down on her hind legs, erect as a statue. The Monkey knew not to ask, but sensed some serious business was about to happen, so, he too, took his position at the threshold of the cottage and stood at the ready.
Shadows lengthened across the clearing. Darkness fell. After some time, quiet rustling could be heard coming from different directions. The Tiger and the Monkey remained still and alert. Soon enough, glowing eyes started to appear around the perimeter. The Tiger waited. It felt like eternity to the Monkey, but nevertheless, he stood his ground and moved not a muscle.
Then the Tiger spoke in a loud voice, “The time has come. The old world will now become new.”
Sounds of huffing and shuffling came from the shadows. The Tiger stood up and looked around at the glowing eyes and continued speaking.
“You know this. Or you would not be here. Old becomes new, new becomes old. The cycle continues to turn in this way. Or have you forgotten what happened 5000 years ago?” These last words were met with a few intakes of breath. We know, as did the Monkey, that almost 5000 years ago there existed a pure, peaceful, and prosperous existence. But not everyone in the crowd remembered it quite the same way.
The Tiger continued, “It is now time for you to remember that which you have forgotten”, adding in a raised voice, “Or succumb to the throes of forgetfulness!”. Dead silence fell on the forest as a bead of sweat escaped the Monkey’s eyebrow, threatening to blind him. He did not move. The Tiger sat back down on her hind legs.
To the surprise of many, a young Doe ventured forward into the clearing, breaking the silence. She stopped a few metres in front of the Tiger and bowed. With large bright eyes and a soft clear voice, she said, “O’ Mighty Tiger, I’m not strong like you. I’m just a little doe. My mother and father were taken. I am an orphan now. But I remember my mother telling me wonderful stories about the beginning of time. Sadly, I didn’t believe her then. Are you now saying that those stories are… are true?”
Looking at the Doe with kindness in her eyes, the Tiger replied “Child, I knew your mother. Yes, those stories are true.” As silent tears in memory of her mother rolled off the Doe’s nose, the Tiger said to the rest of them, “It is time to speak of the truth. Leave behind your old ways. Come and learn a new way of living, for a new world.”
Not to be upstaged by a little doe, a wild boar broke forward and gruntingly said, “You speak of fairy tales told to young children, great Tiger. You live on the other side of the forest, in your world. We here have livelihoods and young to take care of. Fairy tales have no place in the real world.” Grunt.
If you blinked, you would have missed the flash in the Tiger’s eyes. But the signal did not miss its target, and the Boar shuffled back a few steps. The Tiger said “Real world? Tell me, Wild Boar, what is your real world? Do you not see that your world is already changing? Do you not recognise the steep decline of your so-called ‘real world’? I may live on the other side of the forest, Wild Boar. But where do you live? With your head in the sand and your hooves in the honey?” These last words pierced the Boar’s bravado, and he cowered back into the bushes.
To the rest of the crowd, the Tiger said “It is true. I live in a different world to you. Those of us who live on the other side of the forest are shielded from the effects of your world. But that does not mean we cannot see your trajectory. Darkness has fallen, and I do not mean the night sky. Wake up, brethren! Do not fall with the darkness.”
As if on cue, a blanket of clouds covered the stars and moon, throwing the forest into darkness. The air was still and humid.
A rustling noise came from the bushes to the right, followed by the heavy thuds of a one-horned rhino’s feet, as he grandly walked into the clearing. When he stopped in front of the Tiger, the moon appeared from behind the clouds, shinning down on them both.
The Rhino bowed his head respectfully and said in his deep voice, “Sweet Mother of the Forest, it is good to see you again, after so long. So much has happened while you were gone. We enjoyed an expansive life under the Elephant’s reign, and our mutual friend, the diligent Monkey kept us all aligned well enough.” With these last few words, the Rhino winked at the Monkey, and the Monkey returned the gesture with a barely noticeable nod.
“For days now, we have not seen nor heard from the Elephant,” continued the Rhino. “Please, sweet Mother, tell us what is his fate?”
The Tiger stood up and walked forward. She bowed and said in voice only the Rhino could hear, “Honourable Brother of the Forest, we meet again as we did last cycle. Our friend the Elephant is in a chrysalis, combined with the One.”
“So, it is confirmed then,” conceded the Rhino. “My family and I stand with you, sweet Mother, your word is our command.”
To those looking on from the distant perimeter, the Tiger and the Rhino seemed deep in conversation. Then, suddenly, the Rhino turned around and trumpeted loudly. More crashing sounds came from the right, and six rhinos burst into the clearing. At first, it seemed like they were going to charge at the Tiger. But, at the last second, they divided into three’s and circled the cottage, taking up position to guard, not attack.
The Monkey, feeling grateful for the additional support, stooped on all fours, and quietly strolled forward to sit beside the Tiger. The Rhino also took his place next to the Tiger, and all three stood or sat erect as noble statutes, facing the forest. And waited.
The night was long.
All throughout the night, skirmishes were heard coming from different directions, but nothing broke into the clearing. The Elephant’s living demise and the Tiger’s arrival had a disrupting effect on the living forest. Newness was dawning in the minds of all the animals. But it was unnerving for some and so they resisted with force.
Those who accepted it, stood with the Tiger and were protected under an invisible canopy. They understood that a new world was dawning, and somehow the Elephant was at the centre of it all. They were happy to be on the inside, safe and protected. But a few were curious about how this new change would occur, which made them a little noisy. On the Tiger’s instructions, the Rhino kept these ones closer to the perimeter, thinking perhaps the Tiger wanted the slightly noisy ones out of the way. But the Tiger had no such thought. Instead, she recognised their speciality. You see, they made good listeners for those on the outside wanting to escape the darkness and find their way back in again, and this is how the numbers grew in the clearing.
Many had gathered now, standing with the Tiger in silence. There was hardly any space to turn around, everyone was standing or sitting side by side, head by tail, and yet all were completely still and alert. The protective silence bubble grew to such an extent that they were now all beyond the sound of resistance from the outside. Everything in the clearing was still, silent and in solitude.
The strength of solitude in the gathering on that night was more than words can describe. A drop of a straw could have been heard and seen; it was that vigilant. It was as if a tiny point light had turned on within each one. An invisible, vigilant, pure light. If one were to describe the whole scene in colour, one would say a golden red glow surrounded many tiny points of bright blue light, but even that couldn’t be seen with these eyes. It was another world, like being cocooned in silence. Even time was different.
From the outside, the night felt like eternity. But on the inside, they were still in the present moment. Only when one of the slightly noisy ones crossed the perimeter line and peaked outside, did they know that only a second had passed.
So here they stayed, for the whole cycle of a second, how ever you want to quantify that. Only the Tiger knew what this place truly was. The new world was dawning. The Elephant was transforming. They were in the womb of time.
The whole living forest was taking part in a process of world transformation. The inside silencers and the outside skirmishers, all were contributing to nourish the new world. The Elephant was their catalyst and the Tiger was their change agent. The Tiger understood all were playing their part. But some of them didn’t know their part, and so she would give directions here and there to put them back on track. This is why the Tiger held no animosity against those on the outside. Only love. For she knew the transformation could not be complete until the last of the living forest had finished its part.
That time was coming near.