Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Parable of the Arbez

This month I decided to write a children's story. It's a story about remembering to step into other people's shoes and see their perspective. If any of you have real artistic abilities and would like to help with the drawings let me know :)

Part I: The Arbez Arrives

Once upon a time there were two villages. One named Black Village, and the other named White Village. 

Between them stood two steep hills. 

No one in either village had ever ventured beyond their hill. They lived this way for thousands of years, incredibly close yet forever apart, aware only of their own village.

White Village had gotten its name due to the ivory color of all of its inhabitants and of all of the animals that roamed the surrounding fields. Even the fields shown a blinding bright white causing the farmers to invent special sunglasses for their cows. 

If you were to climb atop the East-most hill and peer down, you would wonder if a winter storm had covered the entire village in a soft blanket of white snow. 

Black Village got its name because all of its people and all of its creatures and land were a dark licorice black. At night this made it very difficult for people to see one another, which often led to much bumping and many “excuse-me’s.” 

If you were to hike to the top of the West-most hill and look down, you would wonder if a near-by volcano had erupted and covered the entire village in a delicate blanket of dark ash.

Life would have continued this way for centuries to come, each village its own small world, had it not been for the day that the Great Arbez arrived...

The day began like any other. 

The sun had just risen over the fields of White Village and was shining its morning light against the East-most hill. The villagers were milling about, preparing their breakfasts of porridge and egg-white omelets.

No sooner had the eggs been cracked then a squeaky voice of a small child was heard exclaiming, 

“Black Stripes is here! Black Stripes is here!” 

Despite having lived in White Village all their lives, the villagers knew the color black, because it was the color of the night-time sky. 

Everyone in the village knew this news could mean nothing else. Every child, parent, and granny had heard stories of the Great Arbez, passed down from generation to generation since the beginning of time. 

The promised Arbez had arrived. 

It was said that the Arbez would one day come and bring much knowledge, harmony, and wisdom to the whole world.

In the spotlight of the rising sun, the Arbez trotted down the steep hill. The villagers gazed in awe and wonder as it entered the village. 

Their jaws had fallen so far down you could have fit whole melons in their mouths.

Yet no sooner had the Arbez arrived then it galloped away back toward the East-most hill, leaving the villagers paralyzed with shock unable to move their dangling chins to speak.

Later that same day, on the other side of the two steep hills, a similar shout was heard throughout Black Village as a dinner of black beans and blackberry jam was being served. 

“White Stripes is coming! White Stripes is coming! Come out, come out and see!” 

Mothers and fathers and their toddlers peered out of doors as they watched a marvelous creature with white stripes amble down the West-most hill, bathed in the light of the setting sun.” 

Despite living in Black Village all their lives, the villagers knew the color white, because it was the color of the noon-time sun.

Once again, no sooner did the beast enter the village, then it turned around and galloped away, leaving the villagers of Black Village rubbing their eyes, still blinded by the white stripes of the fabled creature. 

The promised Arbez had arrived!

That night all of the villagers in White Village and all of the villagers in Black Village went to bed with smiles on their faces wondering if this was the day when KNOWLEDGE, HARMONY, and WISDOM would finally come to the whole world.

Part II: The Search for the Arbez

For the first time, since the beginning of time, the villagers of each village contemplated leaving their homes to climb the steep hill in search of the Arbez.

In both villages, it was decided that search parties would be formed with the strongest men and the ablest women. With hope in their hearts and determination in their steps, they began the steep hike. 

After two days of treacherous climbing, the parties reached the top of the hills. Tired and weary, they gazed off into the distance to the opposite hill, where it happened that the other villagers were standing.

Suddenly both groups exclaimed in unison, 

“Why I think I see the Arbez!” 

The people of White Village and the people of Black Village began to run down the hills as fast as their legs would carry them. But the hills were so steep and slick that the villagers began to slip and slide until soon they were all tumbling down in a giant tangle of limbs. 

From a distance it would have seemed that an enormous snowball and a gigantic bowling ball were careening towards each other, ready to crash.

And so they did. With a loud smack the villagers whammed into each other, their eyes spinning with dizziness, their bodies shuddering from the blow.

And that’s how two peoples, who for centuries had never seen or heard of one another, who looked as opposite as opposite can be, suddenly came into contact with one another… quite literally, of course.

What happened next is now talked about in schools and over loud speakers with much shame and guilt. Parents warn their children they must never, ever let this happen again...

After the initial stun settled, the groups dusted themselves off and scanned their surroundings, realizing with dismay that the Arbez was nowhere to be found. Instead, in front of them stood a very strange people with very strange skin, staring back at them with an uncomfortable suspicion.

“We are looking for the Great Arbez,” someone from White Village said, “Have you seen it?”

Surprised, someone from Black Village replied, 

“Why, we too are looking for the Great Arbez! It was just on that hill over there,” he said pointing to East-most hill where the people of White Village had just stood.

“No, no,” said another person from White Village, “it was just on THAT hill,” she said pointing to West-most hill where the people of Black Village had just been. 

“It’s taller than a man and has Black Stripes.”

“Black Stripes!” the people of Black Village roared with laughter. “What a silly thing to say. The Great Arbez has White Stripes! This is what our wise ancestors told us and we’ve even seen it with our own eyes!” 

Now the people of White Village were beginning to get agitated. 

“Fools, we KNOW that the great Arbez has Black Stripes, for it came into our own village! You are slowing down our search, get out of our way!”

“No, you get out of our way!” retorted many voices from Black Village.

And so ensued the biggest fight with the nastiest words and the meanest blows that either Village had ever endured. For days they hit and punched and threw stones, launching insults about the color of the others’ skin and the ignorance of their ancestors and the ineptitude of their minds. 

Each side was so sure they were right, each side was certain they were defending what was most sacred and good. 

Part III: Much Knowledge, Harmony, and Wisdom

The pitch of the yelling was so high and their focus on the fighting so intense that no one noticed when the Arbez wandered over.

It stood quietly watching as the mayhem grew angrier and fiercer. Finally the Arbez could take it no longer. With a very loud,

 “Ahem!” the Arbez cleared its throat and shouted, 

“Would you all PLEASE stop.”   

Startled, the villagers dropped their voices and lowered their fists and turned to see the Great Arbez standing right there in their midst.  

“You all have done enough yelling to last a lifetime, might I have a few words?”

The villagers nodded simultaneously, as dumbfounded as they’d been the first day they’d seen the Arbez.

“I am the Great Arbez whom your ancestors told you about and whom you saw with your own eyes in your villages. You are both right,” it said looking at the villagers from White Village and then at the villagers from Black Village.

“But,” quaked a villager from Black Village, “the villagers from White Village claim you have Black Stripes when clearly you have White Stripes, so how can they be right? WE are right.”

Temporarily forgetting that the Arbez was there, some villagers from White Village began getting defiant and defensive once again.

“Enough!” said the Arbez.  

“I have come to bring knowledge, harmony, and wisdom, and I will do so, but we must first go on a journey together.”

And so the villagers from Black Village and the villagers from White Village, led by the Great Arbez, commenced the arduous climb. First they climbed the East-most hill, and then they returned to the valley (this time with far more care), and finally they climbed the West-most hill.

From the top of West-most hill the Arbez announced, “You see, you have now seen the white fields of White Village and the black lands of Black Village. If you lived in Black Village, surrounded always by licorice black and one day you saw me, how do you think you would describe me?”

As if struck by the light of the rising sun, the villagers from White Village proclaimed, “Why as a black creature with White Stripes.”

“And,” he said, turning to the people from Black Village, “if you lived in White Village, always encircled by ivory white, and one day you saw me, how do you think you would describe me?”

“As a white creature with Black Stripes!”

And with that new Knowledge came an outpouring of Harmony. The villagers of White Village and the villagers of Black Village reached out and embraced and with tears in their eyes said, “We are indeed brothers, for all along we have been searching for the same thing.”

With that Knowledge 
which led to Harmony
came much Wisdom

The villagers went back to their Villages and told all of the mothers and fathers and children and grannies and farmers about their tremendous adventure with the Great Arbez. 

Everyone decided that the next time they met a new people they would first visit their village, 
     enter their homes, 
          walk their fields, 
               pat their cattle, 
                    eat of their breakfasts and of their dinners, 
                          and watch their sun rise and set. 

The villagers also decided that climbing up the hills was wonderful exercise and provided a spectacular view. If they used a new invention (made by the same farmers who invented the sunglasses) called “skiis,” sliding down the hills was great fun. Soon there was no longer Black Village and White Village, but what they unanimously named the Arbez Kingdom. 

The Arbez Kingdom was a kingdom of much Knowledge, Harmony, and Wisdom

And if you were to stand atop the hills and gaze down, you would wonder if a great blanket of zebras (or arbez's, as they were called) had covered the land.

The End

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