It was the classic elephant in the room situation – the unspoken avoidance of the obvious and inescapable fact that somehow seemed to escape everyone. The fact was... there was no elephant.
The sign on the enclosure clearly said ‘elephant’. It even said what kind of elephant, where in the world this kind of elephant originates and what of its prospects for long term survival. It said what this particular kind of elephant liked to eat, how long they might live and how the zoo dealt with the 20kg of waste it daily delivered to its strangely empty enclosure. It even gave this particularly absent elephant a personable name.
All along the carefully landscaped perimeter that marked the boundary of unfulfilled human-elephant interaction people arrived and stood for a few moments. They looked. They craned their necks and scanned every corner of the sandy pit with its elephantine boulders. They searched for a living creature of similar proportions. They read the sign without expression. They looked again. They turned and went away, elephant unseen.
No one asked. No one complained. No one challenged the existence of the unseen elephant. No one took out a felt pen and wrote “all myths and lies” across sign which, though informative, was not and was never meant as a substitute for an actual encounter with an actual elephant.
No one proposed alternative theories for the existence of the sign or whether the sign could be considered truthful in the absence of the elephant. Instead everyone seemed content in the knowledge that the elephant was… somewhere, but for some very good reason they were prevented from seeing it just at the moment - probably due to the 2 degree Celsius on their smart phones now reduced from cameras to thermometers in the absence of anything interesting to record.
And for all them, a visit to where the elephant was supposed to be was enough. Except for one small boy who, ignorant of the protocol for dealing with obvious absences of elephant, turned to his mother and asked, “Why can’t I see the elephant?’ And his mother, equally ignorant of the protocol for never speaking the truth on such occasions, simply replied, “I don’t know, dear.”
Over to You
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Believing that God is present and explaining his apparent absence leads us to concoct all kinds of unsatisfying explanations none to which completely work.
- Should we content to read the signs that describe what God is like instead asking why we can’t always encounter him for real?
- Should we constantly put ourselves under pressure to deliver proof when scientists are quite happy to plead ignorance when their knowledge reaches the limits of provability?
Tell us. Post your ideas, views and tips – beautiful, bizarre or simply brilliant
February 7th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Les Ellison