Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Ants and elephants

There was once an ant who lived in the jungle. Of course, he wasn't the only ant, but he was an unusually thoughtful one. In the same jungle there was also an elephant; he was unusually large. The ant often used the same forest track as the elephant. One day they both happened to be walking together. The ant was quiet. He suddenly stopped, and said to the elephant, in a voice you'd not have been able to hear, best beloved; it was so high: 'You're very big, and I'm tiny. I've been thinking - you often come this way. How come you never step on me?' A low rumble came from the elephant which might have been a chuckle or might have been these words, 'Have you never noticed, my friend, that our name is like yours, only bigger?' Now ants like puzzles; which was why they're so good at finding their way home. So, while the elephant went swaying on his way out of sight, the ant stopped and scratched his head with his two front legs. 'Elephant - eleph-ANT! Oh yes!' And then he tried anagrams: 'Help ant e', 'E help ant'. They didn't quite make sense. And then he recalled the elephant's words, 'Our name is like yours only bigger'. OUR. Elephants. 'So let's try adding an S,' he said to himself. 'E help ants. That makes more sense.' Now, it's a little known fact, but it's perfectly true, that unlike Jonathan Ross ants can't say W. Suddenly the ant stopped scratching and placed his feet back on the forest floor. 'I've got it,' he squeaked, 'Elephants - we help ants!' From far away in the jungle came the sound of deep trumpeting.

I've not been full of the joys of spring, to be honest, which is perverse seeing how nice the weather was last week. We even planted an apple tree in the garden - at least, Jane did. I just helped choose it. I think I've been indulging in a bit of what they used to call existential angst. I've been thinking about the size of the universe, which I can't even begin to conceive. And then there's the complexity of the natural world, which I suppose has been brought to mind by the current programmes about Darwin's 'dangerous idea'. Of course none of that has anything to say about God's existence or his role as creator. But it does make it hard to credit his being interested in me. How can it be that the God behind all this really be even aware of an insignicant being like me? It feels a bit like an elephant noticing an ant, only infinitely more.... Well, I'm afraid I can't get my mind round that one, but I do find it reassuring that Karl Barth, the greatest theologian of the 20th century, summed up his faith in these profound words, I believe: 'Jesus loves me. This I know; for the Bible tells me so.' OK, so they're lines from a children's hymn, but actually we ARE children in the face of the mysteries of existence, and always will be. And I reckon if that's good enough for Barth who wrote 13 volumes of 'Church Dogmatics', it's probably good enough for me who has managed one slim volume of 'My Donkeybody'. Last night we had Peter and Jeanette round to supper, fresh from a week in Israel, and I was reminded again that the events of the New Testament are really history. There may be dispute about exact locations of events, but Jesus did die and rise from death in 1st century Jerusalem. And the explanation of his friends was he did because he loved them and the world, including me. That's something even an ant brain like mine can just begin to comprehend, because I see reflections of it around me. Even the excoriated Jade Goody, mixed though her motives may have been, reflected something of that love in her last months, caring about her family and fellow cancer sufferers in the midst of her pain.

Thanks to © Jeanette for photos

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