Tag Archives: religion

Podge and his book from the sky – A fable

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Once upon a time there was a badger. We’ll call him Podge, because that’s what his friends called him. Podge was an intrepid and adamant little badger and he liked to roam the neighborhood at length, looking for fellow creatures to pester – or to snack on.

On one of his nocturnal foraging trips, Podge went a little further than usual and pretty soon came across an animal he had never seen before. An animal so different from himself.

‘What a strange animal… !’ Podge thought and drew closer. ‘Too large to eat and very funny-looking.’

In fact, this animal was so bizarre that, in the dark, Podge couldn’t really tell which end was the head.

‘Hi,’ he said. ‘My name is Podge and I’m a badger. What are you?’

At first there was no answer, so he tried again.

‘Hi,’ he repeated. ‘My name is Podge and I’m a badger. What are you?’

The strange animal stirred.

‘Why are you talking to my tail?’

‘Oh, sorry,’ Podge said and came trotting around to the other end.

And indeed, upon closer inspection, he was now able to make out a long, thin snout and a pair of ears.

‘I have never seen an animal like you. What are you, exactly?’ Podge asked.

‘What do you mean? I am me. I am who I am. Do you want to be friends?’

‘I guess, but… what are you?’ he insisted.

‘I don’t understand. Why do I have to be something in particular?’

‘Well, we’re all something. We all have to be something.’

‘Why?’

‘Just to know what we are. To know where we belong.’

‘ Well, I may not know what I am, but I still know who I am. I’m me. Isn’t that enough?’

‘But… but all the creatures in the world need to know what they are!’ Podge spluttered.

‘Why?’

‘I’m not exactly sure, but I am very pleased to know what I am and what everything around me is. I know what is food, friend, or foe. It’s easier to play with things when you know what they are.’

‘Hm,’ the other creature said incredulously and walked on, snout to the ground.

‘Aren’t you curious what I am?’

‘You’re someone who calls his friends thing names.’

But Podge didn’t hear.

‘I’m a badger,’ he pronounced proudly and confidently.

‘Says who?’

‘Everyone I know.’

‘Badger,’ muttered the creature. ‘That’s just a sound. It means nothing to me. But if you’re fond of this sound, so be it, you will be the Badger.’

‘And you? What are you?’

‘I already told you. I’m me. Why are you so obsessed with categories?’

Podge went home and found it extremely hard to fall asleep. It bothered him. He did not know where to place this creature he had met. And what should he call it? The following night he went back determined to get to the bottom of this mystery. He packed his sacred book and a flashlight. For hours on end he looked at the creature, looked at himself, then leafed back and forth through his book. It was morning already. The sun was up. He was getting tired. Finally, he exclaimed:

‘I know! I know what you are! You’re an aardvark!’ He was so relieved.

‘You think so?’

‘I know so!’

‘How do you know?’

‘Because my book says so, look!’ he said and pointed to a picture on a page that said “Aardvarks”.

‘And how does the book know I’m an aardvark? Maybe they just had to come up with a name and didn’t know any better.’

‘Oh, no, no, no. Not a chance. This book knows everything there is to know. It’s a magical book. And it’s always right.’

‘Really? How do you know that?’ the aardvark asked again.

‘Well, because this book came to us directly from the sky!’

‘No kidding…’

‘Yes, yes. I found it myself one morning on the forest floor. There was nobody else around, and it’s too heavy for our birds to carry. So, it must have fallen from the sky!’

‘Hm,’ the creature muttered again and tried to sniff out some ants.

‘You eat ants! Perfect, that’s perfect. You’re a good aardvark!’

‘How do you know I’m a good aardvark?’

‘Because that’s just what my book says you’re supposed to eat!’

‘I also eat cucumber,’ the aardvark replied.

‘Oh no, you really shouldn’t!’ Podge retorted with a worried look on his face.

‘Why not?’

‘Because my book says nothing about cucumbers. That means you’re probably not allowed to eat them. Oh boy, why do you have to eat cucumbers? What is wrong with you? It’s so unnatural.. You should eat termites!’

‘Hm,’ the aardvark said. ‘I had no idea there was something wrong with me until just now. But I do eat termites rather frequently,’ he apologized.

‘Oh, good!’

‘I’m curious,’ the aardvark inquired. ‘Do you always do what the book says?’

‘Oh yes, always!’

‘And what does your book say about badgers?’

‘A badger is a short-legged nocturnal omnivore,’ Podge read solemnly.

‘Nocturnal, huh? Then how come you are up and about after daybreak?’ the aardvark wanted to know.

Podge blushed, felt guilty and fell silent. He picked up his things and scurried home to sleep on it.

‘What a strange animal… !’ the aardvark thought. ‘He walks around at night with only one book and a tiny flashlight, yet claims to know what everything is…’

Questions

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Setting: Catholic religion class at school.

Characters: New teacher – a man. A bunch of 9-year-olds.

Open discussion about covenants. (Based loosely on recollection, don’t shoot the messenger!)


Girl in my daughter’s class, with genuine curiosity: Why are all the priests men? Why are there no women priests?

Teacher, gently: Well, you see, Jesus was a man, and his apostles were men, and…

Several girls in my daughter’s class: But his mother was a woman!

Teacher, full of kindness: Yes, but she could not have brought Jesus into the world without a heavenly Father…

Red-haired girl: He couldn’t have been born without a mother, either.

Teacher, softly: Yes, you’re right… but, maybe, you know, if some priests were women, then the men in church would stop paying attention to God and stare at the pretty priest…

My daughter, mumbling to herself: But the same can be true the other way around. If the priest is handsome…

Boy seated next to my daughter, searching for a solution: Maybe men are just uglier than women!

Red-haired girl: But if the women were really ugly, could they be priests then?

My daughter, musing after class: What if all the priests were women? Then there wouldn’t be any male priests to tempt… 🙂


(Ah, the dilemmas, quandaries and predicaments that arise when children are allowed to think freely. 🙂 Which, thankfully, they are.)

The orthodox Easter and the mainstream Bunny

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Life is full of strange moments.

The absurdity of life becomes implacably apparent when you try to explain it to small children.

We are part of a minority which celebrates Easter according to the Orthodox tradition, at a later date than our Catholic brethren. I know the “technical” explanation why that is so, but how do you split the Spirit?… And how do you convey that to a 5-year-old who pities Christ from the bottom of his little heart for being crucified (twice!), but also has more pressing mundane worries:

My son (two weeks ago): Yeeeah, the Easter bunny is coming next Sunday! Conny told us!

(Conny being his kindergarten teacher, his person of authority).

Me: Ummm, you see, we are Orthodox, to us the Easter bunny comes later this year. It comes first to the Germans, then to us.

His jaw drops in confusion. Muses for a while.

His next input: I have thought about it, and from now on we speak German at home. I am German, too.

Me: Oh, honey, I meant the Catholics. It comes first to the Catholics, and then to us. But you see, Easter is not just about receiving presents. The biggest gift of all…. (here he yawns and turns to his toys)… is that Christ rose from the dead, he defeated death for us so that we can all live eternal lives.

What does it mean, eternal?

It means forever.

Why did they kill him? (he remembers this from an earlier discussion).

Well, I guess they were jealous.

Why were they jealous?

Well, because people liked him more, because he was good to people, and the other ones were afraid they were going to lose their power. (Power over people, this he understands.)

Hmmm, so when does the Easter bunny come to us?

In two weeks’ time.

Nooo! But then he won’t have anymore toys left for me! Here he shoots me a glance that says, I resent my religion.

Me, hurrying to find a solution: But I’ll bet the bunny saves the best for last. In fact, I’m sure he does.

And before I know it, I have launched into an elaborate story about a mountain of presents, and how the best ones always fall to the bottom, and how the bunny is too frail to carry all those gifts to all those people on one day, so he separates Catholics from the rest, and please don’t lose any sleep over this, if you are good, he knows you. Yes, he does know your name and address, in fact I am going to go meet him and remind him.

And yes, I did prepare a little nest, just in case. And I did put in some Gummibärchen for our fluffy friend, just in case. And what do you know, the bunny did leave him something too, as a little foretaste for our celebration next week, because the bunny knows how all the other kids will flaunt their presents on the first day of kindergarten after Ostermontag…

So now I have my family peace again. But it’s a costly affair (and not just in terms of money, either). Will I be able to keep it up every year? So please please please, if there’s anybody out there who can do anything about this, please unite the holidays. 🙂

Gotta go boil those eggs now. We’ll be painting them later in the afternoon. Our time has finally come.

Happy Easter, folks! Hristos a înviat! Christus ist auferstanden! Christ is risen!

That’s the most important thing. Imagine how absurd life would be without that…