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Where Did We Come From? A Parable

Some time ago I bought a new distributor to install in my antique 1942 Chevrolet Fleetline Aerosedan. I chucked the old one into the trash barrel, and the next night hauled the trash bag out to the street. A dog must have gotten into it during the night because, when the neighborhood kids arrived the next morning to wait for the bus, the trash bag was gone but the distributor cover was still there, partly hidden in the grass alongside the drive.

The kids found it and started examining what they considered to be a strange object. I was working in the garage and could overhear their discussion. Two boys and a girl, of middle elementary age, pooled their wisdom about the discovery. Looking at the cover, with its eight little bumps arranged in a circle around the center bump, one boy said, "I think it's a toy for sifting sand at beach."

"No," said the girl. "It's a Jello mold."

The third child laughed. "Look at the holes. You attach it to a hose and sprinkle your lawn with it. I've seen them before."

Not being able to agree on its use, they started debating how it got there. The first boy said, "I think it's been buried in the grass here a long time, and it just got uncovered."

The second boy suggested that, since it looked like a tiny flying saucer, perhaps it fell from the sky. That inspired the girl to say, "I think God put it there for us to find. Maybe we're supposed to do something with it." The first boy looked at her with a puzzled expression and asked, "But what?"

We, as elementary-level students in the school of spiritual wisdom, have awakened to discover the riddle of life: ourselves, our bodies, our relationships, our world, our aspirations, our fears, and the traditions which attempt to explain all of these mysteries. There is no end to the speculations about what it all means:

  • life is just an accident of nature;
  • we were created out of nothing in the womb;
  • God demands perfection from us or he will send us to hell;
  • when we die our consciousness blinks out like a candle flame;
  • it all has some supreme importance;
  • it all means nothing;
  • God hates everyone who believes differently than I do.

The problem is that these speculations have been dreamed up by people who don't know any more than we do. Even those who wrote the authoritative religious manuals, which have guided people's thinking for millennia, were partly guessing at the truth of God, based on their own limited experience. Don't you suppose that, as these three children grow, they may some day learn the true nature of a distributor cover? And isn't it conceivable that as the human race matures, we will come to see God not through the speculations born of our childish fears but in the true light of his unconditional love?

Let us focus, not on the little we already know, but on the vast ocean of God's truth which still remains to be discovered.

Copyright: John W. Sloat 2003