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A Dialogue

“I am sorry for your loss. Your father was a good man and a great king. This land and its people mourn his passing. He will be greatly missed.”

“I thank you for your condolence. I know how much he was loved by his people. And I, too, will miss him.”

“Are you daunted by the task ahead?”

“I am, a little.”

“Are you afraid of following in his footsteps; of how well or not you will fill his shoes? After all, no man can know how he will be as a king until he becomes one.”

“I have had many years to contemplate what I will do as king, and I have watched my father and gleaned from his ways and his wisdom . . . and even, at times, from his mistakes. Some of his ways I will continue and some I will emulate. But some I will change, for I am not my father. I am who I am.”

“Well then, that is indeed a good beginning – one that bodes well for our land and its people, for we would have you be as you are, not as you think you should be.”

“It pleases me you think so.”

“We live opposite existences, you and I. You are known to many people, I am known only to a few; you are responsible for so many and to so many, I am responsible only for and to myself; you are surrounded by people, I can go for days without interacting with another soul; you wear many different hats: leader, administrator, governor, mediator, commander, warrior, negotiator, protector, I wear only the robes of a priestess.”

“So what is your point?”

“No point, just an observation.”

“What do you mean when you say you can go for days without interacting with another soul?”

“I Work, I walk, I contemplate, I write. This is what fills my day. And sometimes I do all of these things without seeing a single other person.”

“And you do not mind that?”

“Mind? Nay, I love the solitary existence. Solitude is like the air I breathe, essential for my well-being.”

“You do not like being with people at all?”

“I just prefer solitude. That is all.”

“Is that why you did not attend the celebration following my rite of kingship?”

“That was a celebration of something physical. I do not celebrate the physical.”

“What do you celebrate?”

“I celebrate the soul. Thus do I celebrate the soul in all things.”

“And if there is no soul?”

“What use the empty vessel? No soul in a thing is rather like a chalice that has rejected its reason for being and thus refuses to hold within its lip the wine it was made to hold. So it sits empty and cannot be used for the purpose for which it was created. And because it was created to be full of wine, when it sits empty for so long it becomes cracked so that it can no longer hold the wine, even if it should choose to do so.”

“Ah, no wonder.”

“No wonder?”

“No wonder you prefer a solitary existence.”

“Like water in oil, I cannot now mix with those whose existence is soul-less. They think me weird and ridicule my way of life, for they do not and cannot comprehend what it is that motivates me. They will not listen to my attempts to explain because they cannot, in truth, hear me. They judge me, find me wanting and unacceptable, and then condemn and criticise me because I do not engage in the same pursuits; do not hold the same values; am not dictated to by the same priorities. They do not see that a giraffe cannot run with a herd of zebras. ‘Tis unworkable. If the giraffe does not outrun the zebras, it will trip over them and fall to the ground. A giraffe sees and eats and behaves and thinks and believes in ways different from those of the zebra. So the giraffe has no place in the zebra’s herd. In truth, the giraffe is better off alone than with those with whom it does not belong.”

“Would not the giraffe be better off with other giraffes – those with whom it does belong?”

“If it can find them. If it encounters them, then yes, it would, for with them it can truly be what it is. Until it does find them, though, by itself it can still be what it is.”

“So does the giraffe not desperately seek other giraffes? Does it not need to look upon other giraffes in order to know what it looks like?”

“Does it need to know what it looks like? It knows it eats leaves from the trees instead of the grass on the ground. It knows it lopes, taking long and graceful strides instead of the quick- and short-stepped gallop. It knows it sees far and wide, not but what is only immediately in front of it. It knows its legs are long and brown, not short and black and white. Is that not enough for it to know its own nature?”

“But it looks at the zebra and sees what it is not. Would it not be more enlightening to look at another giraffe and see what it is and thus why it does as it does?”

“Seeing what it is not aids its understanding of what it is – a reflection of opposites. So it can say to the zebra, ‘I know more about myself because I am the opposite of what you are’. In that sense, the zebra’s reflection serves a valuable purpose. But I do take your point, for a good point it is. This must you know, though, if you are to understand the giraffe’s predicament. If it has grown up amongst the herd of zebras and has been taught to exist as a zebra exists, the giraffe identifies with the zebra. That is, it thinks and believes itself to be a zebra. To see the truth of what it is it must change its mindset and this is no easy or quick thing. Coming to terms with the truth must be a process and the process must take the giraffe little by little, step by step into that truth, for if not, the truth could be too shocking to bear. If the giraffe is wrenched too soon from what it has known, it will become dazed with bewilderment and in its bewilderment it will become lost and confused. ‘Tis a frightening thing to be so caught between two identities. Slowly must it come to the realisation of what is different about it and why. Slowly must it come to know that it is not a zebra and, then, as slowly must it come to know itself as a giraffe, though it will not at first call itself that. But, yes, you are right, for how much easier would it be for the giraffe if a herd of its own kind adopted it and taught it to be what it truly is? So much easier . . . if only such a herd had crossed my path!”

“But what if all giraffes had forgotten or did not know they were giraffes and so there was no herd to show them all who they were? What if the herds had long ago become extinct and did not any longer roam the grasslands of their great land?”

“Well, in that case each giraffe would have to awaken to the realisation of being a giraffe in the way that I described. But if enough of them awakened to the truth, there would, again, be giraffes on the grasslands. Then, even if they did not form a herd, they would still be there to show other giraffes their own possibility and potential should they choose to see it.”

“And what of the zebras?”

“Ah, but how many of them are truly giraffes? When they are who they are, and when they know who they are, giraffes and zebras co-inhabit very well and very easily. There is neither animosity nor resentment, each of the other. And there is room on the grasslands for them both, is there not?”

“Indeed, there is.”

“Thus do I have a question for you, my lord and king. Which are you – a giraffe or a zebra?”

“If I tell you I eat leaves and not grass, and I lope rather than gallop, and I see far and wide, and my legs are long and brown, would you know which I am?”

“I believe I would. I believe I do.”