Thursday, April 30, 2009

B + Y ≠ G (a parable)

"I must say," remarked the Elder, as they seated themselves in the outdoor patio area, "that one of the things I like most about spring is that the wind seems more of a friend and ally."

The Younger chuckled as he momentarily debated whether or not to remove his outerwear in the growing warmth of the season. Decision finally made, he threw his jacket over the back of his seat and replied, "I couldn't agree more! For once, we went in and out of the door and it didn't slam on us!"

They paused briefly, with the Younger settling into his seat across the table, as the mainstay of the pub -- the crusty Irish barkeep -- appeared suddenly. "G'devenin', gents," he cheerfully greeted them in his gravelly voice, "and what'll ye be quenching what ails you with tonight?"

They quickly made their usual order, and watched with a certain sense of nostalgia as the Barkeep wove his way among the crowded patio tables and back to the bar inside. "He's been a part of this place since Moses and the Red Sea, hasn't he?" remarked the Younger.

The Elder followed his gaze before replying. "Yes, and he continues to be a reminder to me to be more intentional about my 'missionality'. We recognize him, he recognizes us -- in fact, he barely needs to even ask what we're going to have, he probably already knows -- but when I look at him, I have to ask myself, 'Do I really know him?' And, of course, the answer is that I don't. Not really. And I wonder how to bridge that gap."

The Younger nodded, "Yeah, I sometimes joke about what's the 'missional' way to drink beer in a pub." A car raced by the patio at just that moment, throbbing with an over-driven bass tube somewhere in its innards. As everyone in the patio paused momentarily during this audio-mechanical intrusion, the Younger abruptly changed tracks in their conversation.

"Hey, I'd like to try my hand at creating a parable of sorts," he suddenly said, leaning across the little table. "Would you like to be my beta-tester?"

"Parables need beta-testing?" countered the Elder with a smile. "Do I get a footnote or a hat tip or whatever it is you use these days?"

The Younger grinned, "Depends on whether this parable flies or not, I guess. Ready?"

The Elder held up his hand quickly, "No, not just yet."

Perplexed, the Younger's next sentence abruptly stopped just short of being verbalized, as an uncomprehending look dominated his face. After the eternity of ten seconds of silence, the Barkeep swept by their table, plunking down their ales before once again navigating the crowd.

The Elder lowered his hand and broke into a broad smile. "Now, I'm ready." And with a contented sigh, he raised his glass and settled back into his chair to listen.

"Well, here's the bare bones of the metaphor," began the Younger, "and I'll fill in more of a background story later." He shifted forward in his seat, arranging his thoughts. "Okay, we're all familiar with the colour wheel that artists learn about in school..." He trailed off as he saw the uncomprehending look on the Elder's face. "Well, anyone who's taken an art class or graphic design has heard of the colour wheel, anyway."

"Ah," nodded the Elder, as understanding came. "You should work that into your parable; maybe make the main character a graphic design student, if that would fit."

The Younger brightened, "Okay, that's helpful. But on to the actual parable... This young graphic artist studied the colour wheel in school, and he understands that certain colours, when mixed, always produce certain new colours. For example, it's almost like a mathematical equation -- blue plus yellow equals green."

"But years later, the graphic design student hears a lot of talk about getting past calling something "blue" or "yellow", and not labeling or defining things in such ways. The goal was to have the Colour Formerly Known as Blue mix with the Colour Formerly Known as Yellow and create something new." The Younger paused, taking in the Elder's reaction, which continued to be one of polite interest.

Plunging on, the Younger continued: "This graphic design student already knew what would happen when the two were mixed: it would create a new colour -- maybe Formally Known as Green -- but no matter what, the original colours would both be represented in the new."

"But then something happened that didn't make sense to the student," the Younger shifted in his seat, his expression and mannerisms mimicking the new conspiratorial tone in his voice. "Instead of mixing together to create something new, something post-blue and post-yellow, the Blue started to eclipse the Yellow."

"The student kept waiting to see some evidence that Yellow was having an effect on Blue, because no matter what the luminosity or saturation of either colour, they should have an effect on each other.

"But when all was said and done, there was no new colour at all. Post-blue, when mixed with post-yellow, simply absorbed the yellow and it didn't change the qualities, the luminosity, the saturation, or even lightly tint the original blue."

The Younger paused, hands raised slightly off the table as he carefully watched the expression of his friend for some clues about his reaction.

"Fascinating," the Elder finally said, "and I've just learned something about the colour wheel, as well. But I must confess that I feel somewhat like the original disciples, who needed to ask Jesus what the parable means."

"That'll have to be during our second round," countered the relieved Younger, as he rose from his seat, "because right now I have to pay my respects at the porcelain altar inside."

And with that, he quickly vanished into the bar, leaving the bemused Elder to order another round of ales. And wait.

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