Doug sorted through the proposals. They were good, he thought. Creative. Surprising. He liked them.
He felt bad, a little bad, that everybody but one would have to lose. He also felt a little bad that even the winner wasn’t going to really win much, besides seeing his words in print and getting lots of sincere-sounding thanks from the Leaders.
But the little badness that gnawed at Doug didn’t prevent him from enjoying the surfeit of ideas that his “followers,” as Lenny called them, had shared with obvious and touching sincerity. Some of the entries were so good that they sort of made sense, even though the whole parable thing didn’t really have to make complete sense, Doug realized. “That’s the point of doing parables,” Lenny chided. “They mean whatever you want them to mean. Like Bible verses.”
Doug split the proposals into two piles: The “No” and the “Candidates.”
He quickly re-read a few of the dozens from the Candidate pile. They didn’t seem that great upon reconsideration. He put them on the No stack.
Then he selected five candidates that he thought were the best, although he wasn’t sure exactly what criteria he was supposed to apply. Originality? Understandability? Punctuation?
Doug decided to pick the ones he wished he had written.
THE CHAMELEON PARABLE by George Thacker
You could do it in the style of a children’s book. People would like that, I bet. Something like: “We all like animals. We all like dogs and cats. And here’s another animal you might like. It’s called a CHAMELEON. Some people think it’s a lizard. But CHAMELEONs are special. Do you know why? Because they can change their color. It helps them blend into the wilderness. Boom! Just like that! A CHAMELEON can turn brown, and then the next moment he can be green, and if he really needs to he can make himself red. Awesome, huh? Did you know YOU can be a CHAMELEON, too? You can change yourself like a CHAMELEON. You can be a different person, a better person. You can change!”
My Parable Idea
Thank you, Leaders, for considering my submission. I am eternally grateful and offer you 1,000 praises. Whether or not you use my submission, I am honored to be considered. It has been my pleasure to submit to you. I accept whatever decision you make or direction you give me. Thank you, thank you for encouraging my submission!
When Jesse was a child, not even old enough to wear a bra or have her period, her dad’s brother, her Uncle Fred, would make her play a game he called “Prisoner.” She was a prisoner at a jail, and he was the guard. The game involved Uncle Fred “controlling the prisoner” with wrestling maneuvers and lots of “bear-locks,” as Uncle Fred called them. Unless Jesse could get away, and she never could, unless Uncle Fred had drunk too much adult punch, Uncle Fred would always catch her and put her in a tight bear-lock. If she complained, he would say, “I’m just hugging you.” And he would remind her that she was his prisoner.
Whenever this happened, Jesse was too sad and confused to tell anyone, especially since the one time she mentioned the Prisoner game to her dad, he told her to shut up, because he was watching the car races or football. So she kept it to herself. Sometimes she cried in bed, frightened that Uncle Fred would come in her room and put a bear-lock on her.
When Jesse was a little older, Uncle Fred put her in a bear-lock, and he let his hand stay right where tender bumps were starting to form on her chest. Jesse felt quite ashamed. At those moments she wished she could be someone else. She prayed to God – Jesus Christ, actually, since, at that time, Jesse was a Baptist. She closed her eyes and wished hard that she could be someone besides herself, someone who couldn’t stop people like Uncle Fred from doing terrible things to innocent children.
All Jesse ever wanted was to be able to be someone else. Someone with a better dad. Someone without an Uncle Fred. Someone who wasn’t a Prisoner.
She wanted to remake herself.
She tried lots of different things, but they only changed superficial aspects, like her hair color. Nothing really helped change Jesse into someone else.
Nothing that is until she discovered The Waytm!
Well, when that happened, she was truly born again, and not because she said she accepted some dead guy on a cross as her lord and savior. She had become someone else, a brand new person, because she had a new way of living life.
A new way. The Waytm!
Thank you so much, once again, Leaders. You’re awesome!
The Chameleon: A Parable
By Chuck Burdsall.
Who doesn’t like science-fiction? That’s a rhetorical question, because EVERYONE loves science-fiction! Including me. So, obviously, you probably already figured out that I believe the optimal presentation strategy for this Parable would be in the form of science-fiction. If you don’t agree, that’s totally cool. I just thought it was pretty neat.
They called him The Birdman.
He looked like your average male human college student, and he could do all the things other humans could do. But he also had a special trick! Whenever the Birdman needed to, he could sprout wings out of his back, from a secret compartment he had right underneath his scapulae. This amazing ability had come about because of a science experiment he once conducted, where the genes of some baby birds he was examining got mixed into his blood when a microscope slide broke and cut him on his hand, which immediately turned claw-like, until he noticed he had talons where his fingers were supposed to be.
He started to like eating seeds and insects. And he had no shame in using the bathroom right in front of everyone. He was half man and half bird. That’s why they called him The Birdman.
Then, one day while he was pecking around his kitchen, The Birdman noticed an animal on the counter, near the microwave. It looked like a lizard, sort of green with brown and grey blotches. He extended his hand-claw toward the animal, because it appeared to be friendly. But, to his surprise and alarm, the animal bit him!
“Oh, no!” he cried out. “Now I have lizard germs in me, too! Will I be forced to change again? Will I have to be another person?”
He went to the hospital emergency room, where the doctors told him he had in fact been bitten not by a lizard but by an animal called a “chameleon.” They explained that chameleon’s were famous for being able …
Parable: “The Chameleon”
Richard “Rick” Alakoy, author
D was unhappy, just like you. Indeed, D, like you, was always searching for ways to improve his life, to be more content.
He tried drugs. He dabbled in Eastern Religions. He went through an extended period of celibacy. He even joined a book club, where he was the only man. No matter what D tried, nothing changed. He always had a big case of the blahs.
“How cool would it be if I could change into someone else?!” he wondered out loud. “Wouldn’t it be incredible to be able to start over, totally fresh, with no history?”
Since that was physically impossible, D began to be a different “character” every day.
One day he would grow a moustache and part his hair in the middle and be a music store clerk who hadn’t done too well in school and still lived with his parents.
The next day he would be an important executive at a TV network, a guy named Raffy who went to all the best colleges and dated girls in the Social Register.
Then he would be Ted, a bus driver who organized his work week by fast-food restaurants: Monday Taco Bell, Tuesday McDonald’s, Wednesday Subway, Thursday Burger King; Friday El Pollo Loco. Ted was somewhat on the fat side, so D got to experience what life was like for the overweight and unconfident.
One day, at the supermarket, when D was just being D, he ran into an old friend from high school, Anna, who had been married and divorced while everyone else in the class was still going to college or working at new jobs. When she said, “D? Is that you?” he really didn’t no [sic] what to say. Because he had been changing around so much, like a chameleon, that sometimes D didn’t know who he was anymore. He felt like he was “himself,” but “he” was never comfortable with staying one way for long. Why did anyone have to be “themselves” for one whole life? It didn’t seem fair that you only got one chance to be someone, especially when lots of other people, it seemed, got a better “assignment.”
Then he found The Waytm. His life was so much better.
Doug thought that the next candidate was similar in theme – they all were, essentially – but expressed more elegantly. He set it aside in its own pile.
A Parable by Rhonda Rivviott
Believing in Fate is complicated. Because if you believe that everything is pre-ordained, that “everything happens for a reason,” then you must necessarily believe that someone or something planned it all out. Most people call this entity God. For a Supreme Author, an omniscient force that writes billions and billions of simultaneous life scripts, he’s a pretty wacked-out dude with a wicked sense of humor that many mortals don’t understand. Like, was the Holocaust really necessary? Slavery? Not funny, God! Not funny!
Leaving aside the question of why the Supreme Author couldn’t have written a better story, did you ever wonder why you turned out how you did and someone else, someone more sexy, wealthy, and famous than you, turned out the way she did? Why were you born in the USA instead of Somalia? Why was your family poor and unhappy instead of rich and jolly? Why are you an adjuster at a car insurance company instead of a pop singer or a flight attendant? Why are you a flight attendant instead of a pilot? Why did you turn out like this?
Family, genes, environment – they all play a part. But here’s the truth: IT’S ALL RANDOM. Either you got lucky or you didn’t.
The problem is, unless you believe in reincarnation, you only get to go through this life as one person. You don’t get to come back and see what it’s like to be a white male, or a runway model, or someone who works on rockets. You are doomed to go through life just being whatever Fate decided you should be.
Can a leopard change his spots? No. Can a chameleon change his skin? Oh, yes!
You are not a leopard, but you ARE a chameleon.
It doesn’t matter how old or young you are. It’s never too late to start being whoever you want to be. Don’t just change your name. Don’t just quit your job. Don’t just leave your husband. Find a new Way.
Don’t tell me you never wanted to be Taylor Swift, or Jessica Alba. Don’t tell me you never wanted to be beautiful and rich and pursued by dreamy handsome men pictured in magazines. OK, so that’s not “you.” You’re a cashier at Rob’s Sporting Goods. You sell advertising. You’re going back to school to be a dental hygienist. YOU haven’t been picked for a great life.
But the NEW YOU has been, because YOU decide!
Leaders: Maybe not exactly a “parable,” but the key lesson is there, in my opinion.
Doug looked at his Possible pile. He felt faintly nauseated, like how he felt the first time Lenny had goaded him into doing karaoke. Deciding: it was an awesome responsibility.
Making choices usually didn’t bother Doug Bishop. He did it all the time, as everyone did, weighing the risk, gauging the reward, imagining the result. Sometimes he made good choices (The Waytm, for sure), and sometimes not so much (the librarian), but most of the time he was the one, most of the time, who had to live with the consequences and rewards.
This Parable thing was different. He was being asked to judge. To be the arbiter. After reading all the entrants, each one penned with sincerity and hopefulness, with the author’s soul bared on the page, he was supposed to anoint, to pick a winner, someone whose thoughts and feelings were somehow more worthy than everyone else’s. He didn’t mind; that was the easy and fun bit. The unpleasant part was having to say “no” to all the rest, to damn them with his verdict.
Who was he to say which was best? Yes, sure, of course: he was one of the two Leaders, and therefore no one questioned his authority. Or his literary tastes. But aside from that – and, admittedly, that was a biggie – who the hell was he to say “this is good” or “this is not good”?
Doug looked at the two piles. Another wave of nausea swirled through his bowels and up his throat. What if he had missed the best one, the really most worthy one? What if the five in his Possibles weren’t even the five best? What if he had simply gotten it wrong and left a really amazing awesome Parable in the No pile? Wouldn’t that be sort of tragic, or at least a little sad? Oh, God, he’d have to read them all again. All of them. Just to make sure.
No. He couldn’t bear it. Too much illiteracy, too much poor punctuation. Too many writers who, clearly, missed the whole point of The Chameleon.
No, he told himself, the five he had were the best. And if they weren’t, well, no one would know, except the unlucky author who had been passed over.
Not like that was such a big deal or anything. Writers got rejected; that was the way the game worked. They made their stories, or whatever, and people like him, in faraway offices, read the submissions and culled the keepers from the rejects, just like at a chicken rendering plant, except that with the writers there wasn’t blood and fecal matter.
What bothered Doug was that he, unlike the brilliant, overeducated visionaries who were accustomed to divining good writing from bad, had no training, nothing to base his judgment upon. He only knew what he liked (and didn’t). Real literary critics – editors, they called them – who decided which books got published and which didn’t, had special training, special skills. They knew what to look for, didn’t they?
He had to think straight, but he couldn’t.
Doug walked to the doorway of his room and shouted across the kitchen to the living room, where Tara Kira was watching a rerun of Friends. “T-Baby!” he yelled, loud enough to be heard over the laugh track. “T!”
“Yeah, daddy?” she called back.
“Come here, please.” Doug turned around and walked to the edge of his bed, where he sat down, palms on either side of his thighs. He could hear Tara’s heels on the hardwood floor, getting louder. Then she was there, standing in his doorway.
“Yes, sir?” she said, cheerfully.
He tried not to smirk. He tried to be firm but gentle. “We need to do a sacrament,” Doug said, expressionless.
T-Baby nodded. “Yes.”
She turned her back to Doug, hiked her skirt above her bare hips, and bent forward.