Pigeons, Pointing, and Truth

Zeke has been playing a sad little game with the pigeons of New York for months. Every few days, one will land on the sill of our high-rise apartment window and taunt poor Zeke. He will cackle and wiggle his butt until a moment to his liking causes a catapult from couch to window where he will land flat against the window pane and the pigeon will fly off. Likely in a mocking tone where said pigeon will tell his friends and they will assess who will go tomorrow to torment the trapped hunter house cat.

Today, I saw a pigeon sitting on the sill. Waiting. Zeke was sleeping and completely unaware. My little lion.

So I poked Zeke awake and pointed at the bird. But Zeke doesn’t understand pointing. I tried teaching him, but he is such a lazy student. So I pointed and he stared. I pointed and nodded and shook my hand. He kept staring at me. Then he noticed that my pointing hand was holding some pudding. “Ah-ha! She’s holding up her hand and calling me to give me some pudding!” So he ran to me and reached for my hand. I got more aggravated until I walked right up to the window and said “Zeke! Your pigeon!” To which the pigeon flew away and Zeke was still confused about how to reach the pudding. I think the pudding made him forget pigeons. Zeke isn’t stupid. He simply prefers I learn his language instead of him learning mine. My language includes pointing. His language includes eating what is in my hand.

We humans are often no different. We don’t want a hand pointing to what we want. We want a hand handing us what we want. We will even adjust what we want to fit the circumstance. Some people say they want Truth (that mysterious capital T Truth that guides heroes into right action and thinkers into superb epiphanies). But Truth is pointed at by a wise mentor, never handed to the seeker. And many of us are willing to change from the pigeon to the pudding as effortlessly as Zeke did. If Truth requires learning a language and moving in a direction, I will simply take what’s in the hand, those rote rules, the basic guidelines. I may not get Truth, but maybe I’ll get a solid dose of self-righteousness or rationalization. Pudding ain’t bad.

Teachers point. Gurus point. Artists point. Scriptures point. Poets point. They do it with so many combinations of words and images: stories, poems, lectures, essays. paintings, etc. And sometimes the pointing is so beautiful we forget it’s just a hand. Sometimes the pointing is so powerful or so political, we forget it’s just a hand. But it is only a hand. And Truth has an interesting relationship with people. It moves. Like planets in orbit, we dance with Truth and our point of reference changes with every connecting synapse in our brains. So the pointing hand is only right in the moment it was intended. A hand pointed centuries ago, how could that still be pointing at Truth after all this time, all these revolutions, all these changes? There are new pointing hands. New art, new stories, new teachers. It’s our duty as humans to seek out the new direction and journey to it.

The hand pointing at the moon is not the moon. 
The hand pointing at the moon is not the moon.

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