On Tolerance

The mouse said to the rabbit, “Oh rabbit, you’re benevolent and big, please tolerate me.”  To which the rabbit replied, “What do you mean, please tolerate you? You’ve lived in my burrow all this time, roaming as you like. I do tolerate you.”   

“No you don’t,” said the mouse, “You dominate the burrow, you multiply exponentially. I, dear sir, am outnumbered. … Besides, you’re so much bigger than me. I always get squashed trying to stay out of your way as you go tramping by. And the mess you leave behind—well, it really is distasteful.”  

“Mouse,” declared the rabbit, “I don’t know what to say.  I will always have lots of babies and I’ll always be bigger because that’s who I am. You’re asking the impossible. It’s as if you’re asking me to call the truth a lie. And about the mess—well, there’s not much I can say about that.”    

“Then I’m going to kill you,” sneered the mouse, “You hate mice.”  

Stunned, the rabbit tried to reason with his neighbor. He reminded him how he had been warm and safe in the burrow, how he had eaten the rabbit’s food.   

The mouse would not be swayed. They sat in silence for a long time, the mouse fuming and hissing, the rabbit fretting—when along came a mole.   

The mole, a cheery old fellow, inquired, “What’s all this about?” When the tale was told, the mole – in all his wisdom – declared, “The problem is fundamental sirs, the problem is with truth claims in general. What’s true for you is true for you, so if you’d only be less adamant. And rabbit, you really should concede that your existence is offensive. We would all be better off.”  

The rabbit became confused. He pondered what the mole had said, trying to figure out how he might become less imposing, trying to make sense of what didn’t make sense.  His brain began to hurt.  

Just then, the dust stirred up in the burrow and with a swoosh there appeared a sparrow. Everyone knows sparrows belong in the heavens and not underground, but alas, there she was.    

The three earth dwellers looked up with surprise when the sparrow chirped, “You must come above ground and see the sky grand and blue. It’s bigger and more benevolent than all of you. It really is true.”

 © cas 2002

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