The Bible is full of wacky stories. Like large bodies of water being split in half by guys who look like Charlton Heston. Or flaming shrubbery shouting holy pronouncements to passersby. Or a God-unified hippie producing massive meals out of thin air.
Not to mention the whole water-to-wine thing.
In a climate such as this one, a story about a flying elephant should fit right in. And not just for the outrageousness. Dumbo the elephant holds an important message for any spiritual seeker, in any time.
Let’s review the pertinent aspects of this powerful tale!
Melissa and I recently watched “Dumbo”, and I was struck by the fundamental truths contained in the film.
Starting with this: Dumbo, as it turns out, is delivered by a stork.
So that’s where babies come from! I can’t believe it took me this long to find out the truth. All those hours in high school, being taught the “facts of life” by my P.E. teacher. What did she know? Nothing!
Now, I don’t know if it was the stork’s fault – it’s never easy to be carried by a large bird at high altitudes for hours at a time – but the package delivered to Mrs. Jumbo contains a surprise. Not just the surprise of a baby elephant, which is cute and charming and oh-so-Disney, but the surprise of his unusually large ears.
From the point of view of the movie watcher, the ears are a bit of a shock at first. I mean, they’re huge! Freakishly so. But this is Disney, so there’s sweet music in the background and Dumbo’s impossibly adorable face, and it’s hard to stay freaked out for long.
Plus – check this out – Mrs. Dumbo doesn’t see a problem at all. In fact, she takes the monstrously-large ears of her unbearably-cute offspring, and she wraps them around him like a blanket. Her love for him is enormous – bigger than his ears, bigger than her, bigger than anything.
Unfortunately for Dumbo, his mother’s love can’t protect him from what is to come. His outsized appendages cause nothing but trouble – he can barely walk without tripping over them, and everyone makes fun of him everywhere he goes. Eventually, his mother’s attempts to protect him land her in solitary confinement, leaving Dumbo without his one source of solace.
But, like in any good Bible Disney tale, help is on the way.
Help, in this case, comes in the form of Timothy the Mouse.
The Timothy-Dumbo alliance is one that should not be. And by this I do not mean a forbidden, homoerotic love that dare not speak its name, although I would not be surprised if both Dumbo and Timothy ended up on that side of the rodeo. If you know what I mean.
Instead, the unlikeliness of the Timothy-Dumbo pairing is due to the fact that elephants are supposed to be afraid of mice. That, and everyone but Mrs. Jumbo is repelled by Dumbo’s humongous ears.
But Dumbo loves Timothy and Timothy loves Dumbo, and that’s just the way it is. No matter what the homophobes everyone else says.
Timothy’s entrance onto the scene changes everything. Dumbo now has someone – other than his mom – who loves him for who he is. Also, Timothy is something of a bad ass, and he scares away all the bitchy elephants who were torturing Dumbo with their nasty attitudes.
Timothy’s arrival also allows Timothy and Dumbo, like every odd couple in any movie ever made, to go off on some wacky adventures. In this case, the hijinks include crazy clowns, alcohol, and hallucinations of giant pachyderms on parade.
Just what you’d expect from Disney.
The particular blend of these Wild Times land Dumbo and his little friend up a tree. Literally. And although it initially seems impossible that a mouse and an elephant would wind up in the top branches of a tall tree, Timothy – ever the ally of his friend Dumbo – figures it out.
They’re in the tree because Dumbo flew them there.
Dumbo’s ears, which have been a source of nothing but shame and ridicule, have special powers. They can fly.
And how does Dumbo react to the revelation of his super-sourced ears?
He denies it. Oh yes, my friends. Denial is always the first step.
Timothy, not to be deterred, comes up with a plan. He gives Dumbo a feather, telling him that this “magic feather” (wink, wink) is the source of his flight. This little trick works really well until the very end of the movie when, in the climactic moment, Dumbo drops his feather mid-flight.
Timothy then has to do some very fast talking and explain to Dumbo that the feather is bogus. Dumbo needs to acknowledge his powers. Which he does. Thus ending the movie.
Okay, my Goofball friends. We’ve reviewed the story. Now it’s time to get Biblical. Or at least metaphorical.
Are you ready?
We are all Dumbo. Every last one of us.
All of us are held and supported by three truths demonstrated in the Divine Fable above.
1. We are loved.
The Divine loves us unconditionally. In the movie, this love is depicted in Mrs. Jumbo’s embrace of her son. Even though the stork delivered what everyone else took to be a severely-flawed package, Mrs. Jumbo saw nothing but infinite cuteness. That’s how the Divine loves us.
2. We have help.
When Dumbo lost what appeared to be his sole source of support, along came another ally in the form of a tiny, possibly-gay mouse. So, too, will we always have help along the way. We never know where it will come from – indeed, it’s often from unlikely sources – but it’s always there.
3. Our greatest flaws are our greatest gifts.
We can’t escape it. The things we find most reprehensible about ourselves offer unending rewards – for ourselves and others. It starts by recognizing the value of those things we’ve despised. Dumbo did it, and we can too!
My guess is we won’t be seeing the Gospel of Dumbo being taught in Sunday School any time soon.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t live from the truths taught by this little master:
- Recognize the value of your “flaws”
- Welcome your helpers and allies
- Allow yourself to be loved by the Divine
It’s what Dumbo would want!
How have your greatest flaws proved to be your greatest assets? And how have you been helped along the way?