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Signpost Squatters

There was a man named Josh who enjoyed walking to the beach every day. He loved it so much that he decided to place a sign pointing to the beach, so that others might follow him there and experience the fresh breeze, the warm sand, the crash of the waves, the smell of salt, and the interesting rock pools. After a while people noticed the sign and wondered what the beach was. Josh described it to them the best he could but as he knew it was impossible he invited them to come and see for themselves. Some followed the man to the sea every day, while others followed him on Sunday. A few enjoyed just sitting listening to people tell their experiences of the beach then would even relay these stories to others. A group of people gathered around the signpost almost every day.

One day Josh walked to the beach and didn't return. Those who knew him well mourned his disappearance, for he was the man who had introduced them to the beach. People would often congregate around the signpost and talk of the wonderful times they had in the past, share stories, and discuss the things Josh had said.

Over time the path to the beach was used less and less; slowly it became overgrown and was no longer a clear route. But some still came to the signpost and discussed Josh - the 'Man of the Beach' as he became known. By and by, new faces came and were intrigued by this man. People started saying "we are going to the beach," referring to the sign post, and before long the sign post itself was known as 'The Beach'.

As the crowds grew, those who were more influential decided that they would organize a meeting once a week to talk about the things they and others had experienced. They held seminars on the life at the beach, and they built a college to train people to spread the good news. Some wrote down Josh's sayings, described the clothes he wore and even detailed the way he walked and the food he ate. They formulated a road map, based on gleanings from others, to describe the way to the beach. These, along with the experiences of friends who knew him well, were collated into a book they called 'The Book of the Beach.'

One day a follower named Louie asked, "Why does the sign have a pointed end?"
Those who knew said, "It points to the beach."
"Well, can't I go there?" Louie asked.
"Yes," came the reply, we will all travel there one day."
"Why can't I go now"?
"That was only for the Man of the beach as there is no path anymore."
"But surely if the man put the sign there, that must be the way?" puzzled Louie.
"Brother you are too young to understand. You shouldn't question the leadership; they know what is right."
"But I want to go now and experience the beach myself!" Louie persisted.
Brother, if you leave us surely you were not of us. If you go against the wishes of our leaders you will not be welcome back."
So Louie, fearing the consequences, decided to stay in the group.

However, Charlie over-hearing the conversation, took another closer look at the sign. He studied it, observed the way the sign was written, the angle of the point and the colour of the paint. He drew a detailed diagram of it and spent many hours studying the words. He noted that: the sign was yellow, it had black writing, it had a point on one end, and that the words 'the beach' were an anagram of 'bee hatch'. It must only stand to reason that the sign was symbolic of bees and the words 'bee hatch' was a place for hatching bees. So in reality the sign meant 'bee hive'. He concluded that he had broken the mystery of the sign and believed that everyone should become bee-keepers because that is what Josh had originally intended.

Charlie took his theory to his friends and explained to them that he had decrypted mystery of the sign. The discussion became very heated with raised voices and copies of the 'Book of the Beach' flying all around, and in the process the sign was damaged, the end being broken off. Everyone stood back in horror - the sign had been ruined! However the words were still intact so everyone agreed, 'All that matters is that the important part is still there.'

As a result of the altercation two different factions formed. When Sunday arrived, the group 'The Exclusive Mystics' dressed in their bee-keeping regalia gathered on one side of the sign, and 'The Traditionalists' in their beach gear, sat on the other side.

Over time the two sects shunned each other and they both became very set in their ways. After a while along came Bouncy Bobby, who was of the 'Traditionalist' persuasion. One day while he was listening to others discussing the joys of the beach, he noticed that everyone had long faces. So at the next meeting he summoned the courage to point this out.
"Brother the joy is deep inside you," he was told, "It may not show on the outside but it is still there."

Bobby wasn't convinced so he decided to compose some bouncy beach songs that really encouraged people to get into the spirit of the beach. Many enjoyed the songs but it wasn't long before another split occurred. Some people said Bobby's beach songs were irreverent and cheapened the experience of the beach; others commented that they brought new meaning to the meetings. So as time progressed there were now three separate clans gathering on Sunday. Then some of the mystics caught onto the idea to start their own music group specializing in bee keeping songs and the joys of bee keeping. So the three factions became four: 'The Serious Traditionalists', 'The Bouncy Beachers', 'The Serious Mystics' and 'The Buzzing Bee Boys'.

One day Bill was strolling past and saw 'The Beach' sign. He wondered what it meant so he came along on a number of Sundays to find out. He visited the 'Traditionalists' and learned all the facts about the beach. He went to the 'Bouncy Beach Boys, and heard about the joys of the beach, and then he decided to look at the 'cultish' 'Mystics'. Now as he studied the original writings of Charlie and his detailed drawing, he noticed something about the sign. The sign Charlie drew looked different to the sign now. He stood at the sign and compared it to the drawing and noticed the point was missing off the original sign.

For the first time since he arrived Bill decided to look on the ground. After fossicking through the trampled grass on his hands and his knees, something finally caught his eye; he picked it up and dusted it off. Sure it had lost a bit of paint and was very dirty, but it fitted the end of the sign perfectly. He asked someone to hold it in place, and then stood back. To him it seemed to be pointing off to the distance, so he retrieved the piece, put it in his pocket, then walked in the direction the sign was pointing to discover its destination.

It wasn't long before the sign was almost out of view, and Bill looked back and thought, 'If I cannot see the sign, how will I know where to go?" While he stood there pondering, he noticed an unusual aroma which seemed to be drifting on a breeze blowing toward the sign. Now he was reminded of something he had read in the traditionalist 'Book of the Beach', that the breeze smelt of salt. Bill did not know what salt breeze smelt like, but he decided to find out the source of the smell, so headed into the breeze.

Soon the sign was completely out of sight and still there was no source of the aroma. It had been quite a long trek over hills, through a forest, and across a stream. He paused for a rest, and sighed to himself, "Perhaps I am on a fool's errand, maybe the traditionalists were right and it is something that will happen at some future time." As he sat there contemplating, Bill became aware of a rumbling in the distance. He jumped up and tried to discern its direction, but the noise seemed to surround him. He focused on the trees swaying in the breeze and heard the creak of branches, but it wasn't that. Bill couldn't think of anything he had passed that would make such a noise so he decided journey on.

It wasn't long before Bill saw seagulls which Josh had also described, sand dunes, and tussock. Then as he climbed to the top of a large sand hill, there it was, stretching as far as the eye could see. He inhaled the air, ran into the waves, basked in the sun, and realized all he had heard was true (except the Bee thing). Bill ran, leapt, sang some beach songs he had become familiar with, and truly understood the joy the beach gave.

Suddenly he stopped. There on the beach was a little hut; the timber planks were weathered and coated with white salt residue. On the veranda sat a faded deck chair, and a fishing net hung on a rusty nail. Bill stared and hurried over to the hut. There tacked to the door was a ragged notice which looked like it had been torn from the back of the 'Book of the Beach'. On it was written 'Back Soon' and it was signed 'Josh'. He stood and gaped at the note in wonder. After all this time Josh was still alive!

At first Bill thought he would wait for Josh, but then decided to return and tell the others. He sprinted back over the dunes through the tussock, across the stream, over the hills, through the woods and panting arrived at the sign. "Friends" he gasped, "I have been to the beach, and seen the waves and stood in the water. It is wonderful, and Josh is alive and coming back soon!"

"You're mad" someone sneered, "We don't believe you, that's heresy!" They turned their backs and walked away."

The Mystics mocked, "You are all wrong. The waves are symbolic of the drumming of the wings of bees and has nothing to do with water. Don't take things so literally."

Others asked, "How did you come to this conclusion about the beach?"
Bill relayed the story of noticing that the sign was pointless.
They retorted, "The sign isn't pointless, it is full of meaning and binds us all together." They didn't want to hear any more, so they also turned their backs and walked away.

Some requested, "Show us the point."
Bill took the wood fragment out of his pocket and held it up for all to see.
A murmur went through the crowd, "Look how dirty it is, it isn't even the same colour! Does he think he can trick us?"
Hearing the murmurs Bill walked over to the sign and held the piece in place.
"Look it fits!" someone noted.
"No, see it is a different colour. It is a fake" a voice said.

A few asked, "Can you tell us about the beach this Sunday?"
Bill replied, "Why don't you experience it yourself? I will give you the directions." So some trekked off toward the beach and left Bill encouraging others.

A while later some of those who had started down the path returned, stating that they didn't find the beach.

"You are just trying to distract us from the reality of what the beach really means" they protested.
"But did you follow the path, and smell the salt air in the breeze?" Bill queried.
"Yes, but the path doesn't feel safe. It is overgrown, lonely and lacks definition"
"When you reach the beach there will be no doubt in your mind that you have done the right thing!" Bill exclaimed, "Even the 'Book of the Beach' says so."
"That is not how we read it. You are just twisting the truth." And with that they returned, somewhat sheepishly, back to their original groups.

One day Bill no longer visited the sign. Many people waited for him expectantly and were sorry he didn't arrive. Others were glad, especially those belonging to the other four factions. They were relieved that they didn't have to try to explain the reasoning behind their opinions anymore or expend useless effort in considering that there might be an alternative. The groups were just happy to return to the status quo, without the exodus of numbers they had been experiencing. To soothe unsettled members, they all branded Bill as a false teacher who had lost his way, and those that followed His directions were branded a cult.

But human nature being what it is, even those who considered Bill's testimony to be true, started to form new groups, and so the cycle started all over again.

Today, if you follow the direction of the sign, there are little clusters of people camped all along the path to the beach. Most of them stay in sight of the original sign. Some travel further on and remain where the aroma of the sea breeze can be detected. Others stayed where the thunders of the waves can first be heard, but hardly any actually arrived at the destination. This is because it takes faith to move past the line of sight and the tangible manifestations, and to step into the breeze and follow its leading.

26 May 2007

Phi 3:13 My brothers, I do not count myself to have taken possession, but one thing I do, forgetting the things behind and reaching forward to the things before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength
and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14 ©2007 Stephen Share