What is Truth? The Hyena Story

What is Truth?

Truth goes beyond the facts of this world. Truth is based on faith.
Truth is felt with our whole being.
It can be a joyful, exuberant feeling . . . like when we see the miracle of life in a new born child, or know the cherished love of someone dear.

There is a story full of truth about a classroom in a mission school in Africa . . . Kenya.
The school was located on the edge of the community.
It was near the town, so that students came from both the bush and the town to study there.
The town students came wearing their fancy Western clothes and carrying their brief cases . . . strutting proudly into the classroom.
The students from the bush walked timidly in.
They carried no brief case. They had no new clothes.

One day, the teacher was talking to them about truth.
And to illustrate truth, he told them the story of the hyena.
The story goes like this:

One day the hyena was walking along the path looking for food.
And suddenly he smells this carrion – – this dead meat.
He was just about to go off to the left of the path to get the meat,
when he smells carrion off to the right also.
So there on the left was this wonderful meat,
and there on his right was also wonderful meat.
Undecided, the hyena points his head one way and then the other,
and he can’t decide which way to go.
To the right . . . to the left . . . right . . . or left.
And then in one explosive moment of not being able to decide . . .
the hyena splits himself in two – – and dies.

Then the teacher turns to the students and says:
“Is this story true”?
And the students from the town . . . they sort of snicker . . . and no one nods their head to say that this is true.
So the teacher asks one of the students from the bush:
“Is this story true?”
And the student says: “Yes. It is true.”
So the teacher asks: “Why is this true?”
And the student from the bush can’t answer, and just sits silently on his chair.
So the teacher asks another bush student: “Is this story true?”
And the same thing happens. The student says: “Yes. It is true.”
And when the teacher says: “Why is this true?”
again, the student just sits there and can’t answer.

And the students from the town begin to snicker more and more.
And soon one begins to laugh out loud.
But this is not a humorous laugh. No, this is a cruel, hyena laugh. . . because they are
laughing at their fellow students.

And as the laughter continues, the tension builds and builds . . . and suddenly one of the students from the bush shouts out:

And that is true. . . and the story is true.
(I am not certain exactly who to attribute this story to. It was heard from a presentation
by Walter Wangerin at Holden Village in Washington state.
If anyone knows the originator, please let me know.)

2 thoughts on “What is Truth? The Hyena Story

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