Truth Is Still Stranger than Fiction

This article first appeared in the August 2005 issue of Sharing the Joy newsletter, published by The Joy Cathedral, Seattle WA.

I saw the funniest commercial the other day. It was a spot for DiGiorno frozen pizza. The scene: Geppetto’s cobbler shop. He’s scolding Pinocchio. Again.

“You’ll never be a real boy if you don’t stop telling lies!” he admonishes his son, who presents his Dad with a piping hot slice of pizza.

“Delicious!” Geppetto raves. “What pizzeria did it come from?”

Instead of saying he popped a frozen pizza in the oven, Pinocchio lied. (He wouldn’t be Pinocchio if he hadn’t, right?) And he didn’t stop, even as his nose jettisoned halfway across the room. Panicked that he’d been caught in another tale, Pinocchio’s head jerked one way, then another, his nose knocking everything in its path onto the floor. I howled!

I was still grinning when we returned to regular programming, remembering why this allegory was one of my favorite childhood stories. After 125-years, Pinocchio endures because it teaches cause and effect so powerfully: everything we do has a consequence.

Suddenly the thought occurred to me: What if a 21st century editor collected a bunch of wonderful stories that teach valuable life lessons, like Pinocchio, and published them in one volume? Two thousand years from now, would there be people who regarded this powerful book of wisdom as inerrant history? Would the Creationist theory be that humans evolved from wood, becoming flesh after they began to tell the truth and perform good deeds? Would non-believers be threatened that they will be “left behind” on planet Earth, where they’ll be planks in woodpiles higher than Mount Everest and set afire?

For believers, will the idea of being eternally human, rather than woefully wooden, make them feel so superior, so much closer to their God that they won’t value the lives and rights of those who don’t share their beliefs? Will they feel that they have Divine Right to dictate where and how others should live and whom they should love? Will they violently punish others, mirroring the modus operandi of their wrath-filled Creator?

Let’s all bow our heads in solemn reverence to truth that is still stranger than fiction. And while
we’re in that space, let’s ask ourselves: Is the value of powerful stories such as Collodi’s Pinocchio found in their life lessons or in their literal details?

Shall we teach our kids that their noses will grow longer than their arms if they don’t tell the truth? Or is our message that poor choices produce poor results? Do we tell them “an eye for an eye” means that they should respond to violence with violence? Or do we tell them to choose their thoughts, actions and reactions wisely because whatever they send out will ricochet back?

Unconditional Love has given us the freedom to make these decisions—and to learn the lessons that result from every choice. That Truth supersedes all man-made fiction.