Of Dumbo and Ganesh

Dumbo the Flying Elephant ganesh


A Swedish poet I know once said that dogs know more about darkness than we do and I thought that was true for I was twenty something when I heard the remark and when you’re young and you hear something symbolic you tend to think you’ve heard truth. Dogs of course don’t care at all about darkness–they’re not delicate creatures, which is why their noses are machines of insubordinate, cognitive persistence. Dogs don’t give a rat’s ass about darkness and they don’t care about manners. This is why I like them.

I blame urban life for making people sentimental about animals and that’s a big story and there’s not time today to delve into the matter but I’ll argue that only city dwellers will go to a movie about anthropomorphized talking deer and only city dwellers will think that a flying elephant with ears for wings is worth paying to watch.

A friend in California called me the other night while he was out for a walk. He reported a Disney Dumbo was all lit up in someone’s yard. I was immediately irascible. “If only it was Ganesh” I said, and then I went into a riff about why India is beating the snot out of America in economic terms–“they have Ganesh, we have Dumbo,” I snarled.

This lead to a debate of sorts. Ganesh is both nurturing and tricky, has pockets of deception. Dumbo is just nice. People in India don’t have to pretend they’re nice all the time. Americans are stuck with this hopeless imperial sentimentality about themselves. The rest of the world thinks we’re stupid.

Then my friend said: “But Dumbo has a soul, man. He has a soul.”

That stopped my pepper pot tirade. I had to admit that my pal had me there. Dumbo is all loyalty, decency, steadfastness, and compensatory heart, for indeed all the other creatures make fun of his ears. I realized then that Dumbo is a “super crip”–a disabled person who overachieves. He’s a sort of beneficent victim.

And so of course Dumbo is a perfect holiday ornament. Why the hell not?     

Let us proclaim the mystery of faith.



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