No Gorillas at the Ballet
The great stand-up philosopher, Louis C.K., tells a story about a joke his 7-year old daughter told him. He’s been in the business for 25 years and knows exactly how jokes are structured, but his daughter’s joke surprised him.
Question: Who told the gorilla he couldn’t go to the ballet?
Answer: Just the people who are in charge of that decision.
Why is this joke funny? Two reasons:
1. the answer is unexpected and
2. it is easy to visualize.
People are lining up to see the ballet. A gorilla in a tuxedo is walking in the line, looking down at his phone, pretending to text, trying to avoid attention.
Door Keeper: Hey you. No, no, no – you’re not getting in. Yeah you – yes, the gorilla – I’m talking to you. You’re not getting in.
Gorilla: (looks up from his phone, confused) Why not?
Door Keeper: Because you’re a gorilla – I don’t even have to say anything else.
Gorilla: But don’t I get credit for talking and getting dressed up to see a ballet? Doesn’t that buy me any credibility?
Door Keeper: No. It’s a long show – it’s 3 hours – you’re not going to make it. You’re OK now but half ways through you’re going to start jumping up and down and pounding on people. That’s just the way you guys are. I ain’t gonna be burdened with that — not again. If a gorilla kills everyone at the ballet once – shame on the gorilla; but twice …
OK, you can see why Louis C.K. would tell this story. But why would I include it here in a blog about meditation and spirituality?
This story makes me think about all those people who pretend to be spiritual – even pretend to be spiritual leaders. You can dress up in the robes, learn some catch phrases and prayers – maybe use a few props – but if you’re not really enlightened then you’re not getting into the big show.
The people lined up with the gorilla don’t notice he’s a gorilla – it’s up to the Door Keeper to point it out.
Who is the Door Keeper for enlightenment? Who are the people in charge of that decision?
In some traditions, the head of the particular order is in charge. The Master of the temple or school decides if the disciple has attained Enlightment or not.
In the western world, however, it is mostly a self-assessment. Just about anyone can say they are enlightened. Anyone with a little charisma and charm can gain a following and pretend to be a spiritual master. However, we find that eventually these pretend masters expose themselves as frauds. They might not jump up and down on chairs or pound people to death – but in time they reveal their true nature and their cult group or following collapses in disgrace.
It’s important for each of us to evaluate the claims of self-professed spiritual masters. The Master Jesus warned us long ago to avoid the so-called teachers who do not practice what they preach. And he condemned the teachers who do everything they can to get disciples and then make them twice as fit for hell as they are themselves. You must look past the clothes and the jargon and see into the heart of the teacher. Anyone can claim to be a spiritual master but to prove it they must consistently act like masters. You must become the Door Keeper to your own spiritual bliss and train yourself to look past the glamour and deception of those who would seek to claim your soul.
Wake up! Wake yourself up any way you can. Wake up and then wake up everyone else.