a plain little turtle takes down a king…

On the far-away island of Sala-ma-Sond,
Yertle the Turtle was king of the pond.
A nice little pond. It was clean. It was neat.
The water was warm. There was plenty to eat.
The turtles had everything turtles might need.
And they were all happy. Quite happy indeed.

They were… until Yertle, the king of them all,
Decided the kingdom he ruled was too small.

i remember touring the notre dame cathedral in paris.  it was one of the first things i did when i moved to france.  the guide book gave the details of its majesty and spoke of all the wars and weather it had survived.  it was, at that moment, amazing to me.  and then upon further study of cathedrals and european kings, i began to see it quite differently.  i began to hear the king’s command echo strong “we’ll build it bigger, greater, better!!!” i began to notice the detail of the stones, the carvings, the stained glass.  this stone was brought in from such & such, far far away and these stones were arranged by hand… the hands of regular folks.

So Yertle the Turtle King, lifted his hand
And Yertle, the Turtle King, gave a command.
He ordered nine turtles to swim to his stone
And, using these turtles, he built a new throne.
He made each turtle stand on another one’s back
And he piled them all up in a nine-turtle stack.

the flying buttresses in the front of the cathedral were not a part of the original design.  they were added because the walls were forced by the king to reach higher and higher, causing stress fractures.  we are told that a glorious cathedral was needed to honor a glorious God.  nearly 200 years of effort, energy, finances, disputes, and determination.  most workers spent their entire lives working on this cathedral, never seeing it in its completion.  they were told that they were a part of something big.  they were bringing honor to their God.  they would be rewarded in heaven.  i began to feel very very differently each time i entered the notre dame… i began to see the modern church.

Then  from below, in the great heavy stack,
Came a groan from that plain little turtle named Mack.
“Your Majesty, please… I don’t like to complain,
But down here below, we are feeling great pain.
I know, up on top you are seeing great sights,
But down here at the bottom we, too, should have rights.
We turtles can’t stand it. Our shells will all crack!
Besides, we need food. We are starving!” groaned Mack.

i remember pulling up to the church parking lot, passing the reserved spots filled with jaguars, mercedes, bmws, what have you.  the owners of those beautiful cars also had beautiful homes.  they took long vacations to exotic destinations and had a little lipo before they hit the beach.  the church building was massive with amazing amenities.   the church system offered meetings and friendship.  lots of meetings.  everything was high-end and state of the art.  the expansion never stopped.  there was always something more to do.  it was an amazing looking church, but the workers, we were in great pain and some of us even sick and starving.

That plain little turtle below in the stack,
That plain little turtle whose name was just Mack,
Decided he’d taken enough. And he had.
And that plain little lad got a bit mad.
And that plain little Mack did a plain little thing.
He burped!
And his burp shook the throne of the king!

And today the great Yertle, that Marvelous he,
Is King of the Mud. That is all he can see.
And the turtles, of course… all the turtles are free
As turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be.

by Dr. Seuss   (adapted)

His message was simple and austere, like his desert surroundings:

“Change your life. God’s kingdom is here.”

Matthew 3:2 Msg

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  • Comments (6)
  1. Deeply creative, poignant, pointed and of course…sadly true! May those common to life (those who burp!) gain His mercy, grace and be released to significance to bring Him the true glory!


      • JuliaKate
      • September 21st, 2010

      thank you for your kind words. it is interesting that Seuss used something as simple, yet slightly vulgar as a burp to take down the “villain”. i pray they be released to significance in bringing Him glory also…

  2. “I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I’ve bought a big bat. I’m all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!” – Dr. Suess

    Beautifully written. I especially love the use of Suess to express such an unsightly weakness. Perhaps, our vulgarity and offense in the form of a burp is needed to awaked a beautiful bride. At times I am disgusted with what I see in the form of leadership, but I am reminded that His grace is sufficient for not only myself, but for the great turtle king as well.

    To turtle kings everywhere, be cautious to not let your vision of expansion and success overrun those you have trusted their very lives in your hands or you too will be shook and find yourself king of the mud with no vision at all except the wet dirt in which you lay.

      • JuliaKate
      • September 21st, 2010

      great quote Josh. i am thinking of doing a few posts with Dr. Seuss tie-ins. i definitely have access at my job to plenty of Seuss:)

    • Elizabeth
    • March 17th, 2011

    Julia, loved this post. I think Im addicted to your blog.

      • JuliaKate
      • March 22nd, 2011

      haha! oh no… lol;)

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