The Earth and the Moon

31 July 2016

Told around the campfire at the Brighton Buddhist Centre's Family Retreat on Thursday 28th July. The theme of the retreat was Friendship.

The limericks, shown in italics, were written by Matt Quinn. They were sung by Matt and Jo, accompanied by Matt strumming the chords C, G and F on guitar.

A long, long time ago, long before you and I were little more than a distant hope in the mind of our father's greatest of grandfathers, Earth was a huge angry mass of volcanic rock. She had a very fiery temper and, at the thought of anyone approaching within a million miles of her highest peak, she would erupt in a fit of molten rock. And so, it came about, that the Earth had no friends, whatsoever. And because she had no friends, Earth got angrier and angrier, until she was so angry, she was at the point of exploding into oblivion.

Fortunately (for if Earth had exploded, you and I would not have been sat here now), just when Earth was on the edge of oblivion, Theaia passed by on her way to Venus. Theaia was a tiny, teenage asteroid, just a few billion years old. But although she was still just a youthful molten mass, she had visited the furthest edges of the Solar System. Theaia had become one of the most sociable of objects in the known universe because, due to her abundance of youthful verve, she had managed to befriend all of the distant stars she had met on her travels. She had even made friends with the Big Bear, which most other asteroids avoided like a black hole because they found her way too scary!

So Theaia had love deep within her soul. And because she radiated love, she was the most beautiful of teenage asteroids.

"Go Away!" hissed Earth, as the tiny asteroid approached. But Theaia was much too young to have been embittered by the passages of time, so she found no offence at Earth's rude greeting, and instead, she poked her large molten tongue out at earth: "You go away, Ner!" Earth was incensed: "Young lady" she began, trying to take the moral high ground. "You should not speak to you elders that way. Now be gone, before I melt you into a steaming pool of hot lava!" she hissed. "Awww, don't be such a sour puss!" Theaia chided. "Instead of melting me, how about telling me a joke instead?" The earth was dumbstruck; she wasn't used to having her threats ignored: "A joke! You want me to tell you a joke?" And to show her displeasure, she spat out a huge molten mass of volcanic rock. "Okay, Okay," said Theaia, "I understand - you don't want to tell a joke. How about I tell you one, instead?" asked Theaia, trying to lighten the atmosphere. Now, if Earth had eyebrows, she would have raised them right there and then. "Oh, come on! Lighten up!" Theaia told earth, who sighed a puff of exasperated hydrogen. "What would you be doing if you were lazing around on the planets next to Jupiter?" "You would be Saturn Uranus!"

Earth had never laughed so much! Huge plumes of smoke billowed from deep within her, and molten rock shuddered as she giggled uncontrollably; Tears began to stream from her skies, and then a full flood of rain burst through the clouds, promptly putting out all the fires below. Soon enough, the smouldering mass of volcanic activity, which had stoked Earth's anger, was replaced by vast oceans and huge forests that spanned the horizon. Life sprang forth. Theaia had never seen such beauty, despite travelling to the edges of the known Galaxy. She became transfixed by the wondrous scene unfolding before her; it was far too magical to even consider leaving. So she stayed to witness the majesty of the evolving planet. And there she has stayed ever since, happily smiling down on the wonderful world below. In fact, Theaia and Earth became the very best of friends; so much so that Theaia began to radiate a deep love for her friend. And because of that, the Stars, using the ancient language of the Somaic Gods, who existed long before the beginning of time, named her: Mo'on, meaning 'she who shines'. You will know her better as 'Moon', and if you're lucky, once a month, you will witness her in her full glory.

Now, the Earth and Moon's friendship has been but a blink in the grand scheme of things, but to you and I, it is ancient and venerable; together, they have witnessed the Prehistoric time of the dinosaurs right on to the coming of Buddha. And throughout all those times, despite various dramas, Earth has flourished, and Moon has radiated, admiring her friend lovingly. But then came the rising tide of Renaissance man, and with it, the age of science and eventually, 'Economic Growth' and the Industrial Revolution. And though you may be told such things were 'progress', that opinion is not shared by all the other beings of Earth. For is it 'progress' when the vast forests have vanished because of man's wish to sail the seven seas? Is it 'progress' when those same seas have been filled with plastic? And is it 'progress' when the great deserts are tarnished black with spilt oil? Soon enough, Moon began to notice those flaws to earth's beauty, and because of Moon's judgement, their friendship began to suffer.

Pa'an, an ancient, mischievous Comet, who had seen more than his fair share of deep space implosions, when dark matter had collapsed in on itself, happened to be passing by. He recognised Moon's waning friendship with Earth, and since he was full of nefarious dissatisfaction, he decided to drive home the division between the two friends: "Urgh - look at those stains on Earth!" sneered Pa'an. "How ugly she's become!" "I know," replied Moon, sadly. "She was once so beautiful, but those silly humans have been cutting and drilling and spilling for so long, they're spoiling earth." Pa'an glanced sideways at Moon and whispered: "You should find a new friend," which led to an awkward silence, as Moon considered Pa'an's suggestion. "Perhaps you're right," said Moon, finally. And then a wave of sadness washed over her as she contemplated leaving her old, but tainted, friend. "Hey, can I tell you my favourite joke?" asked Pa'an. Now that he had sowed the seeds of doubt, he was trying to ease the tension as he wasn't enjoying the air of dejection. "If you must," replied Moon, not really certain she was in the mood to laugh. "What's a pirate's favourite planet?" asked Pa'an. "I don't know," replied Moon, "What is a pirate's favourite planet?" "Marrrrs."

"Hey, I have an idea" shouted Pa'an as he swished his tail and went on his way: "Mars was beautiful once, just like Earth. You should go there!" Moon considered leaving Earth for a whole month until finally, she made up her mind. Then, one night, when she was just a thin slither in the night sky, she slipped away.

I love monkeys and mongeese and manitees
but I'm not a huge fan of insanity
so it's time I rejected
a planet infected
with the festering mess of humanity (x2)

Moon arrived at Marrrrs hoping to find a beauty that man had left alone. Instead, she found a dead planet, and two rather sad, raggedy moons. "What happened here?" asked Moon, shocked by the desolation. "A long time ago," replied Kudio, one of the moons, "This planet was once much more beautiful than your friend, Earth. But much like there, an exploitative being lived here, who began destroying Marrrrs for, what they thought, was their own gain." Kudio betrayed a deep sadness when a tear fell towards the stricken planet, causing a momentary small sea which the Earth's astronomers sometimes spot and mistake for ancient oceans. "But when the alien beings started to dig mines and extract the planet's mineral deposits, Marrrs finally had enough and exploded in a fit of rage." Kudio shook her head, mournfully. "the massive eruption did exactly what Marrrs intended, and removed the exploitative blight. But, unfortunately, you see the other result - Marrrrs herself didn't survive the blast." Moon felt paralysed by the news of the shocking destruction: "I'm so sorry," she told Kudio, "I can't imagine how terrible your loss must have been. But, tell me," she continued, "why do you stay?" "I loved Marrrs so much," Kudio answered, "even in this state, I can't leave her." Moon felt a pang of guilt, for she had done exactly that to Earth. "But you shouldn't stay," Kudio continued, "Many of the other moons that lived here, including my sister, moved on to the next planet." "Jupiter?" "No, she put herself." Moon looked blankly at Kudio. "Did. You. Put. Her?" he explained, hopefully.

Moon left Marrrs cursing Pa'an: "He must've known what had happened to that planet." And with that realisation, Moon had a sense of the beauty she had left behind on Earth and a deep sadness began to overwhelm her. She cheered up somewhat when she started dreaming of what she might find on Jupiter; a planet she was hoping was untainted by man.

No one told me that Mars was so dead!
All rusty and dusty and red
but now that its clear
that there's not atmosphere
I shall try the next plane instead (x2)

Moon arrived on Jupiter just as one of its very own moons, Io, let fly with yet another explosion of molten rock. Io spent his life orbiting Jupiter and creating the most dramatic of volcanic eruptions. "Come and sit down and admire my display, young lady," Io told Moon. "Watch this!" he continued, as a great flow of lava streamed high into Jupiter's atmosphere. Moon clapped excitedly, watching in awe at the wondrous display. "Watch this too!" declared Io, letting fly with yet more fireworks. But soon enough, the novelty of Io's show wore off, for Moon recognised her for what she was; nothing more than a shallow exhibitionist. Moon wanted more from her friendships! Indeed, she realised that Earth had given her much more, so much more than Io ever could. A distinct sense of loss swept over Moon and her gaze dropped under the weight of her depression. "Why aren't you watching anymore?" asked Io, indignantly. "Don't you like my show?" "Oh no, I love it!" insisted Moon, "It's just that I'm missing my best friend," she said, sadly. Io was unimpressed: "Well, in that case, why don't you go miss them somewhere else? Only my admirers get to watch my magnificent displays!" Io told Moon. "But, but, but...I don't have anywhere to go!" Moon replied, sadly. "Well, if it's life you're after," Io sneered, "why don't you pop along to the planet next door. Life must've thrived there because someone must've died, judging by the smell of Uranus!"

Io was all show and bluster. But Moon wanted a much greater sense of purpose from her friendships. She was hoping she might get that up Uranus.

I'd thought I'd make friends with a moon,
but Io made everyone swoon
in the space around Jupiter
there's nobody stupider
and never again is too soon (x2)

Picture the scene: you arrive at a Buddhist vegan retreat, where the staple diet includes lots of lentils. After supper, you retreat to the shrine room. And then; sleep, and things that go bump in the night. Well, then you have a sense of what greeted Moon when she arrived on Uranus. The gaseous giant, who was just as indignant as Earth was in those early days, let off a stream of putrid methane, the like of which, had never before been witnessed in the known Galaxy. "Eughh!" thought Moon. "Smelly!" she continued, just as Uranus erupted with another stream of methane gas .

I thought that Uranus was classy
with forests and fields that were grassy
but with his indigestion
life's out of the question
he's too fiery and farty and grassy (x2)

Moon left Uranus holding her nose. She began wandering aimlessly, confused and dejected, when Haley, a kindly comet which had been travelling the far corners of the Solar System since time immemorial, stumbled across the sorry mass: "Hey, cheer up!" he told Moon, gently nudging her in the ribs. "Want to hear a joke? What do you call a large Galactic rock you can take as a performance enhancing supplement?" "asteroid!" Moon looked at Haley blankly. "A Steroid?" asked Haley, hopefully; after all, it was his favourite joke. And it was topical too, given that the humans were about to stage their Olympic Games. At which point it dawned on him: "Haven't I seen you hanging around Earth for the past trillion years, give or take an epoch?" asked Haley. And with that, Moon burst into tears. "Awww, come on. Don't cry!" said Haley, throwing a kindly tail around Moon's shoulder. "What happened, dear child?" Moon told Haley all about leaving Earth and her trips to Marrrrs, Jupiter and Uranus. "And now I've lost everything!" She sobbed, finally. "Don't be silly!" Haley chided. "Let me get this straight," he continued. "You left because you didn't find your best friend Earth quite so attractive once those messy humans started digging holes in her." Haley paused, as though contemplating the situation. But he was wise and knew exactly what he was going to say; he was just looking for maximum dramatic effect. "Then, you went to Marrrs and found that, in fact, your best friend Earth was much more full of life." Haley paused again. "Next, you tried Jupiter, but found Io and her little gang much too shallow - you missed the soulful beauty of your best friend, Earth." Another pause: "Finally, you tried Uranus", "Let's just say, anything smells better than Uranus! Eughhh!" said Haley, holding his nose. "But especially, your best friend, Earth." Haley looked Moon straight in the eye: "Can't you see the solution?" Moon shook her head, sadly. "Just go home to your best friend!" Haley told her. "But, but...I left her. She'll not want to be my best friend anymore!" Moon started crying again. "Of course, she will!" Haley told Moon, drying her tears. "Look, the very best of friends have lots of tiffs. Sometimes they even fall out completely. But the thing about best friends is that they can fall out, and it doesn't matter. They always make up again! What's more, they're even better friends once they do!" Haley smiled at Moon: "Stop moping around," he told her, gently. "Go on, get your skates on and get yourself back home, sharpish."

I've learned that is best not to roam
and I'll tell you for why in this pome
its because in the end
a friend is a friend
that's why I am going back home (x2)

Earth had had an awful time. She missed Moon; she sobbed and wailed uncontrollably, which kicked up a terrible storm, the likes of which the beings of Earth had not witnessed since Noah. You may remember it well; one extremely dark night last November when the wind battered your home, and the rain lashed against your window all night long. The next morning, Earth awoke, anxious. She had an empty feeling and a sense of great loss. She began to cry. It was going to be another wild day...

...but then she saw just a thin slither of something high in the sky....

"Moon!" she cried, "Where the Galaxies have you been? I've been so worried!" Moon told her friend everything she'd been up to, and why. "I'm so sorry," she said, finally. "Oh, Moon. Dear friend! There's nothing to apologise for!" Earth was such a wise, kind friend, so she understood perfectly well: "We aren't always at our best, and sometimes we make mistakes. I forgive you completely!" Earth smiled at Moon: "And you know what? Don't worry about the mess those humans are making on me." Moon shot a confused look at her friend: "How so?" she asked. "Well, look at those children down there," said Earth pointing out a group of kids sat around a campfire listening intently to a rather silly story: "I've been watching them jump streams and playing Dancing Detective all week." she continued. "They've been ever-so-kind and caring," she said, "So I have high hopes that the next generation will be much more enlightened, and won't exploit my bounty quite so greedily." Moon smiled doubtfully at Earth. "Oh come, Moon. Have faith!"

Soon after, following a glorious summer, Moon looked up at Earth: "Can I tell you a joke?" she asked. "What's the difference between the Sun and King Arthur?" "The Sun keeps us warm for the day, but King Arthur warms his keep for the Knights." There followed a deep, dark, silence, similar to that you may witness just before a solar eclipse. "That was rubbish, Earth," Moon told her. "But I'll still be your friend..."