From a different angle: a parable of shapes...

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(Note from TB: Here's a parable written by former Clearnote member, Elliot Huck, who now lives in Nashville, Tennessee. I asked Elliot for permission to publish it and Elliot was kind enough to agree.)

Once upon a time, there was a country of triangles. There were big triangles and small triangles, young triangles and old triangles. There were Equilateral triangles and there were Isosceles triangles. There were even a few Irregular triangles, but the other triangles preferred not to talk about them.

Most of the triangles were Equilateral and, naturally, they were very proud of it. As everyone knows, an Equilateral triangle is a regular shape and, because they were regular, the Equilaterals started to believe they were perfect. While the Equilaterals got along fairly well with each other, they looked down on their Isosceles neighbors. To tell the truth, however, quite a few of the so-called Equilaterals were actually Isosceles themselves, but their sides were close enough that they could pass as Equilateral and no one would notice.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. The other Isosceles triangles noticed...

They knew that some Isosceles were being treated better, and this made them upset. “Why do they get special treatment?” they whined. “They’re Isosceles, just like us, but they pretend they’re Equilateral and none of the real Equilaterals do anything about it. It’s not right.”

As much as they hated to admit it, the proud Equilaterals knew the Isosceles had a point. The obvious solution, of course, was to go back and insist on using the word “equilateral” only to describe triangles with all three sides the same length. But that would have caused a fuss and, though they are quite proud, the one thing Equilaterals love more than themselves is their peace and quiet. So instead the Equilaterals settled on an easier option: they started acting as if all the other Isosceles triangles were also Equilateral.

It seemed fairly natural at first. After all, everyone agreed that the strictly literal definition of “equilateral” was kind of exclusive. Besides, the Isosceles triangles did have two sides of equal length; if you thought about it, they were really only one side away from being Equilateral. Even the “original” Equilaterals were somewhat surprised to learn that many of the friends they once thought were Equilateral had actually been Isosceles all along. Not that it mattered, since they were still basically Equilateral anyway. That was the beauty of the whole thing; it didn’t matter anymore. The Equilaterals were relieved that they had avoided the dreaded Fuss and the Other Equilaterals were happy that they could finally enjoy the satisfaction of being accepted as an Equilateral.

Needless to say, everyone was quite pleased with the arrangement. Everyone, that is, except the Irregular triangles. When the Irregulars saw triangles that were obviously Isosceles being treated as though they were Equilateral, they became jealous and insisted that Irregular triangles also be accepted as Equilaterals. They figured the Equilaterals would have to agree that it wasn’t their own fault if they’d been drawn differently; every triangle deserved the chance to be called “Equilateral.”

This time, however, things were different. While the Equilaterals had been willing to bend their principles for the Other Equilaterals, it was clear to Equilaterals of both types that letting the Irregulars join their group would be going too far. But the Irregulars strongly desired to share in the pride of being Equilateral. There may not have been many Irregulars, but they were very outspoken and they would not back down. They protested. They demanded Equilateral Rights. They started Causing A Fuss.

Soon, the whole country of triangles was in turmoil. The Equilaterals hated having their peace and quiet disturbed, but they didn’t know what to do, so they brought the matter before the King of Triangles. Despite being a very prominent Equilateral himself, the King was also at a loss, so he consulted his Court of Advisors, all of whom were reputed to be Equilaterals of the highest pedigree.

After deliberating for a long time, the Court finally gave the King their recommendation. The following day, the King issued an edict declaring that all triangles were Equilaterals, regardless of the length of their sides. It was a bold decision, and while the many of the triangles applauded the King’s decree, there was also much resistance. In particular, some of the older Equilaterals objected to the controversial new law. They argued that the word “equilateral” had a specific meaning and that it was patently absurd to say a triangle was Equilateral if it didn’t have three equal sides. However, nobody took them very seriously; after all, everyone knew that those same older triangles hadn’t said anything back when it was a question of whether or not certain Isosceles triangles could be considered Equilateral.

So time passed and soon every triangle in the country was Equilateral and, naturally, they were all very proud of themselves. The progressive and enlightened King of Triangles even traveled to some of the neighboring countries, like the Republic of Squares, and made them accept the gift of Equilateral Rights as well, whether they wanted it or not.

As a result, these days every shape in the world is an Equilateral Triangle. True, some of them have four sides and some have five right angles, and some are perfectly round and have no sides or angles at all, but that doesn’t matter; they’re all Equilateral Triangles. After all, being an Equilateral Triangle isn’t about how many sides you have or how long they are. That might have been true in the past, but everyone knows times change.

And everyone knows that if you want to be an Equilateral Triangle in this modern day and age, there’s only one thing that matters:

How obtuse are you willing to be?

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!