The story board of sacred writ recounts that in their beginnings, humankind and the animals were created on the same day, the sixth day (Genesis 1:24-31). This arrangement surely suggests some commonality, perhaps even fellowship, while serving also as a check on our hubris. That whatever the glories of angel-flight inspiration and achievement, we can lay no claim to our own dedicated moment. We share a same day with the warthogs.
Growing up in a village in NE India left me in awe of the Asian elephant and its mahout or keeper. They were a same-day pair. Unlike the parade elephants bedecked with bells, gold caparisons, parasols, ornate howdahs, and peacock feather fans, our village creature with its mahout strode off every morning into the forest performing feats of strength with timbers and chains. Toward evening it would return, reclining first in the river as the mahout washed away all signs of its labor, and then together they would pass, glistening, through the village with the keeper astride the neck – a majestic twosome. It was a ‘statement’. If ever there were a picture of sixth day fellowship, that was it.
Such fellowship extended to their actual conversation, too. It is said that the language of the mahout is an ancient tradition pre-dating either Sanskrit (the medium of the Vedas and other Hindu writings) or the Dravidian languages of south India. It may go back to more ancient roots among South Asia’s earliest societies. (As they say, the elephant has prodigious memory!) To the mahout’s deep-code instruction would come the elephant’s answer: a flapping of the ears, a raised trunk, a deep rumble, a toss of the head.
That sharing between elephant and mahout went deeper still. In the evening, as we scuffled on the village soccer pitch, the elephant and mahout would ramble onto the field, the elephant in single-minded pursuit of our pitiful ball and with a mighty kick of its foreleg send it sailing out-of-bounds into neighboring homesteads. No one was inclined to show the elephant and keeper a yellow card. We were too consumed with mirth. Man and beast would then amble away without even a backward glance, content together as rajahs of both forest and soccer pitch. Call it sixth-day frolic. Met with sixth day glee.
The good book says as much.