Why are crows' feathers black?
Read the story, though, and you'll see that it's really not mainly concerned with the question it nominally addresses. The structure of the story is something like this:
Q: Why are the crow's feathers black?
A: Courage and helping others are good. Remember that every time you see a crow.
The answer doesn't seem to follow logically from the explicit question, but this is how origin stories tend to work. This is why they're worth telling and hearing even if you know that the color of a crow's feathers are a matter of adaptation and genetics.
One of my favorite origin stories is nominally the answer to the question "Where do rainbows come from?"
The answer the story gives has nothing to do with the refraction of light, because the story isn't really about where rainbows come from. The story, of course, is that of Noah's ark, as famously told in chapters 6-9 of the book of Genesis and side one of Bill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow Right!
The structure of that story is, in part, something like this:
Q: Where do rainbows come from?
A: Selfishness is destructive — to you and to every living creature. Remember that every time you see a rainbow.
Again, the answer isn't directly related to the apparent question because the apparent question isn't really what the story is about. This may seem complicated, but if you read these stories it's quite obvious. They're not subtle about it. Their message is not some hidden meaning that needs to be decoded. It would be very difficult, in fact, to read or hear such stories without taking away the meaning they are meant to convey.
A half-sized replica of the biblical Noah's Ark has been built by a Dutch man, complete with model animals.
Dutch creationist Johan Huibers built the ark as testament to his literal belief in the Bible.
The ark, in the town of Schagen, is 150 cubits long — half the length of Noah's — and three stories high. A cubit was about 45cm (18in) long.
The ark opened its doors on Saturday, after almost two years' construction, most of it by Mr Huiber himself.
Well, OK. Huibers' ark is kind of cool as a sort of Field-of-Dreams-ish eccentric marvel. You have to admire the splendid goofiness of it. But it also seems like Huiber has been cutting down trees to get a better view of the forest.
Most people who insist that the story of Noah is "literally" true don't go to such great lengths to illustrate their belief, but it's still startling how many people have gotten drowned in the details of this story. They travel to Mt. Ararat in search of the ark, or they obsess over details of hydrology and storage space. Just as lost at sea are these poor folks' mirror opposites — those who obsess over the details to prove that the story is "literally" false. (I'm forced to place the word literally in quotation marks here because it is the word they insist on using, although what they mean by it is far from clear.)
Both sorts of literalists approach these stories with the same incomprehension as that of people who don't understand jokes. "What kind of bar?" they ask. You try to ignore them, to get on to the punch line, to the point, but they keep interrupting. "A duck? I don't think you'd be allowed in the bar if you were carrying a duck."
Such people are particularly infuriating when you're trying to tell a really good joke. They're even more infuriating when you're trying to tell a really important story.
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* Sandy was a classmate of mine in high school. I had no idea where she was or what she was up to until stumbling across her site while googling "Rainbow Crow." The Web is pretty neat.