One festive Christmas, many years ago, a group of us old friends were relaxing after an enormous Christmas lunch at the Savoy Hotel in Jeffreys Bay.
The streets were filled with festive, laughing people enjoying the warm midday sun. We were sitting out on the verandah enjoying roast turkey with all the frills when a sudden summer shower sprinkled the umbrellas at the restaurant, and then the most beautiful rainbow filled the sky when the sun came out again. The discussion got around to the topic of fanatics and fanatical people.
“Fanatics are strange people,” I explained to my friends as we sat picking our teeth around the table. “A fanatic lives for his dream. Night and day he is obsessed by his dream to create something or to do something or to go somewhere, and he never lets up until he achieves that thing. Take this guy Noah for example. What a fanatic! He built a boat on top of a mountain near the small town named Alice, 150kms from the sea. He claimed it was gonna rain so hard that the boat would float off the mountain.”
“Is this the same Noah from the Bible?” asked Joe.
I replied patiently, “This was a modern-day Noah, pal. It’s a modern-day story for okes like you! Now don’t interrupt me. You know I’m a journalist by trade and this looked like a good story, so I got in my bakkie and took a day trip up to Alice to find out more about this Noah guy.
So when I pulled into the local hotel in Alice, I had a beer in the bar and made friends with some of the local people. They told me about this strange man called Noah who is building a huge boat right on top of the mountain. This boat is 120 meters long and 30 meters wide and it has three stories to it. And it’s 150km from the sea! Can you believe it?”
Apparently, when they asked Noah, “Why are you building this boat?” he said, “God told me to build it.”
“Now that’s a fanatic for you! Imagine believing that God can talk to you! Everyone knows that God is far too busy keeping track of all the things you do wrong to have time to talk to you about building a boat!”
Jeff interrupted to ask, “What is the purpose of this boat?” We looked at him in exasperation. Jeff is like that. He always has to have a reason for everything.
I replied, “Well, apparently Noah said that God was fed up because no one was living holy lives anymore. Everyone was too busy making money or getting drunk or having a good time with their neighbours’ wives to remember to honour God. So God told Noah that He was going to flood the planet and wipe everyone out. But God said He was prepared to give Noah a break because Noah really obeyed all the rules and never got full of moonshine or nothing. Just drank milk and ate locusts and honey. So Noah would be allowed to float away on his boat and start a new life. When the local farmers in Alice accused Noah of being a fanatic, he just smiled dreamily and replied, “When you build a huge boat on top of a mountain 150kms from the sea because God tells you to do so, that’s called Faith!”
“So those folks in the bar told me that the entire top of the mountain is a hive of activity. Day and night there are power tools going up there. Hammering and drilling and sawing like you cannot believe. Noah has floodlights erected from the pine trees, and his sons and their wives are busy full-time building this boat. And the animals! I tell you, man, it’s like a zoo up there! There are lions and leopards and tigers and ducks and geese and pigs and dogs. Two of everything and they all seem to get along fine together! No stress, no strain, no fighting. It’s like the animals are all part of some big plan or something. They know it and Noah knows it and they’re all going someplace together and they’re all cool with each other.”
Jeff at our lunch table frowned, “I wonder if they’ve got a permit from the municipality. It sounds kind of illegal whatever it is.”
“Well there’s been a little trouble so far,” I admitted. “There was the one incident where a strange dragon and his wife tried to gate crash the boat late at night without a ticket. He tried to pull his weight with Noah. He had a big snake tattooed on his chest, and the dragon mentioned he was a friend of someone called Lucifer. Noah wasn’t impressed at all. Anyway, suddenly there was a crash of thunder and a bolt of lightning in the night and it struck that dragon so hard it wiped him and his wife out completely! Man, you should have seen that dragon fry! He definitely wasn’t supposed to be catching that boat!
Then one fat little pig mysteriously disappeared one dark night and there was some agonized squealing coming from the hold of the ship. A fat tiger came lurching up the companionway looking very guilty, licking his lips with a smirk on his face. The irate porker parents insisted on a new law to be strictly adhered to by all the animals. Everyone had to agree to become strictly vegetarian for the duration of the voyage. No exceptions allowed! Agree or walk the plank! Otherwise, there were just minor irritations: The two bunnies were multiplying so fast that they exceeded their allotted cabin space! And the female lion insisted on travelling first class. What a snob! A prize cock was pecked to death by his hen because they couldn’t get a cabin with a porthole, and the hyenas kept everyone awake at night with their laughing, but on the whole, the animals were all pretty cool with one another.
A lady in the pub in Alice told me that Noah comes into town once a week for food and provisions. The strange thing is he refuses to use bank cards. He says he prefers the old barter system and he refuses point blank to open any accounts.
So he comes into town on a donkey, with a few chickens on the saddle, dragging a cow behind him tied on a rope. Then he barters the cow, or a couple of chickens for some building materials, a few bags of horse feed, some sacks of mealie meal and some coffee, and off he goes. The lady in the pub told me Noah sounded very proud of himself, and one day he boasted, “I got no debts, no hire purchase, no mortgage bond, no medical aid, no pension scheme. God told me to live a life that is debt free. Owe no man nothing except a debt of love! That’s my motto!”
Jeff cut indignantly into the story. “That’s outrageous! Our whole culture is built on debt! The more money you owe, the easier it is to get a bank loan. I bet you this Noah couldn’t get a bank loan even if he wanted one!”
“Well,” I continued, “Apparently the local Toyota agent felt sorry for Noah. He offered Noah an excellent deal on a brand, spanking new 4X4 Turbo Diesel bakkie for only R3999 payable over 72 months. The agent was even prepared to take two cows a month, working on the barter system, to help Noah, you understand? But Noah just smiled and shook his head. He patted the old donkey he was riding and replied, “What was good enough for Jesus is good enough for me.” He rode out of the Toyota showroom on his donkey towing a highly pregnant cow on a rope and she insisted on leaving a wet and steaming brown calling card on the spotless showroom floor. And he’s still riding the same 7 year old donkey till this very day!
The animals in the ark seem to be getting along very well on the whole. Just the minor irritation when the tortoises were asked to board the boat for the third time because they were walking too slowly and holding the trip up. Oh yes! Then there was a bomb scare while the animals were boarding the boat! Yeah, everyone had to evacuate in a hurry while they searched all the cabins. Then it turned out that one of the doves had a GPS tracker in his pocket. The dove claimed that this gizmo could help him locate his position anywhere on the planet when they got too far out in the ocean to see any land.
They say up in Alice that this Noah is a great musician too, but all he ever plays is gospel music. Refuses to play Beatles or Rolling Stones or Sokkie Sokkie music. They think he’s a Jesus Freak. Every Sunday, all work stops on the mountain and he’s got all the animals holding a church service together. Noah himself plays a mean electric guitar through a Marshall amp under the trees. He says God lives within the praises of His people. Can you believe that for a tale! Noah’s got his sons on trumpet and sax and all their wives on harmony vocals. Even the animals join in, all singing and dancing and praising the Lord. All the songs seem to be about Jesus. Man, does that mountain rock on a Sunday! The lady in the pub confided in me, “Even I felt like I was floating up towards heaven, it sounded so cool!”
Jeff frowned at the lunch table and gave a resounding burp. “That sounds like sacrilege to me! You’re not supposed to enjoy going to church. It’s a serious thing! You are supposed to concentrate on your sins and sit still and stay awake in the sermon and look at your watch so the pastor gets the message that he’s taking too long. How can you dance in church? It shouldn’t be allowed!”
I stroked my chin thoughtfully; “Well, you hear these stories about the spirit filled churches, where the people go crazy with love for Jesus. They just can’t stop talking about how the Holy Spirit changed their lives. So maybe there is something in it after all.”
Jeff shook his head sadly, “Sometimes I wonder about these crazy Christians myself. They all have that same aura of calmness about them as if they know something I don’t know or they know someone that I haven’t yet met. And many of them seem to be fanatics, just like Noah.”
Which brought us back to the place where we had started the discussion- about fanatics- an hour before.
It made us wonder what God might think about it all. Especially at Christmas time with the tree and the presents and all. And there was something honest about Noah that I really admired very much! Something noble that is hard to find these days. And when I return to the mountains next time, I think I’ll go and look Noah up. I still have a question or two for him that bothers me.
Suddenly, a rainbow came shining over our little town stretching from side to side in its glorious spectrum of colours. One of my friends said, “It makes you think, doesn’t it? Well, at least we know there will never be another flood!”