The Parable of the Twins

In a mother’s womb were two babies.  As theweeks passed, and the twins developed, their awareness grew and they laughed for joy, “Isn’t it great that we were conceived? Isn’t it great to be alive?”

The first baby asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery?”

The second baby replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery.  Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”

“Nonsense,” said the first. “There is no life after delivery.  What would that life be?”

“I don’t know, but there will be more light than here.  Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths.” 

The doubting baby laughed. “This is absurd!  Walking is impossible.  And eat with our mouths?  Ridiculous.  The umbilical cord supplies nutrition.  Life after delivery is to be excluded.  The umbilical cord is too short.”

The second baby held his ground. “I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here.”

The first baby replied, “No one has ever come back from there.  Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery it is nothing but darkness and anxiety and it takes us nowhere.”

“Well, I don’t know,” said the twin, “but certainly we will see mother and she will take care of us.”

“Mother?” The first baby guffawed. “You believe in mother?  Where is she now?” 

The second baby calmly and patiently tried to explain. “She is all around us.  It is in her that we live. Without her, there would not be this world.”

“Ha. I don’t see her, so it’s only logical that she doesn’t exist.”  

To which the other replied, “Sometimes when you’re in silence you can hear her, you can perceive her.  I believe there is a reality after delivery and we are here to prepare ourselves for that reality when it comes….”

As the weeks stretched into months the twins noticed how much each was changing.

“What do you think all this change means?”asked the first baby.

“It means that our stay in this world is drawing to an end,”said the second.

“But I don’t want to go,”said the first “I want to stay here always.”

“We have no choice,”said the second, “but maybe there is life after birth!”

“But how can it be?”responded the one. “We will shed our life cord, and how is life possible without it? Besides, we have seen evidence that others were here before us and none of them have returned to tell us that there is life after birth.”

And so, the one fell into deep despair saying, “If conception ends with birth, what is the purpose of life in the womb? It is meaningless! Maybe there is no mother at all.”

“But there has to be,”protested the second baby. “How else did we get here? How do we remain alive?”

“Have you ever seen our mother?”said the one. “Maybe she lives in our minds. Maybe we made her up because the idea made us feel good.”

Thus, while one raved and despaired, the other resigned himself to birth. He placed his trust in the mother.

Hours passed into days and days fell into weeks, and it came time. And both knew that their…birth was at hand. And both feared what they did not know.

And as the one was the first to be conceived, so he was the first to be born. The other followed after. And they cried as they were born out into the light. They coughed up fluid, and they gasped the dry air; and when they were sure that they had been born, they opened up their eyes and they found themselves cradled in the warm love of the mother. They lay open-mouthed, awestruck at the beauty of the mother whom they had never seen before.”

Henri J. W. Nouwen