The First Rhubarb

Note: This little Fable was created as a Christmas gift, by request, for friends in an Internet debate forum.

The idea for the “First Rhubarb” arose from an interminably long and punny debate about the unpalatableness of a certain vegetable — a vegetable whose color is reminiscent of the Pink Triangle the Nazis forced homosexuals to wear in the concentration camps, and which homosexuals today have co-opted for themselves as a badge of pride.

I think it makes a rather nice story about God’s love and acceptance of all parts of His creation.

The First Rhubarb lifted its leaves and spread them to the heavens, its photoreceptors drinking in the sunshine, reveling in the suffusing warmth and the quickening flow of moisture in its veins.

“What am I?” it wondered. “Whatever I am, it feels marvelous and I surely like it, but… what am I?”

“You are Rhubarb,” came a deep voice from somewhere, “the first of your kind, and I have made you.”

Surprised, puzzled, and somewhat afraid (the voice was verrrry deep!), Rhubarb scanned its photoreceptors, searching for the locus of the voice, but to no avail. So it triggered its chemical communication system, sending streams of hormones and enzymes out through its roots, complex molecules coursing into the earth, and there — though it was very hard for it to perceive — Rhubarb sensed a Presence.

Chemically speaking, it addressed the Presence.

“Are you God?” asked Rhubarb. “If so, why have you made me? What is my purpose?”

“I am God,” the Presence replied immediately, “and your purpose is to grow and flourish and inhabit the Earth in peace.”

“Will I like that purpose?”

“Some of the time.”

“Why only ‘some’ of the time?”

“Because while some will admire and cherish and praise you, others will despise and revile you, both in private and in public, and a few will even seek to uproot you from all Creation.”

Rhubarb did not like hearing that. After all, it had only just awakened to a bright existence, luxuriated in the beauty of its leaves, reveled in the tall strength of its stalks and the warmth of the sun, and — in all its newborn innocence — it had never imagined a less-than-happy life.

Now, a cloud of concern was casting shadows on its soul.

“If what you say is true,” said Rhubarb, somewhat testily, “then I think I would rather be Rose. I mean, being Rhubarb sounds an unhappy thing to be.”

“I have enough Roses,” said God. “I wanted Rhubarb, so I made Rhubarb. You’re stuck with it.”

Now Rhubarb was small, but it was stubborn, and it did not like God’s answer. So it puffed up a bit and said, “Then I shall change myself, if you won’t help me! I shall become Cabbage…or maybe Spinach, or Broccoli, or…”

But God interrupted, saying, “No! You shall be what you shall be, and that which you shall be is what I have made you. It is not a choice.”

“I resist you!” cried Rhubarb, stiffening its stalks and making its leaves quite rigid. “I have rights intrinsic to me, and I insist upon exercising them!”

“Exercise your rights as you wish,” came God’s unruffled response. “You cannot exercise yourself into something which you are not and never can be.”

“Wrong!” cried Rhubarb in a raging enzymatic voice. “If I cannot be something loved and appreciated by all, then I shall be something sharp and thorny and tough and leathery! I shall be Artichoke!”

And so saying, Rhubarb concentrated upon changing its shape and chemical structure and root system. It tried and struggled and it struggled and tried, calling upon all the mighty energies of the sun and the earth. But at the end, completely exhausted, it remained only what it had been at the start: Rhubarb.

Physically spent, its leaves slumped in resignation and its stalks feeling weak and rubbery, Rhubarb sighed sadly.

“Is this, then, to be my only existence?” it muttered in quiet despair. “Must I endure without hope?”

Of course God heard Rhubarb’s mutter, because God hears everything, even when it is not voiced (although He doesn’t always answer). And so, because one of God’s side-line businesses is Hope, he sent a soft, whispering, chemical signal to Rhubarb, a coruscation of complex molecules that burst from the surrounding soil and tingled up through Rhubarb’s roots and raced along its stalks and spread throughout its leafy crown.

“Rhubarb,” said God, “you have touched Me with your heart and your bravery and your bold willingness to confront even Me, your Maker. Therefore, I shall give you a sign…”

And as God spoke, Rhubarb felt himself changing within. Mystery and magic suddenly surrounded him. His stalks tickled strangely, the juices flowed fast in his veins, and — for the first time ever in any member of the plant kingdom — Rhubarb blushed!

It made Rhubarb feel all warm and glowy. And it felt very, very good indeed!

Rhubarb sensed it had changed, but it wasn’t quite sure how or why. It didn’t look much different, but it knew that something subtle, something wondrous, had happened to it.

“What have you done to me, God?” asked Rhubarb, wonderingly.

“Look,” said God, with a smile in His voice. “See the pink of your stalks? That is a sign that you are special to Me, even though some others might not think so. See how the color becomes ruby-red, verging to crimson? That is the proof that your existence is part of all Creation, and that the Essence of Life — the Essence of Me — is as much a part of you as you are a part of Me.”

And upon hearing that, Rhubarb stood tall and spread its leaves and drank anew — with great joy and ineffable grace — from the warmth of the sun and the nutrients of the soil and the moisture of the earth.

Soon, there were little Rhubarbs everywhere. And then more, and still more and more!

Naturally, as God predicted, some people found them good, and cherished them. And yes, some others reviled and despised them and sought to uproot them from Creation. But through it all, Rhubarb survived, and grew, and prospered.

And that is why… to this very day… Rhubarb wears its pink with pride!


Copyright Buzz Kelly, 12/16/95. All rights reserved, but free distribution by anyone to any medium is permitted as long as author’s credit is clearly given and no publication profit is involved.