Columns - 1997

    Fishing for belief

    by Doug Brook
    Southern Shofar Columnist

    Over the past few years you may have seen small silver fish outlines on the backs of cars and pickup trucks. Like criminal allegations against the White House, more of them are appearing all the time.

    For the sake of this column, I will put my two degrees in English to use and create the term "bumperfish." That way, I can call these small silver fish outlines on the backs of cars "bumperfish" instead of "small silver fish outlines on the backs of cars."

    Imagine how annoying it would be to have to read "small silver fish outlines on the backs of cars" every time I refer to "bumperfish."

    If you haven't seen a bumperfish, perhaps you've noticed the bumper sticker "My boss is a Jewish carpenter." While I find the recognition flattering, I stopped being a carpenter several years ago. If you see anyone with this bumper sticker, tell them to remove it. I can't pay their benefits anymore.

    It has been brought to my attention that this bumper sticker is no more a publicity campaign for the Jewish Carpenters' Guild than the bumperfish is a promotion for seafood. They are both allusions to one of the most famous Jewish carpenters to climb the New York Times' bestseller list: Jesus of Nazareth, Pennsylvania, 18064.

    I know, I know. You're sitting there thinking, "Christ! I don't believe it!"

    Though someone still needs to explain to me why Jesus is symbolized by a fish. Christmas is supposed to be his birthday, but that makes him a Capricorn, not a Pisces. And Jonah's the one who got eaten by a big fish to atone for our sins, not the least of which is the proliferation of Long John Silvers franchises nationwide.

    Anyway, for the three of you that haven't seen a bumperfish, there are actually several varieties. No longer do people need bumper stickers to wage philosophical wars. Now they do it with bumperfish on their cars. Fortunately, they haven't reached the next stage: Using rotted fish on other people's cars. But it's only a matter of time.

    Fans of the Bible's best-selling sequel can show their allegiance either with a generic, empty bumperfish, the more explanatory bumperfish that has Jesus' name in English inside the fish, or the more traditional bumperfish spelling his name in Greek, recalling that Jesus was one of the first fraternity men in recorded history.

    (You knew he was in a fraternity. Think about it. Doesn't turning water into wine sound like a great pledge prank?)

    Now for the reason I love Darwinists. You can get a Darwin bumperfish with legs and feet, that says "Darwin" inside. Frankly, I think these should be outlawed. Not because they're offensive. (If they were offensive, I'd want one.) But because I almost caused a four-car pileup on the interstate the first time I saw one, I was laughing so hard.

    I know it would've been a four-car pileup because the guy behind me caused a three-car pileup, and I'm not one to be outdone.

    But wait. The debate continues. I recently saw a larger Jesus bumperfish with its mouth wide open, swallowing a Darwin bumperfish. All you could see sticking out of the big fish's mouth was the back tail, the "Dar", a little back foot, and the last lingering hopes for pluralism and religious tolerance.

    Hey, just because I disagree with someone doesn't mean I put a bumpersticker on my car with a picture of my Golden Retriever eating his Chihuahua. (Though by the time you read this, that may change.)

    Now for why I love Jews. We have a bumperfish of our own, promoting our own beliefs and priorities. It's a normal fish outline. What does it say in the middle? "Gefilte." Spelled out in Hebraic-looking English letters.

    But this is no surprise. After all, who can be counted on to be reasonable, tolerant, and open-minded about ideological and ethical issues? Did you guess "the Jews?" Bingo!

    So, what is the moral of this story? That vegetarian Darwinists should be offended by the latest in bumperfish technology? No.

    Our new investigative mole set out to gather statistics about whether people with bumperfish actually knew what the bumperfish symbolized.

    She approached one such driver on a busy interstate during rush hour. After they exchanged insurance information, she asked him what percentage of people with bumperfish he thought truly understood what the bumperfish signified. He said "65 percent." She brought me this data. Who am I to argue with him? Especially if he won't press charges against my investigator?

    This means that a large number of people drive around promoting beliefs and ideologies that they don't really understand on the backs of their cars. And it's not even an election year.

    The moral is that you should feel free to believe whatever you want to, at whatever level you want. But you may as well do something. I recently read (in the USA Today weather section) that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in trying times, retain their neutrality.

    To that end, I encourage you to read a new book: Daniel Gordis' "Does the world need the Jews?" Some may find it controversial. If you're one of these people, you need to read it the most. It says interesting things about Judaism today, and its outlook.

    If you or someone you know has ever fished around for how you can comfortably fit this whole Jewish thing in your life, you really need to read this book. No joke.

    Doug Brook is a technical writer in Silicon Valley who is not getting a cut from Gordis' book sales. At least, not yet.

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.