There once was a group of people known as the Polongos. They were a small tribe that was now scattered among a large nation. The Polongos had a proud heritage centered around their love of a tropical fruit called papaya. They would eat papaya for breakfast, They would eat papaya for lunch. They would eat papaya for dinner. They would bathe in papaya juice. When a baby was born they would hand out papayas to everyone they knew in celebration. They were even known to use a papaya as a pillow, noting its unique shape for cradling the head.
Though they loved papaya, they loved a song about papaya even more. They sang the song at birthdays, they sang the song as a lullaby, they sang the song at weddings and they even sang the song at funerals.
Sadly, the Polongos struggled to find acceptance in the nation. People were largely skeptical of eating papaya as anything more than a small part of a fruit salad. And worse yet, they teased the Polongos for their song. Its rhythm was strange and its melodies were foreign, and no one could figure out why anyone would sing a song about papaya, particularly at a funeral.
Then one day a fabulous musician emerged out of nowhere. He wasn’t Polongo, but he knew their song. Where ever he went, he would seek out the Polongo, and he would play his music. Every time, the Polongo would react in exactly the same way.
“Do you hear that?” they would say. “He’s singing our song. He plays it so beautifully and with such emotion. Have you heard it yet? Oh, you must come, he’s singing our song. He’s singing our song!”
The musicians fame started to rise. Even people who weren’t Polongo started to notice. The Polongo did whatever they could to encourage people to listen. “Do you hear that?” they would say. “He’s singing our song!”
The people didn’t just listen, they enjoyed it too. They started to sing along. They began to teach other people how to sing the song. And it didn’t just stop with the song. They started eating papaya. Part of it was curiosity, but another part was the song. The song was teaching them so many great things about papaya and the beauty of the song was convincing them it was all true.
The Polongos were ecstatic. Everywhere they went people were eating papaya and playing their music. “Do you hear that?” they would say. “They’re singing our song!”
The musician wasn’t just popular anymore, he was famous. People would come from miles away to hear him sing his music. People started to dress like him. People started to name their children after him. People would pay large sums of money to attend his concerts. And always in the front row would be the Polongos screaming “He’s singing our song!”
Things weren’t just going well for the musician and the papaya. Things were starting to go really well for the Polongos as well. People sought them out. They wanted to be friends with the Polongo. They wanted to be seen with the Polongo. They became interested in their culture. They became interested in their language. They became interested in their clothes. People didn’t just name their babies after the musician, they started to name their babies after the Polongo too.
The Polongo loved all of the attention but most of all they loved the musician. “Do you hear that?” they would say. “He’s singing our song!”
When it came to singing about papaya, the musician was excellent. But sadly the musician’s virtue did not extend past his ability to sing. The musician was a liar and a thief. To a certain extent, he couldn’t help himself. He had always been a liar and he had always been a thief. And even though the nation loved him he continued to be who he had always been. He would lie when he had no reason to lie. His fame had brought him great riches, and though he had no reason to steal, he would continue to steal. As it turns out, being rich and famous doesn’t make anyone suddenly good.
Stories started to leak out about the musician. People started to complain about the musician. Always in response, the Polongo were steadfast. “Do you hear that?” they would say. “He’s singing our song!”
Eventually, the musician made a lot of people angry. “This has to stop!” they would exclaim but the Polongo wouldn’t budge. “We can’t believe it. He’s singing our song. We WON’T believe it. He’s singing our song.”
The evidence started to mount. The police got involved. “You never really liked papaya” the Polongo would charge. “You don’t love music” the Polongo accused. “If it’s true, people won’t like our song” some Polongo quietly despaired. “I won’t listen” they would say. “He’s singing our song. He’s singing our song!”
Justice eventually prevailed and the musician was jailed. People felt bad for continuing to sing the song. It dropped out of favor and papaya did too. But anger toward the musician was soon directed at the Polongo who wouldn’t relent. “It must be deceit and treachery that the Polongo truly admire” the people came to believe.
But the Polongo are no different than any of us, and our plight is the same. We’ll go along with anyone who’s singing our song.
“The Parable of the Papaya Song” was originally part of Episode 67.