A teenager went to his dad one day and said, “Dad, can you show me how to drive The Car?”
Caught off guard by this, the dad felt a bit embarrassed to realize they’d never had this conversation. But he sat up straight, turned to the boy and said, “Son, I’d be delighted to tell you all about The Car. What would you most like to know?”
The boy said, “Well, mostly, I'd really like to learn how to drive The Car.”
“Of course, of course. Son, I’m so glad that you’ve come to this day. I can tell you all about driving The Car. I learned when I was your age from our old Youth Mechanic, and now it’s really an honor to get to teach you.”
The boy began to feel hope and excitement, thinking, This is it, I’ll be driving soon!
The dad stood up, went to the coffee table, and picked up his leather-bound, monogrammed Driver’s Manual with the gold-foil pages. “It’s Sunday anyway, son. Let’s go to the Garage!”
The boy started to protest, “But I don’t want to go to the garage, dad. I want to drive The Car.”
The dad grinned, “The best way to learn about The Car is to be in the Garage, son!” He grew more comfortable as he remembered this simple fact. He liked feeling like he was able to give his son some right answers.
Grudgingly, the boy agreed. “But dad, after the garage, do you promise you will show me how to drive The Car?”
The dad looked blank again. “Oh, sure, son. Of course. Now let’s go hear the Mechanic!”
They left the house together, the son full of hope, the dad with his Manual.
Then they walked all fifteen blocks to the Garage, through empty streets!
In the empty parking lot, they said hello to friends who were also walking to the Garage, holding their Manuals. One man called out, “Looks like Junior’s ready to grow up and find The Car! Good for you, Junior! Glad you’re finally smart enough to bring yourself in for service! Now, don’t forget to make your dad get you a Manual, and make sure you read it every day!”
But Junior felt confused. He whispered to his dad, “What does coming in for service and reading the manual have to do with actually driving…”
“Shush! We’re walking into the Garage!” his dad said.
Silently, they found their seats while the Garage Band was starting up. For a while, everyone sang some great songs about how much they all liked to drive. Then it was time for the Mechanic to speak. It was a warm, encouraging message, about how some people’s cars are different colors and that no color car was better than another. “The important thing,” the Mechanic said, “Is that you’re all trying as hard as you can to be courteous drivers!”
“But nobody drove here this morning,” thought Junior. Still, everyone else was nodding and calling out “That’s right!” so he figured he’d leave it alone. But it didn’t help him feel any less confused.
Just then, Junior looked behind him and saw, way in the back row, a man pulling something shiny out of his pocket. But no one else seemed to see it. It was on a string, and the man swung it around his hand until it made a clinking noise against his watch. But no one else seemed to hear it. (The Mechanic was now talking about minimum legal liability in the state of Texas.)
The man with the shiny thing turned to go, just as the service was ending. Junior had a strange feeling as if he wanted to follow.
Just then his dad said, “Wasn’t that great?”
Junior just looked at his dad, more confused than ever. “Dad”, he said, “Doesn’t anyone here ever actually drive The Car?”
“What are you talking about? We just DID!” Exclaimed the dad,” but inside, he was thinking, Maybe he missed it. Well, it takes time before people can see the truth about The Car. I remember it sure took me a while. Man, was I confused for a while, too!
Then Junior’s dad said, “Hey. Come with me to Car School. There’s a guest speaker today who’s going to be talking about two-way left-turn channelization lanes, which are everywhere, when you start to notice them! Or maybe you’d want to go in room 425, where they’ve been doing a series on the great Automakers of History, who pioneered what we believe about The Car. Does that sound good?”
Junior wasn’t sure. “I really just want to know one thing, dad.”
“Okay. What is that?”
Junior felt unimportant as well as mute, but repeated himself. “I’d like to learn how to drive The Car!”
His dad looked at him like he’d just asked for the moon or a pink pterodactyl. After a moment, he said, “Wait here, son. Let me go talk to the Mechanic.”
As his dad made his way through the greeting line, Junior wandered over to a bulletin board and began reading it, to pass the time. There was one article about giving money to build a new, larger Garage with more seating. There were notices of the Car School classes being offered, and a news clipping about last summer when the Mechanic went on a Mission to Africa to share the good news about The Car with people there, “to rescue them from life in the slow lane”!
An old lady saw Junior and walked up to him. “Isn’t it wonderful?” she said, “You know those people had never even heard about The Car over there. I think it’s so exciting!”
Junior was too single minded to be bothered by anything. He decided to ask her what he really wanted to know.
“Excuse me, ma’am. Did you drive here this morning?”
The old lady looked surprised and a bit offended. Then she smiled and laughed at him in a condescending way and said, “Of course I did, young man. I drive all the time. You do know The Car is inside your heart, don’t you?” Then she looked around. “Oh, excuse me, I see my good friend. Goodbye.”
Junior was stunned. And still confused. But he was starting to suspect that nobody in this place was going to be able to help him actually learn to drive The Car.
Just then Junior’s dad found him again. “Junior, good news. I talked to the Mechanic about what you said. It’s kind of advanced, and I wasn’t sure you were ready for this yet, but the Mechanic said you can come to a special class he’s teaching today about Driving The Car.”
Finally, the words he’d been longing to hear! Someone was going to talk about How to actually Drive The Car! Junior was surprised at that moment to feel his own hope and excitement mixed with a guarded sense of skepticism. Maybe the Mechanic was saving the “good stuff” for the inner circle – which would explain why he didn’t talk about it during his lecture – but he couldn’t escape the feeling there was something a little too slick about the Mechanic. Like maybe no one really understood how The Car even worked, and he was just coming up with fancy ways to tell them why it was really alright.
Junior pushed these skeptical thoughts aside, feeling guilty for doubting his dad and the important Mechanic. He reached again for the hope deep inside him, and he clung to it.
In Car School, everyone sat in rows of chairs while the Mechanic began to lecture again. He started talking about all the great daredevils of history who made it their ambition and goal to really, truly Drive The Car! He talked about how hard they had to work for it, and how much they had to want it, and how they spent their lives to uncover the secret of Driving The Car… the secret, he said, that they had now left for the rest of us to learn from.
Again, Junior dared to hope. His mouth went a little dry.
Just then, a glint of something caught Junior’s eye. He saw the man with the shiny thing again. The man was holding the shiny thing in his fingers, fiddling with it like a pencil, though it was smaller than a pencil. As it moved, it sent small flashes of light across the room… but no one else seemed to notice.
“Do you want to drive The Car?” The Mechanic had moved from the podium and was looking into the rows of chairs, right at Junior.
Junior couldn’t answer. He nodded, aware that part of him was afraid to find out what the Mechanic was about to tell them. Junior was afraid to find out one more thing that just wouldn’t seem right, or sound like it worked.
The Mechanic’s voice was building with passion and excitement. “The main thing you all need to know today, if you want to truly Drive The Car, is you need to understand that The Car is inside you! And The Car has also been placed inside the most precious gift ever given to human beings who want to Drive! That’s right! The Car Itself, has placed Itself, inside the Manual!!!”
Junior blinked, and looked around. Everyone else seemed excited. He looked for the man with the shiny thing and saw him, holding a fist tightly closed in his lap. Looking calm. Oddly, showing no expression whatsoever.
The Mechanic kept on. “That’s right, I’m telling you – The Car is IN The Manual! So you might say that Reading The Manual is a lot like Driving the Car!”
The Right-On’s and Oh Yeah’s from the audience were getting louder. Again Junior glanced at the other man in the room who wasn’t responding at all.
The Mechanic went on. “As a matter of fact, I have it by Divine Revelation that I can tell you this Great Mystery, that all the Mystic Car Drivers of history have used to learn how to Drive The Car in their own private lives… and here is the Great Secret!”
Junior was totally bracing himself.
“The secret,” said the Mechanic, “To Driving the Car.” (Then he paused for dramatic effect.) “Is to Read the Manual! That’s Right! Reading the Manual is the secret to Driving The Car!!!”
Junior was stunned. A part of him was not really shocked, but a part of him was crushed. He noticed one man in the room actually crying. Everyone else seemed to be very emotional about this – except for the man at the end of the row, by the door. Junior noticed he had just slipped out.
Everyone was standing up now, thanking and congratulating the Mechanic on a great lesson with such a positive, helpful, encouraging message in it. Junior’s dad looked at him and asked, “Well?”
Junior just said, “I’ve gotta go to the bathroom dad.”
“Are you alright, son? I know it’s a lot to take in. Would you like to go read my manual outside by yourself?”
“No, dad. I just need some air.” Then he left. Quickly.
The dad watched his boy leave, while a friend came and put his hand on his shoulder. “I guess it doesn’t happen all at once for some people, does it?” Junior’s dad said.
Outside in the fresh air, Junior’s eyes were adjusting to the light as he looked out toward the empty parking lot. Then he saw it again! The glint! The man with the shiny thing was walking alone through the lot.
Junior started running after the man – for no real reason other than one last, wild hope.
He caught up. “Excuse me,” said Junior, panting. And the man turned around.
“I wanted to ask you – I mean, I was wondering – that is…” and the whole thing burst out of him. “I came here because I asked my dad to show me how to drive The Car this morning and all he’s done is talk about his Manual and listen to this Mechanic and I saw you holding something I’ve never seen before and you just look different so I had to come out here and just ask…”
“Ask me what?” said the man.
Junior looked around himself. There was no one and nothing around them for a hundred of yards. He built up his courage again.
“Um… do you know how to drive The Car?”
The man smiled at Junior with his whole wrinkled face, with eyes that shone like they'd been patiently waiting for someone to ask that question for too many years.
“Why yes, I do.” Then he paused. “Is that all you wanted to ask me?”
Junior thought a moment and said, “No. I mean… can you – will you – show me how to drive The Car too?” And hope began to pound in his chest once again.
The man pulled the shiny thing out of his pocket again. It glinted in the light, and it lit up Junior’s eyes in return. The man said, “Would you like one of these?” And he reached in his pocket again, and pulled out another shiny thing! Junior reached for the small object, took it in his hand, and just as he was about to ask what do I do with it he saw… something!
All of a sudden, where it hadn’t been before, something large and beautiful just appeared right next to where they both were standing.
“What is THAT???!!!” shouted Junior.
“Oh, so you see it now? That’s fantastic!” The man was laughing out loud and shouting with joy! (The people back near the garage didn’t seem to notice – but suddenly, Junior had forgotten to notice them, too.)
Junior was practically crying. I’ve never actually seen… it’s so beautiful… is it really true that we can… oh, I just almost can’t even believe that we could…”
“Would you like to go for a ride?”
Junior’s jaw dropped. He managed to say, “YES!”
So the man said, “Hop in!”
And Junior said, “Hop? How? Where? You mean we can go IN The Car?”
The man smiled again, crying a little himself now.
“I’ll show you.”
The man put the shiny thing into the side of the large thing. He worked it, and something opened. He removed it, closed the thing, and let Junior try.
It took Junior a few tries to feel like a natural. Just turning the shiny thing, and opening the other thing. "That's called a 'handle'," the man told him.
The man was patient. He didn't fuss. He didn't use a lot of words. Junior was exploring The Car. And the rest of the world just faded away.
The rest of the day was like that. Actually, the rest of Junior's life.
Junior never did manage to explain to his dad why he wasn't interested in the Garage anymore. He did read the manual every once in a while, but it was totally different. They couldn't talk about it. After a while, his dad stopped asking.
But Junior continued to go spend time with the man and his new group of friends. They did a lot of driving together. Somehow, oddly, no one ever noticed them.
Over time, the friends learned all sorts of things together about How to Drive The Car. Wonderful Things. Amazing Things. Things I could tell you about, if there were only words for such things, in our language. Or if it were possible to actually communicate about them in a book. But I can tell you this much:
They explored The Car. They practiced Driving. And they Knew. Over time, more and more, they found they deeply Knew.
So that's my story! May you all have eyes to see and a heart to find some people who not only say that they Know, but who can actually Show. How. To Know.
Not ideas, or books, or feelings, or thinkings, or fancy explanations of things that just don't ever seem to work out.
But actually, simply, purely...