Peacock spoke between beakfulls of feathers as he preened his beautiful tail. "There, Sarus, is no such thing as desert. Have you ever seen the desert? What use would a desert be? Nothing could live in the desert. You and I would die. Those who say that they've been there are either liars or crazy, and I would say that based on their behavior, it's some of both."
"But, Peacock, my own mother said that her mother said that her mother said that the desert existed and she had been there. She said the wisest of the wise go there for wisdom and that my great-grandmother was the wisest matriarch our flock has ever had."
"Nonsense, you cranes have never been known for being overly intelligent and you're always believing what someone else has told you. Believe me if you're going to believe anyone. I've reasoned it out, I know what I'm saying - there is no desert. Nobody can prove it - have you ever even seen sand except on the shore? How can there be sand and no water? How can there be life without water?"
"But, Peacock, my husband said he once flew over the desert after a terrible storm, and he says he saw little tracks in the sand and small bushes. My husband isn't crazy!"
"Sarus, Sarus, your husband is either crazy or a liar. If you believe that the wisest of the wise go to the desert, then don't you see he only wanted you to think him wiser than he is? It's very sad really. Animals have been spreading these lies for years, beguiling simpletons such as yourself into following them. Why don't you listen to my reasoning and let go of these childish beliefs. Recognize that there is no desert, that all there is are mountains and valleys, jungles and rivers - the desert simply does not exist."
"But, Peacock, those who have been to the desert speak with such wisdom of such beautiful things. They say the sunsets in the desert are magnificent, that when you look at the night sky, it seems as though you're standing in the middle of the sky. They tell us how we were meant to live, the ways that are best for us."
"Why don't you see that anyone can make up a beautiful imaginary place? Of course, they tell you that the way you should live is beautiful - you wouldn't live it if they said it was ugly. They drag you around, telling you what to do, how to live, where to go by feeding you ridiculous stories of sunsets and starry skies. The desert does not exist - it is a lie promulgated by those who are too simple to look at the facts and those who are too self-serving to tell the truth. I refuse to believe that others have seen something which I have not, that a place where animals live without water exists, that there is any magical place capable of imparting wisdom upon those who enter therein. There is no evidence that it exists, and so I tell you it does not!"
As Sarus the crane fretted over Peacock's words, Elephant, that wise old lady of the jungle, pushed through the trees.
"Good afternoon, Peacock, good afternoon, Sarus. Sarus," she looked concerned, "what is the matter? You look perplexed."
"Oh, Elephant! I am so glad to see you. You are so very wise and so very kind, perhaps you can help me. Peacock here has just been telling me that the desert does not exist. Tell me, Elephant, is it true? Does the desert truly not exist?"
"Rest easy, my friend, the desert does indeed exist. I have been there myself - once when I was a child."
"Oh, but, Elephant! Peacock says that those who claim to have seen the desert are either liars or crazy! Why would you lie to us?"
"Sarus, I am not lying, tell, me what has Peacock said that would make you believe I would lie to you?"
"Don't ask Sarus what I said. She hasn't yet come to terms with the reality that the desert doesn't exist." He began preening again. "I'm sure you won't even be capable of seeing the facts since you seem to think you have been there. Nevertheless, I will tell you why the desert cannot possibly exist. First, you cannot take me to the desert - the stories say that only those who wish to go may go unless they are specially called. Second, the stories all say that there are animals which live in the desert, but those same stories also say that there is no water there. Such contradictions clearly show that the desert does not exist for animals cannot live without water. Third, a place is not capable of imparting anything other than the material needs of those who enter, so there cannot be a place into which one may enter and thereby gain such wisdom as the stories claim. Fourth, and most despicably of all, those who promulgate this disarming and blinding lie all benefit from it - they receive food for nothing, they pretend to do valuable things but are merely playacting, they are lauded as wise though they merely seek to control us. Now then, Elephant, do prove me wrong. Prove to me that the desert does indeed exist and that all my reasoning has been for naught."
"Well, Peacock, you have certainly put a great deal of thought into your arguments. I hope you don't mind my saying so, but I'm afraid your mental energy has been poorly spent, for you have failed to prove the non-existence of the desert, but have instead succeeded in proving your own weak reliance upon yourself rather than accepting our common need for and reliance upon each other. Just the same, I will endeavor to help you see that your proofs have failed and I will give you the option of coming to know the desert's existence."
Peacock mumbled through his preening, "Do tell, Elephant, do tell."
"I will answer your objections beginning with the last. There have been many who pretended knowledge of the desert to lead the animals astray, and still more who falsely believed they had entered therein and so led themselves and others astray. There have been those who sought fortune and fame through false associations with the desert and those who though they had entered the desert left unchanged. That does not prove that the desert does not exist, it proves instead that we animals may do as we please.
"Your third objection concerns the impossibility of receiving wisdom from a place. But I ask you, have you ever looked upon a starry sky, or a beautiful sunset? Have you ever gazed upon the mountains as the clouds swirled around them and not felt your heart pause in wander? Have you not had your heart lifted beyond yourself to a realm you could not truly fathom? If we cannot receive something immaterial from the material, then how is it that your heart is so moved? Did something pass from the mountains to your heart or leap from the sunset into your chest?
"As to your contradictions, have you ever noticed that some plants are more succulent than others, that some contain more juices than others? Have you watched as the lions consume their prey that there is moisture within the animal he is eating? The desert is not bereft of water, it merely has no water flowing upon its surface and the rains are rare. There is no contradiction there - the animals and the plants are small because water is scarce, but there is water and there are plants and animals.
"Finally, if you wish to truly know if the desert exists, then come with me, and I will take you there. The stories say that noone may enter the desert unless he seeks it, but they never say that one cannot be led by another. I offer you the opportunity to witness firsthand the beauty and the magnificence of the desert. If you would like, you may consider this your call."
Peacock flapped his wings. "Bravo, Elephant, bravo. You have succeeded in proving yourself as ridiculous as all the others who believe the desert exists. You have proven your unwillingness to see the very plain evidence which I have provided, and I am sure your weak arguments have beguiled poor Sarus into believing once more in your pitiful desert. Farewell then, I'm going to find more reasonable company." With that, he was gone, leaving Sarus and Elephant behind.
"Elephant, I'm so glad you came when you did! I almost believed what Peacock was saying! Tell me," she looked sheepishly up to Elephant, "tell me, Elephant, can you take my husband and I to see the desert? When he flew over, he did not stay, because I was nesting, and I have always longed to see the desert for myself. Please tell me that you will take me there!"
"Gladly, Sarus, gladly. I will take you and anyone else who wishes to come with me"