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The GNU and the GURU Go Behind the Beyond: A Cautionary Tale
by Peggy Clifford

Some books become one of your favorite books. Not only is the story itself wonderful, but there is an interesting story about how you came about owning the book.

About a week ago, I was sitting in the library finishing some homework before it was due in about 20 minutes. I got done and starting looking at the for sale books in the library. Our library is remodeling, and is selling old books that are no longer checked out very often. I looked in a box hidden under a table and found this book. Seeing the word 'GNU' in the title, my first thought was that is was a computer book. By atlas, the old tattered cover told me otherwise.

I paid the 50 cents for the book and went to class, pondering what the book was about. I flipped through and saw some pictures of what I guessed was a gnu and a guru. Later, at home, I read the book and instantly fell in love with it.

The story starts out with the practical gnu and the not so modest guru meeting. Neither knows what the other is. The gnu especially is not happy that the guru is only smart because some self-appointed smart man said he was smart. The gnu also decides that just because the guru wears guru clothes, doesn't mean he is smart.

At this point I'm beginning to see some correlation between the book and computers, somewhat. Just because one dresses like a 'geek' doesn't mean that one knows anything about computers, and vice versa. Also, who is to say who is smart or knowledgeable about a topic, such as programming. Is not the amount of knowledge you have just a comparison to others?

The gnu is quite impressed by the guru's bicycle, having never seen one before. The gnu decides the guru must be quite smart because he can ride this quite amazing machine. They quickly meet a mouse. After a long discussion about this and that, the mouse invites the two to go the Behind-the-Beyond. The gnu is leery of the mouse and the Behind-the-Beyond. Thu guru wants to go in the sense of adventure and learning new things. The guru wins and they set off.

The gnu is not happy with the way to the Behind-the-Beyond, which is through a pink cloud which is resting on the road. Clouds are not pink and do not sit on roads. Yet again, the guru wins and they continue.

The Behind-the-Beyond is quite a strange place. Everything is perfect here. The sky is painted each morning a perfect sky color. There are no clouds, they have been harnessed to bring rain at even intervals. The flowers are all perfect geometric shapes and the trees also. Roads are made out of glass so they are always clean and have no holes in them. Needless to say, bicycles are not allowed for fear of breaking the glass.

The two are soon taken prisoners by the Ugga-Wuggas. They are brought to the castle, once again built in perfect geometric shapes. Everything about the building is symmetric. The flag is made out of glass so it always appears perfect. They are put in a small cell. When asked why they are being taken prisoner, the Ugga-Wuggas reply that they must have prisoners in their prison cells. It would be very impractical to have prison cells without prisoners. The mouse is their go between to the real world to get prisoners. The Ugga-Wuggas, though, are not happy that the two are not a 'pair'. Nonetheless, a filled cell is better than an empty one.

The gnu and the guru decide to escape from cell. They is nothing in the cell to help them though. There is no furniture (furniture collects dust and becomes broken, very impractical). The only 'furniture' they have is painted on the walls. They finally decided to climb down the guru's robe. His robe is what lets everyone know he is a guru and therefore doesn't want to climb down it. He is quite bothered by this, but not quite as much as having to live in the prison cell. During the planning, dinner is brought. A bowl of crystal clear water, with perfect cubes of bread in it. They discover that the bars on the window are only painted glass and decided to break them. The guru sings a song to distract the guards from the noise while the gnu breaks the 'bars':

"I wish I were back at home
Where only the gnus roam
where the fish are fat and sleek
and Sunday lasts all week,
I wish I were back at home."

They soon are out and have to figure out how to leave. The road they had come in on, has been rolled up for the night for some unknown reason. They begin to wander around looking for the pink cloud they came in through. They find many other clouds, all of which are not typical clouds. One is made of stone, another has a merry-go-round in it. The horses, though, are real and throw their riders off. They do eventually find the right cloud. The cloud contains a gate, which has a gatekeeper. On the way through, with the mouse, is posed no problem. The gatekeeper's assistant is watching the gate. They do convince him that they are friends, not foes, and should be let through (he is quite gullible, because everyone follows the rules in the Behind-the-Beyond and don't lie). The only problem is that assistants can't open the gate. Only gatekeepers can. The gnu and the guru threaten to kill the assistant and he then decides to open the gate.

The two make it back to the real world and soon take a nap. When they wake up, the guru begins to tell the gnu about this dream he had of the Behind-the-Beyond. The gnu tells him it was real, but the guru asks him if he is sure.

This story presented a lot of ideas that quite interesting to think about. Things like, who is to say someone is the smartest, or what makes us who we are? This book is much more than the children's story it appears.

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