Thursday, 15 July 2010

Fool me - You can't get fooled again

I think, but I cannot be certain - not in the sense “I can't be certain I think” of course – that the following story, parable, what-you-will, re-rendered here by my good self, derives from an account of the teachings of the Great Maggid; perhaps I read it in Martin Buber's “Tales of the Hasidim”? It was a long time ago, so I forget what I remember; if so, apologies for the infelicities of my memory banks. I hope I've recaptured its essence here, not withstanding idiomatic anachronisms & cetera.

They found the elderly Rabbi-Rabbi, Maggid, perched on the edge of his cot, bent double, as he carefully fitted his sandals to his feet. If he had noticed them enter the room, he gave no sign; even when they spoke, it was as if their words, with nowhere to hide in the sparseness of room, unbound rebound.

Perhaps out of deference to old age, they repeated their words; this time, slowly, and with voluble enunciation.

We have come to seek the wisdom of your words, for we have heard that a wandering holy man is said to be passing through the neighbouring village in the next few days and we wish to seek his council.

Not a flicker.

We were, perhaps, wondering, if we could pass by you some questions we've been formulating to see whether they were suitable. Worthy. We wouldn't want to waste his time. And, you see, you're the wisest man we know we know and, well, it is only proper, that we don't waste the opportunity. Time.

Not even an ember.

For example, we were thinking ... why don't we ask him about prayer? You see, we, we wanted to ask him how we could purify our prayer; how we could, perhaps, prevent errant thoughts distracting us while we worship?

If ... (and there was a languid pause before the wizened Rabbi-Rabbi continued).

... if he tells you those very same thoughts you describe as errant, desist and refrain form his prayers, he is wholly a fool and certainly not a holy fool.

And that was that and this is this.

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