Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Written to certain clients in a group letter a few years ago. I'd forgotten it.

Once upon a time,

A Wise Sufi Teacher decided to create a depiction of the true nature of reality. "I will make it in the form of a parable," he muttered, dipping his goosequill into a small inkpot, "and this way anyone can understand -- particularily my beloved brethren who are simple of soul and given to literal-mindedness in ways that distract them from their true natures, the ignorance of which causes them so much consternation."

Scribbling with an ineffable energy conducting his instrument across the creamy vellum in skids of alacrity, he reasoned: "Let me see. I have so far counted eleven-thousand (11,000) different aspects which are absolutely necessary to the creation and comprehension of one's soul and its place in the universe. I shall metaphorize each of these principles as beturbaned blind men -- turbans, because this is a country where men wear turbans. Few will be able to relate to these metaphorized principles unless they are wearing turbans.

"And I will make them blind," chattered his thoughts independently, like so many tweeting birds, as his pen danced across the parchment as though guided by some joyful unseen hand. "This metaphorical blindness will serve two purposes: One, it is my experience in the world that men -- particularily beturbaned men -- are blind to the fact that they are each indeed composed of eleven-thousand (11,000) aspects necessary to the creation and comprehension of the soul and its place in the universe. Two, I may as well, because I am the only one who sees these eleven-thousand (11,000) sina qua non principles and have become somewhat bitter about that. I'll be vindicated by each reader whose eyes my masterful parable may open, if even a little."

And so, seven times seven years later, the wise Sufi teacher completed his masterful parable of eleven-thousand (11,000) blind men and the universe. He had skillfully detailed each metaphorized principle and enumerated its characteristics in easy-to-understand terms of blindness, jugs, pots and pans, utensils, scimitars, jewelry, sandals, candles, genii, daggers, marriages, scrolls and sheepskin and papyrii, trade, war, lyres, flutes, frankincense, myrhh, weather, underclothing, trees, ponds and streams, grommets, aglets, monocles, binoculars, turbans of course and many other items identifiable by the simplest of mankind; each item was correlated to each other item in an open-ended tapestry of metaphorical reality telling of a potentially infinite trellis of behavior. It was an astonishing work. He took it to his editor at the Sufi Sunday Chronicle-Dispatch.

"You're late for deadline," said the Editor, chewing on the lit stub of a bidi. "What have you got?"

"A Parable," said the Wise Sufi Teacher, minding to keep his speech simple.


"ELEVEN THOUSAND BLIND MEN AND THE UNIVERSE," the Wise Sufi Teacher replied, taking care to tamp down his swelling pride.

"I like the 'blind men' part," said the Editor. What's it about?"

"The secrets of the soul and its place in the universe," said the Wise Sufi Teacher, trying not to reveal a potentially falling crest.

"I'll give you two denarii for it," said the Editor.

"Thank you," replied the Wise Sufi Teacher.

As he replaced his turban and began to leave through the beaded curtain exit, the Editor, eyes speeding across the thick squeeb, halted him.

"Just a sec. We gotta make a few changes."

"Oh?" said the Wise Sufi Teacher, slightly dreading the unexpected surprise.

"First off, the copy needs cut for column space. Second, that's too many blind men. Third, people don't don't care about universes. Elephants. They like elephants."

"Okay," said the Wise Sufi Teacher. Two denarii was two denarii. He turned to leave.

"What if we make these elephants paint pictures of flowers, like with a brush in their trunks?"

But the Wise Sufi Teacher had left, clutching his coins and daydreaming about an extra bowl of boiled lentils.