2.25.2010

Who Can Teach Wisdom.

I've gathered research for a paper I'm about to start on literature as a sort of teaching tool for stubborn pupils. I have probably 8 years to go before I figure out how to phrase it all. The following is just an informal effort to figure out a little bit about how we react to literature. It's an old Sufi "teaching story." I'm going to give you the set-up, but withhold the end until tomorrow. If you read this stuff before then, please leave a comment anticipating the ending. (...and don't go googling it. I'm not giving out glitter-stickers here.)

The story:
As three travelers crossed the mountains of the Himalaya, they discussed the importance of putting into practice everything they had learned on a spiritual plane. They we so engrossed in their conversation that it was only late at night that they realized that all they had with them was a piece of bread.

They decided not to discuss who deserved to eat it; since they were pious men, they left the decision in the hands of the gods. They prayed that, during the night, a superior spirit should indicate who should receive the food.

The following morning, the three men rose together at sunrise.

"This is my dream," said the first traveler. "I was taken to places I had never visited before, and enjoyed the sort of peace and harmony I have sought in vain during my entire life on earth. In the midst of this paradise, a wise man with a long beard said to me: "you are my chosen one, you never sought pleasure, always renounced all things. And, in order to prove my allegiance to you, I should like you to try a piece of bread."

"That's very strange," said the second traveler. "For in my dream, I saw my past of sanctity and my future as a master. As I gazed at that which is to come, I found a man of great wisdom, saying: "You are in greater need of food than your friends, for you shall have to lead many people, and will require strength and energy."

Then the third traveler said:

"In my dream I saw nothing, went nowhere, and found no wise men. However, at a certain hour during the night, I suddenly woke up. And I ate the bread."
So... how will it end? How should it end?

2 comments:

Insignificant Wrangler said...

Hmmm. There's a part of me that says the other two should kill and eat the third--but I have been watching a lot of Dexter lately. The demand for justice is strong in those tales.

A more fitting response might be for the first two to realize that the "superior spirit" is actually not a transcendental matter, but a human one. So (as wrong as this will likely be), I'll say that the wisdom of the story is to learn to make decisions. Act, or be acted upon. Take responsibility. ETC.

Casey said...

Interesting...