No Comment — December 9, 2007, 8:27 am

Rumi’s ‘The Snake-Catcher’s Tale’

archery-practice

Listen to this, and hear the mystery inside:
A snake-catcher went into the mountains to find a snake.

He wanted a friendly pet, and one that would amaze
audiances, but he was looking for a reptile, something
that has no knowledge of friendship.

It was winter.
In the deep snow he saw a frighteningly huge dead snake.
He was afraid to touch it but he did.
In fact, he dragged the thing into Baghdad,
hoping people would pay to see it

This is how foolish
we’ve become! A human being is a mountain range!
Snakes are facinated by us! Yet we sell ourselves
to look at a dead snake.

We are like beautiful satin
used to patch burlap. “Come see the dragon I killed,
and hear the adventures!” That’s what he announced,
and a large crowd came,

but the dragon was not dead,
just dormant! He set up his show at a crossroads.
The ring of gawking rubes got thicker, everybody
on tiptoe, men and women, noble and peasant, all
packed together unconscious of their differences.
It was like the Resurrection!

He began to unwind the thick ropes and remove
the cloth covering he’d wrapped it so well in.

Some little movement.

The hot Iraqi sun had woken
the terrible life. The people nearest started screaming.
Panic! The dragon tore easily and hungrily
loose, killing many instantly.

The snake-catcher stood there,
frozen. “What have I brought out of the mountains?” The
snake
braced against a post and crushed the man and consumed
him.

The snake is your animal-soul. When you bring it
into the hot air of your wanting-energy, warmed
by that and by the prospect of power and wealth,
it does massive damage.

Leave it in the snow mountains.
Don’t expect to oppose it with quietness
and sweetness and wishing.

The nafs don’t respond to those,
and they can’t be killed. It takes a Moses to deal
with such a beast, to lead it back, and make it lie down
in the snow. But there was no Moses then.
Hundreds of thousands died.

Mawl?n? Jal?l-ad-D?n Muhammad R?m? (Rumi) (?????? ???? ????? ???? ????), Masnavi-ye Manavi (????? ?????), bk iii (ca. 1265)(Coleman Barks transl.)

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Many comedians consider stand-up the purest form of comedy; Doug Stanhope considers it the freest. “Once you do stand-up, it spoils you for everything else,” he says. “You’re the director, performer, and producer.” Unlike most of his peers, however, Stanhope has designed his career around exploring that freedom, which means choosing a life on the road. Perhaps this is why, although he is extremely ambitious, prolific, and one of the best stand-ups performing, so many Americans haven’t heard of him. Many comedians approach the road as a means to an end: a way to develop their skills, start booking bigger venues, and, if they’re lucky, get themselves airlifted to Hollywood. But life isn’t happening on a sit-com set or a sketch show — at least not the life that has interested Stanhope. He isn’t waiting to be invited to the party; indeed, he’s been hosting his own party for years.

Because of the present comedy boom, civilians are starting to hear about Doug Stanhope from other comedians like Ricky Gervais, Sarah Silverman, and Louis CK. But Stanhope has been building a devoted fan base for the past two decades, largely by word of mouth. On tour, he prefers the unencumbered arrival and the quick exit: cheap motels where you can pull the van up to the door of the room and park. He’s especially pleased if there’s an on-site bar, which increases the odds of hearing a good story from the sort of person who tends to drink away the afternoon in the depressed cities where he performs. Stanhope’s America isn’t the one still yammering on about its potential or struggling with losing hope. For the most part, hope is gone. On Word of Mouth, his 2002 album, he says, “America may be the best country, but that’s like being the prettiest Denny’s waitress. Just because you’re the best doesn’t make you good.”

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