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A dervish knocked at a house
to ask for a piece of dry bread,
or moist, it didn’t matter.
“This is not a bakery,” said the owner.
“Might you have a bit of gristle then?”
“Does this look like a butchershop?”
“A little flour?”
“Do you hear a grinding stone?”
“This is not a well.”
Whatever the dervish asked for,
the man made some tired joke
and refused to give him anything.
Finally the dervish ran in the house,
lifted his robe, and squatted
as though to take a shit.
“Quiet, you sad man. A deserted place
is a fine spot to relieve oneself,
and since there’s no living thing here,
or means of living, it needs fertilizing.”
The dervish began his own list of questions and answers.
“What kind of bird are you? Not a falcon,
trained for the royal hand. Not a peacock,
painted with everyone’s eyes. Not a parrot,
that talks for sugar cubes. Not a nightingale,
that sings like someone in love.
Not a hoopoe bringing messages to Solomon,
or a stork that builds on a cliffside.
What exactly do you do?
You are no known species.
You haggle and make jokes
to keep what you own for yourself.
You have forgotten the One
who doesn’t care about ownership,
who doesn’t try to turn a profit
from every human exchange.”
–Mawl?n? Jal?l-ad-D?n Muhammad R?m? (Rumi) (?????? ???? ????? ???? ????), Masnavi-ye Manavi (????? ?????), vi, 1250-67 (ca. 1265) (Coleman Barks transl.) (This work plays off one of Rumi’s most famous sayings, namely that a dervish is an open door to the Divinity).
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp
From the June 2014 issue
Estimated total calories members of Congress burned giving Bush’s 2002 State of the Union standing ovations:
A fertility scientist named Panayiotis Zavos announced that he had created human-cow embryos that were theoretically viable, but denied that he planned to allow such a hybrid to be implanted in a woman’s womb. “We are not trying to create monsters,” he said.
A statistician determined that the five most common first names among New York City taxi drivers are Md, Mohammad, Mohammed, Muhammad, and Mohamed.
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“I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.”