I often revisit the following Sufi tale to refresh or reboot my mind, especially when I’m feeling stuck and out of sorts. Recently I made an acquaintance with a lovely young woman that I immediately seemed to have a kinship. Her name is Sheree and she creates word art. Within minutes, I discovered she is a writer, an artist, and a seeker of knowledge—and no doubt a lover of life. During our brief conversation, I promised to share a story with her about two people who met serendipitously. Their unintended meeting didn’t go well. The reason I felt compelled to share this with her is that our chance encounter was the exact opposite of what takes place in this story. The other reason for posting this on my blog is hopefully to understand how she, and others, interpret this short allegory.
This is not a story about right or wrong; this is a life allegory summed up in a few short sentences. Sufi’s use this as a teaching aid to help illustrate how closed our minds can become when addicted to trivia, and other ego-driven states. In this condition, we are unable to communicate effectively—sometimes chasing away those who are trying to help. This condition is probably inside all of us.
My personal challenge is to overcome that which creates division in my life, and for me, this story brings that reality to light.
The following was written in Arabic and has since been translated into many languages. Some of the meaning may have been lost in the translation, but the essence of the story remains. The title of “dervish,” is an Islamic name for someone following the path of ascetic life.
Thank you Sheree for crossing my path.
The Grammarian in the Well
One dark night a dervish was passing a dry well when he heard a cry for help down below. “What is the matter?’ he called down.
“I am a grammarian, and I have unfortunately fallen, due to my ignorance of the path, into this deep well, in which I am all but immobilized,” responded the other.
“Hold, friend, I’ll fetch a ladder and rope,” said the dervish.
“One moment please!” said the grammarian. “Your grammar and diction are faulty; be good enough to amend them.”
“If that is so much more important than the essentials,” shouted the dervish, “you had best stay where you are until I have learned to speak properly.”
And he went on his way.