Friday, March 16, 2007

"The Cow" -- a Sufi Joke

I came across the following in Idries Shah’s Wisdom of the Idiots (Octagon Press, 1970). Idries Shah is an Afghan writer who emigrated to England in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He wrote several books, and was a kind of ambassador of Sufi philosophy in the west (his daughter is Saira Shah, a journalist, and the author of The Storyteller's Daughter). This collection contains a series of short Sufi anecdotes and sayings, some of them almost joke-like.

The Cow

Once upon a time there was a cow. In all the world there was no animal which so regularly gave so much milk of such high quality.

People came from far and wide to see this wonder. The cow was extolled by all. Fathers told their children of its dedication to its appointed task. Ministers of religion adjured their flocks to emulate it in their own way. Government officials referred to it as a paragon which right behaviour, planning and thinking could duplicate in the human community. Everyone was, in short, able to benefit from the existence of this wonderful animal.

There was, however, one feature which most people, absorbed as they were by the obvious advantages of the cow, failed to observe. It had a little habit, you see. And this habit was that, as soon as a pail had been filled with its admittedly unparalleled milk – it kicked it over.

The present-day relevance of this story is:

a) Clearly, the cow is America's desire to spread democracy, and the milk is democracy itself.

b) Clearly, the cow is Pervez Musharraf's commitment to fight terrorism, and the milk is Al Qaeda.

c) There is no relevance, but did you hear the funny story about the cow in West Bengal who eats chicken?

d) Readers, please fill in the blank. What could the relevance of this story be?

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