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The Reason Why

June 19, 2013

IMG_0840I was chatting with an old friend the other day who told me he followed this blog and had been wondering who the recurring character Nasrudin was and why he was so prominently featured.  At that point I realized I had never given an explanation so I will do so now. There are many spellings for the name and according to WIKI the full name is: Nasir ud-din Mahmud al-Khoyi. He is a folk hero of the Middle East possibly living at the same  time as Rumi. The first collection of tales about him was published in 1571 and the year 1996-97 was deemed to be the International Year of Nasrudin by UNESCO. The stories often reflect a challenge to conventional wisdom and are in that respect a bit like Zen koans. Perhaps this results from a period of history when local leaders were often despots, and common folk needed to find ways around the rules.

The great Cree playwright Thomson Highway once said that the healthiest thing we can do is to enjoy a great belly-laugh for it has huge healing potential. One of the enemies to optimum concentration is frustration, even when the furniture we practice near is a fairly passive audience. For some reason there is a disconnect between what we are doing and what we think we should be doing. Unrealistic expectations or a desire for grandeur are perhaps at the root of this problem. Perhaps the notion of working hard gets in the way as well, the notion that progress is made through valiant effort rather than simply doing what needs doing.

Most of the problems I address in teaching or in my own work involve using less effort, many of them can be solved in the air without any pressure at all. The hand gets ready in the air when we move and many things can be corrected thus. At these points I sometimes tell a Nasrudin story while teaching, and if the student laughs we go back to the area in question and it is usually better.  At this point I say that even though he is 700 years dead, Nasrudin is still helping us. A brief respite from frustration can frequently solve difficulties when more effort will not.

Learning is about solving problems but in order to do so we must first identify them, before applying the apt solutions. I like to think of this in quantifiable terms: I know 5000problems and solutions which is the result of 40 years of work. In this way I can go merrily along solving problems as they arise in my work. Frustration happens when we cannot identify the problem, or cannot figure out the solution. In these cases we apply the wrong solution to find the problem still there. In the worst case we try to deny the existence of any problem at all and spiral downwards.IMG_0980

A local religious leader invited Nasrudin to come for dinner and after a long day, Nasrudin was famished when he arrived. For two hours, his host spoke nonstop about a variety of religious topics. Nasrudin grew hungrier with each passing minute, until he finally interrupted, “May I ask you something?”

“Of course?” the host replied.

“I was just wondering,” Nasrudin said, “do the people in your stories ever eat?”

  1. Maryellen permalink

    I love this explanation of why you feature the Nasrudin stories. And that you connect Nasrudin and Tomson Highway.

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