Lao Tsu said : “Those who speak do not know, those who know do not speak.”
Unfortunately, Nasruddin, who is always on the alert for contradictory and paradoxical aspects of reality, of life, of human, is likely to add: and those who do not know have a particular passion not only to speak,but to act, not always with some thought behind their actions. This is even clearer in the political field, as witness, the current turmoil in the United States, potentially dangerous, not only for people here but also elsewhere.
These passionate ones, filled with certainty, and no human doubts , exhibit a sense of absolute conviction,which is their strength, as well as ,one hopes, their weakness and downfall. Their destructive energies , as usual, are directed outward, but ,one can predict, if history is any guide, will soon wreak destruction internally, and invite external destruction. ISIS is ( one hopes, it is all in the past ) was a glaring example. It was history’s, which is the same as saying God’s, way of facing Muslims, and other people who get addicted to abstractions like past glories ( Andalus syndrome ) or ” greatness “,(the ” MAGA” crowd) avoiding difficult, often harsh realities, in the present world, such as hunger and ,even,in this country,homelessness and injustice, in day to day life.
A group of people were debating what was the best thing to do in daily life: some said praying, some said giving alms,others thought constant dhikr and meditation.
When Nasruddin was consulted, he laughed loudly, then began to weep,pacing back and forth,with a frown, as though in great pain. At last ,after some time, he said: God,the merciful, has given you eyes to see and a mind to think with and to see the obvious and the unseen ( the void ,as it were ). Now I ask you to close your eyes and go home. If you haven’t figured it out by the time you take a few steps,come back and I will give you further instructions, which may take years to complete This acted like a Koan in Zen. They got the point, perhaps ,for a moment, becoming enlightened.
Sometime later, one of them, seeking the secret behind the wisdom, asked him how he knew the answer ,and he said” I didn’t. I just remembered what it was like one night ,in pitch dark, when I tried to walk to a friend’s house, without a lamp,relying only on my sharp vision, without thinking much about it.””I am so familiar with the streets,who needs light?”
Do we learn from history ? I think it was Hegel, who said: we learn from history that we don’t learn from history. At any, rate, not enough and not for very long, often getting lost in history, clinging to old maps,not seeing what lies in front of us.