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The Food of Paradise

November 1st, 2010 5 comments

YUNUS, the son of Adam, decided one day not only to cast his life in the balance of fate, but to seek the means and reason of the provision of goods for man.
‘I am’, he said to himself, ‘a man. As such I get a portion of the world’s goods, every day. This portion comes to me by my own efforts, coupled with the efforts of others. By simplifying this process, I shall find the means whereby sustenance comes to mankind, and learn something about how and why.

I shall therefore adopt the religious way, which exhorts man to rely upon almighty God for his sustenance. Rather than live in the world of confusion, where food and other things come apparently through society, I shall throw myself upon the direct support of the Power which rules over all. The beggar depends upon intermediaries: charitable men and women, who are subject to secondary impulses. They give goods or money because they have been trained to do so. I shall accept no such indirect contributions.’

So saying, he walked into the countryside, throwing himself upon the support of invisible forces with the same resolution with which he had accepted the support of visible ones, when he had been a teacher in a school.

He fell asleep, certain that Allah would take complete care of his interests, just as the birds and beasts were catered for in their own realm.

At dawn the bird chorus awakened him, and the son of Adam lay still at first, waiting for his sustenance to appear. In spite of his reliance upon the invisible force and his confidence that he would
be able to understand it when it started its operations in the field into which he had thrown himself, he soon realized that speculative thinking alone would not greatly help him in this unusual field.

He was lying at the riverside, and spent the whole day observing nature, peering at the fish in the waters, saying his prayers. From time to time rich and powerful men passed by, accompanied by glitteringly accoutred outriders on the finest horses, harness-bells jingling imperiously to signal their absolute right of way, who merely shouted a salutation at the sight of his venerable turban. Parties of pilgrims paused and chewed dry bread and dried cheese, serving only to sharpen his appetite for the humblest food.

‘It is but a test, and all will soon be well,’ thought Yunus, as he said his fifth prayer of the day and wrapped himself in contemplation after the manner taught him by a dervish of great perceptive attainments. Another night passed.

As Yunus sat staring at the sun’s broken lights reflected in the mighty Tigris, five hours after dawn on the second day, something bobbing in the reeds caught his eye. This was a packet, enclosed in
leaves and bound around with palm-fibre. Yunus, the son of Adam, waded into the river and possessed himself of the unfamiliar cargo. It weighed about three-quarters of a pound. As he unwound the
fibre a delicious smell assailed his nostrils. He was the owner of a quantity of the halwa of Baghdad. This halwa, composed of almond paste, rosewater, honey and nuts and other precious elements, was both prized for its taste and esteemed as a health-giving food.

Harem beauties nibbled it because of its flavour; warriors carried it on campaigns because of its sustaining power. It was used to treat a hundred ailments.

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