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The clever man

A clever man once wandered into a poor provincial village. He took up goldsmithing and lightning-quick acquired advanced skills. The realism and delicacy of his figures and the exquisite intricacy of his designs began to attract buyers from the nearby towns. Then he became bored with his work and just gave it up.

Next the clever man took up the violin. Soon, on market days, astounded throngs started flocking to his virtuoso concerts. Yet again he grew tired of practicing and finally quit performing altogether.

The clever man lived high on the hog and ran through all his money. Eventually he found himself in such straitened circumstances that he had to beg shelter from the only one who would take him in, whom they called the simple man. This man and his wife lived in a rude hut, wore burlap sacks and subsisted mainly on bread and turnips. But they would say that in their castle they sat down in their robes to feast. Exasperated, the clever man told the simple one, "You could never, ever become as clever as me."

Soon the clever man grew strangely restless and lit out on foot to the closest city. He became a physician of note, overworked, dropped that and left. And so he studied the range of difficult and abstruse subjects, always abandoning them and moving away.

At last he arrived in the capital. He was standing on a street where many carriages were drawing up, and people were streaming in and out of someone's home. He asked a passerby what was happening, and was told that everybody was visiting a righteous one. He started grabbing people, crying in anguish, "There's no such thing as a righteous one! I've proven in my research, they cannot heal! They're only trying to rob you blind. Get away from that charlatan!"

A policeman was called to stop the assaults, and he yelled, "I arrest you in the name of the king!" Now the clever man became distraught and just blew his top. "King! What king? Are you such a credulous fool that you believe in this king! The powerful noblemen try to trick us, so they can control every move we make. Have you ever actually seen this king that you supposedly serve?"

The policeman, who had never seen the king, was at a complete loss, so he brought the clever man to see the judge. Then he put the judge in a tizzy too, since he had never seen the king either, so the magistrate ordered, "Take him to the prime minister; he'll know what to do!"

So he was brought to the center of the city, where an enormous bejeweled palace stood, with many smaller palaces stuck to its sides like candied cherries in the icing of a cake. They were ushered into the prime minister's home and met him in his office.

The clever man was beside himself, and ranted away about the invisible king.

"Please let me tell you how I was appointed," came the minister's warm reply. "When the king wanted a prime minister, everyone who came and applied was self-serving and out to manipulate things. So he dispersed his messengers to the furthermost frontiers to ferret out a proper candidate. They told me they'd come to the right place when they heard what people called me.

"Don't you recognize me yet? I am the simple man.

"Once you told me that I could never ever become as clever as you. Now you've already entered the edge of the palace, and some day soon, beloved, you will fill delight, and become as simple as I am.

"I see the face of the king every day."

This story is after the two-hundred-year oral tradition of Nachman, of Bratslav, Poland. Peace, love and joy. This is excerpted from Ross' book, "Really Being With You," available in Ashland at the library and bookstores. See more at mosheross.wordpress.com.

You are invited to share your story of inner peace. When we share, lives are touched in ways seen and unseen and we all are enriched. You are invited to submit an article about inner peace. Send a 600- to 700-word article to Sally McKirgan innerpeace@q.com