by Najeem Mahmood
A wealthy old lady decided to go on a photo safari in Africa, taking her faithful elderly beagle named Smackelfartz along for the company. One day the old beagle started chasing butterflies and before long, “Smackers” discovered that he was lost. Wandering about, he noticed a cheetah insinuating rapidly through the grass in his direction with the intention of having lunch.
The old beagle, a student of wisdom, thought calmly, “oh, oh, now I might be for the highjump!”
However, noticing some bones on the ground close by through the faculty of Sensate Perception and applying certain esoteric techniques of Intuitive Response, he immediately settled down to chew on the bones with his back to the approaching cat. Just as the cheetah was about to leap the old beagle exclaimed loudly, “that was one delicious cheetah! One wonders rather whether there might not be any others about?”
Hearing this, the young cheetah halted his attack in mid-strike with a look of stark terror and slunk off into the trees. “Whew!” said the cheetah to himself, “that was ghastly! The old beagle nearly copped me!”
Meanwhile a chimpanzee, who had been watching the whole scene from a nearby tree, figured he could put this knowledge to good use and trade it for protection for his relatives, from the depredations of cheetahs. Off he went then, but the old beagle spotted the activity and followed after, figuring on the basis of his long study of certain traditional ideas about the Reading Of Signs that something must be up.
The chimpanzee soon caught up with the cheetah, spilled the beans and quickly struck a deal for himself and his clan.
The young cheetah as is common with the inexperienced was furious at being made a fool of. He said, “here, ape, hop on my back and see what’s going to happen to that conniving canine!”
Now, the old beagle saw the cheetah coming with the chimpanzee riding bareback and thought interrogatively, “what am I going to do now?”
Since he was now utilizing another technique it necessarily takes much living to develop at all well, namely Active Imagination, there was no question of any panic. Instead of running, “Smackers” listened carefully to his insides and then sat down with his back to his attackers, pretending he had not seen them yet.
Just when they got within earshot, the old beagle said:
“Where’s that damn monkey? To think I sent him off over an hour ago to bring me ANOTHER cheetah!”
Whereupon the cheetah and chimpanzee took off in opposite directions, and since then the irate cheetahs as always have continued feasting on chimpanzee….
This is a Sufi teaching story that goes forward on many levels simultaneously and so properly speaking there is not any single moral.
Don’t mess with the elderly seems to be the obvious message. After all, that age and lies will always overcome youth and skill seems clear enough on the face of it and, although I don’t know about the “always” part, it is true anyway where the proper lifelong preparations have been made in a timely manner.
However, not all old people have done the work necessary for this sort of facility, and plenty of these are being hauled back to Germany everyday now for instance, to answer for WW II war crimes.
Really brilliant deceptions first of all are never put over for long just as an end in themselves — like all else, lying is a tool.
Brilliance at it comes with age and experience to be sure, but only if and when that experience has been made additive by the precise and timely interventions through the decades of life, by the individual teacher.
On another level this story in fact supplies specific allusions, to certain skills which can and should be mastered when the individual teacher indicates the time is right. The order in which they are introduced is likewise indicative. Also implied is the fact that animals other than man have also their sufic wisdom traditions and training, although mainly we perceive it seemingly “automatically” at work in other animals on the level of “instinct.” This story works to correct the element of unreasoning error in this last perception.
The real reason though, why this story cannot be reduced to “one meaning” only, is that it is not set in a vacuum.
What is not mentioned is the fate of the beagle Smackelfartz’s mistress.
She was a seasoned matron and jetsetter, and had flown all over the World through the ozone layer many times on many a nature preserve safari. She prided herself on the fact that she didn’t shoot and kill “endangered species” for trophies, as well on her age and experience. Accordingly, while “Smackers” was conducting certain teaching-exercises among the cheetahs and chimpanzees (as in fact he had intentionally been brought by “fate” to Africa to do) she came upon an interesting new experience all of her own.
Poo-pooing the advice of the young safari leader not to dismount from her elephant for the sake of better photographs of some nearby lions, the old lady said, “I’m an old hand at this, young man,” dismounted – and was immediately set upon and killed by the lions, who nonetheless after disdained her remains for some reason.
Hence, the old beagle, Smackelfartz, was left on his own — a circumstance for which he had been in preparation (instinctively!) all of his life.
So in this last sense the story has yet another aspect, because no matter what you may think old age and death to be now, when these things finally do come upon you the states that then follow will be altogether so odd that they will seem to have little or nothing to do with anything you may think you have already learned.
[Emmett R Smith
[all transcription-rights reserved]
[4 April 2008]