“My life is dull,” said glorious Emperor Moktut.
He had just finished listening to his Royal Advisor’s briefing and sat staring straight ahead, as if not seeing his palace, which had been said to be the most luxurious palace ever built on earth.
“Bring me a mirror,” he ordered.
The Royal Advisor rushed to fetch a mirror. He could have and even should have sent one of the servants to bring it, but he was glad to get away from the Emperor even for a few minutes. He had always known how to deal with the Emperor’s fury. But he was terrified by these new moments of unexplainable misery. The Emperor was not supposed to feel miserable. If he — the most powerful man in the world — felt this way, how common men were supposed to feel? Emperor Moktut had never shown any signs of misery — until two moons ago when he spoke to that horrible arrogant man by the name of Puram Bam.
“I am the most powerful man in the world,” said Moktut, studying his own reflection. “I should be happy. I should be far more than happy. So what is it that makes me feel so–”
He broke off.
“I need to talk to him,” he said, turning to the Royal Advisor. “Go and invite him at once.”
“Me?” asked the Royal Advisor in astonishment. He had never seen such a violation of the royal etiquette. His shock was so strong that he even dared to ask, “Your Majesty, do you mean that I should send the Guards to bring that man here?”
“Yes,” said the Emperor. “If you want to spend the rest of your life in the dungeon. But if you intend to keep your job, go tell him that I’m inviting him to live here as my guest.”
The Royal Advisor and left, his knees shaking.
“He said what?” asked Moktut three days later. “Are you sure?”
The Royal Adviser nodded, not daring to to look at the Emperor.
“Yes, your Majesty,” he muttered. “He said that he would’ve gladly accepted your invitation, but he would not do well in a company of beggars.
“Beggars?” repeated Moktut, his voice puzzled. “Go tell him that in this palace he will live among the richest men of my empire. Men who can buy anything and anyone. Men who eat from golden plates and travel in palanquins decorated with diamonds.”
This time the Royal Advisor left without asking questions.
Three days later he was back, trembling.
“He said, your Majesty,” he reported, his voice full of horror, “that these are exactly the men he means.”
Moktut sat still for a long time.
“Tell him,” he said finally, “that he should not be concerned about spending his days among those who are only attracted to material goods and are poor like beggars when it comes to matters of spirit. Tell him that in this palace he will find poets who care only about sharing their poetry, preachers who possess little more than their robes and who only want to preach, and painters who create their paintings asking for no reward. Go now.”
The Royal Advisor left, silently cursing Puram Bam and shuddering at the thought that he was about to curse the Emperor.
Another three days passed. The Royal Advisor was back. Alone.
The Emperor’s silence was more menacing than his wrath could have been.
“He said,” the Royal Advisor conveyed, wondering how in the world he ended up in a position of a message boy, “that these poets, preachers and painters are also the people he was referring to. He also wanted wanted to remind you that a beggar is someone who throws himself at the mercy of others and pleads for something they have while offering nothing in return.”
“The hell with him!” replied Monkut, gravely. “He has pushed my good will too far.”
The Royal Advisor felt relieved. The Emperor was coming to his senses, at last.
“It is almost time for the Summer Royal Celebration,” he dared to remind the Emperor. “I’ll see to it that we have the most majestic celebration in years. This celebration will make the people of this empire feel proud, while making other nations envy your splendor. The attention of the entire world–”
The Emperor’s palm flew up, making the Royal Advisor stop in the middle of a sentence.
“Attention,” whispered Moktut.
“Yes,” happily went on the Royal Advisor, “attention of the entire world! We will–”
But another irritated gesture of the Emperor made him stop again.
Moktut’s eyes were looking far beyond the vast hall. He didn’t see the flabbergasted face of his Royal Advisor. He didn’t see scared faces of his courtiers. He didn’t see indifferent faces of his servants. He saw something else.
He saw the richest men of his country spending millions on luxury they neither needed nor appreciated. These millions were spent with the only goal — to impress others, rich and poor, men and women, old and young. To make them gasp in envy. He saw poorest men of his empire doing the same — depriving themselves of something they needed so they could buy something to boast about in front of their neighbours. He saw poets frantically writing their poems, hoping that one day everyone will know their name — the name, not their works. He saw himself, sitting on his throne, bored by people’s admiration — and still wanting it with all his heart. He saw people going around asking, pleading, begging for attention — and accepting it as alms, not caring if they had any value to offer in exchange. He saw beggars begging beggars — and making that begging the ultimate motive of their life.
“Should I get the preparations started?” asked the Royal Advisor. The Emperor nodded, indifferently.
“Go,” he said. “Make them gasp. Oh, and take that mirror away. You’ll bring it back one day.”
“On the day,” he finished in his head, “when it won’t show me the eyes of a beggar.”
Archive for March, 2012
“You are a hard man to find,” said a young woman, as she stopped by the bungalow of the world famous sage Puram Bam. “Everyone knows who you are, but only few know where to find you.”
One glorious morning, glorious Emperor Moktut sat in his favorite Ruby Room and listened to the daily briefing of his Royal Advisor. Everything was fine and splendid in the Empire, while its neighbors struggled with chaos and poverty.
Tags: books, ebooks, integrity, reading
Generally I adopt new tech very quickly. If something makes my life more convenient and is reasonably priced, I start using it right away. The most notable exception to this rule has been ebook reading. Although using ebooks and carrying an entire library with you beats paper books hands down when it comes to convenience, there is still something very special about reading a paper book. It’s the feel of holding it in your hands, turning its pages, feeling the texture of the paper. Ebooks don’t give you that. They are too impersonal. At least this has been the case for me until very recently.
But suddenly everything has changed. I’ve discovered an advantage of ebook that paper books cannot match. And it has nothing to with convenience. Try this: take any book and read a few pages of it on your phone. Not your Kindle. Phone. If you haven’t done this before, it may feel awkward at first. The pages are just too small and have enough room only for a few sentences on that screen. But that’s the point.
The small screen makes you see the text for what it really is. Meaningless words cannot hide anymore behind their more meaningful neighbours. If the text is full of fluff, your eye, trained for years to glance over it, no longer has this option. You are forced to read it — or turn the tiny pages so frequently that the process becomes tedious very soon. Every sentence, every word that’s been included into the text to hide its lack of clarity or substance is visible now. The text stands naked in front of you and has no place to hide.
A small screen shows the you integrity of the book — or lack thereof. It’s that quality that some of us seek in people and only few of us are lucky to discover. This quality is rare and not everyone wants to find it — or even deal with it — but those who do, know what I mean. Not many many books would pass the text of a small screen. Some well known titles would fail it miserably, while others, less famous and promoted, may show depth and clarity that may be overlooked easily in a larger format. And once you find a book like this, you’re in for a treat.
Wish it was that easy with people.