Archive for the ‘Unmaskd Tales’ Category

Why Bother?

Posted: June 26, 2017 in Unmaskd Tales
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Why Bother?

“It took me a while to find you, sage,” said a man who emerged one bright morning from the deep forest that surrounded the house of Puram Bam. The man’s voice was void of emotion. He was simply stating the fact.
Puram Bam was observing a white marble statue that stood in the tall grass next to his house. He glanced at his visitor and turned back, without saying a word.
“And now that I have found you, it is too late,” the man said, as if agreeing that they needed no greetings or introductions.
This time Puram Bam spoke, “Why don’t you go back then?’
The man shook his head. “What’s the point? On my way here I lost whatever little I had left.”
“Maybe you didn’t have much to begin with,” said Puram Bam, his eyes studying the face of the statue.
“Oh, no,” the man replied, and his voice carried a shadow of what could have been indignation. “I had what others could only dream of.”
He went quiet. Puram Bam stood up and walked around the statue. It was a sculpture of a young woman. She was standing in a relaxed pose, looking at something, her face full of wonder and anticipation.
“You don’t care about anything I have to say,” the man observed, his voice empty again.
“Do you?” Puram Bam asked.
The man chuckled dryly. “They were right. You are not like others.”
“None of us are,” Puram Bam agreed.
“Well,” the man said, “since I have come all that way to find you, I may as well tell you what brought me here.”
“Do you know?” Puram Bam asked.
“My mind wasn’t among the things I lost,” the man replied, a shadow of anger creeping into his voice. “Of course, I know the question that sent me on this quest. I just no longer care about the answer.”
“Then you won’t mind if I go back to my house,” Puram Bam said, and started for the door.
“Wait,” the man said. “Please. I’ll tell you. I may as well. I was an artist. A painter. A famous painter. Famous and rich. The best galleries were seeking my paintings, and the Emperor himself commissioned me his portrait. I was spending my days doing what I loved and as good as I was, I was only getting better at my craft. People said that when they looked at some of my portraits they felt as if they were peeking inside the souls of those who I had painted. I had women of stunning beauty, was friends with the most prominent people of the empire, and my dog lived in a better house than this shack of yours. I had everything a man can wish for. Everything. Sometimes, when painting, I even felt more than a mere man. I felt godlike. In moments like this it felt like there was nothing I couldn’t bring to life with my brush.
“Then one day, I received a new commission from the Emperor Moktut. He decided to dedicate a room in his legendary gallery to the best artists who ever lived. Of all the living artists, I was the only one, whose portrait he wanted in that room. And so he asked me to paint a self-portrait. For there was no one else who could do it better.
“Believe it or not, this was a new enterprise for me. Unlike many other artists, I had always had little interest in painting myself and found faces of others more interesting than whatever my face had to offer. But this was the Emperor’s commission, and so I had a large mirror delivered to my studio, and started painting.
“This was the first time I looked at myself as a portraitist, and I liked what I saw. The mirror showed me the face of a man who had conquered life and who had every reason to be proud of his work and himself. As I was working on the painting, I felt like I was discovering myself. Among other things I discovered a few gray hair. I smiled at that silver sign of maturity and wisdom, and went on with painting. Then, I had to interrupt my work for several urgent commissions and it took me almost half a year to return to that self-portrait. And then it happened. I spotted more gray hair. Not much more, but enough to notice.
“I remember that moment more clearly than any other moment in my life. There it was — my grand delusion exposed in daylight. Those hairs turning from black to white, they were sand in the hourglass that I had been ignoring foolishly for years. But I now saw it in full clarity. It seemed that I had only looked away for a second — and more particles fell down, never to come back. Godlike? I was a pitiful creature, a miserable sack of flesh, too blinded by his hollow pride to see the truth. The truth that I was but a walking corpse about to start rotting in a blink of an eye. What was the point of doing anything in face of that fate?”
“I didn’t even think of finishing that self-portrait. It didn’t matter anymore. Nothing did. I spent days sitting in a chair, thinking of how pointless everything I had ever done had been. Of how laughable my pride was. And of how blind I had been not to realize sooner that my life had no meaning.
“Then I overheard a story that one of my servants was telling another. About a man who told the Emperor himself to his face that the Emperor was afraid of dying. And about the Emperor’s reaction to his words. The name of that man, they whispered, was Puram Bam. I thought that someone who talked that way to the Emperor Moktut — and lived — was either insane or as wise as they said he was. And so I am here, though finding you wasn’t easy. But it’s been a long road and by now everything has lost meaning. Even the very question that brought me here”.
“You never asked that question,” said Puram Bam.
“Why bother?” the answer came.
“Why not?” Puram Bam replied.
The man smiled with disappointment.
“Is this all you have to say, sage? Is this what all your famous wisdom amounts to? You are not that different from others after all.”
“None of us are,” said Puram Bam.
“So you are not going to try and convince me that my life has meaning?” the man asked.
“It doesn’t,” Puram Bam replied.
“I should have known,” the man said. “That’s why they call you a sage. Because you tell people what they already know but are too afraid to say. Thank you. This is strange help, but still help.”
“Can you help me too?” Puram Ban asked.
The man shrugged. “I guess.”
“This statue. What do you think of it? Does it amount to more than my wisdom?”
The man walked up to the sculpture and went quiet. A minute passed. Then another.
“Yes,” the man said, finally. For the first time there was more than a shadow of emotion in his voice. “Yes, it does. It amounts to more than anyone’s wisdom. This is a work of a true master. That pose, that face, the hair… you can almost feel the wind. And her eyes… Was it you who made it?”
“No,” Puram Bam replied. “I’m not a sculptor. Words are my marble. A good friend made it and had it delivered to me. We talked one evening about my vision of a statue like this – and now it’s here, more real than anything I could’ve imagined.”
“I never thought I’d say this about anyone,” the man said slowly, “but your friend’s portrait deserves to be in that room more than mine.”
“Now,” said Puram Bam. “That’s where I need your help. Do you see that sledgehammer over there?”
“Yes,” the man replied.
“Take it and smash her.”
“Have you gone mad?” the man asked, stunned. “Or is this some sick joke?”
“I’m as sane as you are and I mean every word,” Puram Bam replied. “I’m asking you to take the sledgehammer and keep smashing this statue until it’s nothing but a pile of crushed marble.”
“Why in the world would I do that?” the man cried. “And even I were to, why would you want to destroy it?”
“Because it’s a lie,” Puram Bam said. “Perfection like this does not exist in the world. Just look at it — it’s a slap in the face of every walking sack of flash. Leaving it intact means making that lie stronger.”
“Maybe for you,” the man said, angrily. “This is not what this statue means for me. Or for anyone who understands art.”
“And what does it mean for you?” Puram Bam asked. “Don’t you see the same sculpture that I do?”
“You see a woman who makes you feel inferior. I see a thought expressed in marble, a mirror that shows the best in me. That’s what true art does.”
“So now this sculpture means too much for you to destroy it?” Puram Bam asked, touching the statue. “How is it possible? You hadn’t seen it until today.”
The man shrugged.
“Do you always spend years to to understand value of things?”
“No,” Puram Ban replied. “But I’m not the one complaining that nothing matters.”
“Who said–” the man began. Then he went silent. “Well played, sage,” he said a moment later. “Well played. You have driven me into a corner.”
“No,” Puram Bam said. “This not my achievement to claim. But what do you think I have done?”
“You made me see that some things still have value.”
“Like an object you hadn’t seen until an hour ago? Do you really think it was I who made you value it?”
“It wasn’t you,” the man said, his eyes are still on the face of the marble woman. “It was the sculptor. But you made me understand it.”
“You are doing it again,” Puram Bam said. “You are still in that corner. And you choose to face the wall.”
“What do you mean?” the man asked.
“Didn’t you say just a moment ago that we both look at the same sculpture — and see different things? So did the sculptor give it two meanings? Of may be many more? Who knows what others see when they look at it.”
“It wasn’t the sculptor,” the man said. His voice was quiet now. “It was me.”
“Yes, it was you. And I’m surprised you didn’t ask for my help.”
“I don’t need anyone’s help to see the value of art.”
“Then why do you need help to see the value of your soul? Of that thing inside you that gives meaning to everything else, including that statue. What makes you worship the creation yet damn the creator?”
The man closed his eyes. When he opened them a moments later they were full of pain.
“Because the creator is already damned,” he said, the same pain oozing from his voice. “You knew it sage. You knew why I came here better than I did myself. And now you made me face the truth in more clarity than I ever had. Only now it’s so much harder to bear. Everything they say about you is true. The only thing they don’t say is how cruel you can be in making someone facing the truth.”
“That truth,” Puram Bam asked, “what is it?”
“The truth is that I’m afraid. I’m frightened like a animal, which is what I am. I think I have always known the value of that thing inside me that made everything else matter. That’s why I felt godlike in those moments. Because it’s the domain of gods to give meaning and create something that meaning can be given to. And that’s why it is so unbearable to think that that thing inside me will be gone, with all the meaning it can give to the world and everything it can bring into it. This is what I realized at that moment in my studio. But now you made see the full value of what I’m going to lose. And I don’t know how one can live a full life once he sees the truth the way I see it now. They must…”
Then the man looked at Puram Bam.
“Wait,” he said. “How… You understand this truth as well as I do. Better than I do because you made me see it without any veil. You must have known it for a while. How do you live with it? Where do you find strength to go on every day, knowing that your life will be over soon?”
“Look at that sculpture again,” Puram Bam said. “It already gave you the answer. What made it so valuable for you?”
“Her expression?” the man said with uncertainty. “That look? I’ve already told you all this. It’s a beautiful sculpture.”
Puram Bam shook his head.
“It’s a large piece of marble.”
“It was. Until the sculptor touched it.”
“It still is. The sculptor only changed one thing about it.”
“You mean its shape.”
“Yes. But what is a shape?”
“It is …” the man stepped back from the statue. “It is its form.”
“Form is just another word. What is the essence of a shape? Any shape? The rock that this piece came from had its shape too and was much bigger. Yet this statue means more to you than any rock. So what did the sculptor do to turn a piece of rock into a beautiful sculpture? What did he define?”
“Its boundaries.”
“Yes. Its boundaries. Its…”
“…limits,” the man said.
“Yes. Now think of your soul. Does it have any boundaries? Can’t your imagination take you anywhere? Can’t you be anyone in your mind? Can’t you create something that would not have existed without you — and even make it real? You can dive as deep as no one has ever gone and travel as far as no one has ever ventured. You can even bring back the wonders you discover on your journey, just like my friend did with that statue. Can’t you do all that?”
“All of that and more,” the man said, his voice hoarse.
“Our souls have no limits,” Puram Bam said. “Except one.”
“Time,” the man said.
“Time,” Puram Bam repeated after him. “Without it you would never give your soul any meaning. No one can value complete infinity.”
The man sat down on the log that lay near the statue.
“I don’t know what to make of it,” he said after a long silence. “I don’t see any flaw in your logic. But my entire being wants to scream in protest. I know you are right. Yet I want you to be wrong. I know I was the one who drove myself into that corner, and I’m out of it now. But I don’t know where to go from here. I don’t know even where to start.”
“It’s a long road,” said Puram Bam. “And no one can walk it for you. Maybe you can start by giving your life something you’ve tried to take away from it.”
A hint of a smile touched the man’s face.
“You’re talking about its meaning.”
“Of course,” Puram Bam agreed. “Although I don’t know why you’d bother to do that.”
“Why not?” the man said.
The Demon of Procrastination
“How do you fight your demons, sage?” asked a man with a tired face, as he stopped by the house of the world famous sage Puram Bam.
Puram Bam, busy at writing something that looked like a letter, looked up.
“What makes you think I have demons to fight?” he asked.
His visitor had a strange face, a face that seemed young–yet beaten by life, fresh–yet old. It was the face of a young man who woke up one morning to discover in the mirror that he had suddenly aged overnight.
“Everyone has demons,” he said, his voice full of conviction. “If you don’t have demons to fight you are dead.”
“Or free,” said Puram Bam.
“It’s the same thing,” said the man.
“For many,” answered Puram Bam. “But not for everyone. Which one of your demons did you want to talk about?”
“The one that sucks the life out of me,” replied the man, his voice hard. “He’s been haunting me ever since I was a child.”
“Demons rarely haunt us uninvited,” said Puram Bam, moving his unfinished letter aside. “Tell me more.”
“He attacks suddenly,” said the man, his face going dark. “I can never see him coming. One minute I’m busy doing something — and the next moment he’s there and my will is gone. No one can see demons, and yet I can almost sense the presence of this one. I can feel him sneaking into my room. I’ve never caught a glimpse of him, but somehow I know what he looks like. He is a large gray limp mass that moves silently and swiftly. Gray and cold. Very cold. And when his coldness touches my forehead, I am no longer me. No one can notice a difference, for I still act the same way I always do.
“In fact, when he takes over me I get very busy. I read wonderful books, I make plans, I do things I’ve been postponing for ages, I write letters to people I have not spoken to for years, I feed my dog, I sharpen my sword. But when I do this I know that my sword is already sharp, my dog is not hungry and the people I write to would scratch their heads trying to recall my name. But I still do it. When this demon takes over me I do anything — anything except that thing I was about to do when he sneaked into my room. And I don’t know how to fight him. I don’t know how to fight the Demon of Procrastination!”
“You can’t fight a demon,” said Puram Bam, “unless you call him by his proper name. And the name you’ve just said is not the true name of this demon.”
“What is it then?” asked the man, his face brightened by sudden hope. “Tell me! Please!”
“You have to guess it yourself, if you want to have a chance against him.”
“Guess it? How? Everyone knows him by this name!”
“What do you feel when he takes over you?”
“I feel as if I’m slowly drowning in a cold swamp and have no power to struggle. All my senses work as usual, my hands are are strong as ever, but my mind goes numb. It feels like it’s being wrapped in some thick soft fabric, layer after layer, thicker and thicker. And it’s so comforting, so lulling, so calm. It feels like there is no way out, that I will drown completely, my mind wrapped in that fabric and my will gone, but somehow this doesn’t frighten me. The the worst thing is, I don’t even want to get out. When this demon takes over me, I don’t want anything.”
“But you do come back, eventually.”
“Yes. I get out of that swamp every time, but it’s becoming harder and harder. It used to take minutes. Now it takes hours. But I do come back.”
“And the first thing you do is finish whatever you were doing when the demon came?”
“Yes. Always. All of a sudden everything seems so easy. Somehow just being back makes me powerful. And that’s what I just can’t understand. People say that this demon takes us away from things we don’t want to do. That he snatches us at the moment of weakness. But I don’t believe them. Yes, he comes to me when I have to do something I don’t like. But he also comes to me when I do something I love! And I find myself just as drowning in that swamp. I don’t believe people when they say that he is not that bad, that he helps us escape. They say that he helps us escape our fears. Fear of failure, fear of success… But why in the world would I want to escape from something that makes me feel alive?”
“You are asking wrong questions,” said Puram Bam. “Ask the right one.”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“You do. People avoid asking a right question, when they don’t want to face the answer. But you–you want it. Tell me, do you enjoy doing things you do once he takes over?”
“Enjoy? I hate doing them! And I hate myself for being so weak, for not being able to stop. But you see… it’s not actually me who’s doing all these things. It’s almost like someone else is moving my hands, opening my mouth to speak, making my eyes to read. It’s the demon.”
“Our demons are not as powerful as we think. They cannot move our hands. Only we can.”
“But this is what it feels like. And if it’s not me moving my hand then who?”
“I knew a man once,” said Puram Bam, “who used to ask this question. He doesn’t ask it anymore. It’s another wrong question to ask. Do you know what you are escaping from?”
The man shrugged.
“You can’t escape fear, without taking it with you.”
“Doing something unpleasant? Or . . . pleasant. Pleasant, but difficult.”
“Do you still think about that difficulty, while drowning in that swamp,?”
“No! I know it’s somewhere out there, but I don’t think about it. I don’t think about anything. I simply don’t think.”
“And when you don’t think you don’t exist,” said Puram Bam. “You may think you’re escaping a difficulty. But you’re escaping life itself.”
“Life…” the men repeated after Puram Ban. “Where does one escape life?”
“Now you’ve asked the right question,” sad Puram Bam. “And this means you are ready to face the answer.”
“In death,” said the man slowly.”This demon… he is the Demon of Death himself.”
“He has many names,” said Puram Bam. “But you’ve just named the only one that matters. He comes to you when you secretly wish that you’d rather not exist than face life with its choices and their consequences. He offers you sweet escape of his swamp, where your mind will slowly drown while your body is busy doing meaningless things. But what’s a body without mind? When your mind doesn’t think, you’re dead.”
“But why…” said the man, “why do I come back then? Every time. Why?”
“You know this answer too, “said Puram Bam, smiling.
The man smiled back.
“Because I want to live,” he said, his face younger and filled with wonder.
“Yes,” said Puram Bam. “And once you fully realize what this means you won’t need to fight demons anymore. You simply won’t be inviting them.”

The Eyes of a Beggar

Posted: March 26, 2012 in Unmaskd Tales

The Eyes of a Beggar

“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.”

Real People

Posted: March 18, 2012 in Unmaskd Tales

Real People

“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.”
“How did you find me then?” asked Puram Bam, taking his eyes off the letter he was reading.
“I found someone who had found you.”
“Don’t you suppose it should be the only way to find me?”
“I suppose so,” said the young woman thoughtfully. “But how did your first guest ever find you?”
“Is this what you came here for?” asked Puram Bam.
“No,” said the young woman. “I wanted to ask you about something else. About myself.”
“Aren’t you the only one who can answer a question like this?”
“I am. But I heard that you help people to find these answers.”
Puram Bam smiled and nodded.
“What is your question?”
“The other day someone asked me what truly impresses me in people. At first, I was at loss for words. And then all I could say was: nothing. I’ve met many people, I said, old and young, rich and poor, famous and unknown. But no one has ever truly impressed me. I know I’m supposed to be impressed by titles, riches and accomplishments, but I’m not. That person asked me then, but what about virtues? And I said, even virtues don’t impress me that much. I value courage, I long for honesty, I respect perseverance. But never in my life have I met a person who had something that would truly impress me. Something that would take my breath away. I wish to think they exists, but I haven’t come across one yet. And so that person said that I either had lost my marbles or have expectations that no human can match. And the worst thing is, I think that person is right.”
“Yes, this may be the worst thing,” agreed Puram Bam. “But what is your question?”
“How do I explain what impresses me?” asked the young woman. “How do I explain this to others and even to myself? I know what it is, but I just can’t put it in words.”
“When you use words to explain something to yourself, they only hide the meaning,” said Puram Bam. “You said you believe they do exist. But who are they?”
“They are real people,” said the young woman. “Real is the only word I can think of, although I have no idea how to explain it. And it’s probably a totally wrong word. It means that everyone else is not real, but that’s not what I mean. No one would understand it.”
“I do,” said Puram Bam. “I know exactly what you mean.”
“You do?” asked the young woman, astonished. “But how can you know it when even I cannot express it?”
“Because I happen to be attracted to the same quality in people,” Puram Bam replied. “And it’s neither material goods nor virtues. Every virtue you have mentioned is only a part of what makes someone real. But not every commonly praised virtue would be found in him.”
“Right!” the young woman exclaimed. “I don’t care if a person like this lies — he would stay true to himself even while doing this. I don’t care what he looks like — but do I know that his eyes would not be the eyes of a beggar. I wouldn’t care about his job — but I know it would be something this person loves. Because he would not be spending years of his life doing something that doesn’t excite him. And most of all, I don’t want him to want to impress me. I’ll be the most impressed if I meet someone who doesn’t want to impress anyone — and yet does it all the time. I don’t know why I feel that I know it would be like even though I’ve never felt this way.”
“But you have,” said Puram Bam. “Every time you watch a wild gracious animal or hear a young child laughing you feel it. They don’t live to impress you or anyone. They simply live — and enjoy life. This is what you want to find in an adult. In someone who understands how the world of people works and how ugly it can be — and still chooses to be true to himself every moment of his life.”
“Yes,” said the young woman. “Now I believe that you really understand me — maybe even better than I understand myself. But where do I find people like this?”
“There aren’t many of them,” said Puram Bam. His eyes moved to the letter in front on him, then back to the young woman standing at the door.
“But if you look for people like this, you’ll find them. You will also learn to recognize those who are almost like them. Who betray themselves often — but one day may be strong enough to stop it.”
“I may know one or two people like this,” said the young woman. “I even think–”
She stopped.
“Never mind,” she said. “Thank you, sage. But how do I explain all of this to others? How can I make someone see what I see when I say real people?”
“You can’t,” said Puram Bam. “Those who can understand it will know exactly what you mean. With others, no explanation would ever be enough.”

Is Lying Bad?

Posted: March 8, 2012 in Unmaskd Tales

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.
“I’m delighted to know that my people are so happy,” said the Emperor when the Royal Advisor finished. “You wouldn’t lie to me, would you?”
The Royal Advisor paled.
“Oh no, Your Majesty,” he whispered, his eyes wide with horror. “I would never lie to you!”
“Of course, you wouldn’t,” agreed Moktut. “Otherwise very soon you’d bid farewell to your head.”
The Royal Advisor smiled, his lips trembling.
“But I wonder,” continued the Emperor. “Would you be still as truthful, had you not feared the punishment? People lie so often, even though lies are so disgusting.”
“And I also wonder,” he continued, looking at the shaking Advisor, “What is it that makes lies so disgusting to me? I’m the most powerful man in the world — and yet I don’t want to lie even to someone like you.”
The Emperor spent whole day in deep thought.
Next morning he gathered his advisers and said, “I have decided that I want to know why I find lies so repulsive. I don’t expect any of you to answer this, so bring me the wisest men you can find in my country. A month from now I wish to hear their answers.”
A month later the Emperor sat in his favorite Amber Garden, looking at the gathering of people who were came to his palace from all over his wast empire.
“You are the wisest men in my Empire,” he said to them. “Or so my advisers are telling me. This is your chance to use your wisdom for a great cause. I want to you to explain to me why I find lies disgusting. So disgusting, that I don’t want to utter a word of lie, even though no one would ever doubt my words. I will reward the one, whose answer I like the best. Who wants to be first?”
Silence followed his words. The wise men were looking at each other. Finally, an old man with a long silver beard stepped forward.
“Many call me the wisest man in your Empire, Your Majesty” he said, bowing. “And dare I say they have many reasons for that. Of course, my wisdom is but a shadow of the wisdom you bring to our world, but one does not compare a mere human to–”
“If you say another word about yourself or my wisdom, it will be your last,” said Moktut. “I don’t have time to waste on this nonsense — this what my court is for. Answer the question.”
“As you wish, Your Majesty,” said the wise man, his hands shaking slightly. “You detest lies because they are not noble. The highest purpose of a human spirit is to tell the truth and a royal mind like yours does not wish to tolerate…”
Ten minutes later Moktut stopped him.
“Enough,” he said. “I would need another life to listen to everything you want to say. Lies are not noble, I get it. Next!”
“Our religion teaches us to be truthful to one another,” said the next man. His beard wasn’t as long, but it was wide and bushy. “When in doubt, we must listen to what we are taught, and not question the divine teaching. We must…”
Ten minutes later Moktut stopped him.
“Next,” he said, frowning.
“The lie is the vilest thing on earth,” began the third man, “and being the purest spirit in the world, The Emperor has all reasons to despise it…”
A great many number of wise men spoke in front of the Emperor on that day. They talked about virtues and values, sins and redemption, moral duty and spiritual growth. They cited sacred texts, dead poets and themselves. They condemned lies, praised the truth, and spoke of the Emperor’s glory. They spoke till late night.
Moktut sat still, his face calm.
“I’m lucky,” he said when the last man finished speaking. “Your wisdom is enlightening and I feel so humbled by it. You all are the most precious treasure my country has.”
“But,” he said as wise men started smiling, “you’ve just taught me that I should not be lying to anyone. So let me say this. YOU ALL ARE USELESS MORONS!! You spent all day telling me why others thought lying was bad, but I asked why I find it disgusting. None of answered my question! You’ve wasted my time! You–”
Suddenly Moktut stopped. He noticed a calm face among dozens of terrified faces in front of him.
“You,” he said. “Who are you? I don’t remember you speaking today.”
“My name is Puram Bam,” said the man. “I didn’t come here to speak.”
“Why did you come then?” asked puzzled Moktut.
“Your guards brought me here.”
The Head of Emperor’s Guards stepped forward.
“Your wish was to see every wise man, Your Majesty,” he said, his voice hoarse. “People say that this man is a famous sage, but he didn’t come on his own. So we brought him here.”
“Interesting,” said Moktut. “Did he resist?”
“No, he said something about not struggling against a current and came with us. But he hasn’t spoken today, so he is probably not that wise.”
The Emperor looked at the man.
“So do you want to answer my question, sage?” he said, looking into a face that was as calm as his own.
“You won’t like my answer,” replied the man.
“After today I’ll like anything,” said Moktut. “Go ahead. Answer it.”
“You despise lying because you are afraid of death,” said the man.
The court gasped. The Head of Emperor’s Guards lurched forward. But Moktut smiled.
“Explain,” he said, stopping The Head of Emperor’s Guards with a gesture. “This doesn’t make any sense, but at least it’s original.”
The man stepped forward. Moktut looked into his eyes and for the first time in his life felt that he was looking into the eyes of an equal.
“Lies are neither bad nor good,” said the man, his voice sound and clear.“But they are final and nothing terrifies us more than finality. You are your mind, and your every honest thought is a part of you. It bears the seal of your soul and when you share it, you’re giving that part of yourself a new life. It will live on in the minds of others and may even outlive you, since some thoughts live long after the mind that gave them life is gone. But when you lie you’re sentencing that of part of you to life in prison. In the prison of your mind. Every lie comes with a hope that the truth will be never discovered. And this is what terrifies you. Because you know that you’re sentencing some part of yourself to death. Now it will spend the rest of its life in solitude and die with you. Lie is not the opposite of truth — it is simply the truth’s death sentence. People don’t like signing death sentences for parts of themselves. That’s why they find ways to confess to each other. That’s why they feel what you feel.”
After a long silence Moktut asked the man, “You’ve answered my question, sage. How can I reward you?”
“You can’t,” said Puram Bam. “Kings can only punish. The only person who can truly reward a man is himself.”

Are Dreams Real?

Posted: February 29, 2012 in Unmaskd Tales, what makes us tick

A man stopped by the house of the world famous sage Puram Bam. Nobody answered his confident knock, so he opened the door and found the sage looking thoughtfully at two masks he held in his hands.
“I didn’t come for help, sage” the man said. “I’m not one of those who need you to tell them how to live their life. But I came to ask you a question.”
Puram Bam said nothing. He only set the masks on the small table in front of him. One mask was sad. Another one was smiling.
“You and others like you preach people to go after their dreams,” said the man. “I say it’s rubbish. Dreams are like smoke. They are not real. Blow at them — and they are gone. But they don’t let you see the real world, where you have to work to pay for your food and your home. You know that. So my question to you is, why do you keep telling people that nonsense?”
Puram Bam rocked in his chair.
“Are you sure dreams are unreal?” he asked. “You are in my dream now.”
The man laughed loudly.
“Spare me this nonsense, old man,” he said. “Leave that I-dream-the-world talk to the weak souls who are afraid of the real world. I don’t care for it.”
“And yet you’re living it,” said Puram Bam. “You call this a house, but for many years it had existed only in my mind. I dreamt of having a bungalow like this, with these white walls, and this fireplace, and these books, and even these two masks. I dreamt of becoming someone to whom some people would come for advice, while many would come to laugh at my words. It was only my dream, but over the years I made it a part of the real world. Yet it is still my dream and you’re standing in the middle of it.”
“Fine,” said the man. His voice was quieter now. “I see your point. But you knew what you wanted. Those who come to you don’t. That’s why they come. Why confuse them?”
“Do you know what you want?” asked Puram Bam.
“I want to have a good life,” said the man.”I have seventy, maybe eighty years in this world and I don’t want to spend them chasing after some nonsense. I work ten hours a day, but my job pays well. It gives me enough money to buy what I need, to live where I want and to entertain myself when I rest. I’m not an artist or a philosopher and I don’t have big ambitions. I only want to make enough to have a decent living. So why would I ever sweat myself making some dream come true, when my job gives me all I need?”
Puram Bam looked at two masks in front of him, as if choosing which one to put on his face.
“You’ve been sweating yourself to make a dream come true all your life,” he said.
“Rubbish!” said the man. “I’ve just told you–”
“Listen or leave.”
The man went silent.
“You’ve been sweating yourself to make a dream come true all your life,” Puram Bam repeated. “Not one dream. Many dreams. Just like all of us. Every part of the world you live in was someone’s dream once. The streets you walk, the books you read, the bread you buy, the laws you obey, the money you spend, even the words you speak — all of this had been born in someone’s mind before it was made real. The place where you work ten hours a day didn’t exist before someone’s mind created it. The world of people is nothing but dreams that came true. Some of these dreams are horrible, they are dreams of blood and pain, but they too, are someone’s dreams made real. So the answer to your question is simple. You spend your life making some dreams come true. You may as well choose your own dream.”
“But I don’t have a dream,” said the man. His voice was very quiet now.
“Everyone has a dream,” said Puram Bam. “Only most people forget it when they grow up.”
He stood up, walked to the fireplace and hung the masks on each side of it.
One mask was smiling. Another one was sad.

Do People Change?

A man came to see the world famous sage Puram Bam. He found the sage in his small bungalow, reading a thick black book.
“Oh wise sage,” he said. “I need your help!”
“Do you?” asked Puram Bam, his eyes on the thick black book.
“I don’t know how to live my life anymore!” said the man. “I know that I’m capable of great things and yet everything I’ve ever accomplished has been mediocre at best! I dream of glory, but my existence is dull. I set out to achieve brilliant things, but I settle too soon. I’m always busy, yet so little gets done. I get richer, but feel poorer. My face smiles, but my soul cries. I’m suffocating! I feel that I’m not living the life I was created to live.”
“Do you?” asked Puram Bam, his eyes still on the thick black book.
“I need your advice,” said the man. “How should I live my life without feeling that I’m wasting my years? You’re so wise. Please help me!”
Puram Bam looked up.
“You’re a smart man,” he said. “You already know the answer. People don’t change.”
And he returned to reading his thick book.
The man’s face became red like a ripe tomato. He stood up.
“I see,” he said. “Thank you for sharing your wisdom, sage.”
And then he left. Now his face was white as stone. And there was cold fire in his eyes that hadn’t been there before.
Years passed.
One day the same man appeared at Puram Bam’s door again. He looked at Puram Bam who was reading a thin white book. He smiled.
“I came to thank you,” he said.
“Did you?” said Puram Bam, his eyes on the thin white book.
“You probably don’t remember me, but years ago you said I would never accomplish anything. I’ve proved you wrong.”
“Have you?” asked Puram Bam, his eyes still on the thin white book.
“Yes,” said the man. “Yes, I have. When I left your house I was angry. Angry at you, angry at myself, angry at the entire world. But soon I realized that anger would not get me far. I wanted to show you and myself that I could change. And so I stopped doing what didn’t matter, and I let go things that meant nothing to my soul, and I started to work harder than I had ever worked in my life. And every time I was about to give up or settle for a mediocre result or let go my dreams, I heard your words ringing in my ears. People Don’t Change. But they do! I’m living proof of that. I have accomplished great things, I do what I love and I no longer feel that I’m wasting my time. Now I’m living the life I’ve always felt I was created for. I’m living every moment of it and this is the best feeling in the world! And I feel like I’m just getting started. So I came here to thank you and tell you that you were wrong about me.”
“Was I?” asked Puram Bam.
He looked up from his book and said, “Squash a caterpillar — and it will never become a butterfly. Yet it is born to be one. People don’t change.”
And he went back to reading his thin white book.