• February 27, 2019

    That year, a Message came through to the people of the village, the way Messages sometimes do, as a thought, vague at first but clarifying over time, that the people of the village would undergo a trial, that many would temporarily lose their minds, and that it would have something to do with the water.

    Issac heard the Message and pondered it carefully. When would this occur? No one in the village knew. What was the insanity that would ensue? He did not know. How long would it last? Again, he did not know. There did not seem to be an urgent need to act immediately. As days passed and the life of the village remained essentially the same, the other villagers forgot the Message. But Issac was a prudent man. He remembered that there were oral histories of dark times when confusion reigned. Perhaps it could happen again? So he slowly filled the deepest of his cisterns with water.

    One day, not too long afterward, Issac began to notice that his neighbors were acting a little oddly. They seemed to forget the traditions of their village, they argued about trivial things, they were short-tempered and emotional and they justified their actions with ridiculous claims blaming others for their behaviour. Issac took this as a sign and he stopped drinking the water from the village well. Life in the village went from bad to worse. The spring planting was forgotten. The villagers formed alliances against each other and there were fights in the streets between the rival factions.

    Issac begged his neighbors to stop drinking the water but they dismissed him as foolish. They were after all dealing with important issues and grievances. They had forgotten the Message and they were suspicious of Issac the outsider, who did not take sides in their ceaseless disputes. They had no recollection of the way they had lived before or the changes that had come upon them. They resented his advice and so they beat him and drove him away. Issac retreated to his water supply. Months passed and the loneliness became intolerable. Finally, one day, Issac went to the village well and drank.

    A year later, the villagers seemed to come to their senses, one by one. Hungry and dispirited but sober, they began to pick up the pieces of their lives. They were amazed by what they dimly remembered of the period of their madness but they did not connect it to the water, imagining instead the most fantastical reasons to justify their actions.

    This is a very old Sufi story. Understand two things. The waves of collective madness that sweep over humanity from time to time are not caused by issues or problems. The madness that is periodic to our nature does not have rational causes. Rather, the issues are seized upon and used by the madness to justify itself. Secondly, it is very difficult to stand outside the madness and retain your integrity. It is a constant battle to prevent the insanity around you from entering, as fear, as hatred, and taking control.

    The world is now going through one of these periodic bouts of insanity. It is not hard to see it. Will you stand against it, quietly holding to a sane and humane way of living? Or will you drink the village water?

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