Saturday, December 03, 2005

Polishing Bricks

A dervish went to her shaykha and said: "Shaykha, I'm trying to raise a garden. But there's a brick wall on the south side of my yard, and it keeps the sunlight out."

The shaykha said: "Polish the brick."

"Polish the brick?" said the startled dervish. "What do you mean, Shaykha? What good will that do?"

"Polish the brick," said the shaykha.

Puzzled, the dervish went to the hardware store and bought a ream of coarse sandpaper. She began to polish the bricks. All day she sanded and sanded away at the wall, until her hands were raw and she had used up a whole pile of sandpaper. But the bricks looked just the same.

The dervish went to bed discouraged, but the next day she got up and polished the bricks some more.

Months went by, and the dervish began to notice that the wall was changing. The bricks seemed smoother, and different shades of color were beginning to appear in the wall.

She switched to finer paper and kept polishing.

One day she looked at the wall and found that it had changed into a huge, translucent slab of agate.

Wildly excited, she rushed to her shaykha's house. "Shaykha, Shaykha! See what I've done!"

The shaykha came to the dervish's garden and looked at the wall. "Polish it some more," she said.

"More?" cried the dervish. "But already I've transformed all that dull ugly brick into beautiful precious stone!"

"And what about your garden?" asked the shaykha, and she walked away.

The dervish looked at her garden and saw that, although the wall of agate was very beautiful, it did not let enough light through for anything to grow. So back to polishing she went. Now she used fine cloths instead of sandpaper.

More time went by. The dervish saw that the agate was growing clearer and the swirls and bands of color were fading.

She had to gather cobwebs to do her polishing now.

One day she looked at the wall and found that it had changed to a pane of clear glass.

She went to her shaykha again. "Alhamdulillah, shaykha, come see what has happened."

Again the shaykha came down to the dervish's garden and looked at the wall. "Good," she said. "Now break the glass."

I passed by this dervish's house the other day. She's not there, but there are beautiful flowers in the yard. And the wall? There is no wall.

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