eyes open

eyes open
"know thyself" is the cure, the answer, the process, the goal, the result


1001 Nights

The style takes some getting used to, but reading Burton's translation of 'Elf Laila wa Lail"--known to us as the Thousand and One Nights, or just The Arabian Nights, is really a very satisfying treat. I guarantee that if you do, you will never again see such a rich smorgasbord of ribald humor, breathless prose, classical poetry, and downright fun--and on every page!

It is also a treat to read Burton's informative and surprising entertaining footnotes. Some contain wry witticisms on the state of man, others an extended explication of etymology, and still others some insightful detail providing essential cultural background.

In my edition, there is an excellent introduction by A. S. Byatt. I highly recommend it because it contains a very compelling explanation of the nature of the "circular story"--the "story-within-a-story-within-a-story."

In a sense the entire "novel" is one long story of a young girl fighting for her life by keeping her husband and would-be murderer entertained with outlandish tails--all with the purpose of distracting him nightly from his purpose to kill her the following day. Woven within this framework is a rabbit hole or porous looking-glass of tales all woven together. A story about a storyteller with a main character who tells a story about a traveller with an interesting story to tell. It is at once breathless and captivating.

I've found the experience of actually reading through this voluminous compendium of tales as a metaphor for my life right now. In a way, I am, and we are all, storytellers telling ourselves a narrative about our experiences as we live them.

Of course, there isn't just a single story to relate. Rather, there are multiple tales all going on simultaneously, the threads to which we pick up and lay down almost at random, depending on what catches our eye at the moment.

For part of my morning, I tell myself the tale of the headhunter who attempts to woe attorneys from their comfortable offices and help them see where the walls of their offices are sometimes cages.

At other times I am the harassed dad who tries to field phone calls from school principals, an irate wife complaining over some misdeed (or, more usually, un-done deed!), a late bill or yet another health insurance bill bounced back.

Later in the day I tell myself the story of the frustrated career counsellor and sympathetic listener to the trials and tribulations of today's practicing attorney.

Many times at night, I hear myself complain of the too-few hours in my evening to do all my household chores, help the kids with their homework, find time for my spouse and perhaps squeeze in a quiet moment for reflection.

In all, our lives are all tales-within-a-tale. It helps sometimes to remember that we can, as the tellers, and should, elaborate the highs, hyperbolize the woes, and dramatize the stresses. If we can do that, we can keep it all in perspective, and remember to treat the bard to an extra glass of wine.

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