What We Owe to Others: Simone Weil’s Radical Reminder

Simone Weil CreditBridgeman Images


Seventy-five years ago, the French philosopher and mystic Simone Weil joined Charles de Gaulle’s Free French movement in London. We do not know if the Catholic and conservative general, who never met Weil, knew she had left her post as a professor of philosophy in order to work on assembly lines, left her family to fight alongside anarchists in Spain and left her country to escape the anti-Semitic Vichy regime. All we do know is that de Gaulle read Weil’s plan to parachute white-uniformed nurses onto battlefields, armed only with the obligation to succor the injured and sacrifice their own lives. Setting down the paper, de Gaulle blurted: “But, she’s crazy!”

De Gaulle was right about the plan, but not the person. In fact, Weil’s reflections on the nature of obligation offer a bracing dose of sanity in our perplexing and polarizing times. During the final months of her life — she died in the summer of 1943 — Weil wrote of several of her most subversive and seminal texts. (That they were essentially position papers for the Free French makes them all the more extraordinary.) This is particularly true for “Human Personality” and “Draft for a Statement of Human Obligations,” both of which are devoted to distinctions Weil insists upon personal rights and impersonal duties.

When we talk about justice today, we almost always find ourselves talking about rights we believe are entrenched in nature and have been enshrined in our founding documents. This language reflects a liberal conception of human action and interaction, casting us as rational agents who reach agreements with one another through calculation and negotiation. Moreover, as the philosopher Charles Taylor has argued, while each of us “has a conception of the good or worthwhile life,” none of us accepts “a socially endorsed conception of the good.” In essence, the ideal of right has ceded to the ideal of rights.

The problem, for Weil, with the liberal conception of rights — and the laws that codify them — is that it is rooted in the personal, not the impersonal. Our society, she insists, is one where personal rights are tied at the hip to private property. Taking his cue from Weil, political theorist Edward Andrew suggests that a rights-based society “is the consensual society where everything is vendible at constitutional conventions or the marketplace.” This reveals what Weil, like Thomas Hobbes, believes to be the sole universal truth concerning human affairs: certain groups will always wield greater clout than other groups. “Rights talk” deals with the relative and alienable, not absolute and inalienable. For Weil, the old joke about our legal system — “How much justice can you afford?” — takes on a tragic immediacy.

Moreover, the emphasis on “inalienable human rights”— a phrase, Weil declares, history has shown to be meaningless — blinds us to the only true good, one rooted in what Weil calls the “impersonal.” This term, paradoxically, describes what is most essential to our flesh and blood lives: the needs shared by all human beings and the obligations (and not rights) to one another that they entail. These needs, listed in her “Draft for a Statement of Human Obligations,” include nourishment and clothing, medical care and housing, as well as protection against violence. (Though opposed to capital punishment, Weil made an exception for rape.)

With her knack for striking illustrations, Weil confronts us with the limits of rights claims. “If someone tries to browbeat a farmer to sell his eggs at a moderate price, the farmer can say: ‘I have the right to keep my eggs if I don’t get a good enough price.’ But if a young girl is being forced into a brothel she will not talk about her rights. In such a situation, the word would sound ludicrously inadequate.”

This is why, when we ask why we have less than others, we are getting personal, but when we ask why we are being hurt, we are getting impersonal. And for Weil, the impersonal is good in every sense of the word. In the case of her illustration, Weil finds the notion of rights ludicrous because the girl is not being cheated of a profit. Instead, she is being cheated of her very humanity. There is no true compensation for such acts. And yet, by confusing personal rights with impersonal (or universally shared) needs, we burden ourselves with a language that deflects us from what is truly at stake. As Weil declares: “There is something sacred in every human being, but it is not their person. It is this human being; no more and no less.”

While Weil was responding to the crisis of Western democracies confronting the challenge of fascism, her essays can also help us think about our own crisis of political governance and legitimacy. Take the current debate over the Trump administration’s proposal to cut funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, or food stamps. Rather than receiving cash installments on their electronic benefit-transfer cards, those enrolled in the program will instead receive boxes of tinned and canned food.

Fortunately, the proposal seems fated for the shredding machine, but it still serves as a useful example. Those using rights language would reply that the government hasn’t the right to cut their money payments because they have the right to do their own shopping. But we can also frame the criticism in obligation language: “It is unjust to replace financial assistance with box meals, which will punish both our physical and emotional well-being.” While the first response would ignite what Weil calls the “spirit of contention,” the latter response might “touch and awaken at its source the spirit of attention.”

In other words, such a reply asks us to forget about ourselves and instead attend to other lives. Moral situations require, as one of Weil’s great fans, Iris Murdoch, wrote, an “unsentimental, detached, unselfish and objective perspective.” Such attentiveness allows a moral and political clarity that “rights language” simply cannot. Paying attention, for Weil, is the most fundamental of our obligations. It forces us to recognize that what she calls “le malheur,” or suffering, lies in store for all of us. “I may lose at any moment,” she wrote, “through the play of circumstances over which I have no control, anything whatsoever I possess, including things that are so intimately mine that I consider them as myself.”

This includes my sense of autonomy, reflected in so banal an act as buying groceries, but also in much more dramatic acts. The contemporary philosopher Andrea Nye suggests that Weil also throws a bracing light on the debate over abortion. In effect, the related notions of obligation and attention offer a third way between those who claim the fetus’s right to life and those who insist upon a woman’s right to choose. Rejecting these rights-based claims, Nye writes, a “Weilian feminist might listen to the women themselves as they attempt to make sense of their lives in order to come to a binding sense of what must be done to restore social balance and create a society in which obligations do not conflict.” Such an approach might invite a woman seeking an abortion to fully attend to a situation which does not implicate her alone.

I do not mean to present all this as a panacea to our current political predicament, one that Weil would surely dismiss, as she did France’s on the eve of World War II, as an “incredible barrage of lies, of demagogy, of boasting admixed with panic,” one of “disarray, in sum a totally intolerable atmosphere.” Yet, even if her insights into what she called the “social drama” do not always lead to clarity, they do oblige us to consider how politics would change if we made room for obligation.



Description: Joseph receives a prophecy, and jealousy takes the better of his brothers.

(IslamReligion.com) This is a tale of intrigue and deception, of jealousy, pride, and passion… and it is not The Bold and the Beautiful.  It is a saga of patience, loyalty, bravery and compassion… and it is not Dr Phil or Oprah.  It is the story of Prophet Joseph, may God shower him with His praises.  The same Joseph known from the Andrew Lloyd Webber production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and the same Prophet Joseph known in Christian and Jewish traditions.  God revealed this story to Prophet Muhammad when an Israelite asked him to tell him what he knew about Joseph.[1]  Stories in Quran are usually told in small bit and made known over several chapters; the story of Joseph however, is unique.  It was revealed in one chapter, from the beginning to the end.  It is the complete story and experience of Prophet Joseph.  We learn about Joseph’s joys, troubles and sorrows, and move with him through the years of his life as he arms himself with piety and patience, and in the end emerges victorious.  The story of Joseph begins with a dream, and ends with the dream’s interpretation.

“We relate unto you (Muhammad) the best of stories through Our Revelations unto you, of this Quran.  And before this (i.e. before the coming of Divine Inspiration to you), you were among those who knew nothing about it.” (Quran 12:3)

Joseph’s Childhood

Joseph was young boy, handsome, happy and very much loved by his father.  He awoke one morning excited about a dream and ran straight to his father happily explaining what he had seen in his dream.  Joseph’s father listened attentively to his beloved son and his face shone with joy, for Joseph related a dream that spoke of the fulfilment of a prophecy.  Joseph said,

“O my father!  Verily, I saw (in a dream) eleven stars and the sun and the moon; I saw them prostrating themselves to me.” (Quran 12:4)

Joseph was one of 12 brothers whose father was Prophet Jacob and whose great grandfather was Prophet Abraham.  This prophecy spoke of keeping Abraham’s message to worship One True God alive.  Prophet Abraham’s grandson Jacob interpreted the dream to mean that Joseph would be the one to carry the ‘Light of God’s house”[2]  However as quickly as the joy had sprung into Jacob’s face, it vanished, and he implored his son not to relate his dream to his brothers.  Jacob said,

“O my son!  Relate not your vision to your brothers, lest they arrange a plot against you.  Verily!  Satan is to man an open enemy!  Thus will your Lord choose you, teach you the interpretation of dreams (and other things), and perfect His Favour on you and on the offspring of Jacob, as He perfected it on your fathers, Abraham, and Isaac aforetime!  Verily!  Your Lord is All-Knowing, All-Wise.” (Quran 12:5-6)

Jacob knew that his sons (Joseph’s brothers) would not accept the interpretation of this dream or the advancement of Joseph over themselves.  Jacob was filled with fear.  The ten older brothers were already jealous of their younger brother.  They recognised their father’s particular affection for him.  Jacob was a prophet, a man dedicated to submission to One True God and he treated his family and his community with fairness, respect and equitable love; however his heart was drawn to the gentle qualities evident in his son Joseph.  Joseph also had a younger brother named Benjamin, who, at this stage of the story, was too young to be involved in any of the trickery and deception brewing.

While Prophets and righteous men are eager to spread the message of submission to God, Satan is waiting to entice and incite mankind.  He loves trickery and deception and was now sewing the seeds of discord between Jacob and his elder sons.  The jealousy the brothers felt toward Joseph blinded their hearts, disoriented their thinking and made small things seem insurmountable, large things seeming insignificant.  Joseph heeded his father’s warning and did not speak of his dream to his brothers; but even so, they became obsessed and overwhelmed by their jealousy.  Without knowing about Joseph’s dream, they hatched a plan to kill him.

Joseph and Benjamin were the sons of Jacob’s second wife.  The older boys considered themselves men.  They were older, they were stronger and saw in themselves many good qualities.  Blinded by jealousy, they perceived Joseph and Benjamin as too young and without consequence in the life of the family.  They refused to understand why their father doted on them.  The older boy’s crooked thinking made them accuse their father of being misguided which, in reality, was far from the truth.  Satan made their thoughts fair seeming to them and their utter misguidance was shown clearly, when they spoke of killing Joseph and immediately repenting to God for this despicable act.

“They said, “Truly, Joseph and his brother are loved more by our father than we, but we are a strong group.  Really, our father is in a plain error.  Kill Joseph or cast him out to some (other) land, so that the favour of your father may be given to you alone, and after that you will be righteous folk (by intending to repent).” (Quran 12:8-9)

One amongst them felt the error of their ways and suggested that rather than killing Joseph, they should drop him into a well.  When found by some passing traveller he would be sold into slavery, thus rendering him as good as dead to the family.  They believed, in their blindness, that the absence of Joseph would remove him from their father’s thoughts.  The brothers continued to hatch their evil plan.  Satan was toying with them, casting thoughts into their minds and whispering misguidance into their ears.  The brothers finished their discussion pleased with themselves and believing they had drafted a clever plan.  They approached Jacob with   a plan to take Joseph into the desert with them, on the pretext of letting him play and enjoy himself.  Fear leapt into Jacob’s heart.

Next: The Story of Joseph (part 2 of 7): Treachery and Deception

(Submitted by Mohamed Salim.)


A letter from Albert Einstein to his daughter: about The Universal Force which is LOVE

In the late 1980s, Lieserl, the daughter of the famous genius, donated 1,400 letters, written by Einstein, to the Hebrew University, with orders not to publish their contents until two decades after his death. This is one of them, for Lieserl Einstein.More can be found about Lieserl here

…”When I proposed the theory of relativity, very few understood me, and what I will reveal now to transmit to mankind will also collide with the misunderstanding and prejudice in the world.
I ask you to guard the letters as long as necessary, years, decades, until society is advanced enough to accept what I will explain below.

There is an extremely powerful force that, so far, science has not found a formal explanation to. It is a force that includes and governs all others, and is even behind any phenomenon operating in the universe and has not yet been identified by us.

This universal force is LOVE.

When scientists looked for a unified theory of the universe they forgot the most powerful unseen force.

Love is Light, that enlightens those who give and receive it.
Love is gravity, because it makes some people feel attracted to others.

Love is power, because it multiplies the best we have, and allows humanity not to be extinguished in their blind selfishness. Love unfolds and reveals.

For love we live and die.
Love is God and God is Love.

This force explains everything and gives meaning to life. This is the variable that we have ignored for too long, maybe because we are afraid of love because it is the only energy in the universe that man has not learned to drive at will.

To give visibility to love, I made a simple substitution in my most famous equation.

If instead of E = mc2, we accept that the energy to heal the world can be obtained through love multiplied by the speed of light squared, we arrive at the conclusion that love is the most powerful force there is, because it has no limits.

After the failure of humanity in the use and control of the other forces of the universe that have turned against us, it is urgent that we nourish ourselves with another kind of energy…

If we want our species to survive, if we are to find meaning in life, if we want to save the world and every sentient being that inhabits it, love is the one and only answer.

Perhaps we are not yet ready to make a bomb of love, a device powerful enough to entirely destroy the hate, selfishness and greed that devastate the planet.

However, each individual carries within them a small but powerful generator of love whose energy is waiting to be released.
When we learn to give and receive this universal energy, dear Lieserl, we will have affirmed that love conquers all, is able to transcend everything and anything, because love is the quintessence of life.

I deeply regret not having been able to express what is in my heart, which has quietly beaten for you all my life. Maybe it’s too late to apologize, but as time is relative, I need to tell you that I love you and thanks to you I have reached the ultimate answer! “.

Your father Albert Einstein

(Submitted by Francis X. Syster.)


Politics of Outrageous Love Part 1 of 3

Marc Gafni
Published on Oct 4, 2016
The Universe: A Love Story Video Series with Barbara Marx Hubbard and Marc Gafni

Barbara Marx Hubbard: I think we’re at just the moment in our history as humanity when there are enough innovations and innovative people, loving people that we are connecting more and more rapidly every day. We have a communication system, we have the internet, we have a thinking layer of Earth to connect us and one of the things that we’re doing here with this whole series is to help connect the people who would like to tip the system to the higher order. And since it’s at a tipping point, you don’t know one more person in the right direction of the tipping point it goes.

Marc Gafni: Right and that’s so awesome and it’s so outrageous. Outrageous is the new awesome. When you have an evolutionary relationship to life, your experience is that your next act of awakening as outrageous love and creatively living that outrageous love and enacting it in the world can actually tip the entire system.

Read the whole transcript here: http://centerforintegralwisdom.org/co…


Two Philosophical Axioms

In Latin (for precision and clarity)
1.  Impossibile est idem secundem idem simulesse et non esse (principle of non-contradiction).

2.  Contra factum non fit argumentum.

In English

1.  It is impossible that the same thing be and not be at the same time and in the same respect.
2.  There cannot be an argument against a fact.



Some notes from “A Return to Eros: The Radical Experience of Being Fully Alive: on sex, love, and eroticism in every dimension of life” by Marc Gafni and Kristina Kincaid

“Shame is when sex stops short of infinity.”

“The great realization of the spiritually incorrect Tantric masters is that reality is allurement.  Allurement is the quality of attraction, which is the very fabric of existence.  From electromagnetic attraction to gravity to rungs of evolutionary emergence to the intellectual sex between ideas that generates newness–all of reality is moved by the intense allurement for contact, which generates new creations.  Way before sex appears on the scene, allurement is at work throughout the cosmos, attracting all expressions of creation to each other.  From the first nanoseconds of the big bang to the first quarks that generated your body, to your own life, unique allurement is what drives all of life.  Who are you if not your unique set of allurements?  Your physical structure is the composition of the allurements that caused its atoms to form into molecules, its molecules into cells and its cells into organs.  Everything in creation is attracted to everything else, and this urge to know each other, to communicate, to join and make something great, is the allurement that lies at the ver heart of life.”

“The word orgasm itself has been exiled to the sexual.  Orgasm, however, refers to a moment of radical clarity and aliveness in which all the masks drop.  In these moments the natural devotion and delight that exist between us all is nakedly revealed.”

“Giving one’s beloved the gift of one’s arousal is a great source of aliveness.  Radical intimacy is to let your beloved witness your arousal.”

“Paradoxically, the place that understands the erotic secret well is the world of advertising.  Even when television is bland and insipid, advertising is often erotic.  We all realized long ago that advertising uses the sexual as a primary tool in its campaigns.  Somehow we are meant to associate the beautiful woman and the sleek car.  Moralists often accuse advertisers of a great ethical wrong in this kind of advertising.  After all, it seems to falsely suggest that we will somehow get the girl if we buy the car.  I think we have all figured out that the girl does not come with the car.  Rather, the implication is far more subtle. On some level, this kind of advertisement actually intuits the Secret of the Cherubs.  The profound implication of the girl/car nexus is that the sexual Eros expressed by the girl is a model of the kind of Eros the driver wants in his means of transportation.  This profound and true idea drives much of advertising. It is perhaps more than a telling coincidence of language that these glamorous women are called “models’ — an obvious shoo-in for our theme! For essentially, they are illustrators of the metaphysical (and physical) fact that sex models the erotic. Their sexual allure is used to pull at the erotic string of our soul.  When we buy into the ad, we are chasing not the sex it displays but the Eros modeled there, the Eros we so deeply, if subconsciously, quest after.  Models, then, become a handy visual and linguistic reminder of the fact that all I am really after is some good Eros.”

“Prayer is erotic.”

“In ordinary love the face of the beloved closes you to all faces other than his or hers.  In outrageous love, the face of the beloved opens you to the name of God that lives in every face.”

“Eros invites the democratization of greatness.”



Reports reached the Dalai Lama that a certain Master of Kung Fu was roaming the countryside converting young men to the study of violence. Though Tibetan by birth, this man had been raised in Peking and was said to have returned as a secret agent to astonish Tibetans with the superior power of the Chinese in such a way as to render the country open and eager for conquest.

The Master of Kung Fu had made his reputation by taking on eight fierce Lolo Warriors who attacked him on a mountain pass, killing seven of them so quickly that the one with the broken legs who survived swore the marvelous voyager had met their attack with movements so swift he seemed merely to walk through them and continue peacefully on his way.

Wherever the Master of Kung Fu stopped, he gathered followers and admirers who were fascinated by the mystical beauty of his methods. The dance of destruction, which he was always glad to perform in slow motion before an audience in the marketplace, was said to be awesomely beautiful. Done swiftly, the dance could not be seen. The master would seem to be standing absolutely still. Only a rush of wind indicated that he had spun about, throwing out his arms and legs in such fashion as to leave at least a dozen of the young toughs who were trying to dodge him grabbing at the parts of their bodies he had playfully flicked with his hands or feet to indicate which bones he could have broken, which organs destroyed.

Against all Buddhist laws, there had been unnecessary slaughter of yaks in order to provide the many husky monks, who had abandoned their lamaseries and robes, with black leather outfits like the one the Master of Kung Fu wore from neck to ankle, his huge muscles making the costume tight as his own flesh.

These leather-sheathed disciples followed their master everywhere challenging one another to duels, many of which ended in death or crippling. The Regent, and other advisors to the Dalai Lama were deeply concerned, especially after blasphemous rumors began circulating that the Master of Kung Fu was an incarnation of Shiva, Hindu God of Destruction.

There would have been riots had they thrown the man in jail, since he had done nothing wrong. He had a perfect right to be in the country. Not since his brilliant defense against the Lolos had he seriously injured anyone. When governments officials questioned his intentions, he said that he was a sincere religious mystic trying to communicate certain cosmic laws learned from his Chinese Guru.

It was decided not to attack him publicly but, in conformity with old Tibetan customs when someone claims religious privilege for questionable acts, to invite him most courteously to visit the Dalai Lama.

Pleased with the invitation, the Master of Kung Fu strode into the Dalai Lama’s ceremonial hall. Being only ten years old at the time, the young God-King could not help but be impressed with the marvelously potent vibrations he gave off. They reduced the monks and lamas present to womanish giggling and gasping. The Master of Kung Fu was indeed a handsome, dashing fellow with his thick blue-black hair falling down over the shoulders of his leather suit. His teeth flashed confidently under a handlebar mustache. He did not prostrate himself but merely bowed gallantly, then leaned back to fill his chest with air until his whole body seemed to swell, tighten, and gleam.

“Your Highness,” he began, “I know why you asked me here and I want you to stop worrying. Ugliness is my only enemy. You are all beautiful people” – a titter from the monks – “and I wouldn’t think of doing you any harm.”

“When you want to do harm,” asked the Dalai Lama, “what kind of harm can you do?”

“Well, I don’t want to see it as harm at all, Highness. I want to see it as help. I’m a lover of beauty is what I am, just like any enlightened man. And I know as well as you that you can’t raise up beauty in this world without clearing out the ugliness first. You may not be able to see the results right now – in fact it may seem like just the opposite – but what I’m doing is I’m raising up beauty by training a special cadre of men to prepare the ground. That’s why I like to do my recruiting from the lamaseries. There’s too much ugliness in this world, much too much. Something’s got to be done about it by people who can back their strength with moral zeal. I figure the place to start is right here in this country where I was born. I could use your help to get the job done.”

“What exactly do you do?” asked the Dalai Lama.

“Royal Highness, the best way to show you would be for you to stand here in front of me while I do a little dance it took me some fifteen years to perfect. Though I can kill a dozen men instantly with this dance, have no fear. This will only be a demonstration of ugliness destruction. Without seeing these ugly forces destroyed – for my arms and legs move faster than the blades of a helicopter – you will experience the great quietness that comes afterwards where they are stilled.”

The Dalai Lama stood up and immediately felt as if a wind had blown flower petals across his body. He looked down but saw nothing. “You may proceed,” he told the Master of Kung Fu.

“Proceed?” said the other, grinning jovially. “I’ve already finished. What you felt were my hands flicking across your body. If it please Your Highness, this is a demonstration in slow motion, of the way I could have destroyed the organs of your body one by one. With this knuckle, I could have severed the contact between your brain and your spine. With the tip of this finger, I could have left you impotent. With the edge of this hand, I could have made it impossible for you to excrete. With this toe, I could have broken your arm while breaking your leg in the same motion with my heel. Your eyes, ears, nose, throat, spleen, liver. you name it. I could have taken them all out during that one little dance.”

Beaming with pride, he flexed his muscles and looked his body over, up and down, approvingly. “To achieve the great peace,” he concluded, “there are demons inside and outside that need to be eradicated. They appear and disappear so rapidly you cannot see them, but I’ve learned to see them and I can catch them and kill them before they get away, just as you catch a fly.”

“I do not catch flies,” said the Dalai Lama. A murmur of approval went up from the assembled monks. “No,” said the Dalai Lama, glad to hear that his comrades had not been entirely seduced, “we do not catch flies in Tibet.”

The Master of Kung Fu seemed momentarily taken aback, but he puffed himself up once more and resumed: “Quite so. But there is much sickness in this land due to the flies. In China there is very little sickness since every man knows how to catch a fly. Your Highness, I was not brought up in the serene tranquility of this palace but in the streets of a city much like your Lhasa only larger. In the city called Peking I looked at eyes muddied from staring through fumes of putrefaction at images of capitalistic lust. I heard mouths speak incessantly to presumed social inferiors in tones full of insult, contempt, dissimulation, and vengeance. I have known hearts to beat excitedly over the torture of innocent men. I have watched gluttons with bloated stomachs riding on the backs of starvelings. I have seen legs wobbling pathetically to hold up a body poisoned by chemicals. I have seen ears eagerly bending to rumors, gossip, false reports, and greedy evangelism of all kinds. In short, I have witnessed corruption in every part of man’s body and have taken it upon myself to destroy this corruption once and for all.”

“And after it is destroyed?” asked the Dalai Lama.

“It is destroyed. Mine may only be an art of preliminaries but it IS final. And I am its master.”

“I know a master greater than you,” said the Dalai Lama.

“Without wishing to offend Your Highness, I doubt that very much.”

“Yes, I have a champion who can best you,” insisted the boy king.

“Let him challenge me then, and if he bests me I shall leave Tibet forever.”

“If he bests you, you shall have no need to leave Tibet.”

The Dalai Lama looked around to see if his monks were as confident as he was, but they all looked very disconsolate. The huge guards were looking away, hoping he wouldn’t call on one of them; and the others were looking at the guards, obviously convinced that not one of them stood the slightest chance.

The Dalai Lama clapped his hands. “Regents,” he said, “summon the Dancing Master, and while we’re waiting let’s have some tea.”

The tea ceremony was just about over when the Regent returned with the Dancing Master. He was a wiry little fellow, half the size of the Master of Kung Fu and well past his prime. His legs were entwined with varicose veins and he was swollen at the elbows from arthritis. Nevertheless, his eyes were glittering merrily and he seemed eager for the challenge.

The Master of Kung Fu did not mock his opponent. “My own guru,” he said, “was even smaller and older than you, yet I was unable to best him until last year. I could have finished him easily had I ever been able to touch him, but he moved too fast. Only last year did I finally catch him on the ear and destroy him, as I shall destroy you when you finally tire. To show that I know your methods and won’t be tricked into exhausting my energy, I shall first let you strike me at will. Your frail little hands can do me no harm while I’m at full strength.”

The two opponents faced off. The Master of Kung Fu was taking a jaunty, indifferent stance, tempting the other to attack.

The old Dancing Master began to swirl very slowly, his robes wafting around his head. His arms stretched out and his hands fluttered like butterflies toward the eyes of his opponent. The fingers settled gently for a moment upon the bushy eyebrows. The Master of Kung Fu drew back in astonishment. He looked around the great hall. Everything was suddenly vibrant with rich hues of singing color. The faces of the monks were radiantly beautiful. It was as if his eyes had been washed clean for the first time.

The fingers of the Dancing Master stroked the nose of the Master of Kung Fu and suddenly he could smell pungent barley from a granary in the city far below. He could smell butter melting in the most fragrant of teas, as the Dalai Lama, incomparably beautiful, sipped tea and watched him calmly. A flicking of the Dance Master’s foot at his genitals, and he was throbbing with desire. The sound of a woman singing through an open window filled him with exquisite yearning to draw her into his arms and caress her. He found himself removing his leather clothes until he stood naked before the Dancing Master, who was now assaulting him with joy at every touch.

His body began to hum like a finely tuned instrument. He could hear the great long horns resounding in a thousand rooms of the Potala, praising creation. He opened his mouth and sang like a bird at sunrise. It seemed to him that he was possessed of many arms, legs, and hands, and all wanted to nurture the blossoming of life.

The Master of Kung Fu began the most beautiful dance that had ever been seen in the great ceremonial hall of the Grand Potala. It lasted for three days and nights, during which time everyone in Tibet feasted and visitors crowded the doorways and galleries to watch.

Only when he finally collapsed at the throne of the Dalai Lama did he realise that another body was lying beside him. The old Dancing Master had died of exertion while performing his final and most marvelous dance. But he had died happily, having found the disciple he had always yearned for. The new Dancing Master of Tibet took the frail corpse in his arms and, weeping with love, drew the last of its energy into his body. Never had he felt so strong.

– Pierre Delattre


Expression, education, communication, community