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Story Of The Year

This space is for favourite stories,
some amusing, some wise, some just bizarre...

Like the optical illusion (right)
you sometimes need to become more
aware of just how
(count the black dots)
and fleeting
the world

a story...

A man and his dog were walking along a road. The man was enjoying the scenery, when it suddenly occurred to him that he was dead.

He remembered dying, and that the dog walking beside him had been dead for years. He wondered where the road was leading them.

After a while, they came to a high, white stone wall along one side of the road. It looked like fine marble. At the top of a long hill, it was broken by a tall arch that glowed in the sunlight. When he was standing before it, he saw a magnificent gate in the arch that looked like mother of pearl, and the street that led to the gate looked like pure gold.

He and the dog walked toward the gate, and as he got closer, he saw a man at a desk to one side. When he was close enough, he called out, "Excuse me, where are we?"

"This is Heaven, sir," the man answered.
"Wow! Would you happen to have some water?" the man asked.
"Of course, sir. Come right in, and I'll have some iced water brought right up." The man gestured, and the gate began to open.
"Can my friend," gesturing toward his dog, "come in, too?" the traveller asked.
"I'm sorry, sir, but we don't accept pets."
The man thought a moment and then turned back toward the road and continued the way he had been going with his dog.

After another long walk, and at the top of another long hill, he came to a dirt road which led through a farm gate that looked as if it had never been closed. There was no fence.
As he approached the gate, he saw a man inside, leaning against a tree and reading a book.

"Excuse me!" he called to the reader. "Do you have any water?"
"Yeah, sure, there's a pump over there." The man pointed to a place that couldn't be seen from outside the gate. "Come on in."
"How about my friend here?" the traveller gestured to the dog.
"There should be a bowl by the pump." They went through the gate, and sure enough, there was an old fashioned hand pump with a bowl beside it.
The traveller filled the bowl and took a long drink himself, then he gave some to the dog.
When they were full, he and the dog walked back toward the man who was standing by the tree waiting for them.
"What do you call this place?" the traveller asked.
"This is Heaven," was the answer.
"Well, that's confusing," the traveller said "The man down the road said that was Heaven, too?"
"Oh, you mean the place with the pearly gates? Nope. That's Hell."
"Doesn't it make you mad for them to use your name like that?"
"No. I can see how you might think so, but we're just happy that they screen out the folks who'll leave their best friends behind."

God and the Devil were engaged in their usual, invisible and almighty, once a week leisure pursuit, of discussing how the world would end - in good or evil triumphing.

They liked to observe small groups or sometimes individuals as they chatted, this time it was two young novice monks who were walking along a mountain pass.
Suddenly one of the monks bent down and picked up something shiny from the path.
The two monks appeared animated as they handled this wondrous shiny thing.
God turned to the Devil and said, "AAhh hah! do you see that?"
"Yes", said the Devil, "one of them has found a piece of the truth".
"Precisely!" said God, "...and doesn't that make you nervous?",
"Not at all", said the Devil, lazily, "I will let them build a religion out of it".

The stories of the Mullah Nasruddin reveal the wisdom and humour that springs from the cradle of civilisation that is the middle east. Perhaps those that wish to bomb it for to release more oil are jealous of the history they seem to want to bury.

One Mullah Nasruddin story is as follows:-

Once, long ago, the people of The City invited Mulla Nasruddin to deliver a khutba, a great speech for the benefit of all who heard it. When he got up to the minbar (no, that's a pulpit, not an abbreviation of minibar), he found the audience was not very enthusiastic, so he asked
"People of the City, do you know what I am going to say to you?" The audience replied "NO", so he announced "I have no desire to speak to people who don't even know what I will be talking about" and he left.

The people felt embarrassed and called him back again the next day. This time when he asked,"People of the City, do you know what I am going to say to you?", the people replied "YES" So Mullah Nasruddin said, "Well, since you already know what I am going to say, I won't waste any more of your time" and he left.

Now the people of the City were really perplexed. They decided to try one more time and once again invited the Mullah to speak the following week. Once again he asked "People of the City, do you know what I am going to say to you?" Now the people were prepared and so half of them answered "YES" while the other half replied "NO". So Mullah Nasruddin said, "The half who know what I am going to say, please tell it to the other half" and left...

One day Nasruddin was repairing tiles on the roof of his house. While Nasruddin was working on the roof, a stranger knocked at the door. - "What do you want?" Nasruddin shouted out.
"Come down", replied stranger, "so I can tell it". Nasruddin unwilling, and slowly, climbed down the ladder. - "Well!" said Nasruddin, "what was the important thing?" -
"Could you give little money to this poor old man?" begged the stranger.
Tired Nasruddin simply started to climb up the ladder and said, "Follow me up to the roof."
When both Nasruddin and the beggar were up on the roof, Nasruddin said, - "The answer is no!".

My Uncle John was known for his amazing crosswords - in this video made shortly before his death he contemplates how people feel they know you through your work...
I possibly knew him better than non family - but even then, so very little. I like how this video story seems to capture the impossibility of knowing, but acknowledging the loving touch of "friendship" that is still possible from a distance.

a favourite story - retold by many but forgotten by still more, is that of the sweetest strawberry in the world...

The Sweetest Strawberry the World Has Ever Known (as told by Nasruddin)

Good day... My name is Nasruddin. I was born in Amritsar in the Punjab, in India. Or...it was so long ago... it may have been in Cairo, in Egypt. In fact, I think it was Newark, New Jersey, though my uncle claims it was Turkey, and my birth certificate says Balkh, in what is now Afghanistan.
Anyway, I was born, and I stand here as proof. I would like to tell you about the time I went to see my friend Tekka. I met Tekka when he was a young man, but that is another story altogether. So I was here, and Tekka was in his home village, and all that lay between us was a desert and a jungle.

The desert was easy. Twelve days under the burning sun...no sweat. Well, not exactly, but to return to the story, I came to the jungle. If you have ever seen a jungle, you know that it is big, and dark, and very green. The trees are tall, the bushes are thick, and there are lots of little animals moving about, making you think they are big animals.
Well, the path was narrow, and the jungle on either side was thick and noisy, and closed over the path in a way that made me a little nervous. But I love my friend Tekka, so I said to myself, "Nasruddin, you are a stalwart soul, and you must go through this jungle in order to see Tekka. Just think of it as taking a walk through the jungle," I tried to argue with myself, but it was no use. I had to go.

So I started off through the jungle, and the path was not so bad once my eyes got used to the gloom. I was walking happily along, when I heard a noise behind me: "Rrrrhahh... rrhhahh... hhahh." I looked over my shoulder, and saw, to my surprise, a tiger was also taking a walk through the jungle.
"Ah," I said to myself,
which was the best I could do in the circumstances. Then I had a thought, which was fortunate. "It is never too late to begin an exercise regime. Why not start with jogging? for your health, that is." I agreed, and began at once. There I was, jogging through the jungle, enjoying what remained to me of my health, when I heard a sound behind me: "Rrrrhhahh...rrhhahh...hhahh." I looked over my shoulder, and what do you know the tiger had also taken up jogging! though I think the tiger was less interested in exercise, and more interested in nutrition.

Due to the beneficial effects of exercise, my brain was functioning more efficiently. "If you can jog, surely you can run," I told myself. "Why not try for a world record?"
It's amazing how quickly you can come to an agreement with yourself. I began immediately to see if I could set a new world record for land speed running. I tore through that jungle as if the path were a race track.
I am certain a world record was within my grasp, if only a judge with a stopwatch had been there. And when I heard a familiar sound behind me, - which I probably don't have to explain sounded like "Rrrrhhahh-rrhhahh-hhahh," - I didn't even have to stop and look to know the tiger was also bent on setting a world record.

So there we were, the two athletes running like the wind through the jungle, It was thrilling! It was exciting! It was terrifying! Suddenly, there was no jungle.
There was no path either, only the blue sky, and a cliff, and me, Nasruddin, falling down it. I said to myself, "Aaauughh!!" but it did no good. So I grabbed onto a bush.

(Did you ever notice, every single time you fall down a cliff, there's a bush to grab onto. Check it out for yourself)

So I grabbed this bush, and held on for dear life. I clung to it with all my strength, which I needed, because there was the tiger looking down at me, saying "Rrrhhahh...rrhhahh...hhahh." "Don't you know any other words?" I said. Apparently not, because the tiger continued to say the same thing over and over. I looked desperately about me for a way out, and could find none. Then I noticed the roots of the bush begin to pull out of the cliff, one by one.
"Nasruddin," I said, and I have a little song I sing to myself when I am in trouble, which seems to be more and more often these days, "Nasruddin, you have been/ in better sit-u-a-tions." It's a nice little song, very comforting. It certainly helped at that moment.
Then I heard a sound behind and below me that sounded strangely familiar:
"Hang on a bit" I said to myself, rather appropriately, "I thought I left that sound safely up above" I looked down, and saw that the bad always comes with the good.
Why is that do you think?
The good was that the cliff was not very high, and I would not be hurt if I fell. The bad was the second tiger standing below me, looking up.

There I was, hanging on the face of a cliff from a bush whose roots were pulling out, with a tiger above me and a tiger below me. I thought it was a good moment for my little song, so I sang again, "Nasruddin, you have been/ in better sit-u-a-tions."
It had its effect my head was clear, and I cast about desperately for a way out of my predicament. I assure you I didn't think of the word predicament at the time.
I looked on both sides, and suddenly spied a little green bush, with a single red berry. It looked like a huge wild strawberry. Now, my philosophy is always to enjoy yourself to the fullest, wherever you are. So I got a good grip with my toes, which are considerable, and held the bush with one hand, and reached out, risking all, and picked that strawberry.

And did I eat it? Oh, yes, my friends, I did. And I am here to tell you that if you are hanging on a cliff from a bush that is pulling out by the roots, and there is a tiger above you and a tiger below you, and you find a strawberry and you eat it, that will be the sweetest strawberry the world has ever known!

* * *

But wait...what about the tigers, and the cliff? How am I here to tell the tale?
Well, here it is: they were nearsighted tigers, and when they got a close look at me, they lost their appetites.