Part 2 of 2
When my grandmother—may she attain the Kingdom of Heaven—was dying, my mother, as was then the custom, took me to her bedside and, as I kissed her right hand, my dear grandmother placed her dying left hand on my head and said in a whisper, yet very distinctly:
"Eldest of my grandsons! Listen and always remember my strict injunction to you: In life never do as others do."
Having said this, she gazed at the bridge of my nose and, evidently noticing my perplexity and my obscure understanding of what she had said, added somewhat angrily and imperiously:
"Either do nothing—just go to school—or do something nobody else does.
Whereupon she immediately, without hesitation and with a perceptible impulse of disdain for all around her, and with commendable self-cognizance, gave up her soul directly into the hands of His Faithfulness, the Archangel Gabriel.
I think it will be interesting and perhaps even instructive for you to know that all this made so powerful an impression on me that I was suddenly unable to endure anyone around me, and as soon as we left the room where the mortal "planetary body" of the cause of the cause of my arising lay, I, very quietly, trying not to attract attention, stole away to the pit where, during Lent, the bran and potato peelings were stored for our "sanitarians," that is to say, our pigs.
And I lay there, without food or drink, in a tempest of whirling and confused thoughts—of which, fortunately for me, I still had only a very limited number in my childish brain— right until my mother's return from the cemetery, when the weeping that was shaking her after finding me absent and searching for me in vain "broke in" on me. At once I climbed out of the pit and stood a moment on the edge, for some reason or other with hands outstretched; then I ran to her and, clinging fast to her skirt, involuntarily began to stamp my feet and—why I don't know—to imitate the braying of the donkey that belonged to our neighbor, the bailiff.
Why all this produced such a strong impression on me just then, and why I almost automatically behaved so strangely, I still cannot make out, though during recent years, particularly on the days known as "Shrovetide," I have pondered over it a great deal, trying to discover the reason.
I have only reached the logical supposition that it was because the room where this sacred scene occurred, which was to have tremendous significance for the whole of my future life, was permeated through and through with the scent of a special incense brought from a monastery of Mount Athos and very popular among followers of every shade of belief of the Christian religion. Whatever it may have been, those are the facts.
During the days following this event, nothing particular happened in my general state, unless it was that I walked more often than usual with my feet in the air, that is to say, on my hands.
My first act that was obviously not in accord with the manifestations of others, though without the participation either of my consciousness or of my subconscious, occurred on exactly the fortieth day after my grandmother's death, when our family, our relatives, and all those who had esteemed my dear grandmother, who was loved by everybody, were gathered in the cemetery, as was the custom, to perform over her mortal remains reposing in the grave what is called the "requiem service " Suddenly, without rhyme or reason, instead of observing what was conventional among people of all degrees of tangible and intangible morality and of every station in life, that is, instead of standing quietly as if overwhelmed, with an expression of grief on one's face and even if possible with tears in one's eyes, I started skipping and dancing around the grave and sang:
Let her with the saints repose, She was a rare one, goodness knows! . . .
and so on and so forth.
And from this moment on, as regards any form of "aping," that is, imitating the habitual automatized manifestations of those around me, a "something" always arose in my presence, engendering what I should now call an "irresistible urge" to do things not as others do.
At that age, for example, I did such things as the following: when my brother, sisters, and the neighbors' children who came to play with us were learning to catch a ball only with the right hand, and threw it in the air, I would first bounce the ball hard on the ground, and when it rebounded, after first doing a somersault, would catch it, but only with the thumb and middle finger of the left hand; or if all the other children slid down the hill headfirst, I would try to do it, and moreover better and better each time, "backside first"; or if we were given various kinds of Abaramian pastries, and the others, before putting them into their mouths, would first of all lick them, evidently to try their flavor and prolong the pleasure, I would first sniff one on all sides and perhaps even put it to my ear and listen intently, and then, almost unconsciously, though very seriously, I would mutter to myself, "enough is enough, you don't need to stuff!"
and humming to an appropriate rhythm, would swallow it whole without savoring it, and so on and so forth.
The first event that gave rise to one of the two data I mentioned, which became the "vivifying sources" for nourishing and perfecting my deceased grandmother's injunction, occurred just at the age when I changed from a chubby mite into what is called a "young rascal," and had already begun, as is sometimes said, to be a "candidate for a young man of pleasing appearance and dubious content."
And this event occurred under the following circumstances, which were perhaps even specially combined by Fate.
One day, with a number of young rascals like myself, I was setting snares for pigeons on the roof of a neighbor's house, when suddenly one of the boys who was standing over me and watching me closely said:
"I think the horsehair noose ought to be set so that the pigeon's big toe never gets caught in it because, as our zoology teacher recently explained to us, it is just in that toe that the pigeon's reserve strength is concentrated, and of course if this big toe gets caught in the noose, the pigeon might easily break it."
Another boy, leaning over just opposite me—from whose mouth, by the way, whenever he spoke saliva always splashed abundantly in all directions— snapped at this remark of the first boy and delivered himself, with a copious shower of saliva, of the following words:
"Shut your trap, you hopeless mongrel offshoot of the Hottentots! What an abortion you are, just like your teacher' Even if it's true that the pigeon's greatest physical force is concentrated in its big toe, then all the more reason for seeing that just that toe gets caught in the noose Only then can there be any importance for our aim—that is, catching these unfortunate pigeon creatures—in a certain particularity proper to all possessors of that soft and slippery 'something,' the brain, which consists in this, that when, thanks to the action of other influences, on which its insignificant power of manifestation depends, there arises what is called a 'change of presence,' periodically necessary according to law, the slight confusion that should proceed for the intensification of other manifestations of the general functioning immediately enables the center of gravity of the whole organism, in which this slippery 'something' plays a very small part, to shift temporarily from its usual place to another place, and this often leads to unexpected results in the general functioning, ridiculous to the point of absurdity."
He discharged the last words with such a shower of saliva that it was as if my face had been exposed to one of those "atomizers"—not of ersatz production—invented by the Germans to spray material with aniline dyes.
This was more than I could endure, and without changing my squatting position, I flung myself at him head first, hitting him full force in the pit of the stomach, which instantly laid him out flat and made him, as is said, "lose consciousness."
I do not know or wish to know what results will be formed in your mentation on learning about the strange convergence of life circumstances I will now describe, but for my mentation, this coincidence provided material for reinforcing my belief that all the events that occurred in my youth, far from being simply the results of chance, were created intentionally by certain extraneous forces.
The point is that this dexterity had been taught me very thoroughly
only a few days before this event by a Greek priest from Turkey, who, persecuted by the Turks for his political convictions, had been compelled to flee from there, and on arriving in our town had been engaged by my parents to teach me the modern Greek language.
I do not know on what he based his political convictions and ideas, but I remember very well that in all our conversations, even when he was explaining the difference between ancient and modern Greek exclamations, it was apparent that this Greek priest was always dreaming of getting to the island of Crete as soon as possible, and manifesting himself there as befits a true patriot.
Well then, on beholding the effect of my skill, I was, I must confess, extremely frightened, because knowing nothing about such a reaction to a blow in that place, I was quite sure I had killed him.
While I was experiencing this fear, another boy, a cousin of the one who had become the first victim of my so to say "skill in self-defense," seeing what I had done and obviously overcome by a feeling called "consanguinity," without a moment's pause leaped at me and with a wide swing punched me in the jaw.
From this blow I "saw stars," as is said, and at the same time my mouth felt as full as if it had been stuffed with enough food for the artificial fattening of a thousand chickens.
After a little while, when both these strange sensations had calmed down within me, I discovered that there actually was some foreign substance in my mouth, and when I pulled it out with my fingers, it turned out to be nothing less than a tooth of large dimensions and strange form.
Seeing me staring at this extraordinary tooth, all the boys swarmed around me, and also began staring at it with great curiosity and in deep silence.
By this time the boy who had been laid out flat recovered and, picking himself up, also began to stare at my tooth with the other boys, just as if nothing had happened to him.
This strange tooth had seven prongs, and at the end of each of them a drop of blood stood out in relief, and through each separate drop there shone clearly and distinctly one of the seven aspects of the manifestation of the white ray.
After this silence, rare among us young rascals, the usual hubbub broke out again, and in noisy chorus we decided to go at once to the barber, a specialist in extracting teeth, and to ask him why this tooth was like that.
So we all clambered down from the roof and went off to the barber's And I, as the "hero of the day," stalked at the head of them all.
The barber, after a casual glance, said it was simply a "wisdom tooth" and that all members of the male sex have one like it—that is, all those who up to the time when they can say "papa" and "mama" are fed exclusively on their own mother's milk, and who are able at first sight to pick out from many others the face of their own father.
From all the effects of this event in which my poor "wisdom tooth" became a complete sacrifice, not only did my consciousness begin, from that time onward, to absorb on every occasion the very essence of the essence of my deceased grandmother's behest—may she attain the Kingdom of Heaven—but also, because I did not go to a "qualified dentist" to have the socket of my former tooth treated, which as a matter of fact I could not do since we lived too far from any contemporary center of culture, a "something" began to ooze chronically from this socket, which had the property—as was only recently explained to me by a famous meteorologist with whom I chanced to become bosom friends during frequent meetings in the all-night restaurants of Montmartre—of arousing an interest in and a tendency to seek out the causes of every suspicious "actual fact", and this property, not transmitted by heredity to my common presence, gradually and automatically led to my becoming a specialist in the investigation of every "suspicious phenomenon" that, as so often happened, came my way.
And when, of course with the cooperation of our All-Common Master, the Merciless Heropass, that is, the "flow of time," I was transformed into the young man I have already described, this new property became a real inextinguishable hearth, always burning, of consciousness.
The second vivifying factor I mentioned, which brought about the complete fusion of my dear grandmother's injunction with all the data making up my individuality, was the totality of impressions received from information I chanced to acquire concerning the origin here on Earth of a principle, which later became—as was demonstrated by Mr. Allan Kardec during an "absolutely secret" spiritualistic séance—one of the chief "life principles" among beings arising and existing on all the other planets of our Great Universe.
This all-universal principle of living is formulated in the following words:
"If you go on a spree, then go the whole hog, including the postage."
As this now-universal principle arose on the same planet as you and where, moreover, you spend most of your time lolling about on a bed of roses and frequently dance the fox trot, I consider that I have no right to withhold from you the information I have that will help you understand certain details of the origin of that universal principle.
Soon after the inculcation in my nature of the new inherency I mentioned, that is, the unaccountable striving to learn the real causes of all sorts of "actual facts," I arrived for the first time in the heart of Russia, in the city of Moscow, where, finding nothing else for the satisfaction of my psychic needs, I occupied myself with investigating Russian legends and sayings. And one day—whether accidentally or as a result of some objective lawful chain of circumstances, I do not know—I came across the following story.
Once upon a time a certain Russian, who to all appearances was just a simple merchant, had to go on some business or other from his provincial town to this second capital of his country, the city of Moscow, and his son—his favorite one, because he resembled only his mother—asked him to bring back a certain book.
When the great, unconscious author of this all-universal principle of living arrived in Moscow, he and a friend of his, as was and still is the custom there, got "blind drunk" on genuine Russian vodka.
And when these two members of one of the large contemporary groupings of biped breathing creatures had drunk the proper number of glasses of this "Russian blessing," and were launched on a discussion about what is called "public education"—a topic with which it has long been customary to begin a conversation—our merchant suddenly remembered by association his dear son's request, and decided to set off at once with his friend to a bookshop to buy the book.
In the shop, after looking through the book that the salesman had handed him, the merchant asked its price.
The salesman replied that the book cost sixty kopecks.
Noticing that the price marked on the cover of the book was only forty-five kopecks, our merchant first began to ponder in an unusual way—especially unusual for Russians—and then, with a certain movement of his shoulders, he straightened himself up like a ramrod and, throwing out his chest like an officer of the guards, said after a little pause, very quietly but in a tone of great authority:
"But it is marked here forty-five kopecks. Why do you ask sixty?"
Thereupon the salesman, putting on the "oleaginous" face proper to all salesmen, replied that indeed the book cost only forty-five kopecks, but had to be sold for sixty because fifteen kopecks were added for postage.
At this reply our Russian merchant was greatly perplexed by these two quite contradictory but obviously reconcilable facts, and something visibly began to proceed in him, and gazing up at the ceiling he again began to ponder, this time like an English professor who has just invented a capsule for castor oil, then, suddenly turning to his friend, he delivered himself for the first time on Earth of the verbal formulation which, expressing in its essence an indubitable objective truth, has since assumed the character of a proverb.
And he put it to his friend as follows:
"Never mind, old fellow, we'll take the book. Anyhow we're on a spree today, and 'if you go on a spree, then go the whole hog, including the postage.' " As for me, unfortunately doomed while still living to experience the delights of Hell, as soon as I had become aware of all this, something very strange that I have never experienced before or since began to proceed in me and continued for rather a long time, it was as if all the usual associations and experiences from various sources were, as contemporary Hivintzes would say, "running races" inside me.
At the same time, in the whole region of my spine there began an intense, almost unbearable itching and in the very center of my solar plexus an equally unbearable colic, and after a while these two mutually stimulating sensations gave way suddenly to a peaceful inner state such as I experienced in later life only once, when the ceremony of the "great initiation" into the brotherhood of the "makers of butter from air" was performed over me And later, when my "I," that is, this "something unknown" which in ancient times a certain eccentric—called by those around him a "learned man," as we still call such persons—defined as a "relatively mobile arising, depending on the quality of functioning of thought, feeling, and organic automatism," and which another renowned scholar of antiquity, the Arabian Mal el-Lel, defined as "the compound result of consciousness, the subconscious, and instinct"—a definition, by the way, which was later "borrowed" and repeated in a different form by the no less renowned and learned Greek, Xenophon—
when this same "I" turned its dazed attention within, I first constated very clearly that everything, even down to each single word of this saying, recognized as an "all-universal life principle," was transformed in me into a special cosmic substance which, merging with the data crystallized long before from my deceased grandmother's behest, was converted into a "something" which, flowing everywhere through my whole presence, settled forever in each atom composing it There and then my ill-fated "I" felt distinctly and, with an impulse of submission, became aware of the for me sad fact that, from that moment on, always and in everything, without exception, I would willy-nilly have to manifest myself according to this inherency formed in me, not in accordance with the laws of heredity or even under the influence of surrounding conditions, but arising in my common presence from the action of three external, accidental causes having nothing in common first, from the injunction of a person who had become, without the slightest desire on my part, the passive cause of the cause of my arising, second, because a tooth of mine was knocked out by some ragamuffin, chiefly on account of somebody else's "slobbering", and third, thanks to the verbal formulation delivered in a drunken state by a person totally unknown to me—a certain "Russian merchant."
If before my acquaintance with this "all-universal principle of living" I had manifested myself differently from other biped animals like myself, arising and vegetating on the same planet, I did so automatically and sometimes only half-consciously, but after this event I began to do so consciously and, moreover, with an instinctive sensation of the two blended impulses of self-satisfaction and self-awareness, in correctly and honorably fulfilling my duty to Great Nature.
It must be emphasized that although even before this event I did everything not as others did, my manifestations scarcely attracted the attention of those around me but, from the moment when the essence of this principle of living was assimilated in my nature, then on the one hand all my manifestations, whether directed toward an aim or merely to "pass the time," acquired vivifyingness, and began to assist the formation of "corns" on the organs of perception of every creature similar to me, without exception, who turned his attention directly or indirectly toward my actions, and on the other hand I began to carry out all these actions in accordance with the injunction of my deceased grandmother to the utmost possible limits, moreover, the practice was automatically acquired in me when beginning anything new and also at any change, of course on a large scale, always to utter, silently or aloud:
"If you go on a spree, then go the whole hog, including the postage."
In the present case, for example, since owing to causes not dependent on me but flowing from the strange and accidental circumstances of my life I happen to be writing books, I am compelled to do this also in keeping with that same principle, which has gradually been fixed in me by various extraordinary coincidences created by life itself, and has blended with each atom of my common presence.
This time I shall put this psycho-organic principle of mine into practice by not following the custom of all writers, established from the remote past down to the present, of taking as the theme of their various writings the events that supposedly have occurred or are now occurring on Earth, but instead I shall take events on the scale of the whole Universe Thus also in the present case, "If you take, then take!"—that is to say, "If you go on a spree, then go the whole hog, including the postage."
Any writer can write on the scale of the Earth, but I am not any writer.
Can I confine myself merely to this "paltry Earth" of ours—paltry, that is, in the objective sense?
No, this I cannot do I cannot take for my writings the same themes that other writers generally take, if only because what our learned spiritualists affirm might suddenly come true and my grandmother might hear of this, and do you realize what might happen to her, to my dear beloved grandmother? Would she not turn in her grave, as they say? And not only once, but—as I understand her, especially now that I have become quite skillful at entering into the position of another—she would turn so many times that she might almost be transformed into an "Irish weathercock."
Please, reader, do not be alarmed I shall, of course, also write of the Earth, but with such an impartial attitude that this comparatively small planet and everything on it will correspond to the place it occupies in reality, and which, even according to your own sane logic—arrived at thanks, of course, to my guidance—it must occupy in our Great Universe.
And of course I must make the various what are called "heroes" of my writings not such types as in general the writers of all ranks and in all epochs on Earth have described and extolled, that is, types such as those Toms, Dicks, or Harrys who are born through a misunderstanding and, during the process of their formation up to "responsible life" fail to acquire anything proper to a creature in the image of God—that is to say, a man—and who, until their last breath, progressively cultivate in themselves only such "charms" as "lasciviousness," "mawkishness," "amorousness," "malice," "chicken-heartedness," "envy," and similar vices unworthy of a man.
I intend to introduce in my writings heroes of such a kind that everybody must willy-nilly sense them with his whole being as real, and about whom data must inevitably be crystallized in every reader for the notion that each one of them is indeed a "somebody" and not just "anybody."
During these last weeks, while lying in bed, my body completely exhausted, I mentally drafted a summary of my future writings and thought out the form and sequence of their exposition; and I decided to make the chief hero of the first series of my writings ... do you know whom? . . . the great Beelzebub himself. And I did this in spite of the fact that, from the very outset, this choice of mine might evoke in the mentation of most of my readers such associations as would engender in them all kinds of automatic contradictory impulses coming from the data infallibly formed in the psyche of people by all the established abnormal conditions of their external existence, and in general "crystallized" in them thanks to the famous "religious morality" rooted in their life—all of which must inevitably result in an inexplicable hostility toward me personally.
But do you know what, reader?
In the event that you decide, despite this warning, to risk further acquaintance with my writings, and you try to absorb them always in a spirit of impartiality and try to understand the very essence of the questions I intend to elucidate, I now wish—in view of an inherency in the human psyche whereby the good can be perceived without opposition only when a "contact of mutual frankness and confidence" is established—to make a sincere confession to you about the associations that arose in me and precipitated in the corresponding sphere of my consciousness the data that prompted the whole of my individuality to select as the chief hero of my writings just such an individual as is presented before your inner eyes by this same Mr. Beelzebub.
I did this not without cunning. My cunning lies simply in the logical supposition that if I pay him this attention he will infallibly—as up till now I have no reason to doubt— show his gratitude by helping me in my intended writings with all the means at his command.
Although Mr Beelzebub is, as the saying goes, of "a different clay," yet— as I learned long ago from the treatise of the famous Catholic monk, Brother Foolon—he has a curly tail, so I—being thoroughly convinced from experience that curls are never natural but can be obtained only by various intentional manipulations—have to conclude, according to the "sane logic" formed in my consciousness from reading books on chiromancy, that Mr Beelzebub must also have a good share of vanity, and will therefore find it extremely awkward not to help someone who is going to advertise his name.
It is not for nothing that our incomparable teacher, Mullah Nasr Eddin, frequently says: "Without greasing the palm, not only is it impossible to live tolerably anywhere but even to breathe."
And another terrestrial sage, named Till Eulenspiegel, who also based his wisdom on the crass stupidity of people, has expressed the same idea in the following words:
"If you don't grease the wheels the cart won't go."
Knowing these and many other sayings of popular wisdom, formed throughout the centuries in the collective life of people, I have decided to "grease the palm" of Mr Beelzebub, who, as everyone realizes, has means and knowledge enough and to spare.
Hold on, old fellow! Joking, even philosophical joking, aside, it seems that with all these digressions, you have violated one of the chief principles that you had made the basis of the system you planned for actualizing your dreams through this new profession the principle to remember and always take into account the weakening of the function of thinking in the contemporary reader, and not to fatigue him with the perception of numerous ideas over a short period of time.
Moreover, when I asked one of those people who are always hanging around me, "eager to enter Paradise without fail with their boots on," to read aloud straight through everything I have written in this introductory chapter, what is called my "I"—of course, with the participation of all the data formed in my peculiar psyche during the course of my life, which have given me, among other things, an understanding of the psyche of creatures like myself but of different types—my "I" perceived and cognized with certainty that, thanks to this chapter alone, there must inevitably arise in the common presence of every reader without exception a "something" automatically engendering a marked hostility toward me personally.
To tell the truth, it is not this which worries me the most at the moment, what worries me is the fact that at the end of the reading I also perceived that in the sum total of everything expounded in this chapter, my whole presence, in which the aforesaid "I" plays a very small part, manifested itself in a way quite contrary to one of the fundamental commandments of that universal teacher whom I particularly esteem, Mullah Nasr Eddin, which he expressed in the words: "Never poke your stick into a hornets' nest."
But the agitation that had pervaded the whole system animating my feelings when I realized that an animosity toward me must necessarily arise in the reader immediately quieted down when I remembered the ancient Russian proverb that states "There is no offence which with time will not blow over—time grinds every grain into flour " Since then, the agitation that arose from realizing my failure to obey the commandment of Mullah Nasr Eddin no longer troubles me in the least, nevertheless, a very strange process has begun in both of my recently acquired "souls," taking the form of an unusual itching, which has increased progressively until it now produces an almost intolerable pain in the region a little below the right half of my already over-exercised "solar plexus."
Wait! Wait! . . . This process, it seems, is also quieting down, and in the depths of my consciousness—let us say meanwhile even of my "subconscious"—there is beginning to arise everything required to assure me that it will cease entirely, for I have just remembered another fragment of life wisdom, which leads me to understand that if indeed I acted against the advice of the highly esteemed Mullah Nasr Eddin, I nevertheless did so without premeditation according to the principle of that extremely engaging—not widely known on Earth, yet unforgettable by anyone who once met him —that precious nugget, Karapet of Tiflis.
Well, it can't be helped . . . now that my introductory chapter has turned out to be so long, it will not matter if I spin it out a little more to tell you also about this extremely engaging Karapet of Tiflis.
First of all I must state that twenty or twenty-five years ago the Tiflis railway station had a "steam whistle."
It was blown every morning to wake up the railway workers and station hands and, as the Tiflis station stood on a hill, this whistle was heard almost all over the town, and woke up not only the railway workers but all the other inhabitants as well.
The Tiflis local government, as I recall it, even entered into a lengthy correspondence with the railway authorities about the disturbance of the morning sleep of the peaceful citizens.
To release the steam into the whistle every morning was the job of this same Karapet, who was employed in the station.
When he would come in the morning to the rope by which he released the steam into the whistle, before taking hold of the rope and pulling it, he would wave his arms in all directions, and solemnly, like a Muslim mullah from a minaret, cry in a loud voice:
"Your mother is a —! Your father is a —! Your grandfather is more than a —! May your eyes, ears, nose, spleen, liver, corns, . . . " et cetera In short, he pronounced in various keys all the curses he knew, and not until he had done so would he pull the rope.
When I heard about this Karapet and this practice of his, I went to see him one evening after the day's work, with a small "boordook" of Kahketeenian wine, and after performing the indispensable solemn "toasting ritual" of the locality, I asked him, of course in a suitable form, according to the local code of "amenities" established for mutual relationship, why he did this.
He emptied his glass at a draught and, having sung the famous Georgian song "Drink up again, boys," obligatory when drinking, he began in a leisurely way to answer as follows:
"Since you drink wine not as people do today, that is, merely for appearances, but in fact honestly, this already shows me that, unlike our engineers and technicians who plague me with questions, you wish to know about this practice of mine not out of curiosity but from a genuine desire for knowledge, and therefore I wish, and even consider it my duty, to confess to you sincerely the exact reason for the inner so to say scrupulous considerations that led me to this."
He then related the following:
"Formerly I used to work in this station at night cleaning the boilers, but when they put in the steam whistle, the stationmaster, evidently considering my age and incapacity for the heavy work I was doing, gave me the one job of releasing the steam into the whistle, for which I had to arrive punctually every morning and evening.
"The very first week of my new service, I noticed that after performing this duty of mine I felt vaguely ill at ease for an hour or two. "But when this queer feeling, increasing day by day, eventually became a definite instinctive uneasiness from which even my appetite for 'makokh' disappeared, I began to rack my brains in order to find out the cause I thought about it with particular intensity, for some reason or other, while going to and coming from my work, but however hard I tried I could not make anything clear to myself, even approximately.
"Things went on like this for almost six months, and the palms of my hands had become calloused from the rope of the steam whistle when, quite suddenly and accidentally, I understood why I was experiencing this uneasiness.
"The shock that brought about a correct understanding, resulting in the formation of an unshakable conviction, was a certain exclamation I happened to hear in the following rather peculiar circumstances.
"One morning when I had not had enough sleep, since I spent the first half of the night at the christening of my neighbor's ninth daughter, and the other half reading a rare and very interesting book I had come across entitled Dreams and Witchcraft, I was hurrying on my way to release the steam, when I suddenly saw at a street corner a barber-surgeon I knew, employed in the local government service, who beckoned me to stop.
"The function of this barber-surgeon friend of mine was to go through the town at certain hours, accompanied by an assistant pushing a specially constructed cart, and to seize all the stray dogs whose collars lacked the metal tags issued by the local authorities on payment of the tax He then had to take these dogs to the municipal slaughterhouse, where they were kept for two weeks at the town's expense and fed on slaughterhouse offal. If by the end of this period their owners had not claimed them and paid the tax, these dogs were driven, with a certain solemnity, down a passageway that led directly to a specially designed oven.
"Shortly afterward, from the other end of this remarkable and salutary oven, there flowed, with a delightful gurgling sound, a certain quantity of pellucid and ideally clean fat, to the profit of the fathers of our town, for the manufacture of soap and also perhaps of something else, while, with a purling sound no less delightful to the ear, there poured out a fair quantity of useful substances for fertilizer.
"My friend, the barber-surgeon, proceeded in the following simple and admirably skillful manner to catch the dogs.
"He had somewhere obtained an old, quite large fishing net, which he carried on his broad shoulders, folded in a suitable manner, and during these peculiar excursions of his through the slums of our town for the good of humanity, when a dog 'without its passport' came within range of his allseeing and for the whole canine species terrible eye, he, without haste and with the softness of a panther, would steal up close to it and, seizing a favorable moment when his victim was interested and attracted by something, would cast his net over it and quickly entangle it. Then, pulling up the cart to which a cage was attached, he would disentangle the dog in such a way that it found itself imprisoned in the cage.
"When my friend the barber-surgeon beckoned me to stop, he was just waiting for the opportune moment to throw the net over his next victim, which at that moment was standing and wagging his tail at a bitch. My friend was just about to cast his net when suddenly the bells of a neighboring church rang out, calling the people to early prayer. At this unexpected sound ringing out in the morning quiet, the doe took fright and, springing aside, shot off down the empty street at its full canine velocity.
"This so infuriated the barber-surgeon that his hair, even in his armpits, stood on end and, flinging his net down on the pavement, he spat over his left shoulder and cried out:
"'Oh, Hell! What a time to ring!''
"As soon as this exclamation of his reached my reflecting apparatus, numerous thoughts began to swarm in it which ultimately led, in my view, to a correct understanding of lust why there proceeded in me the aforesaid instinctive uneasiness.
"The moment I understood this I even felt annoyed at myself that such a simple and clear idea had not entered my head before.
"I sensed with the whole of my being that my interference in the communal life could have no other result than the very sensation that had been proceeding in me all this time.
"And indeed, everyone awakened from his sweet morning slumbers by the blast of my steam whistle must doubtless curse me by everything under the sun—just me, the cause of this infernal din—and thanks to this, there must surely flow from all directions toward my person vibrations of all kinds of malice.
"On that memorable morning, after performing my duties, while sitting in my usual mood of depression in a neighboring 'dukhan' and eating 'hachi' with garlic, I continued to ponder, and I came to the conclusion that if I should curse beforehand all those who are outraged by my service for the benefit of some of them, then according to the book I had read the night before, however much all those still lying in the 'realm of idiocy'—that is, between sleep and drowsiness—might curse me, it would have no effect on me at all.
"And in fact, since I began to do this, I no longer feel that 'instinctive uneasiness.'"
Well now, patient reader, I must really conclude this opening chapter. It has only to be signed.
Stop! Misconceived formulation! With a signature there must be no joking. Otherwise the same thing will happen to you as happened once before in one of the countries of Central Europe, when you were forced to pay ten years' rent for a house you occupied for only three months, simply because you had signed a paper obliging you to renew the lease for the house each year.
After this and many similar life experiences, I must, in any case as regards my own signature, be very, very careful.
Very well, then.
He who in childhood was called "Tatakh"; in early youth, "Darky"; later, the "Black Greek"; in middle age, the "Tiger of Turkestan"; and now, not just anybody, but the genuine "Monsieur" or "Mister" Gurdjieff, or the "nephew of Prince Mukhransky," or finally, simply a "teacher of dancing."
1. Mullah Nasr Eddin or as he is also called Nasr Eddin Hodja is little known in Europe and America but is very well known in all the countries of the continent of Asia. He is a legendary personage corresponding somewhat to the German Till Eulenspiegel. Many popular tales and savings are attributed to this Nasr Eddin some of long standing and others more recent all expressing "life wisdom."
2. "Cheshma" means veil.