I often ask questions as part of a blog post, but I’m not sure if they’re the right ones. My point in asking them is to invite the reader to think and, I’ll be perfectly honest about it, to inspire comments. The questions should therefore invite many different interpretations. But still, there’s no way around the fact that any question and answering process invites us mainly to think rationally. Or is there?
“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” Voltaire
It’s possible to fire off a series of unanswerable questions that tears matters wide open, but on the edge of any rational Q and A you’ll find an ocean that cannot be put into words. That would be counterproductive to my objective. A rather more subtle way to ask questions is by means of a fable. Dutch poet Toon Tellegen has written many philosophical fables in a style that looks deceptively simple and without putting in any overt morals. In addition to asking you more questions, this could be about me doing my bit to promote the yearly Poetry International Festival of Rotterdam, from June 11th to 15th.
“The biggest surprise in his work is that Tellegen takes everything literally, thus creating a wealth of meanings.” Thomas Möhlmann about Tellegen’s poetry
Officially, Tellegen’s books of fables are children’s books, but that shouldn’t stop anyone reading them. Sadly, not much of his work has been translated into English. I’ll attempt to tell you one fable about the Squirrel and the Ant, two great friends:On a walk to the backside of the forest the ant and the squirrel came to a derelict house. The ant climbed on the back of the squirrel and looked inside through the broken window.
“What do you see?” the squirrel asked.
“All dust,” the ant said. “Everything is covered in dust.”
“Nobody has lived here for a long time, I guess,” the squirrel thought.
“Let’s go inside,” the ant said, jumping to the ground.
He pushed the door handle down and stepped across the threshold. It was dark inside, old and abandoned. The squirrel stepped in behind the ant and blinked.
“Who would have lived here?” he asked.
“Shush,” the ant said.
They looked around and got used to the dark. The ant took a book that had been lying on the table into his hand and blew off the dust.
“Look here,” he said.
The squirrel looked and read: “BOOK OF FORGETTING”
“What kind of book is that?” he asked.
The ant opened the book. On the first page there was a table of contents. The chapters were called: “to Unlearn, to Abandon, to Leave, to Lose, to Expire, to Dull, to Dilute, to Disappear.”“to Disappear,” the squirrel muttered. “Show me that.”
He took the book and opened it at the last page. It looked as if that was the page that had been read the most.
The squirrel read: ” … and in the end, all will …”
There was a tear in the page as if it had been turned in great haste.
“Don’t read on!” the ant said. He pulled the book out of the hands of the squirrel, closed it and put it down in a corner, underneath the dust.
The beams creaked and the half-open window gave a slight rattle.
“The wind,” the squirrel said.
“No,” the ant said. There wasn’t the slightest breeze.
“Who might have lived here?” the squirrel asked.
“I think,” the ant answered, “that nobody ever lived here.”
The squirrel put on a solemn expression and stepped outside, behind the ant. They walked into the forest.
“Don’t look back,” the ant said.
The squirrel looked back and saw the house had disappeared. There was a rosebush in full bloom. And a small, dark cloud found its way into the squirrel’s thoughts and clung there, tenaciously.
If you’d like to hear more of these stories, don’t hesitate to comment.
PS: I couldn’t write about fables without mentioning Aesop:
“Aesop was such a strong personality that his contemporaries credited him with every fable ever before heard, and his successors with every fable ever told since.”
-Willis L. Parker
As many of you know, Aesop lived around the 6th century BCE and his life had a sad beginning, he was a slave, and an equally tragic ending when he was condemned to death for a crime he didn’t commit. His fables have been around for all these years. I’ve clicked a few links and this is the best collection I’ve found so far. It looks like and old-fashioned storybook. Enjoy!