A sage takes a young woman named Kuvvet on a quest for truth. He teaches her wisdom about people, animals, nature, the world, and the Creator. Finally Kuvvet continues her journey alone and begins to narrate her own story.
A young woman named Kuvvet had searched for truths all her life.
She collected precious knowledge from all corners of the world and delved into her faith, Islam, to find answers to her questions.
And then the time was ripe.
The student was ready.
And she met the Sage, who recognized the illuminated being in Kuvvet.
So the Sage decided to teach her truth and wisdom.
And so began the teaching that would pave the way for Kuvvet.
Kuvvet and the Sage were talking.
Again and again, the Sage paused, smiling as he sank into thought.
“You remind me of someone.”
She looked at him quizzically. “Who do I remind you of?”
“Would you like to hear a story?”
“I’ll tell you about him.”
Kuvvet nodded. “I’ll listen.”
The Sage began.
The story was about someone who had awakened.
“Long ago, when life was less complicated, but just as turbulent as it is now (if not more turbulent and dangerous), there lived a little boy. He was a very ordinary boy. Every now and then he would get certain thoughts stuck in his head and ponder the meaning of things, but being so young, inexperienced, and a bit indifferent, he just as quickly shook them off and went about the life of an ordinary boy.
What the child did not know was that he was actually asleep. But still he grew. He became more mature. He learned and thought. He thought about all sorts of things. He thought about everything you could think about. He was seized by a thirst for knowledge. It was as if he were possessed. He wanted to learn more, to know more, to soak up everything there was to know about God and the world. He became a man. And one day this man woke up.
What he saw when he woke almost drove him mad. He was not in the world he had thought he was in. Instead, he was up to his waist in a swamp. Strangely, his torso was smeared with muck. Something or someone must have pulled him halfway out of the mire while he was asleep. Incredulous and confused, he looked around him. And he received another shock. All about, people were up to their necks in the slime. Their eyes were covered with colored glasses, and earplugs were in their ears. Any time one of these earplugs fell out or the glasses slipped when they stirred, the implement’s owner would immediately shriek in fright until some shadowy figures came and silenced him with a swift kick, replaced the device, and disappeared.
The man was on the verge of despair. He saw everything clearly now, but he was still trapped, held fast in the mire. He began to thrash about, desperate to get out of the bog, tugging with all his might. This only ensnared him more tightly and dangerously in a tangle of vines about his legs. To make matters worse, the beasts who lived in the brackish arrived. Animals he could scarcely see began to bite and scratch him. Panicked, he screamed for help, but to no avail.
After a time, he began to think: something or someone had pulled him halfway out of the mire to see if he was worthy of assistance. This meant that he had to get out of his predicament on his own. He had been pondering this a long time and had almost reached the end of his mental and physical resources when he suddenly had an idea. The dangerous, venomous swamp animals had been at him, and the strange, devilish figures had later joined them. They were all attacking him now, trying to maneuver him back down into the mud, already certain of victory. But the man kept smiling calmly. He had changed his strategy.
Do you know what he did? He stopped doing anything. He let his exhausted legs, still stuck fast despite all his efforts, rest. He ignored the enraged vermin. He let the shadowy figures hovering above the water continue to pummel him, paying them no mind. For every pain he suffered, he imagined one day being free, receiving his just reward, coming face to face with the invisible helper who had pulled him this far out of the foul, putrid waters.
An incredible desire took possession of him, just as it had before. At last he knew, at last he understood, what was really happening around him. At first he was very happy, but also very naive. He firmly believed that he could save all of the others. So he began to snatch the glasses from those nearest him and to pull out their earplugs. But he had not anticipated the second way in which these people had been trapped: They had been made to forget that they possessed a heart. They saw the truth, but did not accept it. They squeezed their eyes tight shut, pressed their fingers firmly into their ears, and began to scream at the top of their lungs until the beings responsible for maintaining their stupor came and replaced their blinders, releasing them from their torment.
So he stopped trying to help them and focused once again on his path through the ocean of swamp. As time passed, he grew older, wiser, and stronger, and became relentless. The beasts and demons rarely ceased tormenting him, but often a helping hand intervened to drive them off, giving him a brief respite. In these moments, he half-recovered and bowed in deep gratitude to his helper. And sometimes he felt a warm, delicate breeze pass by, touching him sweetly and cooling his deep, burning wounds. He knew that someone was trying to encourage him, urging him not to give up. Because if he did, he would soon start sinking into the mud again. That must not happen!
With enormous longing and love, he kept raising his head, just when he was about to give up, with a fierce determination. He stared straight into the eyes of the devils as if to say that he would no longer be intimidated. With calm, steady movements, he searched his immediate surroundings for solid, reliable objects such as rocks jutting out of the water or large plants that he could use to carefully pull himself forward. How often he was at the point of drowning, but how often he found a shallower path on which he could even proceed quite comfortably. His mood fluctuated wildly. Sometimes he felt like an angel, free and happy, and sometimes he was ruthlessly brought back down to earth. And again and again he continued on his way.
Because he wanted to prove to his helper that he was strong enough to get out of the mire. He would make it. That much he knew. It all took his breath away because, as the mature man he had become, he realized how infinitely beautiful, perfect, unique, and all-encompassing the unknown helper was … and how much greater that beauty must be even than his imagination could conjure up. He had to see him! He had to find him. Somehow. Sometimes he didn’t want to stop speaking to him for very love, and sometimes he bowed his head in shame because of his guilt and wickedness. And again and again he whispered to his helper that he did not want to give up; it was only for him, for this longing for him, that he wanted to endure the sufferings of the swamp, to be enveloped one day by his love forever and ever …”
Kuvvet and the Sage were talking.
And as the conversation drew to a close, the Sage fell silent and looked warmly at Kuvvet.
“Whenever I see you lately, Kuvvet, I am reminded of one of my old stories.”
“What story do you mean?”
“It is a story about a very special soap bubble.”
Kuvvet looked puzzled. “A story about a soap bubble?”
The Sage nodded gently. “Would you like to hear it?”
“Then I will tell it to you.”
And the Sage began.
It was the story about the progress of being.
“Once there was a beautiful, shining soap bubble.
It delighted observers and made them smile.
The bubble thought that it was its beauty and unique appearance that pleased them. But it was its purity and need for protection that touched people’s hearts.
The bubble learned this from a visitor, but did not yet understand completely.
The bubble grew older.
And its own brilliance and purity diminished. It dipped more and more often into the soapy water and one day realized that the soapy water had all been used up.
So the soap bubble went in search of more.
It soon found a mud puddle.
‘I must dive in here if I want to survive,’ it thought to itself sadly.
Someone happened by at that moment and spoke soothingly to the bubble.
‘We humans, too, must often suffer and overcome burning seas if we are to survive.’
‘Thank you!’ the soap bubble called out to the passerby.
And it jumped into the puddle.
When it emerged, it was a muddy ball. The mud soon dried, and the bubble looked at itself. ‘By overcoming that, I have obtained a firmer shell. I am no longer as fragile as I once was.’
And the passerby said, “Now you are different from ordinary soap bubbles. The Creator has granted you a second skin of earth for better protection from the dangers that surround you.
Among humans, too, many have thicker skins which they acquire through suffering and pain.
But there is a secret to this stronger skin.’
‘What kind of a secret?’
‘Come with me,’ the wanderer advised.
And they returned to the other soap bubbles.
The bubbles floated in front of their soapy water, delighting onlookers.
When they saw the ball, they greeted it.
The ball was confused.
‘They still think I am a simple soap bubble.’
‘They haven’t come as far as you have, so they don’t know. They perceive only as much as their eyes can see. It is the same with people.
They perceive what their eyes see and recognize only what they themselves are.’
The ball thanked his companion and continued its travels.
It soon came to a new realization: ‘I have a firmer shell, it’s true, but I am still hollow inside.’
And the ball collected flowers, grass, wood, and rock. And it filled the space inside it.
Soon it felt full enough and went on.
It again encountered its friend, who could see the change in the ball.
He said, ‘You have now acquired inner abundance and security. We humans do that by gaining knowledge and accumulating life experience. This gives us more certainty and steadfastness in our being.
And the ball continued on its way.
It thought to itself, ‘I am reaching maturity. But believing I had already reached it would be immature. I am a ball. Some are and remain simple soap bubbles. Most are. Others, like me, have more solid shells. We recognize each other immediately. But they do not see my inner fullness.
They see only as far as they themselves have come.
Then I encounter soap bubbles that have equally solid shells and are full inside.
We recognize each other.
And today I know that there are also balls that are further along than I am. They shine when I see them. I do not understand where their glow comes from.
I can see only as far as I myself have come.’
And as the ball went along, it began to think.
All its maturity had not yet made it glow.
The most important thing was missing.
And it thought, “I am unique. Why is that? I think. How can I do that without help? Or is it without help? Do I have help? Has someone created me and brought me this far? Who was it? How do I find him?’
Again someone came by and listened to its suffering, smiling approvingly.
‘You seek the Creator, little ball. He has hardened your shell, given you a rich inner life, and led you to Himself.’
The ball thanked him and asked to hear more about how to serve the Creator.
And little by little, it began to shine.
‘So now I have come to the end of my wanderings. I need no more.’
And I tell you, Kuvvet:
Good is heaviness imposed by the Creator. It is necessary heaviness. But forced, self-imposed heaviness is foolish.
What the Creator gave you, good or bad, ultimately became good for you.
What you took upon yourself, if it was good, became good.
And what you took upon yourself, if it was bad, became bad for you.”
Teach Me How to Cry
Kuvvet and the Sage were talking.
Soon a man came by, empty and full at the same time.
He asked for their attention, and they gave it to him.
He said, “I want to learn to cry. Whatever I do, I can shed no tears.”
The Sage watched him carefully.
“Learn to feel.”
The desperate man murmured, “I do feel, I do. I have felt so many things. So many feelings have raged in this body.”
The stranger pressed his fist against his chest, “My heart has almost burst with pain.”
Now the Sage understood.
“So love and warmth are missing.”
The man looked up in amazement. “What is love? Is there anything like that anymore?”
Then the Sage looked at Kuvvet.
A meaningful glance passed between them.
“What we allow to be taken from us we can take back again. What is torn from us we can reconquer together when we have become stronger.”
And the Sage said:
“Man fades away and perishes when he lacks love
Suffering without love is like the smoke of a fire.
It dwindles, and there are no flames to spread and burn.
Feeling without love is like spring without the sun.
Nature does not bring forth its splendor.
Living without love is like living without air.
The flowing blood is empty and no longer brings life to the organs.
So seek love, poor friend from whom it has been snatched away – by others or by himself.”
Wistfully, the man looked up.
“Where do I find it?”
Sadly, the Sage rubbed the stranger’s shoulder. “Within yourself.”
“I can’t find it there.”
The Sage fell silent for a moment and thoughtfully pointed at the man’s heart, where love had expired.
“This heart must return to life once again.”
“How can it do that?”
“It must thaw and escape its icy prison.”
“Show me how.”
Smiling, the Sage now began to recite from the Koran.
And the stranger cried. He cried as though his heart were breaking.
And then he emitted soul-refreshing gusts of laughter.
“The Koran?” the stranger asked.
“Allah’s book. Yes.”
Full of new life, the man stood up, determined.
“I have suffered a great deal. I had to become hard. So now I want to learn from Allah to become human again.
He gives me value.
He will not leave me alone or abandoned.
I want to be human again.
Authentic people are still so rare.
So let me become human again.
And now I will be off to seek bliss.
And now I will drink the glistening water of sublimity.
Farewell and be certain that I am not so easily buried in the fire’s embers.
I just needed a brief ray of hope.
Peace with Allah has been breathed into me.
I will find myself again.
And henceforth all my sorrow shall fade away.”