By Paulo Coelho
Mojud was a civil servant in a government department in a small town in the interior. He had no prospect of ever getting a better job, the country was going through a major economic crisis, and he had resigned himself to spending the rest of his life working eight hours a day and trying to enjoy himself in the evenings and at weekends, watching television.
One afternoon, Mojud saw two cockerels fighting. Feeling sorry for the creatures, he strode into the middle of the square to separate them, not realising that he was interrupting a cockfight. The angry spectators attacked Mojud. One of them threatened to kill him because his cockerel had looked set to win, and he would have won a fortune in stake money.
Mojud was afraid and decided to leave town. People were surprised when he did not turn up for work, but since there were several other candidates for the post, they soon forgot all about the former civil servant.
After travelling for three days, Mojud met a fisherman.
‘Where are you going?’ asked the fisherman.
‘I don’t know.’
Touched by Mojud’s situation, the fisherman took him home with him. After a night of talking, he discovered that Mojud knew how to read and so he proposed a deal: he would teach the new arrival to fish in exchange for lessons in reading and writing.
Mojud learned how to fish. With the money he earned by selling the fish, he bought books with which to teach the fisherman to read. By reading, Mojud learned things he had never known.
For example, one of the books was about joinery, and Mojud decided to set up a small workshop.
He and the fisherman bought tools and went on to make tables, chairs, shelves and fishing tackle.
Many years passed. The two men continued to fish and they spent their time on the river observing nature. They both continued to study, and the many books they read revealed to them the human soul. They both continued to work in the joinery, and the physical work made them healthy and strong.
Mojud loved talking to the customers. Since he was now a wise, cultivated, healthy man, people came to him for advice. The whole town began to make progress because everyone saw in Mojud someone who could find effective solutions to the region’s problems.
The young men in the town formed a study group with Mojud and the fisherman, and then told everyone that they were the disciples of two wise men. One day, one of the young men asked Mojud:
‘Did you give up everything in order to devote yourself to the search for knowledge?’
‘No,’ said Mojud, ‘I ran away from the town where I lived because I was afraid of being murdered.’
Nevertheless, the disciples learned important things and passed them on to others. A famous biographer was summoned to write the lives of the Two Wise Men, as they were now known. Mojud and the fisherman told him the facts.
‘But none of that reflects your wisdom,’ said the biographer.
‘No, you’re right,’ replied Mojud, ‘but the fact is that nothing very special happened in our lives.’
The biographer wrote for five months. When the book was published, it became a huge best-seller. It was the marvellous and exciting story of two men who go in search of knowledge, give up everything they are doing, do battle against adversity and encounter obscure and secret teachers.
‘That’s not what it was like at all,’ said Mojud, when he read the biography.
‘Saints must lead exciting lives,’ replied the biographer. ‘A story must teach something, and reality never teaches anything.’
Mojud gave up trying to argue with him. He knew that reality teaches a man everything he needs to know, but there was no point in trying to explain.
‘Let the fools live with their fantasies,’ he said to the fisherman.
And they continued to read, write and fish, to work in the joinery, to teach their disciples and to do good. They both promised, however, never to read any more lives of saints, because the people who write such books do not understand one very simple truth: everything that an ordinary man does in his life brings him closer to God.
(Inspired by a Sufi story.)
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