Our vulnerability is extensive. Our recent experiences give new clarity to the hazards of living in a society that functions on trust and relies on powerful, high-speed technologies. The destructive possibilities of these technologies are readily available to almost anybody. This may be the most significant development of recent human history in relation to our human future.
To promote civilization and to prevail against the terrorists, we are challenged to discern both what makes us vulnerable and also what builds security. Most Americans live in plenty, peace, and freedom and we know how wonderful and valuable it is. These blessings are missing in much of the world and too often U.S. policies appear geared to extending our good fortune without regard for, even at the expense of, much of the world. Generosity is a wellspring of our civilization and generosity, guided by wisdom—tender hearts and tough minds, is critical if we are to pursue our genuine self-interest. Along with the wisdom of serpents and the innocence of doves, generosity in spirit, letter, and matter is needed to promote security in our world.
Learning about other peoples through their stories, like those of the various religious traditions, is worthwhile and delightful. Through stories we can make connections that cannot be made by discussing doctrine. Examples are the parables of Jesus, the Zen Buddhist stories found in Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, Rabbi Nachman's Stories, The Little Flowers of Saint Francis, and The Pleasantries of the Incredible Mulla Nasrudin collected by Idries Shah (1924-1996) the great Afghan Sufi writer. Though not all the stories in these books are funny, most of them are, and humor is a major element. Frequently a story brings a flash of insight that transcends propositions. Whatever the characteristic of a particular story, the underlying connection is their fundamental humanness. Now seems a good time for some stories about the colorful Mulla Nasrudin. Here and on pages 6 and 7 are a few tales from The Pleasantries.
For some reason, the text referred to above didn't make it to the online edition. Sorry. --Online Editor