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Political Satire: Hell Breaks Loose

Discussion in 'Political Humor' started by reedak, May 1, 2014.

  1. reedak

    reedak Member

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    Part 1 of political satire

    Narrator: As the door slowly opened, a tall, thin old man entered the room with a lamp in his right hand. Despite his age, as shown by his white hair and goatee, he moved with incredible agility. After closing the door quietly behind him, he held the lamp aloft and looked around as if to check for intruders. There were no one else in the room save for scores of shrunken human heads hanging in several rows on a wall. They seemed to stare at the old man with a mixture of hatred, hostility and fear in their sunken eyes. The old man showed not a bit of fear as he seemed to respond to their sinister stares with a wicked smile.

    The place appeared to be some kind of storeroom, with chests stacked neatly against the opposite wall. Beside the adjacent wall at the far end of the room were two old armchairs, flanked by two life-sized guardian statues with ferocious eyes gazing at the doorway. Hanging above each armchair was a large, shining sword, suspended from the ceiling by a thin rope.

    The old man walked towards one of the armchairs and sat down on it. Then he turned around to press one of the two hidden levers on the wall behind the armchair. At once, a hidden door in the stone wall swung open behind the guardian statue next to him, revealing a secret entrance to a basement. With one hand carrying the lamp and the other holding onto the handrail, the old man descended a narrow flight of stairs into the darkness below.

    After reaching the bottom of the staircase, he walked along a winding passageway till he came to an old, rusty, heavy iron door. Opening a huge rusty padlock with a key from his pocket, he pushed hard on the door to open it. As the door creaked eerily, a nauseating stench rushed out from the room, almost bowling him over. He lamented: "Why am I so forgetful lately? I should have worn it before coming here." He put the lamp down on the floor and took a surgical mask from his pocket to wear it over his mouth and nose. A gruff voice thundered from inside the room: "There is no need to stand on ceremony. Come in and relax, old man!"

    On entering the room, he saw two tennis-sized balls of fire suspended in midair in the darkness. As he approached the fiery red balls, he found that they were actually the malevolent flaming eyes of a huge black dog chained in a lying posture to a pillar in the far corner of the room. The beast was unusually large for a dog, about the size of a grizzly bear or a horse.

    In the flickering light, it could be seen that the whole place -- walls, ceiling, floor, even the pillar and the iron door -- was inscribed with unintelligible writing which appeared to be some sort of magic words or inscriptions. For what purpose was this magical charm or incantation inscribed is anybody's guess.

    Old man: Doggy, how did you know I was outside the room?

    Dog: Even for anyone who does not have the power to sense anything far away, he can use his common sense. Who else dares to come to this dreary chamber at this very witching time of night when I am thirsting for hot blood? It always drives me crazy to see anyone covering his mouth and nose in front of me.

    Old man: Sorry, I wear a mask so as not to spread the flu to you.

    Dog: What a considerate man you are, hypocrite!

    Old man: At first I was hesitant to visit you lest I disturbed your sleep.

    Dog: You must be kidding. Who can sleep soundly in this cesspool of filth? I really lead a dog's life here. If I could escape back to the underworld, I would lodge a complaint against you to Hades and sue you for human rights violations; sorry, more accurately in my case, animal rights violations.

    Old man: If I claim to be second in championing human rights, nobody would claim to be the first. It's equally true for animal rights.

    All living creatures are responsible for their karma, that is, their actions and the effects of their actions. Sorry, I have forgotten that you are not a living creature since you don’t belong to this world. However, I would try to keep you here as long as possible. Don't blame me. You get what you deserve.

    To be frank with you, I don't like to come here, just like anybody else. I would rather forget your existence after dumping you here. It's advisable to let sleeping dogs lie, but I am coming here with a purpose tonight.

    Dog: There is a Chinese saying, "Only in times of trouble can a man be found praying at the San Bao Temple." You always come with no good purpose. Talking about karma, you have more reasons to worry about your karma.

    Old man: I am going to give you some freedom as I need your help to fight against my rival.

    Dog: I know whom you are referring to as I can sense his presence miles away. I am sure you are talking about the priest whose brother's soul had been stolen by me several years ago. At the moment, he is on his way here to retrieve his brother's soul.

    Old man: Yes, you have guessed correctly. I think he will pose a formidable challenge or even a threat to me in the long run. Some years ago, I took his brother's soul away from you and kept it as booty in a magic jar after capturing you in a bitter battle. I will return it to you as a reward to help me fight against the priest.

    Dog: I hate to say yes to others. But now that you are giving me such a rich reward, how can I say no to you?

    Old man: I am glad that you do not say no to me at this juncture.

    Dog: It's quite funny that we were fighting against each other in the past: literally, dog biting man, and man biting dog. But now we have become allies!

    Old man: We have no permanent friends and we have no permanent enemies but we have permanent interests.

    Dog: Give me a good scrub before letting me see the light of day in many years.

    Old man: My servants can wash your body but not your soul. You have a notorious record of launching surprise attacks on your victims. In particular, you like to pounce on others from behind without even uttering a single bark. I could never forget that fateful day when you crept stealthily behind me and bit off a large chunk of flesh from my leg after sinking your sharp fangs into it. Fortunately, I was able to eradicate the virus from my body with my magic antiviral drug otherwise I would have died of rabies long ago. Hence, I would never trust you, whether you are my friend or my enemy.

    Dog: I would never trust you too, old fox, because I know you spy on everybody, even your friends.

    Narrator: The huge black dog was taken out from the dungeon and chained to a pillar near the gate of the old man's house the following day. Meanwhile, the priest was riding a white horse like the wind towards the old man's home.

    As noon approached, he could see the old man's house which was perched high on a distant hill. The white horse came to an abrupt halt with whitened eyes and flicking ears. Its nostrils expanded and quivered as it snorted and blew in the direction of the hill. Suddenly it let out a loud neigh, spun around and bolted out in the opposite direction. The priest was caught completely off guard and was thrown to the ground. As he was skilled in magic and kungfu, he managed to land on his feet with some minor bruises and scratches on his arms.

    Sighing and shaking his head, he lamented: "Friendship is a ship big enough to carry two in fair weather, but only one in foul." By this time, the terrified horse had disappeared into the distance. Just as he was about to continue his journey, he heard a hooting sound from above him: "Who? Who?" In response, the priest asked: “Who? Who?" At once, he heard a reply coming from above him: "A friend." Looking above, he saw an owl perching on a branch.

    Priest: I am glad to find a new friend here after losing an old friend.

    Owl: I am joyful too. Confucius says: "To have a friend come from a faraway place, is this not a joy?"

    Priest: I wish I could have more time to enjoy the company of a new friend. Unfortunately, I don't have much time on my hands as I have to rush to my destination before nightfall. I hope we can meet again on my return journey.

    Owl: Pitfalls lie in wait for the unwary. Don't risk losing whatever you have by venturing into the unknown. Stay, grow and prosper in what you have been doing all this while.

    Priest: Sorry, I don't stoop to danger. There is a Chinese saying: “Even though I know of tigers in the mountain, I still bent on going to the tiger mountain.“

    Owl: When your animal farm is growing and prospering, do you have to risk your life hunting in the tiger woods? Why should you change the course of your arrow when it is at the point of hitting its target?

    Priest: My decision is based on principle rather than expediency. I would never give up my goal of retrieving my brother's soul.

    Owl: Although good advice is unpleasant to the ears, please listen to me. Things done prematurely will suffer the same fate as a premature baby. Never hobble downstairs with heedless haste.

    Priest: As a Chinese saying goes. “If we don’t enter a tiger’s lair, how can we get a tiger cub?” Nothing can stop me from retrieving my brother's soul.

    Owl: Since you are so stubborn, I have nothing more to say than to bid farewell to you.

    Priest: Farewell, my friend!

    (End of part 1 of political satire. Part 2 to be continued in next post.)
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2014
  2. reedak

    reedak Member

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    Part 2 of political satire
    Narrator: The priest turned and continued his journey, but after walking a few steps he turned back to ask the owl.
    Priest: Tell me, who are you?
    Owl: I am nameless.
    Priest: Can't you tell me your name? At least I can remember that someone somewhere in the wilderness has given me some good advice.
    Owl: What's important in a friend is not his name but friendship with good advice. If you don't listen to me, perhaps you could care to heed the words of Sun Zi. He had pointed out: "The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting."
    Priest: Thanks for pointing it out to me. Anyway, nobody can dissuade me from retrieving my brother's soul.
    Owl: I have given up all hope of dissuading you from pursuing your rash scheme. Whatever number of donkeys, they can’t pull an obstinate man back from the brink of the abyss. Conversely, whatever number of men, they can’t pull an obstinate donkey back from the brink of the abyss.
    Priest: One equal temper of heroic hearts,
    Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
    To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
    Owl: And whether we shall meet again I know not.
    Therefore our everlasting farewell take:
    For ever, and forever, farewell, Priest!
    If we do meet again, why, we shall smile;
    If not, why then, this parting was well made.
    Priest: Forever, and forever, farewell, my nameless friend!
    If we do meet again, we'll smile indeed;
    If not, 'tis true this parting was well made.
    Narrator: The priest turned and continued his journey to the old man's house. Looking at the priest till he disappeared into the distance, the owl shook its head and sighed repeatedly.
    As the priest trudged along the rocky path up the hill, he could smell something like burning brimstone in the air. The foul odour grew with such intensity as he approached his destination that he had to take a surgical mask from his bag to wear it over his mouth and nose.
    It was late in the afternoon when he arrived at the old man’s house on the hill. He found the beast fastened in a crouched position to a pillar near the gate with a chain long enough for it to make a terrifying leap from a long distance. Staring menacingly at him with its glowing red eyes, the huge black dog growled, barked and snapped its immense jaws viciously in an extremely confrontational manner. The priest started to cough as his surgical mask could not keep out the foul breath that kept puffing out from the dog's mouth.
    Priest: Open confession is good for the soul. Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard. Return my brother's soul to me and I shall leave in peace.
    Dog: Stop dreaming. You will never get it back.
    There is an old Chinese saying, “Who could have guessed it was a blessing in disguise when the old man on the frontier lost his mare?” If not for your precipitate decision, I won't get even a modicum of freedom; I won’t have the chance to see daylight or say no to my captor. Many thanks for your futile attempt to settle old scores with me. It’s a blessing in disguise.
    I shall pursue the stance of strategic patience to break the chains of bondage so that I shall achieve full independence and freedom from my captor. He will get a taste of his own medicine one day!
    Priest: So one day you are going to bite the hand that feeds you? It looks like you have proved Mark Twain wrong. He said: "If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you; that is the principal difference between a dog and a man."
    Dog: No, I haven't proved Mark Twain wrong. The problem is that I am no ordinary dog but a hellhound; and the old man is no benevolent person but an evil sorcerer. My ultimate goal is to regain my prominent position as a normal hellhound in the underworld so as to be taken seriously by all other supernatural creatures once again.
    In short, I aim to be the top dog of the underworld.
    Priest: I am coming here for my brother's soul but you show no repentance. Your impenitence hurts the feelings of both my family and other victims of your past evil deeds.
    Your behaviour is worse and more aggressive than before. Aren't you afraid that I shall beat the hell out of you?
    Dog: Don't threaten me. My mighty captor will come to my rescue. If you don't believe your ears, you should believe your eyes. Just go over there and see for yourself.
    Narrator: The priest walked towards a large placard that was hung on the fence near the gate. The following message entitled "Public Affirmation" by the old man was written on the large placard:
    “My policy is clear —- the soul of the Priest's brother is kept by the Dog and therefore the dispute falls within the scope of our agreement of Mutual Cooperation and Security. And we oppose any unilateral attempts to undermine the Dog’s possession of the soul of the Priest's brother.
    This is not a new position. This is a consistent one. The agreement covers all the possessions of the Dog. There’s no 'red line' that’s been drawn. We’re simply applying the agreement.
    We stand together in calling for disputes in the area, including the issue of the soul of the Priest's brother, to be resolved peacefully through dialogue.
    By order of the Old Man of the Hill"
    After reading the message, the priest turned to the dog.
    Priest: The old man should respect facts, take a responsible attitude, remain committed to not taking sides on the issue of my brother's soul, speak and act cautiously and earnestly play a constructive role in peace and stability of the area.
    Dog: Either you don't understand the old man’s public affirmation or you still delude yourself into believing that he is just a neutral bystander in our conflict. Wake up, man!
    (End of whole story)
     
  3. reedak

    reedak Member

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    Sorry, I have found that the words in part 2 are all cluttered up with no paragraphs.

    I resend part 2 with proper paragraphs for easy reading.

    Part 2 of political satire

    Narrator: The priest turned and continued his journey, but after walking a few steps he turned back to ask the owl.

    Priest: Tell me, who are you?

    Owl: I am nameless.

    Priest: Can't you tell me your name? At least I can remember that someone somewhere in the wilderness has given me some good advice.

    Owl: What's important in a friend is not his name but friendship with good advice. If you don't listen to me, perhaps you could care to heed the words of Sun Zi. He had pointed out: "The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting."

    Priest: Thanks for pointing it out to me. Anyway, nobody can dissuade me from retrieving my brother's soul.

    Owl: I have given up all hope of dissuading you from pursuing your rash scheme. Whatever number of donkeys, they can’t pull an obstinate man back from the brink of the abyss. Conversely, whatever number of men, they can’t pull an obstinate donkey back from the brink of the abyss.

    Priest: One equal temper of heroic hearts,
    Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
    To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

    Owl: And whether we shall meet again I know not.
    Therefore our everlasting farewell take:
    For ever, and forever, farewell, Priest!
    If we do meet again, why, we shall smile;
    If not, why then, this parting was well made.

    Priest: Forever, and forever, farewell, my nameless friend!
    If we do meet again, we'll smile indeed;
    If not, 'tis true this parting was well made.

    Narrator: The priest turned and continued his journey to the old man's house. Looking at the priest till he disappeared into the distance, the owl shook its head and sighed repeatedly.

    As the priest trudged along the rocky path up the hill, he could smell something like burning brimstone in the air. The foul odour grew with such intensity as he approached his destination that he had to take a surgical mask from his bag to wear it over his mouth and nose.

    It was late in the afternoon when he arrived at the old man’s house on the hill. He found the beast fastened in a crouched position to a pillar near the gate with a chain long enough for it to make a terrifying leap from a long distance. Staring menacingly at him with its glowing red eyes, the huge black dog growled, barked and snapped its immense jaws viciously in an extremely confrontational manner. The priest started to cough as his surgical mask could not keep out the foul breath that kept puffing out from the dog's mouth.

    Priest: Open confession is good for the soul. Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard. Return my brother's soul to me and I shall leave in peace.

    Dog: Stop dreaming. You will never get it back.

    There is an old Chinese saying, “Who could have guessed it was a blessing in disguise when the old man on the frontier lost his mare?” If not for your precipitate decision, I won't get even a modicum of freedom; I won’t have the chance to see daylight or say no to my captor. Many thanks for your futile attempt to settle old scores with me. It’s a blessing in disguise.

    I shall pursue the stance of strategic patience to break the chains of bondage so that I shall achieve full independence and freedom from my captor. He will get a taste of his own medicine one day!

    (End of part 2 of political satire. Part 3 to be continued in next post.)
     
  4. reedak

    reedak Member

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    Part 3 of political satire

    Priest: So one day you are going to bite the hand that feeds you? It looks like you have proved Mark Twain wrong. He said: "If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you; that is the principal difference between a dog and a man."

    Dog: No, I haven't proved Mark Twain wrong. The problem is that I am no ordinary dog but a hellhound; and the old man is no benevolent person but an evil sorcerer. My ultimate goal is to regain my prominent position as a normal hellhound in the underworld so as to be taken seriously by all other supernatural creatures once again.

    In short, I aim to be the top dog of the underworld.

    Priest: I am coming here for my brother's soul but you show no repentance. Your impenitence hurts the feelings of both my family and other victims of your past evil deeds.

    Your behaviour is worse and more aggressive than before. Aren't you afraid that I shall beat the hell out of you?

    Dog: Don't threaten me. My mighty captor will come to my rescue. If you don't believe your ears, you should believe your eyes. Just go over there and see for yourself.

    Narrator: The priest walked towards a large placard that was hung on the fence near the gate. The following message entitled "Public Affirmation" by the old man was written on the large placard:

    “My policy is clear —- the soul of the Priest's brother is kept by the Dog and therefore the dispute falls within the scope of our agreement of Mutual Cooperation and Security. And we oppose any unilateral attempts to undermine the Dog’s possession of the soul of the Priest's brother.

    This is not a new position. This is a consistent one. The agreement covers all the possessions of the Dog. There’s no 'red line' that’s been drawn. We’re simply applying the agreement.

    We stand together in calling for disputes in the area, including the issue of the soul of the Priest's brother, to be resolved peacefully through dialogue.

    By order of the Old Man of the Hill"

    After reading the message, the priest turned to the dog.

    Priest: The old man should respect facts, take a responsible attitude, remain committed to not taking sides on the issue of my brother's soul, speak and act cautiously and earnestly play a constructive role in peace and stability of the area.

    Dog: Either the meaning of the old man’s public affirmation has been lost in translation or you still delude yourself into believing that he is just a neutral bystander in our conflict. Wake up, man!

    (End of whole story)
     
  5. reedak

    reedak Member

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    The following is an improved version of the thread, the title of which is preferably "Political satire: The Old Man of the Mountain".

    It's common for a writer to constantly improve his work by dumping one version after another into the waste basket.

    “The waste basket is the writer's best friend.” -- Isaac Bashevis Singer


    Part 1 of the story:

    Narrator: As the door slowly opened, a tall, thin old man entered the room with a lamp in his right hand. Despite his age, as shown by his white goatee and shoulder-length white hair, he was incredibly sprightly. After closing the door quietly behind him, he held the lamp aloft and looked around as if to check for intruders. There was no one else in the room save for scores of shrunken human heads hanging in several rows on a wall. They seemed to stare at him with a mixture of hatred, hostility and fear in their sunken eyes. He showed not a bit of fear as he seemed to respond to their sinister stares with a wicked smile.

    The place appeared to be some kind of storeroom, with dozens of chests stacked neatly against the opposite wall. Beside the adjacent wall at the far end of the room were two old armchairs, flanked by two life-sized guardian statues with ferocious eyes gazing at the doorway. Hanging above each armchair was a large, shining sword, suspended from the ceiling by a thin rope.

    The old man walked towards an armchair and sat down on it. Then he turned around to press one of the five hidden levers on the wall behind the armchair. At once, a hidden door in the stone wall swung open behind the guardian statue next to him, revealing a secret entrance to a basement. With one hand carrying the lamp and the other holding onto the handrail, he descended a narrow flight of stairs into the darkness below.

    After reaching the bottom of the staircase, he walked along a winding passageway till he came to an old, rusty, heavy iron door. Opening a huge rusty padlock with a key from his pocket, he pushed hard on the door to open it. As the door creaked eerily, a nauseating stench rushed out from the room, almost bowling him over. He lamented: "Why am I so forgetful lately? I should have worn it before coming here." He put the lamp down on the floor and took a surgical mask from his pocket to wear it over his mouth and nose. A gruff voice thundered from inside the room: "There is no need to stand on ceremony. Come in to relax, old man!"

    On entering the room, he saw two glowing marble-sized orbs hovering in the darkness. As he approached the fiery balls, the lamp light revealed that they were actually the malevolent flaming eyes of a huge black dog lying in the far corner of the room. The beast, which was chained to the wall, was unusually large for a dog, about the size of a grizzly bear.

    In the flickering light, it could be seen that the whole place -- walls, ceiling, floor, even the iron door -- was inscribed with unintelligible writing which appeared to be some sort of magic words or inscriptions. For what purpose was this magical charm or incantation inscribed is anybody's guess.

    Old man: Doggy, how did you know I was outside the room?

    Dog: It's just simple common sense, even if I don't have the psychic power of telaesthesia. Who else dares to come to this dreary chamber at the very witching time of night when I am thirsting for hot blood?

    Old man: I was hesitant to visit you lest I disturbed your sleep.

    Dog: You must be kidding. Who can sleep soundly in this cesspool of filth? I really lead a dog's life here. If I could escape back to Hades, I would complain about you to Hades and sue you for human rights violations; sorry, more accurately in my case, animal rights violations.

    Old man: I am second to none in championing the causes of human rights and animal rights.

    Dog: Yes, you are the indisputable champion of all rights, including the right to insult others. It always drives me crazy to see anyone covering his mouth and nose in front of me.

    Old man: Sorry, I wear a mask so as not to spread the flu to you.

    Dog: What a considerate man you are, hypocrite!

    Old man: It's advisable to let sleeping dogs lie, but I am coming here with a purpose tonight.

    Dog: You always come with no good purpose. As a Chinese saying goes, "Nobody visits the San Bao Temple (the Temple of Three Treasures) without a purpose."

    Old man: Shakespeare said in Hamlet:

    "Let Hercules himself do what he may,
    The cat will mew and dog will have his day."

    The day has come for you to get some freedom as I need your help to fight my archrival.

    Dog: I know whom you are referring to as I can sense his presence miles away. I am sure you are talking about the priest whose brother's soul had been stolen by me decades ago. Now he is on his way here to save his brother's soul.

    Old man: Yes, you have guessed correctly. The priest is the youngest of three wizard siblings.

    To quote from the Book of Matthew 12:25:

    "And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand."

    There was a long-standing feud between the priest and his eldest brother, giving me the opportunity to exploit the situation to my advantage. Even now I still use the strategy of divide and rule to weaken his clan and sour his relations with his neighbours.

    Dog: No wonder you spare no effort to divide the priest's clan by sheltering and supporting any faction that seeks to break away to set up an alternative ancestral temple. I also exploited the disunity and other weaknesses of his clan. The enmity between me and his clan went as far back as 1300 years ago when I fought with his wizard ancestor, resulting in my first defeat by his clan and my greatest defeat in the bygone age. I tried to take revenge by fighting with another of his wizard ancestor 900 years later. The battle, however, ended in a stalemate and my retreat to Hades.

    The progress from catastrophic defeat to stalemate gave me much confidence. All good things come to those who wait. I got my long-awaited sweet revenge in my third assault on his clan 300 years later. I defeated his great grandfather who was a shaman, and captured many lost souls from his clan in the battle.

    Old man (smiling): You have terribly good patience. I wonder whether you would also wait several centuries to settle our scores.

    Dog (smiling): Only time will tell.

    Old man (smiling): Although time waits for no man, I have all the time in the world to wait for it!

    Dog: You must be getting senile. By then you will be one of the numerous mildewed old fossils in my collection of enemy specimens.

    Old man: I have been using a pair of drakes for experiment with my "magic power of same-sex reproduction". Once I succeed with the experiment, I shall use a drake to experiment with my "magic power of asexual reproduction". When I master both magic powers, my body cells will have the capacity for indefinite self-renewal and I shall become immortal.

    Dog: Wake up from your dream of immortality, old man. You will end up like Qin Shi Huang, the first Chinese emperor who died seeking the fabled elixir of life. Let's get back to our discussion about the priest's clan.

    Forty years after taking my sweet revenge, I advanced into the priest's territory and hunted more lost souls from his clan. I used the strategy of divide and conquer against his divided family until you intervened in the conflict by allying with his eldest brother.

    Old man: You have yourself to blame for your own downfall. I had no intention of fighting with you openly until you launched a sneak attack against me. I could never forget that fateful night when I strayed into the misty and gloomy abode of the dead. I saw these words inscribed over an archway: "LET NO COWARDS ENTER MY HOME FOR SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH." I am no coward, of course. So why should I be afraid to enter? After going through the archway, I found myself in an old dilapidated garden overgrown with weeds and strewn with skulls and bones. Soon I arrived at a derelict building with two open doors.

    Over one door was the inscription "The Door to Peace", and over the other "The Door to War". I stood staring at the tumbledown building for a long while, hesitating to enter but curiosity eventually got the better of me. As I am a peace-loving man, I chose to enter through "The Door to Peace". To my horror, you crept stealthily behind me, sank your sharp fangs into my right leg and bit off a large chunk of flesh.

    When I woke up, I found myself lying on my bed with a large chunk of flesh missing from my bloody leg. Fortunately, I was able to eradicate the virus from my body with my magic antiviral drug otherwise I would have died of rabies long ago.

    Dog: You have yourself to blame since you ignored my warning that was inscribed over the archway. You entered my home for scientific research of your own volition.

    Old man: What were you testing by biting others in your Home For Scientific Research?

    Dog: It's a riddle for the intelligent.

    Old man: What would happen if I stepped into "The Door to War"?

    Dog: You would wake up looking for your missing head!

    Old man: No wonder you are nicknamed "Mint Master". You are second to none in minting words and phrases. Whether I chose "war" or "peace", I would be bitten for your so-called "scientific research"!

    Dog: Don't call the kettle black. You have a nickname too. You are known as the "Sower" because you have a habit of sowing seeds of discord among sistren and brethren before leaving a conflict zone.

    (Part 2 will continue in the next posting.)
     
  6. reedak

    reedak Member

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    Part 2 of the story:

    Old man: Don't make a fool of me by giving all sorts of ridiculous excuses or playing with words. Nobody can attack me with impunity.

    Your first taste of gambling success proved to be your greatest mistake. It was a short-term gain for a long-term loss. After your sneak attack, I allied with the priest's eldest brother to give you a sound thrashing. After capturing you and your two allies in a bitter battle, I seized your all your plunder including his brother's soul which I imprison in a scarab beetle pendant on my "Necklace of Harmonia".

    At first, I intended to return your loads of loot including the stolen soul to the eldest sibling. I had discussed with him the return of his brother's soul but he asked me to be its temporary custodian until he won the power struggle against the priest. I had second thought, though, after he lost control of his ancestral temple to the priest and fled with his family.

    Fortunately, he was so frail and sickly that he departed this world sooner than I anticipated, thus saving me the headache of deciding whether I should return all your plunder to his clan. By the blessing of Providence, he left behind a son who was equally hostile towards the priest.

    As I regard the priest as a formidable adversary or even a threat in the long run, I would not return all your plunder including his brother's soul to him, his nephew or any member of his clan. Instead, I shall hand the stolen soul over to you as a reward to help me fight the priest. The scarab beetle pendant that holds his brother's soul would adorn your collar beautifully.

    Dog: I hate to say yes to others. But now that you are giving me such a rich reward, how can I say no to you?

    Old man: I am glad that you do not say no to me at this juncture.

    Dog: It's quite funny that we were fighting against each other in the past: literally, dog biting man, and man biting dog. But now we have become allies!

    Old man: To quote Benjamin Disraeli, the British Prime Minister in Victorian times: “We have no permanent friends. We have no permanent enemies. We just have permanent interests."

    When our interests converge, you can regard me as God; but when our interests diverge, you can regard me as Satan.

    Dog: I have permanent interests but no permanent freedom. I wonder why you still imprison me even though you freed my two allies long ago.

    Old man: Permanent interests do not mean permanent freedom for you. Give you an inch and you'll take a mile. Vae victus! Woe to the vanquished! As the vanquished foe, don't demand more than what I offer you!

    Dog: Even though we are allies now, you still refuse to give me my freedom. It looks like our alliance is a marriage of convenience.

    Old man: So are all alliances! There are two reasons for imprisoning you permanently. Firstly, I don't trust you even if you are my great friend because you like to pounce on others from behind without even uttering a single bark.

    Dog: Neither do I trust you, old fox, because you spy on everybody even your "great friends".

    Old man: Secondly, as long as you could serve as a counterweight to my archrival, I shall keep you like treasure under lock and key.

    Dog: You have instructed all the swordsmiths in the region not to make swords and other weapons for the priest's clan. In addition to the arms embargo on his clan, you have taken pains to collect such magic weapons as the Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi (lit. "Grass-Mowing Sword"), Excalibur, Thuan Thien (Heaven's Will), the silver lance of Olyndicus, the Aegis, the Armour of Achilles, the Flying Throne of Kai Kavus and the Canoe of Gluskab from many countries around the world. You have the Sword of Damocles and the Honjo Masamune hanging from the ceiling above the armchairs in your storeroom. Any intruder who sits on the wrong armchair or presses the wrong hidden lever would succumb at once to the impending doom that hangs overhead. With so many magic swords and formidable weapons in your arsenal, you can easily win a one-on-one fight with anybody. I don't understand why you need my help to fight your archrival.

    Old man: Firstly, my strategy is to extend a line of advantage all the way to the doorstep of the priest, with emphasis especially placed on my "preeminent interests" in dividing his clan.

    Secondly, like the king in chess, the big boss is usually the last to face his opponent. I want you to be on the front line of defence against my archrival.

    Thirdly, I always avoid a one-on-one fight with anybody unless I am convinced that he is an easy meat for me. Fighting, war in particular, is no child's play. Its costs are immeasurable, particularly for the vanquished. If I lose to the priest, I would be joining you either in this dungeon or in Hades.

    I want to fight like a boss but sometimes I end up fighting like a tea boy. Hence I don't want to fight alone but forge an alliance against my archrival. There are strength and security in numbers. I am trying to get at least four other mythical creatures to join our alliance.

    Dog: Yes, the more well-to-do your allies, the fatter your pockets. You recruit the well-to-do to be your new allies but abandon your old allies who are nearly broke and in dire straits, saying they must solve their own problems. You make a shrewd businessman, doing a roaring business by stuffing your pockets with protection money from well-to-do allies.

    Old man: Dirty old dog, you are talking with your head in the clouds. I am neither a saviour nor a philanthropist. I fight for what I believe to be in the vital interest of my sect. Do you think I have the responsibility to protect others for free? Take a trained monkey as an example, it has to be rewarded with a banana by the busker after each street performance even though he fails to collect a dime in his hat after passing it around.

    Dog: Keep calm and stay cool, old man, otherwise I have to ask Charon to cool your head in the calm waters of the river Styx. I know the importance of money as well as you. Money is important even to the dead. For instance, it was customary in ancient Greece to place a coin in the mouth of the dead because the souls of the newly deceased were required to pay a fare to Charon to ferry them across the rivers Styx and Acheron that divided the world of the living from the world of the dead. If the deceased could not pay the fee, or if they were not given a proper burial, they had to wander the shores for one hundred years.

    Let's return to our discussion about the priest. You have tried very hard to collect whatever magical grimoires and occult manuscripts you can find, so as not to let them fall into the hands of the priest. You have ordered all wizards and mystics not to impart any esoteric knowledge to him so that he could never surpass you in magic power. I wonder how he is closing "key gaps" in magic power under such circumstances.

    Old man: I think he must have mastered the "black art of distant brain hacking" to steal my secret knowledge from my brain at a long distance. I find the matter troubling and take it quite seriously.

    Dog: I think you should master the "black art of distant reverse brain hacking" to steal back from his brain whatever he has stolen from you.

    Old man: By the time I master the skill, my mind would have gone blank!

    Dog: What's beyond comprehension is why you allow the priest full and unfettered access to the secret knowledge in your brain.

    Old man: A living brain is turned on all the time, allowing free interaction with other minds.

    Dog: It seems to me that the only brains these days that are safe from the priest are brains that are turned off, unplugged, and thrown into jars of formalin for preservation. You should keep your secret knowledge under lock and key somewhere else.

    Old man: However and wherever I hide my secret knowledge, he can still lay his hands on it.

    Dog: From my experiments, I found that whenever I tried to take away the savings from under the mattress of any old woman, she would wake up screaming in fright. If there is no reaction from her, it would mean that the time is ripe for Charon to ferry her soul across the rvers Styx and Acheron. Maybe you can emulate the old folk by hiding all your secret knowledge under the mattress.

    Old man: Hey doggy! Don't insult me by lumping me together with the old folk. I am not that old, okay? Enough is enough. This "burglary of the century" has to stop, but not by hiding my secret knowledge under the mattress.

    Dog: Some members of your sect have leaked to the outside world that you are using your "black art of thought reading" to mine sensitive data from the brains of all people in the region, including your "great friends".

    Old man: There is a big difference between my surveillance programme to extract sensitive data from the brains of all people for the purpose of safeguarding the security of my sect and the priest's clandestine programme to steal secret knowledge from my brain for military and economic advantage. All the warlocks in the region are conducting similar surveillance programmes to safeguard the security of their sects.


    (Part 3 will continue in the next posting.)
     
  7. reedak

    reedak Member

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    Dog: What you have been doing all this while is no different from what you have been accusing others of doing. Under the pretext of safeguarding the security of your sect, you claim that you have the right to do whatever others have no right of doing. Only the Devil knows what you are doing with the huge amount of invaluable data collected in your surveillance programme. Unless you dump away the huge amount of invaluable data extracted from all the brains in the region, your illicit activity would amount to the "robbery of the century". Your hypocrisy and double standards regarding the extraction of sensitive data from the brains of all people are abundantly clear.

    Old man: It is amazing that a devil like you can think so straight!

    Dog: I always think crooked but occasionally I can think straight. Let's get back to the discussion about the priest's clan.

    Unlike my species which lives close to all people especially the terminally ill; your sect in the mountainous region is living far away from his clan on the coastal plain. There is a Chinese saying: "The water in the river does not mix with that of the well." There should be no contending interests between you and the priest. The region is wide enough to accommodate both groups. So why are you so hostile towards his clan?

    Old man: It's not a question whether the region is wide enough to accommodate both groups. As a Chinese saying goes, "A mountain cannot accommodate two tigers", I must maintain my supremacy and predominance in the region by all means.

    Shakespeare had pointed out in Troilus and Cressida:

    “The heavens themselves, the planets, and this centre
    Observe degree, priority, and place,
    Insisture, course, proportion, season, form,
    Office, and custom, in all line of order.”

    As above, so below. As within, so without. I won't tolerate anyone trying to change the status quo or "all line of order" by force or coercion.

    Like the prey-predator relationship that maintains the ecological balance of the earth, I need an odd mix of "the good, the bad and the ugly" to maintain the strategic balance in the region.

    Dog: There is nothing to be feared about the priest. He can't even rein in his dwarfish wayward ally. How can he be a threat to you who are adept at arm-twisting others into bending to your wishes and forcing others to become your unwilling allies?

    Old man: It's imprudent to underestimate one's opponents. To ensure victory, I must keep the upper hand over my enemy. There is no such thing as a fair fight.

    Dog: How can I help you fight the priest since you have forced me to swear by the Styx and the Acheron never more to bite anyone again?

    Old man: No sweat. It is I who make the rules and laws, so it is I who can let you break them anytime. Now I authorise you to defend yourself by attacking anyone who attacks me.

    Dog: I am rather confused. In the end, whom shall I really be defending, myself or you?

    Old man: Just look at other dogs. A dog would start barking and attacking an approaching stranger without any command from its master.

    Dog: Now I understand what Abraham Lincoln meant when he said, "The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend."

    Old man: I think a better quote would be "The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a pet". Anyway, you are free to think whatever you please. It won't hurt your ego too much if you take it as your right to self-defence whenever you are called to duty to come to my defence. The more proactive your role as a counterweight to the growing power of the priest, the more freedom I shall give to you. Once I master the "magic power of the invisible leash", you will regain all your freedom. Beware, however! You will come to a sorry end if you think you can be naughty again and roam wherever you please without listening to me. I shall be able to pull you back and rein you in with the magic invisible leash on your neck.

    Dog: As a matter of curiosity, may I know why there is no end to your list of enemies?

    Old man: I abhor a vacuum. Whenever I find no enemies, I would feel something amiss.

    Dog: I also wonder why you have turned a blind eye to my problematic behaviour as long as I don't poo on your doorstep. On the other hand, you could not tolerate the behavioural problems of my two allies and ordered them to clean up all the mess after you captured them.

    Old man: It's a riddle for the intelligent too.

    Dog: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. I have no choice but to content myself with a modicum of freedom.

    Old man: That’s the right attitude. Grip your bird tightly with your paw lest it flies away.

    Dog: Give me a good scrub before letting me see the light of day in many years.

    Old man: My servants can wash your body but not your soul.

    Narrator: The huge black dog was taken out from the dungeon and chained to the gate of the old man's mountain fortress next day. Meanwhile, the priest was riding a white horse like the wind towards the old man's mountain fortress which was a magnificent castle built on top of a high rock reaching 2000 m above sea level.

    As noon approached, he came in sight of the old man's castle after travelling a long way up the mountain. The white horse came to an abrupt halt with whitened eyes and flicking ears. Its nostrils expanded and quivered as it snorted and blew in the direction of the castle. Suddenly it let out a loud neigh, spun around and bolted out in the opposite direction. The priest was caught completely off guard and was thrown to the ground. As he was skilled in gongfu and occultism, he managed to land on his feet with some minor bruises and scratches on his arms.

    Sighing and shaking his head, he lamented: "Now I understand why Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce (American editorialist, journalist, short story writer, fabulist and satirist) said that 'friendship is a ship big enough to carry two in fair weather, but only one in foul'." By this time, the terrified horse had disappeared into the distance. He picked up his bundle of personal belongings and slung it over his right shoulder. After picking up his staff, he was about to continue his journey when he heard a loud hooting sound coming from above. In response, he asked: "Who? Who?" At once, he got the reply: "A friend." Looking up, he saw an owl perching on a branch.

    Priest: I am glad to find a new friend here after losing an old friend.

    Owl: I am joyful too. Confucius says: "To have a friend come from afar; isn't it a joy?"

    Priest: I wish I could have more time to enjoy the company of a new friend. Unfortunately, I don't have much time on my hands as I have to rush to my destination before nightfall. I hope we can meet again on my return journey.

    Owl: Treacherous pitfalls lie in wait for the unwary traveller. Don't risk losing whatever you have by venturing into the unknown. A premature beginning will lead to a premature end. Stay, grow and prosper in what you have been doing all this while.

    Priest: Sorry, I don't stoop to danger. There is a Chinese saying: “If we don’t enter a tiger’s lair, how can we get a tiger cub?”

    Owl: When your animal farm is growing and prospering, do you have to risk your life hunting in the tiger woods?

    Priest: As a Chinese saying goes, “Even though I know of tigers in the mountain, I still bent on going to the tiger mountain.“ Nothing can stop me from saving my brother's soul.

    Owl: Why should you change the course of your arrow when it is at the point of hitting its target? Sit back and relax. Just let nature take its course.

    Priest: Faith will move mountains.

    Owl: Never hobble downstairs with heedless haste. It takes many steps to reach the top but one misstep to fall back to the bottom.

    Priest: Like the ancient Chinese tale entitled "Yu Gong (meaning Foolish Old Man) Moves The Mountain", I am determined to remove all obstacles, even the mountain of the old man, to save my brother's soul from the Old Man of the Mountain.

    Owl: Although good advice is unpleasant to the ears, please listen to me. One mistake could undo all achievements. One defeat could lose all the gains of victory.

    Priest: Since the old man won't return my brother's soul, I have to go to look for him in his mountain fortress. If the mountain won't come to Muhammad, Muhammad will go to the mountain.

    Owl: Please bear in mind that the hellhound's downfall is a good example of an adventure gone wrong.

    Priest: My decision is based on principle rather than expediency. I would never give up my goal of saving my brother's soul from the old man.

    Owl: Let me accompany you for a short distance in the hope that I can change your mind eventually.

    Priest: You are welcome to accompany me, but I am afraid I may disappoint you in the end.

    Narrator: The owl flew down and perched on his left shoulder. After walking some distance, they heard the roar of a tiger.

    Owl: A tiger is coming our way. Let's hide high up in a tree.

    Priest: There is no need to hide. I can subdue four tigers barehanded with my magic power.

    Owl: Let's hide now and we shall see something interesting.


    (Part 4 will continue in the next posting.)
     
  8. reedak

    reedak Member

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    Narrator: Before long they saw a tiger running in their direction, followed by a swarm of hornets. The owl flew to a tree while the priest climbed to a branch next to it. The tiger tried to escape the hornet attack by jumping into a nearby stream. Before it could do so, it was stung more than ten times on the head and body. It stayed underwater as long as it could. As it tried to get out of the stream after the hornets were gone, it felt a pain at the end of its tail. It jumped out of the water at once, and found the end of its tail was held tightly in the mouth of a water snake. The tiger lashed its tail hard like a whip against a rock to get rid of the snake. Feeling the pain, the snake let go of the tiger's tail and slithered back into the stream.

    With pain from head to tail, the tiger made off for the forest. A pack of about twenty wolves suddenly came out of nowhere and attacked it mercilessly. Faced with one disaster after another, the tiger fought hard for its survival. It managed to kill more than ten wolves in the life-and-death struggle but was eventually torn to shreds by the rest of the pack. After the wolves bit off more than they could chew, they left the carcass to the ravens that had been circling above them all this while. When all the wolves had gone away, the priest and the owl came down from the tree.

    Priest: It is sad to see the King of the Jungle come to such an ignoble end.

    Owl: There is a Chinese saying: "When you are ailing, it's the time to finish you off." The wolves were quick to take advantage of the tiger's weakness caused by the snake bite and hornet stings. Although the hornets are small, they are a powerful force to be reckoned with when they fall on the tiger in one big swarm. This shows that both big and small participants in a conflict have their strengths and weaknesses.

    History has shown that big nations and empires could be torn apart by the combined forces of external invasion and weaknesses caused by such internal problems as corruption, national disunity, civil war, gambling addiction, environmental pollution, overpopulation, underpopulation, ageing population, absence of rule of law, housing problems, transport problems, infrastructure problems, moral and political decay, government mismanagement, illiteracy, widespread unemployment, food shortages, unsustainable agriculture, economic inequality and social immobility, military inferiority, softening of the people's character, tyranny, nepotism, bureaucracy, racialism, sectarian violence, religious strife, widening poverty gap, repressive regime, alcoholism, decline in literature and art, lack of political rights and civil liberties, ignorance and isolation from the outside world, technological backwardness, lack of progress and modernisation, lack of creativity and innovation, natural disasters such as earthquake, volcanic eruption, flood, tsunami, typhoon, drought, famine, plague and so on.

    The history of nations and empires could be summed up in "one page" according to Lord Byron's long poem, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage:

    "Here is the moral of all human tales,
    'Tis but the same rehearsal of the past.
    First freedom and then glory; when that fails
    Wealth, vice, corruption, barbarism at last.
    And history, with all her volumes vast,
    Hath but one page."

    Priest: The poem reminds me of the following quotes:

    “Study the past if you would define the future,” by Confucius.

    "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it," by George Santayana.

    "We learn from history that we learn nothing from history," by George Bernard Shaw.

    Owl: What have been mentioned in my long list are only some of the numerous problems in every country. Faced with so many problems, solving them would be an endless struggle in every country.

    Fortunately, you are not ruling a country but a clan. Go back, solve all your domestic problems and your clan will become prosperous and powerful. Both Confucius and Marcus Tullius Cicero (Roman philosopher, politician, lawyer, orator, political theorist, consul and constitutionalist) had emphasised the importance of looking after the affairs or welfare of the people.

    There is a Confucian quote: “Go before the people with your example, and be laborious in their affairs.”

    Cicero said: "The welfare of the people is the supreme law". (In Latin: "Salus populi suprema est lex.”)

    Priest: I shall try to digest your food for thought on the way.

    Narrator: With the owl perching on his left shoulder, the priest continued his journey. After a while, they heard flapping of wings from above them. Looking up, they saw a small bird hanging mid air. The unlucky bird had just flown over them, and was trapped in a huge web spun high up between two trees that grew on opposite sides of the path.

    Owl: The spider has the best victory. It is a good example of Sun Zi's military strategy of winning without actually fighting.

    Priest: Sun Zi must have spent a lot of time watching birds and spiders.

    Owl: Fight not against a spider in its web, a crocodile in a river or a shark in the sea.

    Priest: Is it a classic dictum from Sun Zi's Art of War?

    Owl: No, it was quoted by my friend, Moon Zi. It shows that the environment and inherent ability can determine the outcome of a war. For example, that bird was free to fly about at first, but it is helpless when trapped in the spider web.

    Narrator: A heavy rain suddenly came out of nowhere. It turned out to be a blessing for the trapped bird as the raindrops "bombarded" the spider web like tiny cannonballs, allowing the bird to break free from the torn spider web.

    By now, the priest and the owl had sought shelter in a small cave nearby. While the priest sat in a corner, the bird perched on a rock in the cave. Looking out in the direction of the spider web, they were glad that the bird had regained its freedom.

    Owl: If the odds are a million to one against something occurring, chances are 50-50 it will.

    Priest: Is it classic dictum of Moon Zi?

    Owl: No, it was quoted by an unknown person. Lady Luck has been smiling at the bird. It shows unpredictable factors such as typhoon, earthquake, volcanic eruption and tsunami can play a decisive role in a war.

    Priest: While we are waiting for the rain to stop, let me hear more of your views on my dispute with my rivals.

    Owl: First and foremost, keep pushing the old man to return your brother's soul even though he has handed it over to the dog. There is a Chinese saying, "Whoever tied the knot on the bell is the one to untie it." It is useless to chase after the dog. It is the old man who has sown the seeds of discord, so it is he who should pull up and burn the poisonous weeds in the fire. In the final analysis, the old man holds the key to the solution of the dispute. Using another analogy, go not after the dog but the pizza delivery boy who has delivered the pizza into the dog's mouth.

    Priest: How do you know he has handed my brother's soul over to the dog?

    Owl: Don't ask how I know it. Similarly, don't ask how they know you are going after them for your brother's soul. By passing the hot potato to the greedy dog, the cunning old man thinks he could sit back and profit from your conflict with the dog at your family's expense. You must keep up the pressure on the old man whenever and wherever you meet him.

    Secondly, try winning through intellect than brute force, as recommended by Sun Zi in his remarkable military treatise, "The Art of War". There were many examples in Chinese history illustrating the application of the strategy. For instance, Zhuge Liang (181–234 AD), a chancellor of the state of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period, used stratagems to win wars. He is recognised as the greatest and most accomplished strategist of his era, and has been compared to Sun Zi.

    Even Emperor Wu (known as the "Martial Emperor"), the fifth emperor of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-8 AD) and reigned from 141 BC to 86 BC, used a lot of stratagems before launching his military campaigns against the Xiongnu to send them into oblivion.

    Thirdly, it is good to have as few enemies as possible, and of course, best to have no enemies at all. The Martial Emperor certainly recognised the disadvantage of standing alone against many enemies and the advantage of forging friendly ties with neighbouring countries and consolidating the Chinese borders in his war campaigns against China's powerful foe at that time. Thus in 139 BC, Han Wudi sent Zhang Qian as an envoy on a diplomatic expedition to Central Asia to try to find allies against the Xiongnu Empire.

    Your clan is the largest on the coastal plain, living in a fortress with seven gates, four of which are vulnerable to attack by the hellhound and other mythical creatures. You must stay on guard against the formation of a counterbalancing coalition, especially one led by the old man. It is in your interest to resolve your disputes peacefully with as many adversaries as possible without delay.

    (Part 5 will continue in the next posting.)
     
  9. reedak

    reedak Member

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    Lastly, let me quote from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar:

    "There is a tide in the affairs of men,
    Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
    Omitted, all the voyage of their life
    Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
    On such a full sea are we now afloat,
    And we must take the current when it serves
    Or lose our ventures."

    What Shakespeare said about individuals can also apply to clans, nations, empires and civilisations which are actually groups of individuals. There is no lack of historical examples of great civilisations and empires whose "voyage" in history is now "bound in shallows and in miseries". Why do many nations, empires and civilisations seem never to rise again? Does each of the once powerful nations, empires and civilisations have only one "tide" or golden age in history "as it stands written forever in the Book of Heaven"? Maybe God has given them more than one tide but they have omitted them "at the flood".

    Go back, get your house in order and "take the current when it serves".

    Priest: Please give me enough time to digest your food for thought.

    Narrator: When the heavy downpour ended about half an hour later, they went out of the cave. On their left, they saw the setting sun hovering above the old man's mountain fortress, and on their right they saw a luminous rainbow in the distance.

    Owl: The rainbow is beckoning you. Don't waste your time and energy looking for the old man. Go back and wait for him in the comfort of your home. It's just a matter of time he will come to look for you. The mountain will come to Muhammad.

    Priest: Since I have travelled all the way here, it would be a waste of effort to turn back at this stage.

    Owl: I have given up all hope of dissuading you from pursuing your rash scheme. Whatever number of men, they can’t pull an obstinate donkey back from the brink of the abyss. Conversely, whatever number of donkeys, they can’t pull an obstinate man back from the brink of the abyss.

    Priest: I am not as stubborn as I seem to be. I just go there to take a look at the situation and act accordingly.

    Owl: I have nothing more to say than to bid farewell to you.

    Priest: Farewell, my friend!

    Narrator: The owl flew from his left shoulder to a branch of a tall tree. The priest continued his journey westward, but after walking a few steps he turned back to ask the owl.

    Priest: Are you Moon Zi?

    Owl: No.

    Priest: Tell me, who are you?

    Owl: I am nameless.

    Priest: Can't you tell me your name? At least I can remember that someone somewhere in the wilderness has given me some good advice.

    Owl: What's important in a friend is not his name but friendship with good advice.

    Priest: To have you as a friend is my biggest gain in this trip. A man can have many friends but hard to get a true friend.

    Owl: You are going to face not only a very powerful opponent but many other opponents no weaker than you.

    Priest: Thanks for pointing it out to me, but nobody can dissuade me from saving my brother's soul.

    I am just as "strong in will" as the character depicted by Alfred Lord Tennyson (Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland during Queen Victoria's reign) in his famous poem "Ulysses":

    "One equal temper of heroic hearts,
    Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
    To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

    Owl: I think nothing better than borrowing and adapting these lines from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar for our parting:

    "And whether we shall meet again I know not.
    Therefore our everlasting farewell take:
    For ever, and forever, farewell, priest!
    If we do meet again, why, we shall smile;
    If not, why then, this parting was well made."

    Priest: Let's borrow and adapt a few more lines, repaying Shakespeare with interest when we meet him next time:

    "Forever, and forever, farewell, my nameless friend!
    If we do meet again, we'll smile indeed;
    If not, 'tis true this parting was well made."

    (Part 6 will continue in the next posting.)
     
  10. reedak

    reedak Member

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    Narrator: The priest turned and continued his journey to the old man's mountain fortress. Looking at the priest till he disappeared into the distance, the owl shook its head and sighed repeatedly.

    As the priest trudged along the rocky path up the mountain slope, he could smell something like burning brimstone in the air. The foul odour grew with such intensity as he approached his destination that he had to take a surgical mask from his bag to wear it over his mouth and nose.

    It was late in the evening when he arrived at the old man’s castle. He found the huge black dog chained in a crouched position to the castle gate with a retractable leash that allowed it to make a terrifying leap to a distance of about 9 m. The ground, castle wall and gate in the vicinity of the dog were inscribed with the same type of unintelligible writing in the dungeon.

    Staring menacingly at him with its glowing red eyes, the huge black dog growled, barked and snapped its immense jaws viciously in an extremely confrontational manner. The priest started to cough as his surgical mask could not keep out the foul breath that kept puffing out from the dog's mouth.

    Priest: Open confession is good for the soul. Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard. Return my brother's soul to me and I shall leave in peace. I can hear him crying out as though from your throat.

    Dog: Stop dreaming. You will never get it back.

    There is an old Chinese saying, “Who could have guessed it was a blessing in disguise when the old man on the frontier lost his mare?” If not for your precipitate decision, I won't get even a modicum of freedom and I won’t have the chance to see daylight or say no to my captor. Many thanks for your futile attempt to settle old scores with me. It’s a blessing in disguise.

    I shall pursue the stance of strategic patience to break the chains of bondage so that I shall achieve full independence and freedom from my captor. He will get a taste of his own medicine one day!

    Priest: So one day you are going to bite the hand that feeds you? It looks like you have proved Mark Twain wrong. He said: "If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you; that is the principal difference between a dog and a man."

    Dog: I don't deny a dog is a man's best friend. The problem is that I am no ordinary dog but a hellhound, and the old man is no benevolent person but an evil warlock. My immediate goal is to rid myself of the leash to become a "normal" hellhound that is independent and free to do whatever I please, to bite whoever I please, and hunt the soul of anyone I want to keep as a specimen in my hobby collection. My ultimate goal is to regain my prominent position as a top dog in the underworld so as to be taken seriously by all other mythical creatures once again.

    Priest: I am coming here for my brother's soul but you show no repentance. Your impenitence hurts the feelings of both my family and other victims of your past evil deeds.

    Your behaviour is worse and more aggressive than before. Aren't you afraid that I shall beat the hell out of you?

    Dog: Don't threaten me. My mighty captor will come to my rescue. If you don't believe your ears, you should believe your eyes. Just go over there and see for yourself.

    Narrator: The priest walked towards the castle wall about 20 m left of the gate. On the wall was pasted a poster with the old man's message under the heading "Public Affirmation":

    “My policy is clear —- the soul of the priest's brother is kept by the dog and therefore the dispute falls within the scope of our agreement of Mutual Cooperation and Security. And we oppose any unilateral attempts to undermine the dog’s possession of the soul of the priest's brother.

    This is not a new position. This is a consistent one. The agreement covers all the possessions of the dog. There’s no 'red line' that’s been drawn. We’re simply applying the agreement.

    We stand together in calling for disputes in the area, including the issue of the soul of the priest's brother, to be resolved peacefully through dialogue.

    By order of the Old Man of the Mountain."

    After reading the old man's public affirmation, the priest walked back to the dog.

    Priest: The old man should respect facts, take a responsible attitude, remain committed to not taking sides on the issue of my brother's soul, speak and act cautiously and earnestly play a constructive role in peace and stability of the region.

    Dog: Either the meaning of the old man’s public affirmation has been lost in translation or you still delude yourself into believing that he is just a neutral angel in our dispute. Wake up, man! Let me see whether your magic is as powerful as that of Moses in his duel with the Pharaoh's magicians.

    Priest: Do you want me to inflict the ten plagues of Egypt upon you and the old man?

    Dog: No need for the ten plagues of Egypt. Just a simple test. Can you see the old man now?

    Priest: What a joke!

    Dog: My fur has the magic power of making anyone invisible if he clings to my belly after dressing in black from head to toe. The old man has just returned from a stroll outside and clung to my belly while you were reading his public affirmation.

    Priest: Birds of a feather flock together. It takes two of your evil kind to form an "Unholy Duality". Add another devil to your underside, you would form an "Unholy Trinity".

    As pointed out in the Book of Psalms 33:13: "From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind."

    The Chinese has an equivalent saying: "Whatever men are doing, heaven is watching."

    You can deceive the eyes of mortals, but you can't deceive the eyes of heaven. I can't see the invisible but I am curious to know how to make the old man manifest in my sight.

    Dog: I am being used as a human shield by the old man; sorry, I mean an animal shield. Once my body "shield" is shattered, he won't be able to hide himself from your sight. If I am injured or killed in fighting, my blood would stick onto his clothes, making him visible. Alternatively, splashing the blood from any black dog on my body could make the old man "naked and opened" unto thine eyes.

    Priest: To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

    A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

    A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

    A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

    A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

    A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

    A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

    A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

    After reading the verses from the Book of Ecclesiastes 3:1-11, I would like to remind both of you, the visible and the invisible, that there is a time to return whatever is not yours.


    ****************************************** THE END *********************************************
     
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