Teachers and Students - Topic: Change
By Jheri St. James
There was once a man who was a champion wrestler. He had mastered
360 holds and tricks, and used one every day of the year. It so
happened that he was fond of one of his students, and taught him
all his holds, except one. He kept on postponing the day when he
would teach him the last trick.
The boy grew in strength and skill, and no one among his contemporaries
to challenge him. One day he boasted in front of the king: “My teacher
is unchallenged only because he is older than me and because I respect him as
my teacher. Otherwise my strength is not less than his and my skill is quite
equal to his.”
The King did not appreciate this boasting and ordered a match to take place.
They cleared the broad wrestling ground and gathered ministers, courtiers and
sportsmen to watch.
The boy charged out into the ring like a mad elephant. His master knew that his
pupil was not stronger, so he used the 360th hold, the one he had never taught
him. The boy did not know how to counter it. He was beaten. His master raised
him with both hands above his head and smashed him to the ground. The crowd cheered.
The King congratulated the champion and ordered a robe of honor to be given to
him. He reproached the boy saying, “You were ill-bred enough to dare to
challenge your teacher and now you see how hollow your boasting was.”
The boy answered, “O lord of the word! He did not overpower me with his
strength but rather because of a trick, which he never taught me. Today this
one trick gave him the victory.”
The King retorted, “It was just for such a day that he had kept his trick!
Have you not heard it said ‘Never give a friend such power over you that
if one day he tries to be your enemy, he can defeat you”?
The teacher betrayed by his pupil said, “There is no such thing as loyalty
in this world, or at least no one knows the meaning of loyalty. Whoever learned
a trick from me finally tried to do me down”.
One finds short Afghan wisdom stories like this one, entitled “Even
Has Its Limits”, on the website www.afghan-web.com/culture/wisdom.html.
its 5,000-year history, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan,
has learned some tricks and more than a few lessons about
the meaning of the word “loyalty.” This
mountainous, land-locked country located in Asia has been shattered and nearly
destroyed many times over, but like the wrestling teacher, found it always
had one more trick to ensure survival. Afghanistan was
conquered by Alexander the
Great in 330 B.C., and thrived as the Kingdom of Bactria. The Arabs conquered
Afghanistan in the 7th century and Islam took root. Genghis Khan and Tamerlane
invaded, and Babur used Kabul as his base for establishing the Mogul Empire
in India. Many presidents and prime ministers have been
overthrown and replaced
over the centuries of Afghani history. Right up to the present time, change
has been a hallmark of Afghanistan. And yet there is a
changeless aspect to this
noble country as well.
One timeless landscape of Afghanistan
has a rich cultural history of creating fine hand-woven Oriental
carpets, music (played on instruments with names like
daira, richak, zerbagli, surnai, tula, sarani, waj, sarinda,
dhamboura, tambur, shashtar, rebab, dolak, dol), arts
and crafts, and is home to many great poets, the most famous
of whom is
undoubtedly the revered philosopher-poet, Jalaluddin Balkhi
makes these changes?
I shoot an arrow right.
It lands left.
I ride after a deer and find myself
Chased by a hog.
I plot to get what I want
And end up in prison.
I dig pits to trap others and fall in.
I should be suspicious of what I want.”
remains extremely poor, landlocked and highly dependent
on foreign aid, farming and trade with neighboring countries.
Much of the population continues
to suffer from shortages of housing, clean water, electricity, medical
care and jobs, but the Afghan government and international
donors remain committed
to improving access to basic necessities by prioritizing infrastructure
development, education, housing development, jobs programs
and economic reform.
is a dramatic landscape. The high rugged mountains of the Hindu
three quarters of the country. The winters
are extremely cold and the summers extremely hot. There is very
little rainfall, but the Hindu Kush is a major watershed containing
fertile river valleys. Agricultural products in the 25% portion
which is fertile include opium, wheat, fruits, nuts, wool, mutton,
sheepskins and lambskins. Textiles, soap, furniture, shoes, fertilizer,
cement, hand-woven carpets, natural gas, coal, salt and copper
are some of the industrial products. Afghanistan exports precious
and semi-precious gems, including the mythic lapis lazuli, once
called “Cleopatra’s diamonds” as it was one
of the first stones ever to be used and worn for jewelry.
Lazuli is one of the oldest of all gems, with a history stretching
some 7000 years or more. The name lapis means “stone”.
Lazuli is derived from the Persian “lazhward,” meaning
blue. This is also the root of the English word “azure”.
Lapis is used for sculpture, dishes, beads and jewelry. Later
Egyptian burial sites dating before 3000 B.C. contain
jewelry items of lapis. Powdered lapis was favored as a cosmetic eye shadow
and in later years was used in ultramarine paints. The most prized lapis
is a dark, nearly blackish blue, much deeper than turquoise.
Royal blue lapis lazuli
occurs in only a few major deposits around the world—Siberia,
Chile and the rugged Kokcha Valley in Afghanistan. The original location
of this mineral is the Sar-e-Sang deposit in Afghanistan’s
remote Badakhshan district, one of the oldest mines in the
world. While other deposits of lapis
are known (small amounts in Colorado and in Burma), none are of importance
when compared with Afghanistan. The route to the lapis mines in the Kokcha
Valley is long, tortuous and dangerous. Marco Polo wrote, “There
is a mountain in that region where lapis lazuli in the world is found.
in veins like silver streaks.” The lapis is mined on the steep sides
of a long narrow defile only 200 meters wide with peaks that rise above
6000 meters. Just as they were over 50,000 years ago, the blue stone nodes
transported on donkeys down to the valleys in the summer months.
Lapis Crystal in Marble collected by Pierre Bariand
Mr. Abdula Ackbar of Laguna Niguel, California, collected our soil from
Afghanistan. As we are able to garner more of his personal story,
add it to this journal. Thank you, Mr. Ackbar. In the meantime, learning
about change seems to emerge as the theme in our Afghanistan journal
Laura Bush visited the capital of Kabul in Afghanistan for the first
time to promote the education of women in this ancient country. The First
visit coincided with two U.S. grants for education, totaling over 21
million dollars, to go to The American University of Afghanistan and
School of Afghanistan. Both grants enable U.S. style education to be
available to (female) students in that country.
We are all students
and we are all teachers. To live is to learn and
to live is to change. Every country has poetry, music and warfare.
contains the elements of dyes used in rugs, the inspiration for poetry,
literature and music, and the geology that creates lapis lazuli—in
many parts of the world considered the stone of truth and friendship,
reputed to bring about
harmony in relationships. Common Ground 191, where soil is the medium
of cultural exchange, may finally be symbolic of what Art can do to
teach the world something
about peace, a topic requiring truth, friendship and change.
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