The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the day “February 11, 2017”

The Path to Power


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I will tell you the story of how I,  a man of little substance or deep knowledge, came to great power.

When I was a boy,  I was not well-accepted by the others.  I did not have the talents necessary to make friends. I had a birth defect that made my body weak on one side. I could not kick a ball.  I was serious-minded and dull,  with little sense of play and no sense of humor.  At best, the other children ignored me.  At worse, they physically abused me.  Even many adults regarded me as dim-witted because of my infirmity.

I found my protection by becoming the errand boy to the village imam.  I was happy to fetch him tea, or deliver papers for him, or sweep his small study.   Under his aegis, I was safe. The other boys dared not bother me.

I quickly learned to make myself indispensable.  Certainly, I was obsequious and flattering, and assiduously followed the studies the imam set out for me. But more importantly, I was efficient.  I learned to anticipate his needs.  Once my basic schooling was finished,  he kept me on as his assistant and secretary.  I became his gatekeeper.  Nobody got in to see the great man without my permission.

He took me under his wing, and allowed me to sit in on many of his meetings – consultations with people in the village who had personal or spiritual problems, legal proceedings which required his judgment or seal, the issuing of decrees which became local law.

He had no living male children, so he groomed me to one day take over his position.  He taught me the book and he taught me the law.

He was a good and wise man, but there were many times when I felt his decisions were too lenient.  I believed in stricter punishment for those whose morals strayed too far.

Eventually,  my teacher passed on.  He was an old man.  I was only in my forties.   And I immediately took over the role of village imam.  Nobody objected.  Clearly it was the old man’s will that I succeed him. In any case, nobody else was qualified.    Since I, myself, had never rendered any judgments or given counsel,  there was no reason for anyone to believe my decisions would not be as sage as my predecessor’s.

But they were not.  I could not remain as objective as he was. Those boys who abused me when I was young did not remember,  but I did.  And now they were men, in need of rulings and favors and advice.

I was severe in my punishment.   I was often cruel with my advice.  My decisions often leaned against those who’d hurt me.  I was strict with most everyone because few of them had been very kind to me.  They had no choice but to obey me. I was the law.

I, too, died an old man.  I had no wife or children to mourn me.  Few were sorry to lose my guidance.

I had been given the opportunity to become a man of God; to nurture the spiritual in both myself and in others,  to deepen my understanding and compassion.   Instead, I abused my power.  I took pleasure in petty revenge.  I was no more loved going out of the world than I’d been coming in.


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