The Magician and the Snake Charmer
Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on which eye you are blinking at the moment, there is no such thing as ‘the next time.’ People say they will be ready next time. There is no next time. People say they will do right next time. There is no next time. People say they will win the race next time.
If you have to be told, there is no next time.
People say quite a bit. There is never a next time. Each time is the first time, a refreshing experience, even if the word ‘refreshing’ is used to denote an experience any soul in his or her right mind would gladly give away as a quilt for a redundant horse. There is so much accumulated dispersal of evidence brought by new experience that a next time cannot possibly occur.
And if it did, we would only recognize it in reflection; that is, after it was over and gone.
These reflections bring me to the following story, a story brought to me wrapped in sheets and cradled in the arms of a very beautiful daughter of a Samuari. This is the story of the magician and the snake charmer. The title works out very handily inasmuch as the two main characters are a magician and a snake charmer.
Oddly, however, the name of the magician was Eisenhauer while that of the snake charmer was Merlin. The magician was a well known fellow. Further, everyone in his village liked him. This was due, no doubt, to the fact that he did not make a habit of turning the villagers into toads or recreational mushrooms.
The magician would walk his favorite streets of his native village each and every day. Since his village was very small and his heart very big, nearly every cobble-stoned street was his favorite. Up each street he went one and down a second or third, then up a forth or another. He loved to walk.
He also loved children. It was only natural, for he was a natural magician, that he reached deep inside himself and pulled out brightly polished coins for the youngsters, illuminated flowers for the women, futuristic toys for toddlers — for they were generally given little more than leather straps for their celebrations — and other delights. The magician would reach deep inside himself for the wisdom needed to soothe sad souls, or humor to happify heartful humans. He would reach deep inside himself to provide the gifts of wonder and the parcel of imagery. He would reach deep inside himself to bring glittering confetti and neonistic streamers to brighten the wonderfully round eyes of plump children of all ages. He would reach deep inside himself to…
“Hey! You! What do you think you’re doing?”
It was the snake charmer named Merlin.
“Sir, I am so full and have so much to give that I simply reach inside myself for that which people need.”
“For what people need?” asked Merlin, “Or for what you think people need?” Merlin was of the analytic sort.
“Does it make a difference, sir?”
“Of course it does, you blimpkin! You feed these poor people pods of illusion.”
The magician looked either ashamed or confused, depending on which name you choose to assign his unique features based upon your assumptions of the current state of the universe as it proceeded through his occasionally nimble and occasionally drambuied thoughts.
“I say you give them the false currency of the wizards joy!”
“What do you mean, sir?”
“I mean… I mean,” snapped or moaned the snake charmer, “it’s all the puff of a lonely happiness, the drivel of contentment, the succotash of sanity, the drug of momentary hope. It’s… it’s… crap.”
The magician spoke casually, but hurriedly in a slow yet strained manner:
“No. No. I insist everything is in there. Everything.”
“Yes,” said the magician, “that too.”
Merlin began to laugh at the magicians dullness.
“Show me,” he demanded.
“Show me something to really convince me that the rotary bi-polar universe flushes through your heart and mind. Show me something really scary.”
The magician reached deep inside himself and pulled out a dragon which breathed fire. The snake charmer waved his flute in the air as he laughed.
“Foolish old man. Foolish old man. This is all a trick accomplished with heat and colorful paper banners.”
The magician, looking either sly or shy, one or the other, reached deep, deep inside himself and pulled out…
“A picture of my mother-in-law!” The snake charmer laughed hysterically. “You expect that to scare me? Obviously you have forgotten what I do for a living!”
The magician smiled nimbly. “It is all in there, sir. I beg you not to insist.”
“But I do. I do! old magician. Show me something real, something which is not a mere pleasant illusion. Show me!”
The magician reached deep, deep, deep into himself and pulled out, of all things, the snake charmer!
An anguished cry followed the snake charmer as he ran down the road. Somewhere, in that special place where men and women are engaged at weaving such things together, the scream of the snake charmer is known to have said, “I will never, never, never taunt the magician the next time I see him.”
Yet these very people who are engaged in knitting the apparently unintelligable into meaningful structures also know that the snake charmer is destined to see the magician once again. The identical sequence will be formed and preformed. And after that, again. And again. And once again.
Forever and ever, each for the first time.
David Schwartz is the former President of Seed House, an on-line, interfaith community forum. He has published three books: A Jewish Appraisal of Dialogue” (1994), Midrash and Working Out Of The Book (2004), and most recently Shards and Stanzas (2011). He is currently retired, and, besides writing, spends his time volunteering in his community with Meals On Wheels, giving him time to go out and make speeches and give autographs.