next contents


There is an old Eastern fable about a traveller who is taken unawares on the steppes by a ferocious wild animal. In order to escape the beast the traveller hides in an empty well but at the bottom of the well he sees a dragon with its jaws open ready to devour him. The poor fellow does not dare to climb out because he is afraid of being eaten by the rapacious beast neither does he dare drop to the bottom of the well for fear of being eaten by the dragon. So he seizes hold of a branch of a bush that is growing in the crevices of the well and clings on to it. His arms grow weak and he knows that he will soon have to resign himself to the death that awaits him on either side. Yet he still clings on and while he is holding on to the branch he looks around and sees that two mice one black and one white are steadily working their way round the bush he is hanging from gnawing away at it. Sooner or later they will eat through it and the branch will snap and he will fall into the jaws of the dragon. The traveller sees this and knows that he will inevitably perish. But while he is still hanging there he sees some drops of honey on the leaves of the bush stretches out his tongue and licks them. In the same way I am clinging to the tree of life knowing full well that the dragon of death inevitably awaits me ready to tear me to pieces and I cannot understand how I have fallen into this torment. And I try licking the honey that once consoled me but no longer gives me pleasure. The white mouse and the black mouse -- day and night -- are gnawing at the branch from which I am hanging. I can see the dragon clearly and the honey no longer tastes sweet. I can see only one thing: the inescapable dragon and the mice and I cannot tear;