Tales: The Blacksmith

The old blacksmith was near the end of his days and a young man, green and eager and full of life, came to see him, seeking advice. “I’m exploding inside, I want to turn the world upside down,” he told the old man. “I want to change everything!  Where should I begin?”

The old man looked at him thoughtfully for a moment, and then said, “Find someone you respect, and follow his advice.”

“Is that what you did? You are the best blacksmith in the whole country, everyone says so.  Is that how you began?”

“When I was your age, I also wanted to turn the world upside down. And I was strong and I thought hammering iron into shape was one way to go about it. So I decided to be a blacksmith. In those days in our village there were two blacksmiths I could work for, as different from each other as night and day.  One was a violent man, who drank and fought and swore, and had a vicious hatred for people from our neighbouring village, where, incidentally, my mother was born.  He wouldn’t give someone from that village a bent nail.  The other man was calm, peaceful and unassuming; I never heard him say a bad word against anyone, and when he finally died hundreds of people came to his funeral and wept.”

“So, you chose the second one?”

The old man shook his head. “I chose the first. He made better horseshoes.”


3 Replies to “Tales: The Blacksmith”

  1. salman

    Dear Nawab,

    I’d like to ask you for any hint to start to unveil the story or may be it is because its simplicity?

    • Nawab Pasnak Post author

      Dear Salman,
      Thank you for the question. Perhaps the point of the story is that we should not expect a ‘guide’, a ‘teacher’, to be perfect. What makes this little tale confusing is that the would-be blacksmith had to choose between an apparently good man and a bad one, and he chose the one with the bad character–but by that choice he subsequently became a master of his craft. If we were to turn the story inside out, and apply it to a spiritual search, then the story might say, for example, that a guide who is illiterate and has no social graces might be a better choice if the heart is burning more brightly.
      But it would be still better to recognise that anyone and everyone can be our teacher, if we are willing to overlook whatever defects are there, for there will always be some, and learn what we can. There is a symbolic tradition in the east, of a bird which is capable of taking the cream from the milk. That is knowing how to learn.


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