The Story of the Wall

The recent post about the Sufi poet Hakim Sanai (‘The Voice from Beyond the Wall’) could make us think about the traditional story of the wall, told by Hazrat Inayat and by other Sufis.  It is a very simple tale, but it carries an important piece of wisdom.

There was, once upon a time, a certain people who lived beside a high wall.  They lived there as people do, sometimes pleased with life and sometimes discontented, sometimes in harmony with each other and sometimes in discord. In all their ups and downs, though, they paid no attention whatsoever to the wall.  Then it happened that one day someone became curious about the wall, and began to wonder what was on the other side.  Once the question appeared, it would not go away.  Did anyone know what lay on the other side of the wall? No.  Had anyone ever looked? Again, no. No one, it seemed had ever given any thought to the wall; most were even unaware of its existence  But the one who had been bitten by the question couldn’t ignore the wall any longer. At last, he found a long ladder, and proposed an expedition: to climb up and look over the wall.

Others, now infected with the same curiosity, stood and watched as the explorer climbed the long ladder.  At last, he reached the top and looked beyond the wall–but to their surprise, instead of describing to them what he saw, he jumped over the wall and disappeared.

Those on the ground felt puzzled and disappointed.  They began to feel that the wall, so long ignored, represented some mystery that had to be solved.  Finally, another of their number decided to climb the ladder and see for himself, promising faithfully to tell them whatever he discovered on the other side.  Immediately, he began to climb, and at last reached the top–but to everyone’s astonishment, the same thing happened.  He looked over the wall, and without a word, jumped out of sight and was gone.

Now those who remained behind were eaten up with curiosity.  What could be on the other side of the wall?  Why had neither of the explorers given them any description?  After a great deal of theorising – pointless because it was based on practically no evidence at all – and heated discussion, some even proposing that the ladder should be burnt, they decided to send one more explorer up the ladder, but this time, they would tie a rope around his ankle, so as to prevent him escaping without satisfying their curiosity.  Accordingly, an intrepid volunteer was found, the rope was tied, and he began the long ascent.

Sure enough, when he reached the top and looked over, he ignored completely the shouted questions from below, and started to leap over the wall as the others had done.  And just as they had intended, the rope prevented him; the others hauled him down, and crowded around him to hear what he had seen.

All their questions were in vain, though, for he had lost the power of speech.

2 Replies to “The Story of the Wall”

  1. Zubin Shore

    Ha Ha! Having stood beneath the wall while three adventurers went over never to return, and found a solution in the rope to the ankle, I was indignant about the loss of speech, “still no clue” complained my impatience, “cheated of an answer!” Then I remembered Conference of the Birds, when the few surviving travellers finally came before the King, they were silent, in awe, astonished. Astonished may be larger than surprised, infinite in time and space, it may bring down walls. Love is astonishing.

  2. Juan Amin Betancur

    Desde el otro lado de la pared de nuestro ego siempre hay un llamado…pero el cemento de la pared también tapa los oídos de nuestro corazón. Como Hakim, como los que remontaron la escalera del cuento, ojalá la Gracia nos bendiga con su irresistible susurro…


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