There once lived a scholar who had to journey across a huge river. It was a long, slow trip and the scholar soon got bored.

He called out to the boatman. “Let’s talk, boatman. What languages have you studied? Do you know about grammar and phonetics?” he asked, introducing a subject in which he had formidable expertise.

The boatman shook his head. “No sir,” he replied politely, “I have no use for such tools.”

“What a pity,” said the scholar rather condescendingly. “You have wasted the better part of your life. It’s essential for everyone to know the rules of language.”

Later, a storm broke out. The wind whipped the water into turbulence. The small boat was flung about and struck a protruding rock.

The boatman spoke. “Sir, pardon my simple mind that must appear dim to you. But tell me, O wise one, do you know how to swim?”

The scholar shook his head. “I’m afraid not, boatman. I have always been immersed in thinking.”

“In that case, sir, you have wasted your life, too. For alas, my boat is about to sink.”

Food for Thought

Our perceptions of strangers often reveal more about ourselves than the other person. This Sufi folktale explores two different views on “knowledge” – showing that sometimes simple wisdom is better than supreme intellectualism!