From The Middlewesterner, “Notes from the Vagabond Journals: Emmetsville, Iowa, April 20, 2004”:

Here in the “pre-vocational” area, the workers also do paper-shredding. Since passage of laws mandating greater protection of personal information, more and more documents need to be shredded. “That’s what Richard is doing,” Teresa said. Richard was sitting in a wheelchair in front of a small paper-shredder, feeding in a few sheets at a time. The work of shredding material with personal information is assigned to people who are unable to read.

Interesting that our hyper-textual, information-obsessed society has niches that can only be occupied by the knowledge-deprived. Beyond that, however, I’m intrigued by the possibility of putting a positive valuation on conditions that we tend to regard as negative by definition. Rather than treating individuals afflicted with blindness, autism, mental retardation, etc. as if is they who have “special needs,” what would happen if we recognized that it is the rest of us who have special needs for them?


Definitions from Mulla Do-Piaza
translated by Idries Shah, in Caravan of Dreams (Penguin, 1968)

Reporter: A cat waiting by a mousehole.

Community: Irrationals united by hope of the impossible.

Patience: A support for the disappointed.

Sword of God: The empty stomachs of the poor.

Mirror: A means of laughing in your own face.

Intellectual: One who knows no craft.

Penitent: Someone who has been made incapable of enjoying himself.

Wisdom: Something you can learn without knowing it.

A fool: A man trying to be honest with the dishonest.

Emotionalist: A man or woman who thinks he has experienced the divine.

Poet: A beggar with pride.

Bribe: Substitute for law, which is a substitute for justice.

Truthful man: He who is, secretly, regarded by everyone as an enemy.

Adherent: Someone who will believe anything except what he should.

Shah writes, The Mullah’s definitions form contemplation-materials rather than aphorisms. The reader is supposed to be able to interpret each saying in several different ways. As an example, the message about the Fool may mean: ‘Don’t be honest with the dishonest’ – of it may mean ‘Don’t try to be honest: be honest.’ Most people tend to interpret the sayings defensively. ‘This,’ says Do-Piaza, ‘is the first step toward not being defensive.’

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