The Mouse and the Camel
Translated by Coleman Barks
A mouse caught hold of a camel’s lead rope
in his two forelegs and walked off with it,
imitating the camel drivers.
The camel went along,
letting the mouse feel heroic.
he thought. “I have something to teach you, presently.”
They came to the edge of a great river.
The mouse was dumbfounded.
“What are you waiting for?
Step forward into the river. You are my leader.
Don’t stop here.”
“I’m afraid of being drowned.”
The camel walked into the water. “It’s only
just above the knee.”
“Your knee! Your knee
is a hundred times over my head!”
“Well, maybe you shouldn’t be
leading a camel. Stay with those like yourself.
A mouse has nothing really to say to a camel.”
“Would you help me get across?”
“Get up on my hump. I am made to take hundreds like you across.”
You are not a prophet, but go humbly on the way of the prophets
and you can arrive where they are. Don’t try to steer the boat.
Don’t open a shop by yourself. Listen. Keep silent.
You are not God’s mouthpiece. Try to be an ear;
and if you do speak, ask for explanations.
The source of your arrogance and anger is your lust
and the rootedness of that is in your habits.
Someone who makes a habit of eating clay
gets mad when you try to keep him from it.
Being a leader can also be a poisonous habit,
so that when someone questions your authority,
you think, “He’s trying to take over.”
You may respond courteously, but inside you rage.
Always check your inner state
with the Lord of your Heart.
Copper doesn’t know it’s copper,
until it’s changed to gold.
Your loving doesn’t know its majesty,
until it knows its helplessness.