Nasruddin's now-famous interview

Introduction | Skip the Nonsense; we want the Interview

This interview took place April 2, 1959 or 1989 (the date on the tape is hard to read); we only know that those are the only documented visits of Nasruddin to Puyallup, Washington (pronounced Pew-AL-up by the residents of that city, who pronounce the word "nuclear" correctly).

The circumstances of the interview were ideal. There were torrential rains, which, while they made such a noise on the metal roof that most of Nasruddin's statements were inaudible and therefore have been paraphrased or outright fabricated, also served to keep Nasruddin from fleeing the event, as no taxis were available, and all donkeys were prudently under cover.

The interviewer was none other than Albert Einstein, or at least that's how he identified himself. If the interview took place in 1959, it's possible, because Einstein had only been dead for a few years. The two looked similar, except for Einstein's hairpiece and false moustache. They hit it off enormously well; you can feel the rapport between them, especially if you ignore Nasruddin's repeated attempts to leave the room.

The historic nature of the interview has been hailed by such notable journals as Playboy, Children's Highlights, and the Skokie Review. Many of Nasruddin's unparalleled insights are now household sayings on the tongues of every schoolchild in every playground in America.

No more explication is necessary, in fact none of it was necessary, so we now take you to:

The Interview

AE: It's great to be here in Poo... Pooey... [asks off mic how to pronounce, still get it wrong; his strong suit was physics]. Let's get right to the point: why are we here?

N: Because we were paid to come; do you know when my taxi is due to arrive?

AE: Ha! ha! ha! The fabled wit! But seriously, why are we here? What's the purpose of life?

N: To raise our consciousness to a higher level. To see into our souls and know our ultimate unity with all things.

AE: That's a lot like my Unified Field Theory...

N: Except that you can't prove it mathematically, so in that sense your UFT was a misguided romp into the right territory with the wrong navigational tools.

AE: I never saw that... amazing. You mean my whole life since 1907 was a complete waste?

N: No, no, Dr. Einstein. Our lives are never a waste, no matter how hard we try to waste them!

AE: What do you mean?

N: Well, Dr. Einstein, we live our lives doing what we feel like in the moment. We always do what we think is the best thing to do at that moment. If we decide to eat ice cream, it's because it seemed like a good idea at the time. If we choose to murder someone, even then, it seems like the best thing to do at the time. The point is not to plan out our lives so we live them according to our preconceived ideas about what life should be, but to raise our level of thinking so what we think is the best thing to do at the time is a better thing than we would have thought of yesterday.

AE: Wow, your English is really good!

N: We are slaves of our desires, moment to moment. We see something and want it; we see someone drive by in a shiny red convertible, and we want it. Imagine, we may want it so much that we go to a bank and get a loan for tens of thousands of dollars, putting our entire financial stability at risk, just because we happened to see a shiny bauble at a particular moment.

AE: I didn't see it, and I don't want to go in with you to buy a car.

N: Exactly!

AE: That's so profound...

N: Not at all, it's simply true.

AE: Oh, right. Where were we?

N: We were there, but now we're here. In Puyallup, of all places. But what does it matter, when all is said and done? We can't be anywhere else than where we are. Wouldn't you agree?

AE: Quantum mechanics would suggest we can be two places at once.

N: He would be wrong. He is talking about sub-atomic particles in an excited state. They are both places at once, theoretically, but they are only measured at one place at a time. Therefore, we only know they are here at this moment, and there at that moment. We can theorize all we want about simultaneous material existence in two places at once, but you can only ever measure one at a time. Besides, we're talking about subatomic particles, which we can never see and whose definitions change as fast as we get new information.

AE: What are you saying?

N: I'm saying that matter used to be thought to be made of four elements: earth, air, fire and water. Then it was made of atoms, the smallest indivisible building blocks of matter. Now it's leptons and quarks, and Tau particles. The sun was only discovered to be the center of the solar system a few hundred years ago, in fact, just after I finished law school. Our knowledge of the material world changes daily; how can we believe in our ideas of today, when tomorrow they'll be completely different?

AE: What are you saying?

N: We can't know the world physically, because it's all an illusion. The way to know the truth about the stars and the particles they're made of is to rise to a higher level of consciousness. You can reach that state spontaneously, such as when you eat chocolate pudding.

AE: Chocolate pudding?

N: Or gulab jamuns. Dessert is known to be one of the most reliable roads to paradise.

AE: If it weren't for the dental implications!

N: At my age, there are no dental implications. Perhaps that's why one never meets a "wise young man" or a "wise young woman." They're too worried about their teeth to make good spiritual progress.

[Reader: That's about all I can stand. Get me out of here]

AE: Tell us about soup.

N: Ah, one of the other aids to spiritual enlightenment. Much ecstasy has been elicited by food.

AE: You mean food has spiritual importance?

N: Only if used wisely. Lentils, for instance, may be eaten almost indiscriminately. You can eat as many lentils as you want.

AE: Who would want to?

N: Have you been talking with my friend Tekka? He's also a lentilophobe. What I mean is that too much of anything (except for lentils, of course) is bad for you. Overindulgence leads to mental heaviness, unless I am doing the overindulging. Then it's perfectly OK. You see, food is a barrier to spiritual enlightenment. But I digress. You asked about soup?

AE: Yes.

N: I was invited to a banquet once, as the guest of honor. They wanted to honor my humility, of which I am justly proud. I arrived at the entrance to the banquet hall in my usual garb, a discarded Michael Jordan tee shirt and no shoes. They threw me out on my ear, after insulting my dress and my hygiene. I was too humble to remonstrate with them, and besides they were bigger than I.

So I ran to a friend's house across the square. He is quite wealthy, and last year had tried to give me a brocade coat made of red silk. I knocked at his door, and he answered it, recognizing me immediately.

"Nasruddin!" he exclaimed. "What brings you here? Come in, come in!"

"I am here on an errand," I replied. "You remember that brocade coat you tried to give me last year? Is it still available?"

It was available, and it was wonderful! I went back across the square to the banquet hall, and the two ruffians at the door were much more polite. They showed me in, and sat me in the seat of honor. The rest of the guests were assembled, and waiting for my arrival. We all sat and the soup was served. I took my bowl and poured it down the front of the coat, and said loudly, "Coat, please enjoy this delicious soup!"

AE: No!

N: I did. They were more surprised than you were! They looked at me and said "Nasruddin, why ever did you do such a thing?" I stood up and said, "I have given the soup to the coat, because it is obvious that it's the coat which is welcome here, not me!"

AE: Bravo! Spoken in true Nasruddin style!

N: Which means without a lick of sense, but reeking of wisdom!

AE: You said it, not me! Now, tell me about your youth.

N: It's too long ago to remember. When Constantine converted, I lost track.

AE: Surely you remember some experience, some anecdote from when you were younger!

N: My dear Dr. Einstein, yesterday I was younger and I can barely remember that!

AE: Just so. Let's see... how about when you were a young man, in love, or on some adventure?

N: Ah, yes. I remember seeking a wife. It's horribly un-PC these days, but in those days, it was the custom. I went out to seek the perfect wife. I had my standards, you see, and I didn't want to settle for the first warm, loving, companionable, beautiful singing chef that came along!

AE: Who would?

N: So I traveled far and wide, across deserts and mountains, through steaming jungles and vast prairies. And finally I found her!

AE: You did? What was she like?

N: She was warm, loving, companionable, compassionate, learned, an accomplished musician with a voice like a nightingale, a face that made the moon hide its face because it couldn't measure up to such beauty...

AE: How enchanting! And what happened?

N: Alas, she was looking for the perfect husband.

[Reader: Enough already; let's go.]

AE: [His face falls; he's so empathetic!] Oh!

N: Well, that's the way the quarks collide.

AE: [Ruefully] Truer words were never spoken.

N: Can we get on with this? There's a donkey out there with its meter running.

AE: Oh, yes. What about family?

N: Well, I finally settled for the first warm, companionable, etc. etc. person, and we were very happy. I was happier with her than she was with me, but she hasn't complained for years.

AE: Really? What happened to make her stop?

N: She died.

AE: Just so. Don't we all. Anyway, were there children?

[Here the tape broke. The part we salvaged was wrapped up on a pencil.]

It might be a good idea to move on.

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