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EGGS A LA KHAZAR

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Mokaddasa Al Safer: 8th century teacher in a Khazar monastery

Postulant Nun in the monastery: preparing to become a novice

Postulant Monk in the monastery: preparing to become a novice


Takes place in the 8th century, in the antechamber of a Khazar monastery. A blue and gold Khazar jar stands gleaming in the middle of the room. POSTULANT NUN (She is being chased around the antechamber by the Postulant Monk. She hides behind a pillar. He looks around for her and suddenly she speaks out, startling him. Both are virtually still children and the whole thing looks like a game.)


If you sleep with me you’ll pay twenty hundred, If you don’t, you’ll pay twice that sum. It is not for us to choose whether we want hair Or grass on top of our heads, tears or rain. If you sleep with me you’ll pay twenty hundred, If you don’t, you’ll pay twice that sum.


POSTULANT MONK
I’ll pay twenty hundred!

POSTULANT NUN
No you won’t. That’s just in the song.

POSTULANT MONK
And what isn’t in the song?

POSTULANT NUN
I’ll ask the questions and you’ll give the answers. If you know the answer, you win; if you don’t, you lose something nice.

POSTULANT MONK
What?

POSTULANT NUN
Answer and find out. POSTULANT MONK Ask!

POSTULANT NUN
Why are we here?

POSTULANT MONK
Where? Here on the stage?

POSTULANT NUN
No, I mean how did people get here, on Earth and in time? You say you dream dense dreams. Answer!

POSTULANT MONK
I don’t know. That’s a question for a teacher not a pupil.

POSTULANT NUN
I think so too. So, you don’t know why we are here’? What do you know?

POSTULANT MONK
I heard a terrible thing. POSTULANT NUN What kind of thing?

POSTULANT MONK
Do you know how our teacher prays?

POSTULANT NUN
How’?

POSTULANT MONK
He’s already inseminated thousands of virgins, here in this monastery and elsewhere.

POSTULANT NUN
I thought you had learned something new. He inseminated me as well.

POSTULANT MONK
(Falls silent with embarrassment.) Oh yes, I also learned something else. Our teacher has a new jar.

POSTULANT NUN
Wonderful! How did you learn that?

POSTULANT MONK
(Embarrassed because the jar is right in front of him.) That means one of the students will be getting a present from the teacher. Who will the lucky person be? The best of the lot, no doubt!

POSTULANT NUN
Who knows who’s the best?

POSTULANT MONK
Certainly not me.

POSTULANT NUN
You want to bet he’ll give it to you!?

POSTULANT MONK
Why’? Everybody knows I’m not the best!

POSTULANT NUN
And that’s precisely why. The good pass through here quickly. The worst stay the longest, until they’ve learned everything. The teacher will have to eat a handful of salt with you.

(Enter Mokaddasa with a group of male and female postulants from the monastery.)

MOKADDASA
(Sits, encircled by his students, under an archway painted to look like a star studded sky.) Today we shall say a few words about the moth. Do you see it? (Turns to the Postulant Monk.) The moth is way up there by the wall. And it is visible only because it moves. From here it almost looks like a bird high up in the sky, if you think of the wall as the sky.

POSTULANT MONK
That’s probably how the moth sees the wall and only we know it is wrong. But the moth doesn’t know that we know. It doesn’t even know we exist. It merely knows that our clothes, on which it feeds, exist.

MOKADDASA
Something like that. But let us get to the point. Can you say something, anything, to that moth up there, but so that it understands you and so that you are sure it has understood you?

POSTULANT MONK
I don’t know whether I can or not. Can you, Teacher?

MOKADDASA
I can. Anybody can. (Stands up and, with a clap of his hands, kills the moth. Shows its crushed body on the palm of his hand.) Do you think it didn’t understand what I said to it?

POSTULANT MONK
You can do the same thing with a candle, extinguishing it with your two fingers to prove you exist.

MOKADDASA
Certainly, if a candle is capable of dying ... But imagine now that there is somebody who knows about us what we know about the moth. Somebody who has our sky for a ceiling. Somebody who cannot approach us and let us know that he exists, except in one way, and that is by killing us. Somebody on whose garments we feed, somebody who carries our death in his body like a tongue, as a means of communicating with us. By killing us this Stranger informs us about himself. When somebody dies, it means that a stranger had something important to tell us. Every death is actually a word. And all our deaths are a huge unread letter ... But to return to the candle you mentioned. (Suddenly, everybody reveals the little pots they are carrying, with candles burning inside. The Teacher formally presents the Khazar jar to the Postulant Monk, who examines it admiringly.)

POSTULANT MONK
Now I have a place to keep my things! (Like a magician, he pulls several articles out of his bag, one by one, shows them around and then drops each into the jar.) An egg! The sign of a cancelled day! ... A bell, a call for a change of soul ... A red cape the sign of death! ... A golden fleece, the sign of a voyage to the stars ... Two caps, one blue and the other yellow, the sign of a body without a soul...

MOKADDASA
Good, now take your things out of the jar.

POSTULANT MONK
(Turns the jar upside down, but nothing falls out. Sticks his hand in to check, but finds nothing.) It’s devoured everything! Teacher, explain to me the meaning of such ajar.

MOKADDASA
Listen carefully! (Takes a stone, tosses it into the jar and counts to thirty. There is the sound of a splash as though it has hit water.) I could tell you what your jar means but ponder first whether it is worth it.

POSTULANT NUN
What do you mean, Teacher? Can knowledge do harm?

MOKADDASA
Of course it can. It is hard, for instance, to endure learning three things at once.

POSTULANT NUN
What do you mean, three things at once?

MOKADDASA
You have a lover and discover he is cheating on you. That is to learn one thing. You have a lover and discover he is cheating on you with your sister. That is to learn two things at once. You have a lover and discover he is cheating on you with your brother. That is to learn three things at once.

POSTULANT MONK
And what about my jar?

MOKADDASA
As soon as I tell you what your jar is, it is bound to be worth less than it is now. Because once I tell you what it is, it will no longer be all the things it is not, and what it is now.

POSTULANT MONK
True.

MOKADDASA
So, you agree? (Takes a stick and with it smashes the jar into smithereens. That same instant, a red flame bursts from the jar. None of the Postulant Monk’s things fall out of the jar.)

POSTULANT MONK
Teacher, why did you do such damage?

MOKADDASA
The damage would be if I had first told you what the jar was for and then smashed it. This way, since you don’t know its purpose, there is no damage done, because it will continue to serve you as though it had never been smashed. (Everybody leaves except for the Postulant Monk and Postulant Nun. They remain by the broken jar. ‘The Postulant Monk is dejected and thoughtful.)

POSTULANT NUN
What was its purpose, and does it still serve that purpose…?

POSTULANT MONK
At least tell the what I’ve lost since I didn’t know the answer to your question “Why are we here?”

POSTULANT NUN
You lost this. (Shows him a gold key.)

POSTULANT MONK
What’s that?

POSTULANT NUN
The key to my bedchamber. (Suddenly hurls the key over the fence into the garden.) Come darling, it’s not locked.