And They Saw The Elephant
"It is my Honest and Most Reportable Experience that a Holy Man that is Confronted with Matter-of-fact Truths, will Give the Truth-giver Money, in the form of various Coins, for the Total Value of One Dollar, as it Happened to Us in this Day..."
- Excerpt from "Travelling With One Dollar A Day (And It's Always The Same Dollar)" by Magrat Garlick, Witch:
Dear Jason and All,
This is the picture of a Tree that a Holy Man lives under, you can see the Holy Man under the Tree where he lives under it, only Magrat says he isn't very Holy but who is in this Day and Age says I, anyway Esme had Fun discussing with him, you know how she is, always up to Sharing Opinions, she gives hers freely to everybody even if they don't ask for it, that's Generosity I guess...
"So you are a Holy Man." Granny Weatherwax' tone was flat, and the eyes she regarded the half-naked adult male sitting cross-legged under a majestic tree with, were definitely suspicious.
The man smiled genially up to the three odd women who had gathered around his tree and, in a falsely wheezy voice, tried to answer: "Yes, my good woman, I was blessed with enlightening by-"
"I am not your good woman," snapped Granny Weatherwax narrowing her eyes.
The man faltered in mid-speech and looked at her uncertainly. He'd probably never been interrupted before, respect towards holy men and all.
"She is no-one's good woman," added Nanny Ogg helpfully, grinning widely.
"That's right I ain't!" Granny Weatherwax stood straight and proud and glared triumphantly at the bewildered Holy Man.
Nanny Ogg went on with zealous gusto: "Always thought she was missing out on a lot of fun in that area, if you get my meaning, but she was always so..."
"Gytha Ogg!" yelled Granny rounding on her best friend with glowering eyes.
Nanny Ogg snickered but held her hands up in surrender and then focused on lighting her own pipe, sporting the grin of someone who's looking forward to a good show and wants to be comfortable for it.
The bald, half-naked man had had time to gather himself somewhat and cast the woman who came to consult him without even knowing the basic etiquette for it a lofty, contemptuous look.
"I have no time for this," he declared grandly. "I am an Enlightened, I was blessed with Clarity of View and now see, in all its simplicity, in all its glory, the Ultimate Truth of sublimating the material world and ascending to spiritual elevation. I am not opposed to lead others on the right path to discovering the Meaning of Life, for the right incentive, but you, my good..." he trailed off nervously as Granny Weatherwax' glare swung back to him in full force and chose to hurriedly correct himself: "...er... you, dear lady, are clearly too preoccupied with the mundane to..."
Magrat, being Magrat, ambled forward, peering interestedly at the sitting man: "Well, I am interested in hearing about your Way and finding that spiritual elevation you say. Does it involve hitting people with rice flails and shouting 'Hai' very loudly?" she asked, all genuineness and earnest desire to please and learn, quickly adding: "Oh Holy Enlightened Master of, um, of the Big Tree?"
The Holy Man smiled in satisfaction. At least this supplicant knew how this worked!
"Child," he intoned with all the necessary dramatics, "you must become one with the world. Let your breath be the breath of the world around you. Focus on your breathing, drive all distractions from your mind and think only of that. The entirety of your awareness should be on your breathing and nothing else. And incidentally, it's Enlightened Master of the Road of Many Pebbles."
Magrat was already scrunching her eyes closed in a painful attempt at following the instructions when Granny Weatherwax' steely voice interrupted: "That's daft, that is. Wasting time paying attention to breathing!"
The man shot her an annoyed glare: "It is imperative," he bit out irritated, "that you learn how to breathe properly to-"
"That ain't anything difficult," replied Granny dismissively. "Everybody does it. All the time, too."
"Unless they're dead," cut in Nanny Ogg rather more cheerfully than the matter called for.
"Then they don't count!" snapped Granny instantly, sniffing haughtily.
"All right," interjected Magrat, who had long ago perfected the art of ignoring Granny Weatherwax when she was in one of her 'change-is-wrong-the-way-we-do-things-is-the-only-proper-way-and-always-will-be' moods. "All right. Breathe properly. This isn't very different from what the Path of the Scorpion recommends to find cosmic wisdom..."
"Oh, no, here she goes again," complained Granny grumpily.
"Goes where?" frowned Nanny Ogg.
"She's off wanting to find inner peace and cosmic harmony and the true meaning of maypoles!" Granny replied reproachfully.
"There ain't anything wrong with maypoles," pointed out Nanny Ogg amiably. "They make songs interesting, they do."
Magrat wasn't listening: "I just don't understand what comes after that. I mean, if learning to breathe is the First Step..."
"You must focus on that until your awareness is only on your breathing and you think of nothing else," said the Holy Man virtuously.
"And then?" asked Magrat uncertainly.
"Then, stop thinking about that, too."
Nanny Ogg chortled.
"That is ridiculous," glared Granny Weatherwax. "She's a Witch. Granted not a good one..." she easily ignored Magrat's indignant squeak "...but nevertheless, she. is. a. Witch. Thinking is what we do. If she stops thinking, she might as well give up her hat and become a commoner!"
"This is the Path to Enlightenment, the Way to Serenity and Insight," snapped back the Holy Man, irritated by the constant commentary. "You must shed yourself of all that you are before you can be filled with the Two Harmonies: Serenity - the ability to maintain composure – and Insight - the ability to attain wisdom with internal clarity, that my Way will lead you to."
"That so?" asked Nanny Ogg affably, while puffing on her pipe, supremely unconcerned with what the man was actually saying.
"I don't want to be filled by nothing you give out," retorted Granny haughtily.
Nanny Ogg choked on disbelieving laughter and promptly collapsed into helpless chortles. The others turned to look at her strangely. She desperately tried to heave breaths, but kept guffawing at random intervals.
Granny sniffed at her, shooting her a Look that said, plain as day, I don't want to know.
Magrat looked confused, opened her mouth to ask, thought better of it, and turned to the Holy Man expectantly instead.
The man was watching Nanny's hysterics worriedly, but suddenly sensing Magrat's gaze and realizing that he was losing points with her, he hastily drew up a very mystic and fathomless tone: "The path to wisdom is long for you, I fear," he intoned, shaking his head like a disappointed grandfather.
Granny glared at him distrustfully. "Paths to wisdom! Hah! I can't be having with that kind of things." She crossed her arms.
The Holy Man glared back. Somehow, it wasn't as effective.
"Wisdom ain't something you find at the end of a road in a ridiculously out of place chest with a ribbon on top!" she told him irately. "It's something you learn through practicality and hard work and experience that teaches you stuff like why trying things out you've been warned off of to see why you've been warned off of them is a bad idea!"
"You're not doing this properly, you know," Magrat attempted to complain, though not very loudly. "You aren't making an effort to see Above and Beyond, I don't think."
Granny rose to her full height, appearing to look twice as tall in her indignation. Magrat fought the urge to curl in on herself and squeak. She was a Witch. She was!
"W-we-ell, you aren't..." she said faintly, desperately trying to hold on to the little warm bit of defiance inside her heart.
"If a thing's worth doing, it's worth doing bad," declared Granny, who could be opinionated about anything.
"Yes, Granny," mumbled Magrat weakly, feeling her defiance scuttle back to its den and hide.
"What she's saying is, you gotta keep an open mind, Esme," Nanny Ogg helped the poor girl out.
Granny Weatherwax stared at the younger witch nastily: "Open mind, she says. Hah! You try having an open mind, Magrat, and people will insist on coming along and putting things in it!"
Judging that he'd been ignored for far too long, the Holy Man interjected: "It seems clear to me, my good... err... it seems to me," he faltered, then rallied, "it seems to me that you're not grasping the real meaning of wisdom."
Nanny Ogg lifted her eyebrows. Oh-oh. That sounded like a challenge.
A hard glint entered Granny's eyes: "Well then explain it to me, my good man," she said in a falsely polite tone, arms defiantly crossed.
The Holy Man smirked and arranged his limbs in a very hieratic position. Followers always liked that kind of thing.
"You want some help with those joints of yours?" offered Nanny Ogg kindly. "They don't look much comfortable, they don't. Must be aching something awful. I've got here the best ointment..."
The man grimaced visibly, un-knotted his knees with faked nonchalance and made an effort to ignore her.
"To understand the true meaning of cosmic wisdom," he pronounced, "you must answer an unanswerable question."
"But that's impossible," blurted out Magrat. "I-isn't it?"
Granny muttered something unflattering about the girl's proper witchcraftness, or rather lack thereof.
"Sounds like some kind of zen, this does," commented Nanny Ogg knowledgeably, still puffing away with her pipe. "Our Shawn heard 'bout this kind of stuff up at the castle, he did."
"Hah!" said Granny with the vicious triumph of someone who's seen the trick and is ready to tear the fake magician a new hide. "I really can't hold with that kind of things!"
The Holy Man made a valiant effort to ignore them: "Consider this, then - if a tree falls in the woods, and no one can hear it, does it make a noise?" he intoned.
"Pretty stupid question," commented Granny Weatherwax.
"You have an answer, then?" hissed the man condescendingly.
"'Course not. Who cares about it? It's fallen. That's that. There are other questions that are more important, you know."
The man narrowed his eyes angrily: "Oh, really? And what would they be?"
"Did it fall on someone's head? Or roof? Or in the middle of my vegetable garden, ruining my lettuce?"
"Is it laying across the only path between your place and that clearing you're supposed to meet that interesting young man in and who are you going to get to move it?" added Nanny Ogg helpfully. " 'Cause my Garvin is an ace at moving things about, made a job out of smuggling the stuff our Shane brings home from foreign parts..."
"If the tree fell on someone's head, wouldn't that someone have heard it?" asked Magrat, attempting to sound logical and maturely rational.
"Not if they was knocked out by it they wouldn't," retorted Granny triumphantly.
"Those matters are irrelevant!" protested the Holy Man as soon as he managed to stop gaping.
"They ain't irrelevant if that interesting young man is waiting for you and you're stuck with a fallen tree across the only path," replied Nanny Ogg sagely.
"You're missing the point," the man said a little despairingly. "Here, let's try with this: a wheel is a hoop - yet it can bear all the weight of an axle no matter how it turns. Where is the strength in the wheel?"
Nanny Ogg snorted: "If you've ever been close enough to a wheel to figure out how it's built, I'll eat my soggy nightgown."
"We have no need to know anything about the state of your nightgowns, Gytha Ogg," said Granny with irritation.
"I hate nightgowns," was Magrat's completely random contribution. Her eyes took on a hazy glaze. "They always get tangled in your legs. And the sheets. And they're hard to iron. Pajamas are much better."
"Pa-what?" asked Granny, mistrustfully.
"Pa-ja-mas," retorted Magrat defiantly. "They're loose, lightweight trousers fitted with drawstring waistbands..."
She trailed off under Granny's thunderous glare. Her rigid frame did not bode well either. "Trousers," she hissed, as if she was uttering the foulest curse.
"They're comfortable," Magrat added a little desperately.
"If I've told you once I've told you a hundred times," grumbled Granny. "It's shameful."
"Is not!" Magrat denied vehemently. "They're much better than some alternative, I'll have you know. Did you know that there are people who sleep with absolutely nothing on at all?"
"I rejoice to say I do not."
"Very practical, sleeping without clothes on," was Nanny Ogg's insightful addition. "Saves time."
The Holy Man was looking at them with a lost look bordering on horrified fascination. "You... you don't... you can't..."
Magrat peered at him concernedly: "Are you alright, oh Holy Master of..."
"He's just finding out one of life's truths, is all," interrupted Granny with a smug look.
Magrat turned to her distractedly: "What?"
"That cosmic wisdom won't get the sheep sheared or the privy dug. Something I've been telling you," she added meaningfully.
Magrat sighed a little. Holding onto the hope that life had a greater meaning was hard when you hung out with Granny Weatherwax.
The man blinked at the imposing witch and made what under the circumstances was either a very admirable, or a very silly effort to regain control of the discussion.
"No, no, you see, my goo... er... you... you are distracted by the superficial meaning of the question. You're so preoccupied with the insignificant matters of the chair that you refuse to lose your illusion and understand the Ultimate Truth!"
He recovered his smile as he regained his momentum, rather pleased with himself for having steered the boat of this conversation back to familiar waters.
"You must learn to look underneath and find the spiritual meaning beyond what the eyes show you! For instance – an empty vase is made of simple clay. Where is the value in it?"
"Depends if it's well done enough to put stuff in," said Granny promptly.
"Exactly!" said the man hurriedly, hoping to get his explanation out before the unpredictable women came up with yet another completely irrelevant something. "Much in the same way, humans..."
" 'Cause if there's cracks, like, you might as well throw it away," went on Granny, unconcerned with the man's attempts at philosophy.
"Not true, that," retorted Nanny Ogg thoughtfully. "A good vase is a good vase, you know. Nine times out of ten you can fix it, if you know how to do it. My Tom's silly wife is always throwing stuff away and I tells her, tells I, just give it here instead, couple fixes, chop-chop, good as new, you never know when it might be useful to have a spare!"
"No, no, what I mean is..." tried the man, irritated.
"Plus, throwing out things can be harmful to nature," added Magrat - a doer of good deeds at heart.
"I'm saying that..."
"Waste not, want not," stressed Nanny.
"I suppose," conceded Granny magnanimously.
"Enough of this!" cried the Holy Man, reaching the end of his rope. "You! You're hopeless – blind! There is no helping you! I don't remember ever meeting anyone whose mind was so hopelessly mundane!"
"Well, what is the right answer then?" asked Magrat a little petulantly.
"You are the vase! A woman like you is made from the same worthless clay; her value comes from the experiences she becomes filled with..."
"So what you're saying is, I'm about as worthless as a jar of dirt?" hissed Granny Weatherwax, pushing her long nose up into the man's face, a dangerous expression in her suddenly too-close gaze.
The Holy Man's eyes went very wide and started watering as he abruptly realized that he might stand to lose more than just a bit of reputation by offending this awful woman whom he hadn't even meant to insult!
"N-no..." he whimpered under her glowering scrutiny, "that's not... everybody is..."
"Everybody's worthless, is what you're saying?"
"Yes! That is, no! That is...!"
"That's right it isn't," said Granny with a tight smile.
The man's eyes were drawn irresistibly to her grey hair, done up under a very tall hat in a bun that was the colour, and the consistence, of cast iron. The sun glinted off a strand of it unexpectedly, giving it a metallic hue. Dread mounted in him when he realized what it was glinting off of wasn't hair: it was hatpins. Long, sharp, deadly hatpins.
Almost against his will, his gaze slid down from the top of her head and with the inevitability of a rock that's fallen into the clutches of gravity fell upon her eyes. Her piercing, sapphire blue eyes. He had the sudden epiphany that hatpins weren't the problem after all. She could pin him to the ground without them easy as peas.
He gulped again, desperately trying to resist the urge to curl into a ball and cry for his Mama. What would it take to make them go away? What?
"You got some other silly questions?" asked Granny sweetly.
"Hope you make it quick, if you do," grumbled Nanny Ogg, who was busy cleaning out her pipe now. "Only I'm getting hungry and the inn's a long way down that slope."
Losing his battle to desperation, the Holy Man scooped up his bowl and thrust it towards the blackness looming over him: "Look, here!" he shouted, sounding like a man lost in the Klatchian jungle and suddenly faced with a hungry tiger, who tries to distract it with a piece of the bird he was roasting on his campfire. "Just... just take this and go!"
Granny Weatherwax' glare didn't lessen in the least.
Magrat, tidily picking up the upturned contents of the bowl, commented idly: "There's coins for one dollar here."
The man tried to squirm away from Granny's displeased glare. "I'm sorry! Okay? Just. Go. Away!" he spit, almost choking on a wail.
He scrambled back in an ungraceful, disjointed movement that had really nothing cosmic or harmonious to it, and silently prayed never to be cursed by potential acolytes such as these ever again.
Granny made sure her black dress swirled dramatically when she turned and marched off.
"And that's our dollar figured out for today!" commented after a while Nanny Ogg, cheerful and practical as always.
Magrat followed them, thoughtful.
"He didn't seem that holy to me," she remarked at length. "All that talking about what women are made of, and nightgowns. Besides, I've read that you can't reach enlightenment if you're distracted by the wish to seek enlightenment, I have."
"You sure read a lot, girl," muttered Nanny Ogg disapprovingly.
Magrat, however, had got going: "I was expecting a lot more. Like, that he would be able to help me in my search for inner peace and the true essence of Being. That he would have told us some secret mystical syllable or something!"
"Mystical syllable?" asked Nanny Ogg, half-dismissive, half-amused.
Magrat tried to give her a defiant look: "I've read that all the Future is held in one single, mystical syllable!"
"Yes," cut in Granny curtly. "It's the syllable 'boh'."