The merchant in Baghdad

“There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions. In a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me.

She looked at me and made a threatening gesture, now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me. The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went.

Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threatening getsture to my servant when you saw him this morning?

That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”

There are two lessons I thought of when I heard this.

The first is that there’s no point outrunning death. It catches up with us all. Best to make peace with our mortality and make the most of the time we have.

The second is an idea Master Oogway shared in the (likely) most quoted movie on this blog – Kung Fu Panda – “One often meets their destiny when trying to outrun it.”

I’m not a fatalistic person. But we also live in a world where we control little.

And it is good to recognize that from time to time.