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A moon ago I was nearby the ruins of an ancient pagan temple, with Umar al Mhuttashym, talking about the caducity of human works and the uselessness of the art.
«It's true - he nodded - nothing whitstands the embrace of time and everything that man creates already bears in itself the eggs of decline and oblivion. This temple was erected many years ago, and now no one can say which false god receveid homages in it, of the sculptures and bassreliefs remain only few fragments eroded by winds and sands and within as many years as from its construction until now these remains will surface from sands and of the temple itself even the vaguest memory will be dissolved but this temple has a purpose, maybe unknow by the artist that built it, if these stones could speak maybe they would say that we were raised in order that in the moment of the decline two poets could rest next to us to speak about the caducity of the art, reading in our corroded stones the sign that nothing of what is human could withstand the time, if the human work concentrates only on the stone it is only a sign traced on the dust and nothing more, because the stone is dust and its own destiny is to become dust again.»
I picked up a pebble that still brought traces of enamel and I showed it to Umar.
«Then why create, produce works in the useless hope to defeat the time if they yet carry in theirselves the germ of death, then what is the meaning to be artists?»
«The artist who carves on a stone his message he gives it to the dust, not so the poets or the philosopher, because their message germinates in other minds and it endures with time passing by, the paper is more fragile than the stone, the calamus lighter than the chisel, the ink weaker than the enamel, but the speech or the mind ride the impetuous years and even if the artist is forgotten, those thoughts riappear carried out by other poets who discover themselves in these thoughts. The mind and speech travel around the world, like pollen carried on by the wind they produce other plants and other flowers, but this sculpture is immobile and it can delight only few pilgrims who hardly can describe what their eyes had seen. Look at this stone, it will last one thousand years and it will be dust, look at this plant, it will live maybe ten or one hundred years and then also it will be dust, but from this plant will come up other plants who knows where, it is not the same, you will say, it is true, but in those other plants it will hand on itself, its own essence, challenging the time mighter than stone. So it is the art: the art that wants to challenge the time and searches like support a stone or a noble metal is only a stone and nothing more, but the poetry or the philosopy is the plant, perhaps more short lived, but not sterile, it after many milleniums will give out still many fruits, even if the mother plant will be neglected by this time. So entrust to the fragile paper your thoughts, Abd, and do not give up to the false hopes of the stone, maybe your name will be forgotten, maybe your words will change during time, can you say that this peach tree is like its own ancestor? But all that matters is that it is here and satiates our bodies, so yor words, also changed, will satisfy tomorrow other souls, enduring on other papyrii and on other parchments, lovely transcribed by men that you will never see and they even though not knowing your name, will get lost in those thoughts finding in them their own soul. The choice is easy, Abd, you are a skilful artist and sweet dreamer, if you want that your name will be remembered for a thousand years, choose the stone and populate its fibres of carved images, impress your name, but within a thousand years it will be dust like the images of the world that you have dreamed. Instead if you want your thoughts, your dreams and your poetry to live, forget the stone and entrust to the paper your soul, but don't deceive yourself, your name will be soon crippled and then forgotten, other ones will acquire your thoughts, your rules, your visions, but these ones will live until the man will be in this world, these ones will ride the years, because these ones will be impressed on something that will never end, the human soul, and the wind of night will take them until the cold stars that observe our days, the clouds will take them around the sky, the dreams will awake them in the hearts of pures, they will live forever and in those people, forgotten, will live a part of you who seeded them in the human souls.»
A moon is gone and yesterday I have heard that Umar has died while he was sleeping, in that sleep in which he puts all his own life, so I dedicate him all of my thoughts and memories of his own speeches, oh yes, the parchment is fragile, but like the peach flower sends its pollen beyond the mountains, also this parchment will germinate in time and space and little it matters if my name one day will be forgotten.
I have returned just today on the path of the peach flower, the tree is no more, a lightning has burned it to ashes, but around the ruins there are other trees and other ones I have seen in the valley. So I feel that my words will live, even if I will be dust soon like that tree at which shadow I and Umar have so many time discussed.
Written 12 april 1981, more than a story it is a meditation on the caducity of human works.
Later I have discovered in the sufi text The garden of sweet scented flowers of 'AbdallÓh Al-Yafi'i, a yemenitic mystic lived between 1300 and 1367, the same atmospheres in some ethic parabolas that get near to this passage.
In the fiction I imagine that the passage is the translation from farsi of a fragment of an imaginary persian text written in the Middle Ages.