If you find the text too small to read on this website, press the CTRL button and,
without taking your finger off, press the + button, which will enlarge the text.
Keep doing it until you have a comfortable reading size.
(Use the - button to reduce the size)

Today's quote:

Monday, November 23, 2020

The Appointment in Samarra


There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and 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 gesture 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 Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra."

Samarra, of course, is now a modern Iraqi City that was founded in 5,500 BC and was a key Mesopotamian municipality until the Muslim Conquests in the 7th century AD. Located on the east bank of the River Tigris 78 miles north of Baghdad, it reached its zenith in the 9th century when it became the capital of the Caliph Abū Isḥāq Muḥammad ibn Hārūn al-Rashīd.

This ancient Mesopotamian tale first appears in the Babylonian Talmud and came to Western attention with its retelling by British writer W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) in his 1933 short fable "An Appointment in Samarra". The speaker, of course, is Death, and what she seems to say is that you can’t outrun Death, but you can sometimes move your appointment closer.

Death is both unpredictable and inevitable. We can neither foretell the time nor alter it. This is the point of Maugham's story and the teaching in Marcus Aurelius’ 'Meditations': "Perfection is to live each day as if it is the last, without agitation, without apathy and without pretence."

I drink to that!

Googlemap Riverbend