text by Christopher-Joseph Ravnopolski-Dean,
Designer in Chief of B. Version
Who is the great writer? Is it the one who is in vogue and writes on contemporary topics? Is it the one whose works remain up to date no matter how much time has passed by?
Insightful storytellers without pretensions and without scientific degrees have lived among the simple people in Bulgaria. With bright words and ingenious stories, they have created small pearls that are buried now in oblivion.
Such is the tale below. With a few strokes, this tale touches upon deep philosophical problems: from Socrates’s “I Know that I Know nothing” through probability theory and the Tao, to the ideas of the naive rationalizer from Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (see below for clarifications).
The Boy That Wanted to Study All Female Trickeries
(Bulgarian Folk Tale)
A young man developed a great interest in the trickeries of women. He was obsessed with the various techniques, subtleties and lies, through which women deceive their husbands to cheat on them.
“Well, wait,” he said to himself, ” I will make a notebook and I will write down all female trickeries, so when I get married, there will be no chance for my wife to fool around with me!”
Thus, he went with the notebook from city to city, from village to village, to write down all possible female trickeries. He travelled just about three years and almost filled the whole notebook.
On the way back to his home town, he stayed in someone`s house. The kind hearted host, welcomed him with all due respect according to the Christian traditions. He offered him fine dishes, coffees, wine and rakia (brandy). As if he was receiving a king. They talked. The young man told him about his endeavors, while the clever daughter-in-law was listening and was smiling mysteriously.
At some point of time, the daughter-in-law invited the boy in the cellar and served him some more rakiya and pickled pears (trushia). She was trotting around him graciously, as if by mistake she carelessly unbuttoned the top button of her dress. She came closer to him, looked at him with desire and kissed him. The tension in the room grew immensely. He fell for her signs and just as he grabbed her, she yelled:
“Whose wife are you grabbing, you scoundrel! Do you know what will happen now when I scream and the men come here?”
The boy was stunned and could not explain to himself what caused this drastic change in her behavior. She rapidly buttoned up the upper button and yelled her head off. The ill-fated boy almost died of fright: no blood remained in him. At the moment the men of the house ran in. The host, the woman’s husband and his brother.
“Why are you screaming, bride? What happened to you that you yelled in such a manner?”
“Oh my, how shouldn’t I yell, oh, men! This boy almost choked with a pickled pear that hanged in his throat! Du-u, God, it is a pity, the poor boy, as if he threw out his eyes like a boiled rabbit. Thank, thank God that some trouble did not happen in our house, because it would be a disgrace for people in the village to think that we killed the boy!
They asked the boy, whether this was true. He confirmed vehemently the lie and everybody made the sign of the cross and thanked God that He had rescued the boy. The men left and told the woman to serve him dinner.
“So, my boy, did you like or did you not this trickery? Open your notebook and write it down. Or if you wish, stay for a few days here, I will tell you such devilish tricks that you haven’t even dreamt of. And something else I shall tell you: as long as you are alive you may go around the world and right down all female trickeries, but it is not possible to write them all down. Whereas, if you listen to me, throw this notebook away and loose not even a day more. Stop “eating flies” (stop being tricked by people), go home, watch your work and marry as everybody else does. If you have luck you will find a good woman and you will have a fine life. But if you stick to a cunning woman, sorrowful shall be your life and on bare ground you shall push a boat.
When he heard these words, the boy threw away the notebook and did as the woman had told him.
In the moral of the story we can sense the idea that the world is changing, and people must constantly adapt to the current situation. You cannot merely memorize something and rely that you will be able to use the same knowledge in real life. Even more so when it comes to something as complex as the character of women. And all this wisdom is shared very smoothly, without thorough analyzes and a lot of grandiose phrases.
This folk tale (at least from the 19th century if not older) is marked with an unmistaken sense for reality. The world is far too complex to be described. The more you study it, the harder it is to describe it (Socrates, Lao Tse – Tao). Nevertheless, life is given to you to live it (the Bulgarian storyteller). You would do a far greater job by trying to live life than by trying to study it.
The naïve rationalizer is a person, usually highly educated, who misleads himself into believing that it is possible to study phenomena based on what has already happened or what is observable. Such a person misleads himself that whatever he does not know, does not exist. He confuses his idea about reality with reality. (Don’t confuse the finger pointing towards the moon with the moon – Buddhist proverb).
He misses one thing – probability. Luck, divine providence or merely chance – these are phenomena that cannot be foreseen. The situation resembles that of the lamb for Saint George’s day, which supposes that by Saint George’s day they will feed it with larger portions, since its masters have constantly been increasing its meals. Yet, Saint George’s day comes and they kill the lamb. (The example with the Thanksgiving Turkey by Nassim Taleb, “Antifragile”.)
But the resourceful woman in the tale just evaluates reality and advises the boy to trust his luck and to withstand that which his fortune shall offer him (Seneca and other representatives of Stoicism).