The Wise Man of the Monastery

by Martin Baena



Scene: A sanctuary. A vast bookshelf stands stage left and a door stage right. In the middle of the room is a large cushion with a side table and a few ancient tomes bound in leather and scrolls of papyrus. The SAGE, with a long, flowing beard and simple robes, sits centre stage on the pillow, leafing through an old book, a tiny pair of spectacles balanced on his nose. Enter MAN, in western dress, frost-bitten and shivering. He clears his throat, hesitates. The SAGE looks up, turns his attention back to his book. An ASSISTANT enters with tea, sets a pot beside the SAGE, motions for the man to sit. He hands the MAN a cup of tea, exits.

SAGE: I understand you have a question for me.

MAN: Several.

SAGE: Is that so?

MAN: Yes, yes. I have travelled many leagues to speak with you, Wise One.

SAGE: Have you?

MAN: My first question…

SAGE (lifting a hand): Before you do…

MAN: Yes?

SAGE: …allow me to tell you a story.

MAN: Of course.

SAGE: And if you would be so kind as not to interrupt me…

MAN: No, certainly not.

SAGE: …it would be much appreciated. (Beat) Some years ago, a man – such as yourself – travelled to a remote monastery – not unlike this one – in search of a wise man. Like myself. He was told by the monks to wait. So he did. He sat outside the gates for months, until such a time as the monks took pity on him. They gave him a bed. Some food. And when he was rested, put him to work. For he did not wish to leave before seeing the wise man of the monastery. With time, he learned the language of the monks and was given additional responsibilities. Copying their ancient texts, like these here, he learned to read and write in their language, until he was considered a learned scholar. That is to say: he became one of them. At this point, years had passed since he first arrived in search of the wise man and in all this time he only saw him once: at his funeral. The tradition at this monastery was to wrap the body of the deceased in a simple blanket and toss him over a cliff. Which they did. And then the monks set about choosing the replacement. As it happened, the monks chose the man. The very foreigner they had found waiting outside their gates and had come to learn their customs better than they. And so the man was given a new set of robes and title to match. And wouldn’t you know it: not one hour after receiving these honours, an attendant informed him a foreigner was at the gates, desiring an audience. Hearing this, the wise man looks up from the sacred texts and says, “Let him wait.”

The SAGE turns his attention back to his books. The ATTENDANT enters, shows the MAN the door.



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