Discussions with Dragons

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Once there was a man who lived in a beautiful garden, and his wife lived there with him. The Lord of the garden had given it to him for his use on the condition that he guard and tend it. But in order to guard and tend it, there had to be a particular thing for him to defend, a particular way for him to obey his landlord. And so the landlord told the man that on no account was he to drink from the well that was at the center of the garden. All the other streams were for his use, but the well at the center was holy and not to used by him.

One day a dragon came, and began talking with the man and his wife, and his speech was soothing and very wise. When he suggested that the man and woman drink from that well, they both shook their heads. “We were commanded not to,” they said. “At least I was,” the man added. “My wife was not here at the time.”

“Ah,” said the dragon, “but is that not a question of interpretation? I have been to other gardens, and in them, the men and the women said that their landlord required them to drink from the well at the center.”

The man and his wife just stood there, not knowing what to say. The dragon continued, “And this illustrates just how difficult the science of interpretation can be. You say that your wife was not here at the time. Perhaps the command does not apply to her, but only to you. Provided, of course, that it even applies to you.”

The man spoke, and there was a waver in his voice. “But this garden was entrusted to me, in order for me to defend and protect it.”

“Yes, quite,” said the dragon. “And how do you know that you are not failing at just this point? Does not the landlord expect you to grow up into interpretive wisdom? You have extended his requirement to your wife, and all without any express command from him at all. It seems to me that if you were really defending the garden, you would stick close to the words that he gave you. What did he actually say?”

And the man wondered if the dragon had a point.

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