Sheherezade’s confessions before the 1,001th night

by Adina Dabija
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Quantum physics, schizophrenia and the placebo effect: what do they all have in common?
There, what samsara is discriminated from what nirvana? – Nagarjuna



Tomorrow I will be a queen or I’ll die. I have lived a happy, exciting and fulfilling life. I had fun saving my life with the wit of my stories these past 1,000 nights, as my beloved Shahryar was dropping the knife from my throat night after night, while I was entertaining him with my artful wisdom. He was sitting on his hundred silk and gold pillows, like a king, but in fact he was just a teenager attending a re-education camp, getting some liberating knowledge from me. I have sparked the desire of knowledge in his eyes. I have re-framed his views. I have played the puppeteer for 1,000 times, but still did not give him the most important teaching of all. In fact, I was as careful as I could to keep him asleep in the reality I manufactured for him… Yet if he will order that I am beheaded tomorrow, as he did with the thousand virgins before me, I will still die happy: I gave him enough knowledge for him to be a better king.


But king is one thing, man is another. To be a better man, one has to be willing to take the risk to see beyond stories. One must be able to say: I want to see behind the veil you are throwing on my enchanted eyes… Will my king ever be able to do that?… Maybe if he will throw away his knife from my throat and make me his wife I will I have the courage to tell him that we live in a world of illusion – of Sheherezades telling stories to sleeping bored kings? This world works out only for moody kings to find their way out of depression, like in my story about Harun al-Rashid. “One night Harun al-Rashid felt himself weighed down by a heavy depression. He said to his lieutenant Jafar, ‘Brother and Wazir, my heart is heavy.’ Jafar replied, ‘O King of Time, all joy and sorrow come from within, but sometimes outside shows may have an influence upon these humors. Have you made trial of any outside shows today?’ The sultan said, ‘I have taken up in my fingers and let fall all the jewels of my treasury; the rubies, the emeralds, and the sapphires, but not one of them lifted my soul to pleasure. I have been to my harem and passed in review the white and the brown, the copper colored and the dark, but none of them lifted my soul to gladness. I went to my stables, but not one of my countless horses could amuse me, and the veil of the world has not lifted.'”

Today, as I put on my most beautiful dress, my most charming butterfly-shaped jewelry and my most arousing perfume to step into the king’s bedroom for one more time, I see more and more clear that becoming a queen or dying is no different. The veil of illusion has not been removed from the king’s eyes. In the world of perception and senses, changing the way we perceive and conceptualize things will determine the way we experience them. But what is beyond experience? What is beyond this world of multiple realities I have weaven for the king?


I should tell the king tonight, as Rumi wrote (or will write, time is of no importance): “Uncross your eyes, see no multiples!”. But how could I do that? How can I walk the king out of his world of knife – no-knife, life – death, to marry – not to marry? To be or not to be – that is not the question. The question is what is beyond being and non-being? What is beyond seeing a glass half empty or half full? Full or empty are still states of a perceived object. I can trick the king’s mind to believe the glass is half full, I can even trick him that he as an observer is fused with the object of his perception and the glass would not even exist without him, the observer – and tomorrow I’ll be queen!! But… how about the truth? How can I help the king see the things as they are – empty of meaning, like a wide open sky full of glowing mysteries?


Should I lift myself from this world of desire and knife and stop telling deceiving stories to keep a sleeping king happy?…


But then, if I do that… what will happen with things like quantum physics, schizophrenia and the placebo effect that are all based upon multiple states of being? How would faith healing be possible? Or those charming unreliable narrator stories, just like my own tales – say Lolita, The Catcher is the Rye or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest… in which we trust and we don’t trust the narrator at the same time? Would my beautiful weaven stories will be forever forgotten?… My stories… My?… But who am I?… asked Sheherezade while clipping the last pin in her hair, starring at her unsettling image in the mirror as for the first time, before stepping out of her room to enter the king’s bedroom one more time.



Sheherezade’s confessions before the 1,001th night

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