Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Appointment in Samarra

Now here's an old favorite. You've probably heard this story at least once, and could relate to it. A time when you ran right in to what you were trying to avoid.

"The Appointment in Samarra"
(as retold by W. Somerset Maugham [1933])
The speaker is Death

There was a merchant in Bagdad 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. 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 threating getsture 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 Bagdad, for I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.
I was prompted to look it up, because I'm doing a study of bullfighting right now. Many of the writers are Spanish, of course, and they really trace the details of unfortunate events. For instance when a matador gets killed by a bull. If you see it as "fated" that Manolete is going to be killed by the bull, Islero, you'll be looking carefully at all the choices Manolete made, and the choices Islero's owners made, that ensured the two would meet on the afternoon of August 26, 1947.

I started on this rabbit trail because I wanted to learn more about the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona.

Here's a neat video showing the running of the bulls, or copy and paste this in your browser: .
You can also see the video HERE. (Or copy and paste this in your browser: .

In my reading, I found the following:

"In bullfighting there is a term called querencia. The querencia is the spot in the ring to which the bull returns. Each bull has a different querencia, but as the bullfight continues, and the animal becomes more threatened, it returns more and more often to his spot.

"As he returns to his querencia, he becomes more predictable. And so, in the end, the matador is able to kill the bull because instead of trying something new, the bull returns to what is familiar: His comfort zone."

Now that's something to think about, isn't it.

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