Monday, August 30, 2004


Sufi University Press

Mullah Billdoug was asked by the administration of Sufi University to create a university press.

Mullah Billdoug laughed, not just because there is no administration at Sufi U, but because laughter is just about the only plank of reality on which Sufi U is built.

The wise student attends Sufi U and studies diligently, and falls farther and farther behind. The average student attends Sufi U and parties and crams for tests, and just barely keeps from flunking out. The foolish student hears about Sufi U and laughs aloud, and so graduates at the head of her, his, or its class. That's mostly what Sufi U is. If there were no laughter, there'd be no Sufi U.

But the administration persisted in the face of the Mullah's scoffing, as administrations will, even at Sufi U.

The Mullah Billdoug then protested that he was illiterate, and couldn't possibly make decisions about book-publishing. But the administration replied that illiteracy had never been an insuperable obstacle for editorial staffs even at more traditional university presses, and shouldn't be a deal-breaker at Sufi UP.

So, reluctantly, the Mullah agreed.

The administration said they wanted to see the first Sufi UP book released the following day. The Mullah Billdoug knew this was impossible, but wasn't surprised at the request, because at Sufi U everything is impossible.

So Mullah Billdoug went home feeling dejected and used, which is a common feeling at traditional universities too, and, like a true Sufi master, tried to make himself feel better by kicking the cat.

The cat, however, was one of the first graduates of Sufi U and so was much smarter than Mullah Billdoug, and avoided his kick easily, with the result that Mullah Billdoug's foot crashed through the wall and exposed a gallon ziplock bag of marijunana between the studs.

Then he knew just what to do.

He took the baggie to a student he knew that was flunking out of the Pharmacy school, and offered him the weed if he would just follow the Mullah around for the next few hours and jot down his many wise sayings. The student agreed instantly, and lit up.

Well, needless to say, the Mullah never says anything wise. He mostly just grumbles and whines and complains about how others treat him and the unfairness of life in general. But since that kind of grumbling makes up at least half of all instruction on traditional university campuses, he figured that a book of grumbles might be just the thing to inaugurate Sufi UP's publishing venture.

Fortunately, however, the student was so high on weed that he heard everything--not just the grumbles, but the stomach rumbles; not just the whines, but the high-pitched hum of beta-blockers in synaptic uptake. And he put all of it into the book. Stayed up all night, smoking and writing, until the day dawned and the baggie was empty and the book was full.

The student passed out, smiling, while his hand was still reaching out, beautifully, to click Print. So the cat jumped up and did the rest. When the Mullah came in to see how Sufi UP's first book was coming along, it was finished, bound and shrink-wrapped, with only a few kitty teeth marks in one corner. Its title was Nothing From Nothing, which the Mullah thought would do as well as any other.

With great ceremony, then, which went largely unnoticed, except by the pigeons and squirrels, Mullah Billdoug walked the book over to the library, presented it to the freshman working the circulation desk, who happened to be the smartest librarian in the building. She processed the book, assigned it a Dewey decimal code in the high 000's, and walked it up to the stacks herself. Mullah Billdoug followed, intrigued.

"What's that rustling noise?" she asked the Mullah as she slid the book onto the shelf.

"I don't--" the Mullah began, but couldn't finish, because before their eyes and behind their ears, at that moment every book in the library collapsed into a little pile of grayish acidic dust.

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