There were in Baghdad two viziers in the caliph's service. It was unclear which of the pair was the most refined, so superlative was the taste and splendour of each. The caliph's court urged him to put them to the test: he consented and decided as the criterion that each should arrange a banquet. He who organized the most elegant display would be the ultimate authority on taste and etiquette. Thus the day arrived for the first of the competitors. Upon entering the banquet hall what was to be found? Perfection itself. All without flaw: the guest selection, the quality of the menu, the embellishment of the hall uniting fresh elegance with brilliant lightning, all lacking any obvious artifice. There were poems recited, music and dance, edifying but friendly conversation, at times erudite, but always witty. All was truly perfect; to imagine a better presentation was impossible. The other contestant seemed doomed. Some already mourned his defeat. Others, more enterprising, commenced paying heir court to the obvious victor.
One week later the night of the second banquet arrived. There was at first extreme curiosity, then great surprise, finally a profound disappointment. Surprise and disappointment arose because of the nature of this second banquet: it was in every way, point by point, identical to the previous one. The same guests were invited, the hall's arrangement and decoration a repetition. Identical were the poems, the melodies and dancing. There were the same flowers and the same fragrances. Conversation took up again as a repetition of itself. Echoes and reflections. It was impossible for the frustrated guests to criticize the plagiarist; holding their tongues, they began to enjoy themselves.
After a short while the caliph announced, СToday's banquet has won. May the Lord's benediction follow its maker always, just as will our delighted appreciation for the exceptional moment he has given us and which we shall forevermore savour in our memories'.
The stunned hall showed no reaction. What if the caliph spoke ironically? This supposition seemed likely and in fact was the only possible explanation.
Finally the great vizier came forth, urged on by the crowd, and dared ask, СOh great and illustrious caliph! In your unsparing justness you perhaps wanted to laugh at the impertinence of this unlucky one, or else, in your boundless wisdom, you have seen what our eyes were not capable of seeing. If your limitless indulgence would accept to clear up this matter for us, please share the reasons for your choice'.
And the caliph responded, СI do not know what to say, in truth, because the reason is subtle and avoids clear explanation. We had almost forgotten that moment we lived but a week ago. Now, this vizier's art has restored through a dreamlike repetition all the magic that had disappeared, all the evaporated perfume from the shattered flask. What occurred the other night simply occurred. But the reflection we saw this evening was a true act of creation: this reflection has tapped and actually restored our flow of happiness in its spontaneous perfection. In addition it gave us three other treasures: memory, recognition and victory over the annihilation of the past. No success is sweeter than this!Ф