Tale Of The Ringless Ring

Thomas Moore
492 words, 7K views, 24 comments


We are grateful to Rupali Bhuva for offering this hand-made painting for this reading.

Nasrudin was a spiritual leader and teacher in a small village. He was honored and respected as a mullah, although he was rather unusual and unpredictable.

One day a man of great virtue in the village came to Nasrudin with some news. "My business requires that I move to a town far away, and I regret that I have to leave our beautiful village and the benefits of having you as a spiritual guide and teacher," he said to Nasrudin.

The honored teacher looked sad and said, "I'm very sorry to see you go. I hope you can stay in touch with us, with me."

"I don't know what it will mean to live far away," the man said. "But I had an idea. I have long admired the beautiful ring you wear on the finger of your right hand, and I thought, if you were to give me that ring, every time I looked at my hand and saw that ring I'd think of you."

Now, Nasrudin had his virtues and his ordinary vices. One thing he did not like to do is to part with things that were precious to him.

"I have a better idea," he said. "Why don't I keep my ring. Then, every day you look at your hand and see that my ring is not there, you will think of me." 

This is a perfect story of emptiness. Instead of seeing something, you see nothing, and that nothing is meaningful. The townsman's attitude is standard: He is about to lose touch with this teacher, so he looks for something. This is how we deal with change and loss. We look for something, anything, to fill the gap.

But Nasrudin is wiser than he looks. He demonstrates the importance of wit and humor in paradoxical teachings. He comes up with a better idea, seeing value in the potential for emptiness he notices in his neighbor. He also perceives that by introducing nothingness in a positive way, he advances the teacher-student relationship. The empty, ringless, unnoticeable finger is the perfect solution.

This leads to broader questions: What place does emptiness have in our relationships? Is it better sometimes not to have physical signs of closeness and love? Is it good to doubt your beloved's devotion to you? Do the things we use to express our love get in the way? You give an expensive gift on an anniversary or on Valentine's Day. Would it be better to find a nongift, an empty gift, one that doesn't cost much or doesn't cost anything, that is not traditional, that has no obvious message? 


Thomas Moore is the author of thirty books. Excerpt above from The Eloquence of Silence.