56. The Wisest Man in the City

A farmer came to the city seeking advice. "I'm looking for the wisest man to advise me!" he said at the city gate.
The guard pointed to a disheveled old man who was playing marbles with some street-urchins. "You might give him a try."
The farmer approached the strange-looking man and, much to his surprise, he received very good advice.
"Thank you!" said the farmer. "But I don't understand: with all your wisdom, why are you playing marbles, cavorting with the children like this?"
"They wanted to make me mayor," the man explained. "Playing the fool was how I escaped!"

Inspired by: The English prose version of Rumi in Tales from the Masnavi by A. J. Arberry.
Notes: This is story 49 in the book. In the original story the man is asking for advice about what sort of woman would make the best wife, and the "madman" is riding on a pretend hobby-horse; it was quicker and easier just to say he was playing marbles with the children.

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