In an Age of Copies of Copies

One day a new monk arrived at a monastery and was assigned the task of helping his fellow monks make copies of ancient texts by hand. After working a while, the novice monk caught himself nearly making a mistake. He looked around at the other monks and realized that all of them were merely making copies of copies—nowhere was an original manuscript to be found. The new monk began wondering whether, over the centuries of copying the holy works, mistakes had been made—and then copied from one generation into another.


Humbly, he took his question to the head monk, who listened patiently but without great concern. “You ask a good question,” he said.  “I’ll look into it.” 


The head monk wasn’t worried, but true to his word, he went down to the special room where the original manuscripts were stored out of harm’s way. There he sat down to read, knowing that soon he would return to the novice monk and reassure him about centuries of accurate copying. 


But when the head monk didn’t return for a long while, the new monk became concerned and went to find him. As he entered the cavernous cellar of the monastery, he heard sobbing coming from the manuscript room. He rushed to the room, where he found the head monk leaning over one of the books, crying.  


“What is wrong?” inquired the new monk.


 The old monk replied, “The word is celebrate not celibate.”


November 2008 Newsletter