Once upon a time, when God had just finished creating heaven and earth and all, he was taking a break. And who do you suppose was hanging out with him? That’s right, Satan. Or whatever you want to call God’s negative counterpart—Lucifer, Set, Iblis, Typhon, Ahriman. Whatever. At that time, Satan was God’s right-hand angel, so to speak. And he also probably needed some rest because God had given him a lot of chores during the days of creation.
So they get to talking, and God looks at everything he’s created and says, “You know what, Satan? It’s all good. Every bit of it.” And just like later, when God boasts about how faithful his servant Job is, Satan asks, “How do you know it’s good? You haven’t tested it.”
“It doesn’t need a test,” says God. “And anyway, a test wouldn’t make any sense. The people I’ve made have free will so they obviously will do a lot of bad things. It’s the overall pattern that’s good.”
“You know, people are always going to ask that. But yes, even the mosquitoes. You’re an angel, but that doesn’t mean you can see the big picture the way I can.”
Satan, who’s a wily sort, reflects on this. “I understand. I didn’t mean any disrespect. Of course, you’re God and I’m not. But what if there were something outside the big picture? Something that is part of creation, but you didn’t create it.”
“Like maybe you let me create something. You know, on my own, sort of. Of course, not really on my own, because you would have to permit it.”
“What would you create?”
“I don’t know. I’m just thinking abstractly.”
“You want to mess with my creation, don’t you.”
“No, not at all. I love your creation. You’ve done a wonderful job. I particularly like the sunsets. I just want to test it to prove how good it really is. See how it copes with something that isn’t part of it. A perfect creation shouldn’t have any trouble dealing with something out of the ordinary.”
Does this make God testy? Probably not. After all, he’s God. “My creation would have no trouble at all dealing with something out of the ordinary,” he says. But Satan’s challenge nags at him.
“You’re sure? I mean, divine foreknowledge may not extend to things that are outside the big picture.”
“Yes, I’m sure.”
“So why don’t we do the test?”
“Now you’re trying to manipulate me.”
“I am NOT. No one can manipulate God. I’m just trying to help you.”
“If I let you create something, you have to do it the same way I did. You set something going, but you don’t interfere with whatever happens to it or whatever it does. You don’t get to do miracles. If you create living beings, they have to have free will. And you can’t make a wandering asteroid or something like that that will wreak random havoc. I’ve already made plans for a few game-changers like that. I don’t want any copycat stuff.”
“Agreed. But what I have in mind also has to fit in, if you know what I mean. It will have to look and act like it’s a normal part of creation or else it won’t have any impact. Fitting in isn’t the same thing as being a copycat creation.”
“I can tell you have something specific in mind, Satan. So tell me what you’re going to create before you do it, or it’s no deal.”
“Fair enough. You’re the boss. My plan is to create two immortal donkeys, one named Ya’fur and the other named Ufair.”
“Ordinary donkeys? I mean, except for the immortality?”
“Pretty much ordinary. They’ll be free to think for themselves and do whatever they’re inclined to do. No special program. No interference on my part. I guess they should also be able to talk if they find someone who can understand them.”
“What else? What’s the catch?”
“Each of them will represent an aspect of male sexuality.”
“Like they’re living symbols?”
“Yeah, unless they decide to become more than symbols. It’s up to them. Ya’fur will be the positive aspect of maleness and Ufair the negative.”
“You’re picking male donkeys, I suppose, because I’ve given them disproportionately the biggest penises of any animals.”
“Precisely. You did get a bit carried away.”
God chuckles. “It’s part of the big picture . . . so to speak. So what exactly will they do? Just existing as a symbol of something seems like a pretty passive test of creation.”
“As I said, I don’t know what they’ll do. That’s why it’s a test. But I assume that in time they’ll figure something out.”
God smiles. “Okay. Let’s do it. Maybe it will keep creation from getting boring.”
My highlight reel? Nothing to talk about for the first umpteen centuries. Ufair and I ate grass, sired little donkeys, and hung out together. Then came the Flood, God’s first game-changer. We heard about Noah’s ark project and decided that we should be part of it because being immortal, we weren’t like the other donkeys. Try to convince old Noah of that, though. He was open the immortal thing, but two males getting on the ark together stuck in his craw.
Male and female goats . . . male and female hummingbirds . . . male and female toads. Male and male? Never. But me and Ufair weren’t going to be left out. (Sheesh, get used to it, Noah.) So I blessed Noah and told him that he would be the good father of all mankind once the flood went down. That played to his manly ego, but it really pissed off Ufair, who said it made fatherhood sound like some big deal good thing. So he stuck his nose in and, as he said, “balanced things” by making Noah a drunk who has sex with his daughters.
Ufair and I parted company after that. He went his way—a real badass—and I went mine. Always on the lookout for a truly good man.
I thought I hit the jackpot when I became the property of a man named Abraham. Abraham was a guy who was full of unanswerable questions and had a hard time settling down. We started out from somewhere in the east (I don’t remember exactly where) and I carried him back toward the west where the donkey-herders, who originally came from Egypt, kept to the old ways better than they did in Abraham’s homeland. Abraham settled down with them but kept in touch with his relatives back east.
It’s funny how Abraham and I came to realize that we could understand each other. In fact, talk to each other. It was not until after he had settled in Canaan, when I had already been carrying him on my back for years. My recollection of the first time is that Abraham and I were alone together and he was complaining out loud about not having any children. His greatest desire was to have a big family like his cousins had, but somehow he and his wife hadn’t been able to manage it. Probably the reason I could understand what he was saying, or perhaps just thinking, was that he was basically having a maleness problem. My specialty. So I just happened to say to him that he might try having a kid with his wife’s servant. It sounded, I’m sure, like heehaw, heehaw, heehaw, but I could tell that in his mind he was grasping my meaning. So he asked his wife’s permission, because he was always very considerate of her, and lo and behold, her servant Hagar became pregnant. And after that his wife Sarah became pregnant too.
The story that came to be told later made Abraham and Sarah so old that her pregnancy sounded like a miracle, though no one commented on Abraham’s still being able to get it up at a hundred years of age. As I said, it’s a maleness thing. In point of fact, however, as a living symbol of maleness, I’ve known plenty of cases where, like, a couple who can’t have kids adopt one, and then the wife becomes pregnant. It’s just not that unusual. But it laid the foundation for something that was unusual, which I was also involved in.
Let me set the stage. Abraham’s people were very much into blood sacrifice, which was hardly surprising since they originally came from Egypt. They had rituals there for sacrificing the donkeys and pigs, which were both dedicated to the god Set, as were Abraham’s kin, according to the Egyptians. I wasn’t there so I’m not sure that was true. Abraham’s kin also had a ritual for sacrificing little children, preferably first-born sons, if times got hard. They had the nutty idea that the god watching over them—maybe Set originally—would be so impressed if they slit a little boy’s throat on an altar that he would strike down their enemies, or cause it to rain, or save their crops from the locusts. I thought this was pretty disgusting, though not as disgusting as cutting a donkey’s throat on an altar.
One day, Abraham gets it into his head that God has ordered him to sacrifice his little son. No special crisis, just an ordinary day. He wakes up one morning and thinks, “I do believe God wants me to slit my son’s throat.” The tricky thing is that God didn’t specify which son to kill. So Abraham calls the two boys, Ishmael and Isaac, together, saddles me up, and we all head up the mountainside to where there’s an altar. The kids don’t know exactly what’s going on, but they know enough about how dad does things to figure out that he’s planning a sacrifice. However, he hasn’t brought an animal with him. Though I can’t talk to them the way I can with their father, I can sense them thinking, “Hmm, I wonder if dad knows what he’s doing.”
As for me, I know exactly what Abraham has in mind, and I am appalled. These are great little kids, and there’s no conceivable need to kill one of them. But when I mention this to Abraham while we’re going up the mountain, he just says that God is testing his faith. Trying to find out who he loves more, his sons or God. And since at some level this is no more wacky than thousands of other things I’d seen people do, I decide to keep quiet. I tell myself it’s not my business. But then suddenly we’re there, the kids are getting anxious and asking questions, and old Abraham is at the altar sharpening his knife.
Feeling very uncomfortable with what’s about to happen, I’m thinking of getting out of there. But what happens? I look around and see a ram with its horns caught in some bushes. Now I’ve known a lot of sheep and they are undoubtedly stupid, but I’d never seen one that couldn’t eat grass and manage his horns at the same time. So I put two and two together and say, “Abraham, why don’t you sacrifice that sheep over there? I think it’s been sent by God.” To this day I feel guilty about that poor sheep, and I might not have said what I said if it had been a donkey stuck in the bushes. Subliminally I think I was afraid that Abraham would come to his senses about sacrificing a son and try to sacrifice me instead. Whatever the case, Abraham followed my suggestion and everything came out okay.
In later times, I should add, the descendants of Ishmael and the descendants of Isaac quarreled, and each family claimed that their ancestor was the one God asked Abraham to sacrifice. As if that made any difference since no one actually got sacrificed. What was more important than this disagreement about who was supposed to have gotten his throat slit on the altar was that both families declared that since Abraham had been willing to sacrifice his son, it proved that he loved God more than anything. As a result, his descendants resolved never again to sacrifice a child. Abraham’s more distant cousins didn’t all go along with this, but Abraham’s immediate descendants became famous for saying no to that horrible custom.
Why am I telling this story? Because it’s well known, obviously, and because my own part in it never gets talked about. But there’s another reason too. A long time later, I became the donkey of a man named Moses, whom I could talk to the way I could talk to Abraham. I’ll tell you more about Moses later on. What I want to talk about now is that when Moses set down in writing the laws of his people, one of them prohibited the descendants of Abraham—they called themselves the Israelites—from sacrificing their first-born donkey. Their first-born cow or sheep? Barbecue time. But not the first-born donkey. Instead, they were supposed to substitute a sheep for the donkey; and if they didn’t, they were supposed to break the little donkey’s neck. You have to understand that this is different from slitting its throat: no barbecue. Other laws banned Abraham’s people from eating blood, and the blood couldn’t be drained from the little donkey’s body if it died from having its neck broken.
Those food laws involved not just a ban on blood, but also a ban on eating animals that did not have two toes (we have one) and did not chew the cud (disgusting practice). What this amounted to was a ban on eating us donkeys, so the ban on sacrificing our first-born was just a matter of consistency. Even so, what a change it was. Worshippers of Set, which is what the Egyptians thought Abraham’s people were, had always before sacrificed and eaten donkeys. And pigs. They were the two Set animals, and Set himself went from being a god to being a demon in Egyptian eyes. So here were the Israelites, who belonged to a much bigger group of nomads who all started out worshipping Set and his donkey and copying the food bans of the anti-Set Egyptians. Go figure.
My explanation is that somehow—maybe it was Moses’ idea; I’m not sure—they decided to follow laws that would distinguish them from all their cousins. They didn’t sacrifice children because of the Abraham incident, and now they swore off sacrificing donkeys even though they still were so obsessed with them that they broke the necks of their first-born if they couldn’t find a sheep to substitute.
The food ban also applied to pigs, of course, so later on people who either loved pork or hated it yammered on endlessly about what the ban meant. But unlike the Egyptians, the Israelites didn’t keep any pigs. Not only did I never see any in Canaan what weren’t wild, but Moses didn’t proclaim a law about not sacrificing the first-born pig. So there’s no question that all this food and sacrifice business was primarily about us donkeys. Did it mean donkeys became less sacred or more sacred? I’ll get into this later on. For now, I’ll just leave that question hanging because I want to say a bit about Ufair.
What can I say about Ufair? I always know were he is, but we seldom hang out; and when we do, we don’t talk much. Frankly, I find Ufair grumpy, sometimes to the point of being scary. But during the period I’m talking about, between Abraham and Moses, Ufair was off on his own. He had found out that when humans get drunk, the men with the biggest masculinity issues get horny and rowdy and then get into fights. This appealed to Ufair so much that he went north into Turkey and Greece with people who made wine. In Egypt people mostly drank beer instead of wine and didn’t get super-drunk. They did grow grapes, though, and the donkey-herders who migrated out of Egypt, the Israelites and their Canaanite cousins, were big wine-drinkers. I remember Moses getting a little tipsy once and singing: “He ties his foal to the vine, And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine; He washes his garments in wine, And his robes in the blood of grapes.”
But I digress. That had nothing to do with Ufair because he had already headed north with a herd of donkeys the wine makers kept to carry their grapes around. To make a long story short, Ufair made a sort of mind-meld with a guy named Dionysos and his fat old buddy Silenos. They started a drunkenness cult that sometimes got really wild. Naked ladies going crazy and tearing voyeurs from limb to limb. Just the sort of thing Ufair got off on. The Dionysiacs drew pictures of their god riding a donkey with a big erection, and they considered Silenos a northern version of a donkey-headed Set demon from Egypt. Unfortunately, Ufair didn’t fill in many details. I just picked up bits and pieces. The only reason I mention it here is because it shows how complicated things could get when people associated us donkeys with both good and bad, gods and demons. I’ll get back to this later.
Obviously I have to talk about an important person like Moses, but in truth, he and I were only close for a brief period. We had a parting of the ways. (As opposed to a parting of the Red Sea.) It started out fine. I had stuck around in Canaan and hung out with various members of Abraham’s family. Some of whom were way out there, by the way. Dreaming of a ladder coming down from Heaven, for example. But I had a hankering to see what was happening back in Egypt so I formed a bond with this guy Moses and gave him a ride back there. It was a homecoming for both of us because Moses had grown up by the Nile. But now that he was back, all he could think about was forcing the Pharaoh to let the descendants of Abraham and the ladder-to-Heaven guy leave Egypt.
I didn’t care much one way or another about his project, but I became very excited when I learned that it was going to come down to a contest between Moses and the Egyptian magicians who served Pharaoh. I knew those magicians relied on their ability to summon the powers of Set. But of course Moses, as an Israelite, was someone they considered—and, for that matter, I also considered—to be a confirmed servant and devotee of Set. So it looked like a balanced contest.
One thing you should keep in mind when you visualize the contest is that both sides not only were calling on the power of Set, but all of the participants fit the Egyptian stereotype of a magician. Like most mumbo-jumbo organizations, they were like a guild with strict rules and procedures. What I mean by this is that Moses didn’t look at all the way he did later after he had been living in the desert for a bunch of years. He was distinctly on the roly-poly side and wore a kilt. And he shaved his scalp and his face smooth every day. That, in fact, was why everyone called him Moses. People today don’t seem to remember that the word for “razor” in Arabic is moosa, which is also the Arabic for Moses. At the time I’m talking about, he was regularly known among the Israelites as The Razor, or sometimes Moses the Razor, because they were a shabby, unkempt people who were given to long beards and straggly hair. As you can imagine, Moses not consider it a friendly nickname as I found out during some of our conversations about self-esteem issues. The fact of the matter is that he stammered so badly he could hardly say abracadabra.
Anyway, I went with him to a series of these magic contests. The first set the tone. The way it got told later is that Moses had a rod that turned into a snake when he threw it on the ground. And then the rods of the king’s magicians turned into snakes too. But Moses’ snake ate up the magicians’ snakes. I know you’re probably laughing if you haven’t already read the story, but what can I tell you? Is my big rod bigger and more powerful than your big rod? I mean really. What could be more Set-like? Being a donkey with a bigger rod than anybody in the palace, it was so ridiculous to witness this sort of contest that I’m not even going to spell out what really happened.
As the story relates, however, The Razor won the first round, even though the magicians were almost able to match him. And so it went for a few more rounds. The magicians called on Set to match what Moses was doing, but they always came up a little bit short, if you catch my drift. The magicians, I might add, were very impressed. The way they saw it, calling on Set as a demon king just didn’t have the Viagra power of calling on him as a god. That was why in later centuries they spread the rumor that Moses was a Set worshipper who kept the head of a donkey hidden in the fancy portable shrine he had built called the Ark of the Covenant.
Back in the palace, Pharaoh stupidly kept doubling down on his loser magicians, even after it became clear that they couldn’t match The Razor’s feats. But every time he refused to set the Israelites free, Moses upped the ante. That’s when I started to have doubts about him. Frogs, locusts, blood in the Nile: good tricks and appropriate to the situation. They shook everybody up. But killing the Egyptians’ first-born sons? This guy was supposed to be channeling the karma of Abraham, but Abraham’s big deal was precisely not killing his son.
Nevertheless, I must admit it worked. After that, drowning Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea was just a straightforward military decision. So I decided maybe I was just too softhearted to appreciate The Razor’s edge. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
I kept my opinions more or less to myself and was still with Moses when he led the folks out into the desert. We were still talking, but he knew I was not happy. What was he going to do to me anyway? I was immortal, though he didn’t know this, and he couldn’t complain about me to anyone because it wasn’t in his interest to have people know that he sometimes talked to his donkey.
The upshot of all this is that when he made his famous trips up into the mountain, he left me behind. He didn’t trust me. As a result, I never saw the burning bush or his receiving the tablets or any of that stuff. Instead, I was back in camp watching people melt down their jewelry to make a golden calf and then dance around it. Good solid Egyptian ritual dancing, I must say. I’d seen it for hundreds of years, and I had a lot of respect for cattle worship.
The suddenly Moses shows up after being away for days, and he’s furious. “I’ve been talking to God, and you’ve been worshipping a golden calf!” He’s stammering so bad he can barely get the words out. Then he storms off, secretly recruits a gang of thugs from his parents’ tribe, and orders them to kill all the calf worshippers. Except for his brother Aaron whom he had left in charge and who should have been the one taking the blame.
The bloodbath was the last straw for me. I had been willing to stretch my moral standards when he killed the Egyptian children, but these were his own kin. He had told them that God had sent him to save them from slavery in Egypt, and he had passed a whole slew of miracles to make it happen. But now he was having them slaughtered. They would have been better off if they had stayed in Egypt and continued making bricks without straw. I was completely disgusted. It even crossed my mind that bloody Ufair might somehow have taken my place in Moses’ mind. However, when I reached out to sense where Ufair was, I found that he was in Crete appearing to people in the persona of a donkey-headed demon and stirring up big trouble in the aftermath of a huge volcanic explosion on the island of Thera. Minoan civilization never really recovered. Nor did I back in Sinai. I decided to let the Israelites go their own way, and I headed toward Canaan.
When I got there, I found out that being a prophet and riding a donkey had become something of a fad all the way from Moab down into Arabia. Since there was only one of me, I knew that most of these prophets only imagined they were talking to their donkeys; but I was happy to see the high esteem they were according to my asinine cousins. Besides, if people believed that these wild-eyed loners riding around the desert on donkeys were prophets, what was wrong with that?
Occasionally I ran into some crazy long-beard I could communicate with, but they were mostly low potential types until I met a weird duck named Balaam. At first Balaam was just a garden variety prophet who barely understood me, but one day the king of Moab, named Balak, sent a delegation to ask him to go out and curse the Israelites, who were getting set to invade the country. Balaam consulted with me, and I told him it was a bad idea. So he said no. But King Balak nagged him until he agreed to ride out and confront the Israelites, with the proviso that he wouldn’t utter any curses unless God authorized him to.
This was a dumb compromise that couldn’t possibly have a good outcome, but Balaam saddled me up and we set off down the road. Balaam says, “Let’s go curse the Israelites, Donkey,” and that gets me riled up because I’ve already told him it’s a bad idea. So I swerve off the road and the idiot beats me with a stick. Again it’s, “Let’s go curse the Israelites, Donkey,” and I swerve again and mash his foot against a wall. Pow! Then it’s again with the stick. When he tries the same stunt a third time, I just sit down and chew him out.
Now here’s the stupid part. Folks are watching, and understandably Balaam is getting more and more upset by what I’m doing. So what does he do? He tells them that I’m talking to him—they can’t understand donkey talk—and that I can see an angel of the Lord standing on the path with a fiery sword protecting the Israelites, who have God’s blessing. He can’t see the angel, he tells them, but I can. Well, this is like a bombshell. It’s one thing to have crazy prophets roaming around on their donkeys, but never before has one of them actually repeated what his donkey is saying to him. It had always been a secret between me and whomever I was with, and the prophets who rode other donkeys never heard anything except hee-haw. But now everyone is convinced that Balaam is a real prophet—not that I’m a real prophetic donkey, mind you—and they want him even more to curse the Israelites. King Balak implores him three more times, and each time he blesses the invaders instead of cursing them, and for this he gets remembered in the Israelites’ legends while I get relegated to the category of the Bible’s only talking animal.
Onward. To start with, let me say straight out that even though I knew Jesus and carried him into Jerusalem, I was not his donkey. I was his mother’s donkey. Her son’s followers succeeded in getting most of her life story deleted from their scriptures, but it was quite remarkable. At the age of three she was presented at the Temple in Jerusalem and was dedicated by her parents as a Temple virgin. This lasted until she had her first period, which was the age at which Temple virgins were sent back to their families.
But Mary refused to accept a future that would inevitably bring her virginity to an end. So the Temple authorities summoned all of the eligible men in Jerusalem to see which of them had the most propitious rod. (Again this rod business.) It turned out that when they compared rods, a dove perched on the end of Joseph’s, and this meant that he had to take Mary into his household. He didn’t want to do this because he was an old man who already had kids, and he worried about the neighbors snickering behind his back. In fact, he had actually tried to conceal his rod. But he was given no choice.
Sometime later he went off to do carpentry work in another town and while he was away Mary learned from her communion with God that she was pregnant. I should say that I wasn’t in the picture yet. When I got to know her, she was already pregnant. Joseph acquired me to carry her to Bethlehem to have her baby. Once we were together, however, we very quickly did our mindmeld, or whatever you want to call it. I found her conviction that she was still a virgin quite compelling. It’s true that as a symbol of maleness I felt somewhat marginalized. But on the other hand, pairing a virgin with a donkey did not seem outlandish to people in those days. I think people thought it symbolized female purity triumphing over male horniness just as the image of the virgin and the unicorn—guess what the horn symbolized—did later on after us donkeys had been superseded by dumb horses and lost our status as paragons of maleness.
In any case, I was there when Jesus was born simply because I was Mary’s ride, not because Isaiah had said, “The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master’s crib.” The Isaiah line is just typical of how everything that happened in Jesus’ life was interpreted in terms of some earlier prophecy, no matter how obscure. Not only was I there in Bethlehem, but as I mentally shared Mary’s pain I probably realized more than anybody else how much more special it is to conceive and give birth as a virgin than to be the baby the virgin gives birth to. It’s not that I didn’t like baby Jesus, but he was just a human baby, and human babies aren’t very different from one another.
Mary, of course, loved her little son and became panicky when she heard that Herod Archelaus, the ruler, planned to do to the baby boys in Judaea what Moses the Razor had done to the first-born of the Egyptians. To calm her down, I told her that I was very familiar with the route to Egypt and I would take her and Jesus there, which I did. It really felt like we were a holy family: Mary, Jesus, and me. Along the way we had a bunch of adventures, but they were mostly forgotten, except for the time we met some maidens weeping in a cemetery. Mary asked them what their problem was, and instead of answering, they invited us all to their home. When we got there, what did we find? Standing in the living room was their brother, who had been transformed into a donkey (an ordinary donkey) by witchcraft and was eating hay out of a basket instead of arranging good marriages for his poor sisters. Needless to say, it was Ufair who was behind this skullduggery. While a lot of the things he did led to bloodshed, he also liked to perpetrate really nasty jokes. In this case, once everything was explained to Mary, she put baby Jesus on the donkey’s back, and he immediately changed back into a man.
After that miracle and a few others like it, Mary became completely committed to her son’s specialness. It was, “my son, the Messiah, raises the dead,” “my son, the Messiah, heals the sick,” “my son, the Messiah, brings a new law.” Very monotonous for those of us who were around her all the time. Not untrue, but monotonous.
As for Jesus, he usually walked. To tell the truth, I think he consciously avoided me. He knew I could understand what was going on in his mind and that I was able to talk, but I think he also knew that I had hung out with Moses and Abraham, and he wanted to do his own thing. He was afraid I would nag him about what his predecessors had done. Which I never would have done. But I could understand his concern. So I didn’t press matters. Mary needed someone sympathetic to talk to about her son and that became my job.
Then one day she says that I have to go out and give Jesus a ride into Jerusalem. I told her I didn’t think that was a good idea, but she insisted. It seems this old dude Zechariah had written a poem that said:
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on an ass,
on a colt the foal of an ass.
Mary had convinced Jesus that when he came to Jerusalem, he had to be riding on a donkey the way Zechariah had prophesied. And Jesus, like a good son, had told her that when he got close to the city, he would send his disciples out to find a young donkey that had never been ridden.
As soon as I heard this plan, I knew I had to do something. It didn’t seem to have occurred to anyone that if a grown man straddles a young donkey that has never been ridden, the poor animal is not going to be happy and is not going to go where the rider wants him to go. Assuming he is willing to carry him at all. So I trotted off to intercept the disciples and let them see me in the form of an innocent young donkey. This made them happy, and the person they mistakenly took to be my owner couldn’t have cared less who rode on me. They took me to Jesus, and there we were going into Jerusalem together.
Once he was on my back, you understand, there was no way he could avoid connecting with me mentally. So that was my one opportunity to sense what kind of Messiah he was. What did I conclude? He was less self-centered than Abraham, less brutal than Moses, and less stupid than Balaam. On the other hand, he knew he was walking into a trap and didn’t do anything to avoid it. And there was nothing I could do either. He had barely started his career, and now it was racing to an end.
After he was crucified, I stayed with Mary for a while to comfort her. But eventually I had enough of moaning and crying and wandered off.
One footnote to the above: The word “humble” in Zechariah’s prophecy particularly annoyed me. I knew Zechariah, of course, and he never would have used that word in talking to me personally. The fact is he fell under the sway of popular opinion. When Abraham and Moses rode on donkeys, nobody said it had anything to do with being humble. And when King David gave orders that his Solomon should be mounted on the king’s personal mule—one of those crosses between a real donkey and a wild ass—to ride to the place where he would be anointed king, no one talked about it having anything to do with humility. It was only when horses began to show up in large numbers—David had only a few—that the idea spread that horses were aristocratic and donkeys were humble.
Baloney! What horses were good for was war, something we donkeys (Ufair aside) were never much attracted to. But not even the prettiest horse has ever been able to communicate mentally and verbally with a human the way Ufair and I can. Donkeys had prestige in the good old pre-horse days because the two of us set examples that made people believe that donkeys in general had spiritual powers. And because of our big dongs, of course. Damn horses came along and spoiled all of that, and Zechariah didn’t have the guts to go against the tide.
Just wanted to get that off my chest.
A propos of the preceding note, I have to talk about some major changes in the my quality of life between the time of Jesus and six hundred years later when I hooked up with Muhammad. They don’t all have to do with horses, but horses are a good place to start.
First of all, let me confess a prejudice. I think horses are dumb as bricks. In fact, I suspect that’s why humans became so taken with them. I know that the usual line is that they have elegant lines and bond with their riders, who are characterized as noble knights or virile cowboys. But originally they didn’t look all that different from us donkeys, or at least from the wild asses that lived in the same region. Shorter ears, but since when is that a virtue?
While my fellow donkeys were eking out difficult lives in the desert, great hordes of horses were wandering around Central Asia in a sea of grass. There weren’t many people around because the grass was so deeply rooted that they couldn’t grow much of anything except in the mud along some rivers. But the people that did live there didn’t think twice about going out and killing a horse whenever they had a hankering for some meat. There was certainly no shortage of horses, and the herd never seemed too upset when one of the group went missing.
What changed all this were new customs that seeped in from the west, the area north of the Black Sea. People there had learned to harness oxen to plow up the sod and to support themselves by planting crops. When the people traveled, they used the same oxen to pull wagons, which were a pretty new invention at that time, about five thousand years ago. Well, the horse eaters were amazed when the oxen people began to move into their territory. They managed to get their hands on some oxen and wagons of their own. But since cattle weren’t native to Central Asia, they became items worth stealing.
To make a long story short, cattle stealing became a way of life for some of the horse eaters. And as the wagon builders learned how to make lighter wheels that had less friction, it became possible to hitch up speedy horses to do what the oxen did, even though the horses were nowhere near as strong as the oxen. When that happened, the horse eaters, who were gradually turning themselves into horse herders, picked up an idea from the cattle people. Gods, they thought, traveled through the skies in carts pulled by animals, and the sun and the moon looked like wheels. Therefore, since each of the divine carts were pulled by two animals—oxen, horses camels, geese, goats—they developed a kind fetish for two-animal teams. Or just two-somethings. Light and dark, night and day, good and bad, male and female, husband and wife, you name it.
The horse herders borrowed these ideas. They didn’t think them up, but they pushed them to the next level. The gangs of cattle rustlers developed little two-wheeled carts that were light and flimsy enough for a couple of horses to pull, and they convinced themselves that a rustler riding a chariot was like a god riding through the heavens. (The fact that the way their technique hitching the horses to the chariots worked well for oxen but not so much for horses didn’t bother them.) The important thing was for a chariot rider to drive a team of horses that was divisible by two. Experimenting with single-horse harnessing, which was the right way to go, never occurred to them.
What you’re thinking now is that as a donkey, I shouldn’t have had much interest in these things, or even have known about them. But when gangs of thuggish chariot rustlers came charging into what had till then been donkey territory, they not only set up their own kingdoms, but more importantly they created this romantic image of the majestic horse as a symbol of royal grandeur. As you can imagine, a donkey like me, who for thousands of years had seen his fellows treated as mystic symbols of masculinity, felt royally dissed. Even the Egyptians went gaga over the idea of hundreds of stallions galloping across a battlefield dragging their little chariots behind them. It made no difference that half the chariots flipped over, or lost a wheel, or got stuck. It was such a popular fad that even when the smarter generals decided that riding on horses would actually be more efficient than driving chariots, the aura of the racing vehicle persisted. And still persists to the present day. What do NASCAR vehicles have under their hoods? Horsepower!
But I digress. At the time we donkeys had no choice but to accept a huge demotion in status. Because of me and Ufair, of course, we held our ground in the area of religion, but as a species we were doomed to being considered humble and stuck with the worst jobs. And some of our less discriminating studs even deigned to screw lady horses so that the horse owner could get himself a mule. As if a mule wasn’t as dumb as a horse.
Adding insult to social injustice, the idea got spread around—I suspect by Egyptians who still were into the Set-Satan-Lord of the Underworld thing—that it was donkeys who were stupid, and by extension, anyone who worshipped a donkey was doubly stupid. I don’t know if they were paid off by the horse breeders or what, but perfectly respectable writers began to spread ridiculous stories. First they said that the Jews carried the severed head of Moses’ donkey around with them in their sacred shrine. Then they spread the really disgusting rumor that Jesus was half a donkey because his mother had intercourse with an ass demon. In fact, with Set himself.
Jesus showed up in cartoons as a man with a donkey’s head wearing a toga with a caption saying he was half an ass. Some people treated it all as a joke, others took it more seriously. Nevertheless, it contributed to the growing fixation that donkeys were stupid, at best, and demonic at worst, when in fact—and here I’m excluding myself and Ufair because we’re special—as a species, we’re remarkably bright and have a natural talent for reverence and psychologically supportive relations with humans. And proportionally speaking, we have bigger dongs than horses.
All of which leads me to my relations with Muhammad. I had been living in Arabia for quite some time because that was a largely horse-free space where donkeys still had a reputation for making spiritual connection with prophets. I’d hang with one minimally talented prophet for a bit, then move on to another and another. None of them even came close to being a heavy hitter.
Then I began to get a sense of who Muhammad was. Clearly a man with a spiritual gift despite riding horseback and fighting battles. Even Moses, brutal as he was, never pretended to be a general. Eventually Muhammad took over the oasis I was residing in and we came face to face. He immediately grasped that we could converse so he asked me what my name was. Being still a bit unsure of how fully he realized his own spiritual powers—after all, he did ride on a horse—I gave him an evasive answer. “I’m Yazid ibn Shihab,” I said. “Allah brought forth among my ancestors sixty donkeys, none of whom was ever ridden on except by a prophet. Today, none of the descendants of my grandfathers remain but me, and none of the prophets remain but you. So I expect you to ride me.” As a kicker, I threw in an anti-Jewish bit because I knew that Muhammad had been having trouble convincing the Jews that he was a prophet. “Before you, I belonged to a Jewish man. I caused him to stumble and fall a lot so he used to kick my stomach and beat my back.”
To this Muhammad replied, “I will call you Ya’fur.” So then I knew we were meant to be together because he knew my real name. I said, “I obey.” Then he tried something clever with me in return. He said, “Do you want females?” What he was asking was whether I wanted to sire some foals since I was supposedly the last of my line. When I said no, he understood that the last-of-the-line story was crap. I was the one and only eternal Ya’fur, and he was the one and only Muhammad. (In actual fact, I did like to sire foals, but they were ordinary donkeys like their moms.)
From then on he rode me constantly and generally stayed away from his horses. I saw the angel Gabriel when he revealed God’s words, and I got to know Muhammad’s family. He even sent me on errands. I would bump my head against someone’s door, and when he came out, he would realize that Muhammad wanted to see him and follow me to where he was. In return for the favors I did for him, Muhammad outlawed the eating of donkey meat, though the local hunting lobby required that he make an exception for the wild Arabian ass. When he asked me whether he should extend the ban to horsemeat, it gave me special pleasure to say that I couldn’t care less whether people ate horses.
Though things went well between us, and Muhammad was interested in stories I told him about earlier prophets, there was one fly in the ointment. Late in the Prophet’s life, the governor of Egypt, in response to a letter Muhammad had written asking him to convert to Islam, sent a she-mule as a gift. Her name was Duldul, and she was just as dumb as a horse. Nevertheless, the next time a big battle loomed, Muhammad gave in to the horse fanatics in his army and agreed to ride Duldul into battle. I could understand how it happened because even though people by then had accepted the notion that Muhammad and Ya’fur were a team, they couldn’t know how close we really were. So that suggested that a steed that was half a donkey and half a horse would give him the best of both worlds.
As it turned out, Muhammad won the battle against heavy odds, and Duldul was inundated with praise. It was the Prophet’s last big battle so Duldul was still in the limelight when Muhammad died a couple of years later. A big deal was made of her being inherited by Muhammad’s cousin Ali so I decided not to make a fuss. I just wandered off by myself one night. I heard later that a story went around that I dove into a well and drowned myself, either because of grief or so that no later prophet could ever ride me. But that wasn’t true.
How did Muhammad stack up against Abraham, Moses, and Jesus? Well, he certainly had a better sense of humor. In fact, he had an infectious laugh. And even though his wives didn’t always get along, he handled his family affairs better. No child sacrifice, no slaughter of kinfolk who disobeyed him, no celibacy. Though no one knows what Jesus would have been like when he turned forty, which was Muhammad’s age when he first received a revelation, I’d have to say that Muhammad was a better rounded human being than his famous predecessors. Was he my favorite Prophet? I’m not willing to say. We haven’t reached the End Times yet.
Now a story about Ufair:
It’s a dark and stormy night. The times are Roman. A ship smashes to bits on the rocky coast of Greece, and a handsome young African slave named Lucius is the only survivor. When he recovers his strength, he makes his way to a nearby home where a buxom maid named Xena gives him bread and wine and makes him a pallet on the floor.
In the afterglow of an evening of lovemaking, Xena tells him that the mistress of the house is a witch and a shape-changer. Lucius is intrigued and persuades Xena to hide him where he can see into the witch’s room. While he watches, the witch comes in and opens a window. She extracts a small vial from a jeweled chest on the mantel and drinks from it. An owl promptly soars into the room on silent wings. It alights softly on the witch’s arm. In the blink of an eye the witch is absorbed into the shape of the owl and they fly off into the night as one.
Lucius sits tight in his hiding place until nearly daybreak when the owl returns. It snips a rose blossom from a vase of flowers with its beak and eats it. Instantly the witch reemerges from the body of the owl and the bird flies off. Lucius feels his heart surge. Having been captured by Libyan slavers and kept chained for weeks on his way to a slave market, he longs to fly free like a bird.
When the witch leaves the house the next day, he enters her room and takes the vial from the chest. As soon as he drinks from it, he hears a clattering noise at the door. He opens it and is surprised to see a black donkey.
“I was expecting an owl,” says Lucius.
“The witch is from Athens, and the owl belongs to Athena. But you, Lucius, are from Africa, not from Greece. Your animal must be an African animal. So here I am. I am the black ass that the Egyptians call Set.”
“Do you have a name?”
“My name is Ufair. You will keep your own name after you get on my back, but otherwise we will be as one until you eat a rose petal.”
Apprehensively, but with a tingling of hope, Lucius straddles the black donkey’s back. Instantly he feels his body being absorbed into the donkey’s shape. His mind now senses the mind of Ufair as if they are more than identical twins. While he is pondering his new situation and wondering whether to avail himself immediately of the nearby bouquet of roses, a ruckus arises in the courtyard. Screams and the clang of swordplay reach his large and acutely sensitive ears. Moments later a band of robbers bursts into the house. Though sensing that Ufair is unconcerned, Lucius sees corpses sprawled outside the door and fears the worst. He brays loudly in alarm.
His fear is allayed, however, when he finds that the robbers count themselves lucky to have found a donkey to carry away the loot they are ransacking the house to collect. So off Lucius goes, in the guise of Ufair, to become the beast of burden of the robber band.
The following days are filled with thieving and murder. Never having known white people during his childhood, Lucius is amazed at their villainy. He resolves to escape, and soon an opportunity presents itself when he is left alone with the slatternly woman who cooks and cleans for the robbers. No realizing that the donkey can understand her, she exclaims aloud that since black donkeys are the best of all lovers, she intends to avail herself of his presence. When she removes her clothes and teasingly approaches Lucius with a rope and halter, he brays loudly and charges past her out of the hideout.
Once he has put a safe distance between himself and the lustful woman, he stops to recover his composure. Then he hears the voice of Ufair inside his head. “You must not be concerned, Lucius, that all white people feel sexual longings for black donkeys. It is true that they do, but that is their problem, not yours. Your problem is that they treat black donkeys as lowly animals and beat and kill them.”
“What am I to do?” replies Lucius. “If I stay a donkey, they will beat me and kill me. But if I eat roses and regain my human form, they will put chains on me and make me a slave.”
“All that would be true if you were not in the company of Ufair. My hoity-toity brother Ya’fur would ignore you entirely since he has become famous for bringing religious exaltation to white people. But Ufair is the downfall of white people. He strips away their illusions and makes them see the injustice in their treatment of dark people. When they realize the truth, it is something they cannot bear.”
“I didn’t see you revealing any truth to those robbers. Their woman would have had her way with me.”
“Have patience, Lucius. First I want you to see what the world is really like.”
The next morning a band of priests with shaven heads comes walking along the road carrying a large wooden statue of a goddess. “What’s this?” says the head priest when he notices Lucius. “A donkey with no owner about? What say you, lads, about acquiring this animal to carry the Virgin Queen of Heaven?” The others enthusiastically second the head priest’s proposal, and soon Lucius is being led down the road with the garishly painted statue strapped to his back.
Presently they come to a village. One priest produces a double flute, another a drum. The rest begin a frenzied dance. They whirl and stomp and howl the holy name of their Virgin Queen of Heaven. At the climax of their ritual several of them flourish knives from beneath their robes and slash their arms and legs. The villagers that have gathered to watch the performance are awestruck by the entrancing music, the flowing blood, and the priests’ climactic screams. When the head priest passes among them with a bronze bowl, they freely toss in coins and receive an orotund prayer in return.
Later, back at their camp, Lucius watches the slashed priests bind up one another’s cuts and curse their wooden goddess in no uncertain terms. But when the head priest returns from a trip into town for food and wine, their bad spirits give way to carousing. And then to fornication as the priests drunkenly strip off their robes and join together in every sort of sexual act. Wary from his experience with the robbers’ woman, Lucius keeps his distance from the priests’ orgy. Yet eventually he sees their lascivious gazes turning in his direction. “Not again,” he thinks. But soon there is no doubt. As scarred arms reach out for him, he edges backward and then bolts from the camp.
“Once again you didn’t do anything to protect me, Ufair,” says Lucius when he is safely away.
“Have patience,” says Ufair.
The next person to claim the services of a wandering donkey is a caterer named Plato. He and his brother Socrates furnish banquets for the rich families of the city and put Lucius to work carrying great baskets of food and drink. To make sure his business is profitable, Plato keeps a careful count of everything that is prepared. Unfortunately for Lucius, this gimlet-eyed scrutiny soon detects that the donkey has been snacking on the hors d’oeuvres. Ufair has sternly advised Lucius to quell his accustomed tastes and satisfy himself with grass and straw, but Lucius is so homesick for human form that he cannot resist a tray of baked cheese puffs and another of stuffed mushrooms.
Though chagrined at being found out, Lucius is pleased to discover that his un-asinine tastes amuse the brothers. They inform their wealthiest patron, Pericles, and he insists on inviting Lucius to a banquet as part of the entertainment. Though Lucius feels out of place reclining at table with the rest of the guests, he very much enjoys the food and wine. Ufair’s voice in his head says, “Do not be distracted, Lucius. Notice how unkindly the guests are treating the servants. Look in particular at how they are goading and humiliating Pericles’ African slave.”
Lucius takes note of everything Ufair tells him, and is momentarily distressed to see the African woman stripped of her clothing. But he cannot focus fully on these petty cruelties because a beautiful woman named Sappho, the sister-in-law of the host, keeps tweaking him in a private place and giving him sneak peeks at her own private places.
In the days that follow, against Ufair’s repeated advice, Lucius and Sappho become lovers. Lucius, who has not yet learned to fancy female donkeys, is thrilled to bring a long sexual fast to an end. Sappho is similarly thrilled to bring something long to her end.
Alas, news of their torrid affair leaks out. Just as Pericles had been amused by the idea of inviting a donkey to a banquet, now he is amused by the idea of a donkey mating with his oversexed sister-in-law. To turn his private amusement into a riotous spectacle, he offers to stage a gala public event. Lucius will parade into the arena to great fanfare and meet with an African slave woman at a bed in its center. There they will engage in sexual intercourse, and at the moment of climax, executioners will step forward and cut off the heads of both fornicators. Pericles is sure that people will talk about such a show for years to come.
When Ufair tells Lucius that he is slated to spend his last humiliating moments as a public spectacle, Lucius again berates him for not using the powers he has claimed to have. “Have patience,” says Ufair.
The day comes. Lucius is tugged through the gate of the arena by a rope tied around his neck. Jeering citizens pack the stands. Before him he sees the frightened slave, who is exposed naked except for a garland of roses around her neck. Seeing a glimmer of hope, Lucius trots forward boldly to the raucous applause of the crowd, which misinterprets his sudden enthusiasm.
As soon as he gets to the woman, he extends his muzzle and bites off a rose. Instantaneously he feels his body begin to separate from the donkey form of Ufair. Moments later he stands proudly forth as a man . . . albeit a naked man surrounded by hundreds of onlookers. A voice in the crowd screams, “He’s a wizard! Stone him! Stone them both!” Other voices take up the cry.
“Now is the time,” says Ufair in a voice that only Lucius can hear. “Now I lift the veil from their eyes and make them realize that they were about to stage a beastly public murder of two innocent Africans. Guilt will destroy them as it did Sodom and Gomorrah.”
As he speaks, cries of dismay begin to be heard in the crowd. Some people sob and tear their hair. Some prayerfully fall to their knees to seek forgiveness. Some pummel themselves with their fists. Some become deranged by the confrontation with their own evil thoughts and attack their neighbors. Chaos spreads. People flee and are trampled. The city poises on the brink of self-destruction.
Amidst the pandemonium, no one notices Lucius and the slave woman don clothes and exit the arena riding on Ufair. A ship captain, barely able to contain his sobs, comes up to Lucius and the woman and offers to return them to Africa. As they are leaving to follow him to the port, Ufair speaks to Lucius one last time.
“My brother Ya’fur brings tears of gladness to the eyes of the faithful—so long as they are faithful to a religion he approves. I bring tears of anguish to the unjust oppressors of the world’s downtrodden, regardless of their religion. So which of us is the good donkey, and which the bad?”
After Muhammad—this is Ya‘fur again—it was all small fry for a long time. The only big hitter was his cousin Ali, but he rode around on that dumb mule Duldul. Occasionally I would hook up with someone who would try to make a noise about being the “Master of the Ass”, but they were men of very little potential. The most promising one, a gimpy old Tunisian schoolteacher named Abu Yazid, almost captured an empire in the early 900s. But he made one mistake. After riding me for years and becoming a famous preacher as a result, he decided to switch to a stupid horse during a crucial siege.
Needless to say, I abandoned him immediately. His army was defeated, and his headless body, stuffed with straw, was exposed to the insults of a ravening mob. Good riddance. Anyone with spiritual gifts who prefers a horse to a donkey deserves what he gets. It was not all negative, though. Abu Yazid gave me a new land to explore: North Africa. What a lovely place. Steep forested mountains, rugged seacoasts, bustling walled cities, and a dozen different flavors of desert. I liked the region so much that I have stayed there ever since.
The greatest, and also the cleverest, of the saintly people I met in North Africa—this was a couple of hundred years later—was Ibn Tumart. He was rigid like Abu Yazid and took (un)holy delight in going into a marketplace and breaking musical instruments and wine jars. His reputation preceded him, but I didn’t actually meet him until one of his followers presented me and a horse to him as gifts. Ibn Tumart took a look at the horse, took a look at me, took another look at the horse. I guess the horse was a fine specimen of its type, though I have prejudices. I wasn’t letting on yet that I could follow his thoughts. I was testing him.
Finally he turned to his most faithful disciple and said, “Abd al-Mu’min, the horse is for you. I will take the donkey.”
Music to my ears. We worked together for quite a while after that, and he generally followed my advice. For example, when the Berber-speaking Moroccan mountain people were having a hard time learning Arabic prayers, I was the one who suggested that he teach each of them one Arabic word and then line them up in the order of the words recited in the prayer. They spoke their words one after the other, and there was the prayer. It was hilarious. Everyone loved it. And that was how they learned to pray.
I did not, however, recommend that he announce that he was the Messiah. He had the right spiritual qualities to be a Messiah, but the time wasn’t right. All in all, it’s better for a man with spiritual gifts to be a preacher or a prophet than to be a Messiah. As it turned out, calling himself the Mahdi, which meant Messiah, didn’t hurt Ibn Tumart. His disciple Abd al-Mu’min eventually established a great kingdom in his name that stretched all the way into Spain. But the Mahdi is supposed to come at the end of time, and Ibn Tumart jumped the gun.
After Ibn Tumart died I stayed on in Morocco. There were dozens of holy men there. They called them marabouts, and each one had his little following. I’d spend some time with one, then some time with another. But as I roved around I heard more and more stories about a place called Europe, where I had never been (though Ufair had).
When I first got to Morocco, it was politically linked with Spain. Then later, when the Christians took over up north, Morocco became overrun by Muslim and Jewish refugees. What I divined from eavesdropping on the conversations of these refugees, and later confirmed by listening to Spanish, Portuguese, and English soldiers and freebooters who made their way to Morocco, was that Europeans loved horses and despised donkeys.
In Spain, for example, when the Christians convicted some poor soul of heresy, they would put a tall pointed had on his head and parade him around on a donkey. The hat was supposed to be a demeaning symbol of the donkey’s dong. As if having a big dong was shameful. It made me long for the good old days in Pharaoh’s Egypt when maleness was properly respected.
There was also an English writer I heard tell of who wrote a play in which a beautiful queen is given a love potion in her sleep. As soon as she wakes up, she becomes enamored of a stupid oaf who has magically been given the head of a donkey with huge ears. It was like the old story of Lucius and Ufair as retold by Apuleius, complete with roses, except that when Apuleius told it, the young man who was transformed into a donkey was of noble character, and his love affair with a noblewoman was good clean fun. For this Englishman and his audience, however, it was obvious that having long ears—if you know what that suggests—meant that you were clumsy and stupid.
The irony was, that despite all their surface anti-donkey sentiment, I could tell that the Europeans were desperately in need of me. I could sense the presence of men with spiritual gifts a long way away, and it was just sad that they were all lacking what I alone could give them.
One poor soul, an Englishman named James Nayler, did his best, but it failed miserably. He rode into Bristol on a donkey while his followers sang “Holy, holy, holy” and spread their cloaks in the mud. For this he was flogged, his tongue was pierced—not yet a fashionable thing in those days— and a B for blasphemy was branded on his forehead. His followers went on to form a sect called the Quakers, but the peril of riding on the wrong donkey was there for all to see.
It hadn’t always been that way. Centuries earlier in the lands I was more familiar with, people just assumed that a man on an ass was likely to be a prophet. How times had changed! In North Africa, only soldiers rode horses. But in Europe, so far as I could tell, it was horses, horses, horses all the time. To symbolize maleness, they even invented a crazy story about a horse with a long horn protruding from its forehead. Or else they made a smutty joke, like having their children play “pin the tail on the donkey.” Wink, wink, nod, nod.
One of the saddest stories involved a Jew named Sabbatai Zevi. Like Nayler he accepted a mumbo-jumbo theory that the Jewish Messiah would appear in a certain year and lead his people back to their homeland. Though I never met him, I could sense from afar that he had a great spiritual calling. When he finally declared that he was the Messiah, Jews from all over Europe made ready to embark for the land of their forefathers. And I am convinced he would have made good on his claims if I had been with him. But alas, he had no donkey to reassure and advise him when the Sultan had him arrested. He converted to Islam, and his movement collapsed, except for those few who also converted. Sabbatai’s oversight was eventually recognized. Four centuries after his death, a tiny sect of his followers formed around the teaching that his failure to recognize the divine voice that spoke through Baalam’s donkey caused his downfall. But by then it was much too late.
So it goes with me.
As for Ufair, he’s had a great impact on Europeans and Americans. His latest is that he’s established a Twitter account to play with in the wee hours of the morning.