Nin and the Ascetics

Despite his best efforts Nin could not fly, so he cursed the sky, and went to live among the moles. He found a patch of land dotted by mole hills, went up to the nearest one and stuck his head inside. “I admire your handiwork!” he shouted. “Will you take a rabbit as a disciple?”

A delegation of moles was sent to the surface to meet him. He explained to the moles that he wished to live among them and learn their ways.

The moles were curious, but ambivalent.

One young mole, with powerful limbs and sharp claws, said to Nin: “You cannot stay with us, prince of rabbits—for you are a rabbit through and through. We would welcome you into our city if we could, but we cannot. Do not mistake this for malice.”

“How does a rabbit differ from a mole?” asked Nin. “We both dig, we both use our whiskers to sense, we are both covered in fur, and we are both hunted by the hawks and the foxes. Are you not my sister, am I not your brother?”

The mole considered this. “Yes, you are my brother,” said the mole, “and perhaps a mole could live comfortably in a rabbit’s den, but the reverse is impossible. The way I see it there are three problems: you are too fat to fit inside our tunnels, your paws are the wrong shape for the amount of digging required, and I am unsure if mole food is suitable for a rabbit.”

“Then I will resolve these three problems,” said Nin, and he did just that.

Nin switched to a diet of grubs and insects. They hurt his stomach, his first week was spent in agonizing pain. He lost weight rapidly, grew gaunt, but was soon able to squeeze through the mole tunnels with ease. Bit by bit his stomach grew accustomed to the food, by the third week the pain was no more than a dull ache.

Through careful observation, Nin learned to manipulate his paws in a manner similar to that of a mole’s. He learned to dig more efficiently, and was soon a better digger than any other rabbit he knew.

Yet each night his paws ached from the work.

This continued on—there was a great period where every day he dug and ate and moved like a mole—until at last he began to think like a mole.

Truth be told, after all that training, Nin was at best an adequate—perhaps mediocre—mole. But by living with the moles, he learned mole wisdom.

And that is the important thing, yes?