Zen’s Cove and the Magic Island

A parable.

Chapter 1. Magic Island

Far far away in Imagineland was the Magic Island where one could see all of the wonderful wizardry that ever existed.

Magic screens that showed everything worth showing. Magic rooms where you could see everyone worth seeing. Magic mirrors where you could see your best self. Magic desks where you could learn anything worth knowing. Magic shops where you could buy anything worth having. The thing about the Magic Island was that it was mostly open. You could keep wandering and keep running into newer tricks. Heck, here you could even become a Wizard yourself. There were fenced areas though but those were for private shows anyways.

The founders of magic island had scarce imagined what it would grow out to be. All that they wanted was to make a utopian place where where the little child in every person could break free, imagine and create.

Chapter 2. Wizards and Wakers

All the magic in the island was run by a motley group of wizards, quite a few of whom had learnt the tricks as eager learners on the island itself. The wizards were in a constant competition to garner their crowds. Because they knew that the moment their crowds withered, they were designated to one of the many rooms in the cellars where they either spent time brewing up the next big trick, or took upon themselves to help the other wizards, or worst of all, resigned to their fate.

Now magic requires props and wands and magic hats and only a few wizards could afford these on their own. And so there appeared a smaller group of powerful folks who called themselves Wakers or Wizard Makers, for they held the resources that could make or break the wizards. Understandably, the wizards and their makers shared a love-hate relationship. Notably, once a Waker got involved, the Wizard was seen more as a skilled puppet. Not only did the Wizard then have to sustain his crowd, he had to keep growing it, or face the Waker’s wrath.

Chapter 3. Wizard Zen

Though there were tens of thousands of wizards, there were only a handful who were on the must-watch list of every visitor to the island. If there was one trait you couldn’t fault these wizards on, that was ambition.

There was this one wizard, who had reached the zenith of his potential and knew clearly that while he was almost as popular as he could be, the dungeon wasn’t too far either. So he did all that he could to ensure that every visitor would visit him again and again and again. Some even claim they were hypnotized! He called himself Zen. Zen was supported by most of the Wakers worth their name. And so despite his success, rather inspite of it, he had his task cut out. Get. More.

Chapter 4. The catch

But there was a catch, as there always is with things that are too good to be true. The catch was that it was after all, just an island and to reach it one needed a boat.

Ten years ago only one in a hundred people in Imagineland had access to a boat. Now, two people in every five had access to one! In fact, almost all who could afford, now had access to a boat. The difficult truth was that those who were now left were either so far away or so poor that that the Magic Island was perhaps the last thing on their mind! They still had to fend for their next meal. They were called the Uninitiated. The Uninitiated were the holy grail for the wizards.

Chapter 5. The Regulars

The Regulars on the island though were a funny lot. They spent so much of their waking hours on the island that they easily missed the fact that the utopia was virtual and ephemeral. The magic so pervaded their minds that they began prescribing access to the Island as a panacea to every ill that plagued Imagineland. Hunger? Poverty? Corruption? Of course, the Magic Island could fix it all.

Chapter 6. Zen’s Cove

Now Zen was no fool. He was after all perhaps the greatest wizard of his time. There were a few Regulars though who were pretty wary of his ambitious streak.

Zen bought a cove on the island and fenced it up with barbed wire. Zen then set up a mini magic island at his cove where the Uninitiated could get a taste of what the island had to offer. Of course it came nowhere close to the variety or scale of the Island, but it sounded as tasty a bait as there could be. Then he made alliances with a few promising boat operators on the poor side of Imagineland. All they had to do was ferry the Uninitiated to Zen’s Cove, for free. Their carrot was that a few would then get so enamored by his cove that they would then start taking the paid boat rides to the Island. And then, he invited other wizards to send in their assistants to his special cove to hold their mini shows there. Of course, Zen made the choice on who got to be on his cove. A few wizards and boat operators obliged. The lure of the Uninitiated was too strong for them to ignore.

Zen’s remarkable vision was that with still three people left Uninitiated of every five, perhaps, the only version of the Magic Island that they would ever see was his cove. And even so, Zen’s tiny cove would have more visitors than the rest of the Island combined! And if a few of them could ever get to afford a paid boat ride, they would still visit his show on the Island anyway. And of course, he genuinely wanted the entire world to be happy with magic in general and his wizardry in particular.

Brilliant! Win-win, thought he as he unleashed giant posters and banners across Imagineland extolling the virtues of his little cove and the free boat rides. And called it Free Magics! Had it been just another one of those private shows, it wouldn’t have mattered, anyone was free to set up any show on the island, fenced or otherwise. It was however projected as a ‘free’ alternative to the Magic Island itself! Almost as if Zen’s Cove was the promised land the Uninitiated had been waiting for all along.

Chapter 7. The catch, again

There was a little problem though with Zen’s big plan. You see, the Uninitiated cared zilch about giant newspaper adverts or giant hoardings because the only use they had for the newspapers was as a wrap for their lunches, or wipes for their … and the flex banners as water proof rooftops for their shacks. A few of course had been hooked by the boat operators but they got weary of the Cove pretty soon for it was after all just a glorified cove.

The Regulars though had a field day in their imaginary duels with Zen. In fact a few wizards, including Zen himself, put up these magic duels as their prime time shows and pulled in quite a crowd.

But life simply moved on. The deserted cove was still advertised. The Island still thrived with the Regulars. The wizards and the wakers kept at their wizardry. The Uninitiated went about earning their daily bread.

At the end of the day though, for some strange reason, they say, Zen, sad as he was with all the unexpected noise around his grand plan, glanced hard at his dashboard had the last laugh!