Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Socerer's Apprentice

The story of the sorcerer's apprentices came into my mind after watching the gyrations of our government trying to figure out how to stop the dreaded economic slide.

I'm sure you remember the story. A sorcerer has an apprentice who does all the hard work. When the sorcerer leaves one day, the apprentice has the idea that he could eliminate all his hard work if he could get an inanimate broom to do it for him. He's watched the sorcerer and remembers the magic words. So, he thinks, nothing to it. He tries the magic words and the broom becomes animated and follows his orders. The task he gives the broom is to carry water. All goes well until he tries to stop the broom. He can't. To make matters worse when he tries to sop the broom by chopping it with an axe, all the splinters become animated and a cascade of water results. Fortunately, the sorcerer returns in time to save the apprentice from drowning. He stops the brooms and the world returns to what it was in the past.

You may remember the Disney animated version of story. You can watch it below. it's actually a very powerful visualization of the story. When you watch it, observe carefully how the images are used to create a pretty accurate retelling of the tale without words.

What you may not remember is that the original story was created by Goethe in a poem Der Zauberlehrling.. You can read it here in both German and English.

What's missing from the Disney version of the story is the ending.. The apprentice begs the master, "...from the spirits I have called, sir, deliver me."

Many apprentices have called forth spirits and created a mess. Now they beg the master, we the people, to deliver them from these spirits.

Goethe's poem ends with the master saying, "Be thou as thou wert before! Until I, the real master call thee forth to serve once more."

Unfortunately, even if we wished it, we can return to the way things were. Our only choice is to live in an even more complex world that those apprentices in business, finance and government have created for us.

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