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moderately geeky  moderately geeky

Case 190

To Make An Omelette

The monk Djishin was building an application which managed sensitive information of minor importance. He approached master Banzen and said: “I have spent many days reading about cryptography. I am confident that I can implement a secret-sharing framework.”

Banzen said: “In the teachings of master Mizuh, it is said that a monk will not truly understand cryptography until he has juggled eight fresh plover’s eggs for eight full minutes over a floor of rough-hewn planks. Return to your domicile and practice. In eight days we will see what you can do.”

A week later Djishin returned to Banzen, his head hung low.

The monk said: “Gravity and clumsiness were ever victorious. Now I have used up my egg rations for the year, and my bedroom floor is sticky.”

Banzen said: “Any idiot can fling objects in the air and catch them once or twice. To be a juggler is to understand the currents of the atmosphere, the limitations of the hand, the subtle mathematics of motion under gravity. A juggler protects the floor as if every egg were a thief.”

Djishin considered this.

At length the monk said: “Risk is proportional to the value of what is imperiled. If a thief breaks into my bedroom because my lock is poor, what does it matter if at worst I lose my pillow?”

Banzen rapped Djishin on the head with his staff and asked: “How does your room smell?”

“Of rotten eggs,” said Djishin, rubbing his cranium.

Banzen said: “The true problem was not the missed catch, but the yolk seeping into the floorboards. If your lock is poor but your pillow has not been stolen, look under your bed! The thief may simply be lying in wait for the day you return with a jingling purse.”

Qi’s commentary

Djishin owes Banzen a breakfast in bed. Better the monk knows a year of no eggs than one omelette stuffed with salmonella.

Qi’s poem

Mizuh was threatened by a learned bandit.
The bandit wished to know Mizuh’s birth-name.
“My Parents Never Told Me,” said Mizuh.
The bandit left dejected, and Mizuh smiled.