Once there was a man who wanted to have a lion tattooed on his back.
He went to a tattoo artist and told him what he wanted.
But as soon as he felt the first few pricks, this man began to moan and grown: ‘You are killing me. What part of the lion are you making?’
‘I am just doing the tail now,’ said the artist.
‘Then let us leave out the tail,’ howled the other.
So the artist started again. And again the client could not stand the pricks. ‘What part of the lion is it this time?’ he cried, ‘for I cannot stand the pricks.’
‘This time,’ said the tattooist, ‘it is the lion’s ear.’
‘Let us have a lion without an ear,’ gasped the patient.
So the tattooist tried again. No sooner had the needle entered his skin that the victim squirmed again: ‘Which part of the lion is it this time?’
‘This is the lion’s stomach,’ wearily answered the artist.
‘I don’t want a lion with a stomach,’ said the other man.
Exasperated and distraught, the tattoo artist stood awhile. Then he threw his needle down and cried: ‘A lion without a head, with no tail, without a stomach? Who could draw such a thing? Even God did not!’
From: The Way of the Sufi, by Idries Shah.