Once upon a time…
…in a faraway land, there lived a girl, as beautiful as the first ray of sun after a long, cold night. She was as good as she was beautiful. Any bad thought was alien to her.
Wherever she went, she saw the goodness inside people – partly hidden like a seed, ready to blossom, partially visible in their friendly behavior and deeds.
She had a sheltered upbringing. Anything bad in the world was to be kept far away from her. But when she was old enough, her parents thought it was time for her to experience the bad side of people. They showed her the dark sides of people and where better to do so than in court.
But she refused to see these sides. In the fraudster, she saw the desperation that drove him to his deeds. She thought the murderer was a pitiful creature who should only be treated well; the goodness would then begin to grow in him like a flower which can only develop its full glory and beauty with sufficient light and water.
Her parents were in despair. How was their daughter supposed to learn how to protect herself from evil when she did not even recognize evil as such? They thought long and hard until finally one day they had the perfect idea. They decided to invite the archetype of evil, a person from a faraway land who was known in the past for his evil deeds all over the world, to their home. Now their daughter was to experience at firsthand what it meant to trust evil. Soon she would definitely change her opinion.
No sooner said than done. When a foreigner applied for work on the internet and was prepared to work anywhere in the world, her parents assumed that he must be the worst of all evil people. After all, a young man who had left the home that raised and fed him could hardly be any good. Without a doubt he was ungrateful and who knew what dreadful things he had done at home? Maybe he had even escaped and was really dangerous.
The young man came and of course fell in love immediately with the girl, like many before him. He seemed to be nice and friendly and hard-working. The days went by and the young man was still obliging, honest and good.
The girl’s parents were dumbstruck. What were they supposed to do? Their daughter was not afraid, nor did she demonstrate any of man’s natural shyness towards anything foreign. On the contrary, she worried that the young man worked too hard and did not eat enough. She worried because he was restrained and did not sleep enough.
And like many parents who want to do everything right in bringing up their children, they began to do too much good. They were not bad people. Like many for whom a goal is more important than people, their ambition led them to do things that they would never have done otherwise.
They began to spread rumors. The girl’s parents were people of high standing and highly respected for their friendliness and cordiality and willingness to help anyone in need. When they then began to say that the young man was very attracted to women, that he was a heartbreaker, people believed them. They were afraid of anything foreign. And why should this young man from the country with the many evil deeds in the past be any good?
And suddenly the young man saw himself surrounded by women who smiled at him, who were attracted by his reputation of being a heartbreaker. He was surprised. He liked it of course, as everyone enjoys being the centre of attention. And yet he was surprised. Where did all this sudden attention come from?
The days went by. The girl’s parents were in despair. The more other women concerned themselves with the young man – less out of interest in him and more because of his reputation – the more familiarity their daughter showed him. Something had to happen. How could they get his dark side to come out?
Now everyone has their own hopes and yearnings and almost everyone is sad and in despair if these hopes and yearnings are awakened but not fulfilled.
Indeed, many are in such despair that they go crazy and harm themselves and others. The report on the news is then, for instance: “A confused driver came to a standstill in the foyer of the hotel.” Or: “Yesterday a mentally disturbed man held up a bank and took the customers hostage.”
It seems to be a special trait of people to dismiss something that they do not understand as sick. There are undoubtedly people with mental problems and there are undoubtedly also cases where people are claimed to have psychological problems to explain their behavior. But back to our fairytale.
Our young man was confused. He was the centre of attention, was smiled at by beautiful women but was not making any progress whatsoever. Which one was serious about him? He was in paradise and the trees were laden with full, ripe fruit but he could not decide which one to reach for, which one he wanted to pick.
He had long noticed that the beautiful girl was attracted to him. He was poor, had little that could interest a beautiful woman and therefore decided to let her go. Love was not a reason for him to intervene in someone else’s life. In his eyes, people who were in love had a great responsibility. He withdrew slowly and was seldom a guest at her parents’ house any more. That made the girl sad.
Her parents became angry. They did not see that they had gone too far and themselves were the cause of their daughter’s melancholy. The foreigner was to blame. Who could know? Perhaps he had done something to their daughter and she couldn’t speak about it?
Once again, the parents began to make plans. The young man was a painter. There was only one picture by him. Something a riot of color. Nobody knew what it was supposed to represent.
Now they happened to know a judge. A quiet, genteel man, who had seen, heard and appraised a lot. They commissioned him, as is appropriate for people who are wealthy and want to help others, with appraising the young man’s picture and to purchase it if he continued to paint. The judge found the idea very appealing. He saw the good intention behind it and promised to help.
The news had barely done the rounds that the judge might want to buy the young man’s picture before it spread like wildfire through the village. If the judge wanted to buy the picture, then it must be worth a lot of money. More and more people came to the young man and encouraged him to keep on painting. They would then buy his pictures off him.
The young man did not know what was happening to him. So many nice people had never concerned themselves with him like this before. He thanked God for the lucky turn in his fortunes and began to paint abstract pictures on the PC after a long day’s work, overtired and fighting off sleep.
The beautiful and good girl, however, was surprised. She did not understand why the young man stayed away. She was popular and far from ugly. The more the young man withdrew, the more she thought about him.
One night, when she couldn’t sleep, she heard doors opening and closing in the house. She got up quietly and saw her parents sitting in the lounge, unaware of her presence. They were discussing the plans that they had with the young man and that their daughter would then finally see the evil in people and undoubtedly approach life more cautiously in future.
The parents of the good and beautiful girl spoke about how they had helped to get the judge his office and that the latter was now destined – without knowing – to give the young man the disappointment of his life.
If a judge, the symbol of righteousness and justice in life, promised to buy a picture from him and then did not do so after all, then in his disappointment the evil in the young man must finally come out. Who knew, perhaps he would box the judge’s ears, burst the tires on his car, or even better accuse him of lying in front of everyone?
They could thus kill two birds with one stone. Make the ungrateful judge who had forgotten that he owed his office to them look like a fool and show their daughter that the young man was not one of the good guys.
Hearing her parents talk like this, saddened the young girl greatly. However, she was very glad that she had believed the young man. She decided to warn him without telling him everything.
When her parents were away for a few days, the good and beautiful girl invited the young man over for coffee.
He came hesitantly. In the meantime, the girl’s parents had not been idle and had ensured that he was told things about their daughter that portrayed her in a bad light.
His heart rightly told him that it couldn’t all be true. His common sense told him to be careful. And as so often is the case when people make mistakes, this whispering and warning common sense gained the upper hand over our gut feeling, which is older by many millions of years and more experienced.
The young man took a recording device with him. Some people also call it a dictating machine, a marvel of technology.
The young man met the good and beautiful girl and began to feast his eyes on her. When his ideas regained the upper hand over his visual and emotional impressions, just like you need a break after a lot of chocolate and yet still want to keep nibbling at it, the good and beautiful girl began to warn him.
The beautiful and good girl spoke about the judge who owed his job solely to her parents and about the pictures that he would never buy off him. The young man did not believe her and did not say anything.
In all of this, the good and beautiful girl indicated no reason, and how important is it nowadays for a person to have a reason? We can live with anything. With divorce, death, fraud, all other kinds of crime, we are tolerant towards religions as we are towards unfair treatment, we can and want to understand everything if only the appropriate reason and explanation are given as well.
It is said that mankind has caused global warming. Puberty is in the dock for spots and blackheads. The departing day could be responsible for nightfall, and the close of night for the break of day. The bee sting is the fault of the aggressive bee. Smoking has been proven to cause lung cancer. Truth is to blame for all lies. Without it, nobody would ever discover what the lies are and what is truthful and correct.
And thus the young man gained the – wrong – impression after the unusually worded warning that that the girl wanted to harm him. He remembered a proverb: “He who trusts nobody cannot be trusted.” And fate took its course, as it does so often when people do not listen to their loving heart.
A judge who lies to him without cause? No, our young man did not want to believe that. The judge had told him that he collected art and knew what he was talking about. He’d never seen a picture like the one painted by the young man. It had to be a new style.
The young man had been rooted to the spot at that moment. Had the page turned? he thought. Was Fate now taking him under her wings and promising financial and social success?
Soon, the first abstract pictures were finished and hung on the walls in every brilliant color imaginable. The young man waited. But nothing happened. I bet the pictures are not beautiful enough, the young man said to himself, and he continued to paint and order new pictures. But nothing happened. Neither the people from the village nor the judge ever talked again about purchasing even one picture.
The young man now saw that the good and beautiful girl had been right. But why was the judge acting in this way? Why were the people from the village acting the same? He had done nothing to any of them. He worked from dawn to dusk and tried to please everyone.
The good and beautiful girl had not given a reason. She had only said that nobody would buy anything from him. Why should somebody want to harm him? By nature, he was used to always tackling problems directly. That was the first step towards solving them. But here he did not understand why people continued to praise his pictures, although they had long decided not to buy anything from him.
The young man had gone out into the world. He had left behind his familiar surroundings. Was that the reason? Was he treated like this because he was a stranger? Didn’t everyone fear anything that was new and foreign? But how could he show that he was not a bad person? People were behaving unjustly to him here. Did they expect that he would complain and lament his lot?
The young man decided not to say anything. The people treated him cordially and never ceased to smile at him. He decided to smile back and stay polite and calm.
The beautiful and good girl had to help him. But he did not want to ask her for help. She would undoubtedly have helped him long ago if she had been able. She had warned him. He thanked her for that.
The young man remembered the words of his dead father: “Son, if anyone offers you a chair, never sit down on it.” The young man remembered the words of a good friend in the place where he came from: “The solution to any of man’s problems is already created within man himself. All you have to do is listen to yourself.”
The young man sat down on a bench and listed to his innermost self. Several people came past and greeted him and were very surprised when he did not answer. The young man had always been obliging and polite. What had happened? Was he confused? People had always assumed that something was not quite right with him.
The people from the village went to the parents of the good and beautiful girl and reported to them. The young man was sitting on a bench and refusing to greet anyone. Something was not right with him. Was he ill or dangerous?
The parents of the beautiful girl thought that they had achieved their desired goal. They called for their daughter and set off with her to see the young man. Now she would see for herself when evil showed its face. He was undoubtedly immeasurably disappointed because he had been deceived and would therefore be easy to antagonize.
The young man was still sitting on the bench and appeared apathetic. The girl was very shocked. She sat down immediately next to him on the bench and took his hand in hers. Her parents pretended to be shocked and advised her to approach him at a distance. Nobody could know what this stranger was capable of. They could not know that their daughter had listened to them at night. The good and beautiful girl ignored them.
The young man did not react either to the calls of the girl or her tears. When the beautiful girl saw that she could not reach him although she was sitting next to him, she became angry.
The beautiful girl turned furiously to her parents and began to reproach them bitterly. “Look what you have done to him. You have treated this young man, who never did anything to you, so badly that I would scarcely have believed you capable of it – just to show me that evil is dangerous. What evil people you are. You yourself are evil and he has goodness in him. Hate will never breed more hate indefinitely.”
The good and beautiful girl would not calm down. Her parents were beside themselves with worry and shame. They had only wanted to show their daughter where evil lurked so that she would recognize it and it would never bring harm to her and she could give it a wide berth. And now she accused her own parents of being bad and evil?
They suddenly realized that they had acted wrongly. Their deceit had directed itself against themselves. They looked at the young man who sat on the bench lost in thought and they were ashamed. They were so ashamed that they forgot to ask for his forgiveness.
Perhaps, however, they also knew that an excuse was barely adequate for their behavior. Only time could heal and ask for forgiveness.
Apologies were only words, written in sand and obliterated by wind and rain.
The parents of the good and beautiful girl went sadly home. They had meant well. Who could reproach them for that? Any animal that was not afraid of the dangerous lion and his unknown hunger was lost. It was not their fault that they were cautious and loved their daughter above all else. They now feared that they had lost their daughter to the young man.
Their daughter feared that she had lost the young man to melancholy. She cried and wailed and cursed her fate. She had wanted to say so much to him and now he sat there and appeared not to know her.
But how much easier is it to say things when you believe you are undisturbed and unheard?
The beautiful and good girl stroked the hand of the young man continuously in her agitation and began to talk. She changed from her specific sorrow to everyday worries, and then back again. And she alternated between the events of the past and the events of the future. And during all this, she cried as if she had never cried before and as if she had to catch up on this strange activity all the more intensively now.
And it became clear: There were many people who admired her but few who were her friends. She was fed up with being loved and admired. Just like you get fed up with chocolate when you eat too much of it. She wanted to have a normal life, just like others conducted a normal life but yearned for a special one.
The young man had been dreadfully shocked when he saw the good and beautiful girl walking along the path with her parents. And although he saw and heard everything, he decided not to show any emotion. He feared having to explain something and he hated explanations that could never include the full truth simply because there wasn’t enough time. And so he stayed silent.
And while he said nothing and his hand became warmer and warmer in the hands of the beautiful and good girl, it became clear to him. Like the morning fog clears under the warming rays of the sun, so he saw through the girl’s words into her heart. And he recognized that she did not love him like she believed she loved him.
The good and beautiful girl had been seized by sympathy, the source which all good-hearted people draw from and distribute. And a complicated relationship with another person suddenly turned into friendship in his eyes that wants nothing more than to say “Hi” and “How are you? How are things?”
It no longer made any difference what he felt. There were so many people who tried to enforce their will and the will of their feelings in life. How nice it was to take a step back. Like going into a museum and viewing a picture and feasting your eyes on it, without wanting to own more of it than just a copy on the wall at home.
And the young man therefore began to stir. His tears mingled with hers. The good and beautiful girl was overjoyed. She realized that everything always, even at the very last moment, can come good in the end if you only believe in it enough.
And from then on they saw each other every day again. And they all lived happily ever after, still laughing and crying with one another.
© 2010 Hans-Jürgen John