Short story – King and the Blind Beggar: Liar, liar!

LIAR

The blind beggar was bathing in the royal bath while servants fed him grapes and other delicious fruits. The king arrived and descended into the steaming water opposite to the beggar and said: “It has now been several days since I took you to my palace, and I am getting restless. How much longer until you shall impart to me the divine knowledge and heavenly secrets, like you have promised?”

The beggar shooed off the servants and said to the king: “You are quite impatient, oh dignified king. But your impatience also shows me your deep desire for the truth, and it may hasten the process of your maturity. I promised you that in five years time it will happen, but it seems now that four years might well be enough.”

“Four years!?,” the king exclaimed in agitation and splashed water with his palms. “I have been so kind to you, you wrinkly, smelly codger, that I have spared your life many times over and even let you in my palace to be served by the most beautiful servants and fed the most delicious foods, and you tell me four years I must wait?”

The king’s black beard was quivering from his irritation and impatience and the beggar said calmly: “I promise you that the heavenly secrets are worth the agony of your waiting. And you must understand, oh great king, that only rare beings ever reach the highest peaks of existence, so unless you want to remain a suffering mortal, you have no option but to follow my guidance with patience and let me show you the way to godliness.”

The king splashed water in frustration and got up from the bath and ordered his servants to dry his body and rub fine oil onto his skin. When the king was gone, the blind beggar waved his hand to the servants to bring him more grapes and serve him wine.

The next day the beggar dressed up in the most exquisite silk clothes and let the king’s slaves carry him to the market square to meet with the ordinary townsfolk.

A poor boy came to the blind beggar, thinking that he is a wealthy royal, and said: “I am just a poor boy and I have been raised by rats and stray dogs and evil witches. Please, sir, give me a dime so that I can buy myself a piece of bread.”

The beggar ordered the slaves to stop and he turned his blind eyes towards the boy and said: “You are lying, small boy, you are lying to me. But because I am a merciful man, I shall pity you and not send you to the dungeons.”

The boy looked closely at the old beggar, who was dressed in royal silk, and said: “You are not a royal! I know who you are! You are a blind man who used to be begging for alms at the street corner. What are you doing up there, being carried by the king’s slaves and dressed up in such fancy clothes?”

“You have mistaken, young man,” said the beggar. “I am indeed the king’s counsellor, and for that reason I am being carried in this chair by the king’s slaves. I do not know what nonsense you are talking about.”

The boy said: “You are an impostor! You are just a dirty beggar, and somehow you have managed to fool the king with your foul tongue to listen to your blabbering.”

The beggar gestured to the slaves to start moving away from the little pest, but the boy followed and started mocking the beggar and using more and more ugly words to insult him.

“You don’t know what you are talking about,” said the beggar. “I am the noble counsellor and I am the man who decides the fate of this kingdom. Go and ask the king, for he will surely tell you the truth if you will not believe my word. But what does it matter? You are but a wretched troublemaker, and your words are like the hum of a little mosquito in my ears. So make yourself disappear before I change my mind and send you to the dungeons to rot with the other bandits, you little insect.”

The beggar had to order the slaves to move faster and head back to the palace, for the boy became a disturbance and he didn’t want to attract too much attention among the people.

Upon meeting the king, the beggar said: “The townsfolk are becoming a real nuisance, my king. They should be taught and disciplined for better and more respectful behaviour. I recommend that we create a new order in this city, for the people have lost their manners and they cannot talk rightly but use foul language that makes my ears hurt.”

The king looked at the blind beggar and a red colour appeared on his face and the king said: “Who do you think you are? Have you forgotten that you are nothing but a decaying old man whose life I have spared because I think you hold something that might be of great value to me? But each day I start to doubt that more and more. You don’t deserve or need the respect of the townsfolk, because you are just a cockroach who is extorting me and I am too weak to use my kingly sword to cut your head off and be done with you.”

“But king,” said the beggar, “what if I told you that the people are speaking ill about you and some are even conspiring against your might? What if I told you that there is a vast cabal being put together with the aim of overthrowing you, the mighty and beloved king.”

“If you told me that,” said the king, “I would laugh so hard that I could not breathe and I would die immediately. But because you are just a lying, devious beggar, I cannot believe such words and my patience with you is running out.”

“I might be a devious, lying beggar, but how about that boy I met in the marketplace this morning? Was that boy also a lying beggar?”

“What boy? What are you talking about, you filthy creature?”, asked the king.

“The boy who came to me while the slaves were carrying me in the chair,” said the beggar, “and who said that there are people speaking ill of the king and that there is a dangerous cabal being created in dark halls and dungeons deep underground, where the eyes of the rule cannot see or its hands reach.”

“Nonsense!” shouted the king. “Where is my sword? I need to cut this madman’s head off before he spews out more lies with his poisonous mouth!”

The beggar didn’t budge by the king’s threats, but continued and said: “Yes, and this secret cabal will shackle you and your family and everyone close to you in the castle dungeons and use your beautiful daughters and your wives for their pleasure and they will defile your forefathers and remove the rule of your family from the accounts so that no one shall ever again remember your name.”

Then the king jumped towards the beggar and grabbed his throat and jolted him forcefully, but the beggar didn’t give up and said with a stifled voice: “But it is not too late to stop it!”

The king suddenly calmed down, let the beggar free and said: “How can we stop it? Tell me now or I shall make you carry buckets of excrement day and night for the rest of your life.”

“You must establish a new order in the kingdom. The people have become complacent and lazy. They have become ungrateful and deceitful. You must establish a new order that will turn everything upside down and make the people respect the throne like they should. Only a new order can save you from demise, for I have heard rumours that this cabal is quickly advancing in its plans and it will soon begin to execute a horrible measure of action to overthrow you and disgrace your name.”

Short story -– King and the Blind Beggar: Public Humiliation

HumiliThe blind beggar was sitting on a bench in the royal garden, listening to the chirping of the birds and smelling the fragrance of the flowers. Suddenly the beggar heard someone approach — it was the king himself. The king was cursing and grumbling loudly as he walked towards the beggar.

“Finally I found you,” the king said in agitation. “A great tragedy has taken place. You must help me.”

“What is the matter?” asked the blind beggar.

“I was sitting in my sedan chair,” said the king, “carried by my slaves near town square, and suddenly this man, this cursed hoodlum, came near and started mocking me, the king, in broad daylight, in front of all the people. Immediately I ordered my guards to silence the villain, but he was strong and his mouth was like that of a baboon, a fat, ugly baboon. Even while the guards were putting him down he continued with his insults. And a crowd started to gather; it must have been a hundred people! All listening to this man’s mockery of the king. And do you know what the worst part was?”

“What was the worst part?” asked the blind beggar.

“They laughed at the man’s words! They laughed at his mockery! They laughed at their king! A hundred people all giggling and snickering at their beloved king! I have never before in my life felt such anger and embarrassment. I told my guards to shackle the wicked thug and take him to the filthiest dungeon in the castle and then ordered my slaves to carry me away from the crowd as fast as their legs could move. But it wasn’t fast enough… It wasn’t enough…”

“You cried, did you not?” asked the blind beggar.

“Of course I cried!” the king roared. “I cried and they all could see it! They saw their mighty king start to weep in front of them! And again they laughed! Now you must help me solve this monumental problem. The people are now making fun of their king because he cried when a man insulted him. But not for long shall they laugh at me, for I shall once again show them who I really am!”

The blind beggar remained in silence.

The king continued: “I shall bring that man to the town square, make him strip naked in front of all the people, and tell them that the man is a filthy pig, an animal, and that he has been in sexual communion with a diseased horse. That I shall do so that they will no longer mock me but mock that son of a bastard and laugh at him instead of me, their beloved king. Will I hang him? No. Of course not! He must live so that they don’t forget that man and so they can mock him and insult him for many more years!”

“That is precisely what you must do, oh mighty king,” said the blind beggar.

“What?!” exclaimed the king. “I did not search for you for a quarter of the day only to get a consent for my plans to humiliate that man. You brainless fool, you impotent beggar! I came to you for wise advice, for enlightened guidance, and as a king I shall receive what I want.”

The beggar didn’t say anything for a little while, and the king was becoming more and more anxious. At last the beggar said: “If you desire that the people bow down to their king in town square but secretly speak ill of him in pubs, taverns, and street corners, then go ahead and humiliate that man and persecute him and tell lies about him. But if you desire to be a king whom the people truly respect and trust, then it is not enough to merely poke the eye of the man who offended you. If you desire to be a king who can turn his back on his people and trust that no one will stab a knife in his spine, then you must learn to turn the other cheek and be humbled by your own fallibility as a mere mortal. Maybe you ought to talk to that man. Ask him what his reason was for the mockery and insult.”

The king seemed to become nervous and his face turned red. “What nonsense! More and more I am starting to doubt your wisdom, you filthy rat. That man is nothing but a mad goblin, so why should I, the mighty king, humble myself and try to talk reason to such a tainted human being?”

The blind beggar said: “You are right, oh revered king. That man is nothing but a shadow compared to your shining glory, and he may well deserve a good humiliation in front of a hundred people. But then, wouldn’t that be too easy? The people would laugh and enjoy the show, but deep down they would know that it is arranged only to repair the damage done to the king’s mighty ego. For this reason it must be something more powerful, something that will be more shocking than merely ordering the fool to strip naked and dance like a clown in town square.”

The king became curious of what the blind beggar had in mind and said: “Go on, you hopeless cripple, tell me how I can make the people truly forget my weakness.”

“My mouth is dry, oh beloved king,” the beggar said, “and I think only the best royal wine can mend this malady, so that I can continue to tell you what is the solution to your problem.”

“You are nothing but a rapacious leech, an unthankful bloodsucker, who plays tricks over my troubled mind and whom I should immediately behead with my sharp sword and whose rotting body I should throw to the rats to gnaw so that only your fragile bones are left. But because I have made a promise to let you live for five years, I must spare your worthless life and serve you as my noble guest.”

The king’s servants brought the best wine from the royal wine cellar and the beggar drank so much of it that he tumbled off the bench onto the grass and the king became worried that the beggar might fall asleep and said: “You ugly creature, get up and tell me the solution to my problems! Or else I shall order my guards to put you away and you shall never see daylight again.”

The blind beggar rolled over to a sitting position already visibly tipsy from the strong wine and said to the king: “You are most generous, for you are the great and powerful king and I am nothing but a measly old man, and yet you serve me your best wine and let me listen to the chirping of the little birds of your royal garden, even when I have nothing to offer you but my modest words.”

The king was anxious to hear the beggars solution, and he ordered his servants to cast cold water on him to make him stop with his nonsense.

“Right,” said the beggar, “now is the time to reveal the solution to your blight. As I said, you need means more powerful than merely to humiliate the sorry thug who offended you in front of a hundred people near town square. You need means that will reassure the people once again of your great might and your strength and your infallibility. For that reason, you must show the people that it wasn’t due to the man’s bitter words that you shed up a tear. You must show them that no amount of humiliating speech can do you harm. Only by demonstrating that you are the mighty ruler and that you cannot be hurt by mortals and their wicked deeds can you restore your dignity in the eyes of your people.”

So the very next morning the king ordered all the people to gather in town square and he himself was standing on a wooden stage in front of all the people. And the king spoke to them: “Yesterday a great misfortune took place, as a pitiful man spoke to me, his dignified king, with words that a mere mortal would have considered hurtful and malicious, but because I am the mighty king, such words do not affect me and they are nothing but ticklish rustle in my ears. But so it happened that as this encounter took place, I was returning from the marketplace and there was a pouch of freshly cut onions in my chair right next to me, and for that reason drops of water came out of my eye. And it is possible that some unenlightened citizens believed that I was crying because of the words of this wretched, unfortunate man, but I must assure you that this is not how it went. The onions in my chair caused irritation in my eyes and for that reason water came out of them.”

The people were completely silent and listening to their king.

“But it is possible,” the king continued, “that some of you might not believe my words, even when I am the almighty king, and for this reason I must demonstrate to you that I am not affected by such silly things and that a king cannot be humiliated.”

Then the king began to take off his decorations one by one, and after the decoration he took off his boots and then his elaborate silk coat and his tunic so that he was left with only his crown and stockings. Many women in the crowd gasped in shock and covered their eyes and also the eyes of their children. Then the king took off even his stockings and some women screamed in horror as they saw the king naked with only the royal crown on his head.

The king spoke: “Look, my people. Now I am standing here naked before your eyes to prove you that a king doesn’t suffer from humiliation, because a king is above such worldly matters. Now go and find that man who tried to insult your king yesterday morning near town square and make him your new laughingstock!”

To further his point, the king started to dance like a clown and make all kinds of peculiar noises and he started to flap his arms like chicken wings to prove his point.

When the king returned to the royal palace to see the blind beggar, he was exhilarated by the success and ingeniousness of the beggar’s plan.

“It worked!” exclaimed the king to the beggar, whose feet were being massaged by the king’s servants. “It truly worked, and now the people have forgotten about me and they are laughing at the silliness of the fool who tried to insult me.”

The beggar told the servants to stop massaging his feet and sent them to fetch him some fruits and wine and said to the king: “So, you listened to my advice and undressed in front of the people and danced like a clown to let them know that you are above humiliation?”

“Yes, yes!”, the king said. “I did exactly as you told me and it all worked perfectly. I’m sure they are already searching for this low-life and making fun of him and his stupidity.”

“Good,” said the blind beggar. “you have surely reclaimed your authority in the eyes of the people. You don’t need to worry anymore.”

Short story – King and the Blind Beggar: The Divine Treasures

KingBeggar2

The king arrived at a dirty street corner, carried by his servants in a golden sedan chair. The king stepped down and ordered one of his servants to cast cold water on the blind beggar who was sitting at the street corner.

“Why don’t you bow down to the king, you filthy beggar?” the king said.

“Oh, please accept my apologies, I did not see that the king was coming,” said the blind beggar.

“I will forgive you, but only if you answer my questions, you measly beggar, or else I shall cut your head off with my own sword.”

“Questions?” asked the beggar. “But I am just an old and weary beggar and I don’t know anything of value. Why would someone as dignified as the king ask questions of such a man?”

The king said: “Indeed, for the very reason that you are only a scabby beggar and yet you are not weeping for your poor luck, that is why I want to ask questions of you.”

“But I am very old and the heat of the day is making me tired and weak,” said the blind beggar. “I am very tired and I must rest.”

The king was getting irritated with the old man. “Give the old man some water, for he is old and weary and he is suffering from the heat of the day,” said the king to his servants and again they cast cold water on the beggar.

“Thank you, good king,” said the beggar, “for now I no longer am suffering from the heat, but you must know that I haven’t eaten in five days and four nights, and my stomach is spasming from the hunger. A man who is starving in the street corner cannot certainly answer any important questions, oh good king.”

“You rickety old beggar,” said the king. “You are wasting my time, for you are nothing but a poor beggar and I am the king of this land, and I have more important tasks than to argue all day with a foul man like you.”

The king ordered his servants to bring a piece of bread to the blind beggar, and the beggar ate the bread and said: “Thank you, oh wise king. You have made me the luckiest man in your kingdom, for no man suffers like the hungry man, and no longer am I a suffering hungry man because you have given me a piece of royal bread. Your generosity shall be rewarded with great gifts.”

“What do you have to give me, you wretched beggar? Nothing have you to give to a great king who has more riches than all the riches of the Seven Kingdoms combined, more gold than there is water in the Great River, and mightier armies than even the gods themselves could ever imagine. But I have not come to you in search of worldly riches, you pitiful derelict, but after heavenly treasures have I come to you. And I have given cold water to a man suffering from the heat of the day and bread to a man suffering from starvation, and now you must answer my questions, or else I shall cut your head off with my own sword.”

“But venerable king,” said the beggar. “You must understand that I am but an old man, and there are no answers that I could give to a mighty king like you that would satisfy your brilliant mind. Although some have said that wine maketh man’s tongue dexterous and his words divine. So I have heard some say, but sure I am not whether it is true or false.”

“Enough with this nonsense!” the king shouted, took his sword and pointed it at the blind beggar. “How dare you speak such things to your king, when you are nothing but a heap of dung in my eyes? What has gotten into you when you believe that it is appropriate to make demands to the king, you sickly layabout? I will cut your head off with my own sword, that I swear in the name of my great kingdom!”

The blind beggar did not budge, but remained calmly sitting in his usual position. “But if you kill me, oh honoured king, who is going to answer your heavenly questions?”

“I should not waste my precious time on this unworthy creature, for I am the great king and I have more important matters to attend to than to cut off the heads of pitiable men. Instead, I shall order you to be hanged in front of the people in the square, so that everyone shall see what happens to men who defy the king’s will.”

“It is generous of you, oh beloved king,” said the blind beggar. “For I am but an old and decrepit beggar and my back is hurting from all the years sitting at this street corner begging for alms. For years have I been praying for God to release me from this pain, and now I know that my prayers have been answered, for I am sure there won’t be back pains in heaven. I hope you make haste with preparing the gallows for me, because the pain is only getting worse as days pass, and it surely doesn’t help that I am disturbed and made to listen to such trivial nonsense, because you see, oh good king, that I am only an old beggar and I must bend my neck so as to hear you properly, because you are up there and I am down here, and it makes the pain all the more worse.”

The king’s face turned red and one could almost see smoke coming out of his ears, for such was his anger. The king looked at his servants, but they were all as baffled as he was. “Were you only a worthless blind beggar, I would cut your head off with my own sword immediately or at least send you to the gallows to be hanged in front of the people, but because I have come to you not in search of appraisal or worldly riches, I forgive you your insolence. But I also warn you that my patience is quickly running dry, so I advise you to obey my kingly orders and answer the questions that I have come to ask you.”

The beggar smiled and said: “Praised be the king! For thine mercy truly demonstrates thine royalty and godliness. May my tongue be at your service and may you ask any questions you will, oh great king, for you have saved me from the heat of the day and from starvation and now even from the blade of the sword and the rope of the gallows.”

Suddenly the king fell down on his knees and started weeping in front of the blind beggar. “See, this is why I have come to you,” the king said mournfully. “Even with all my glory and with all my riches and with all my armies I am nothing but a sorrowful man and I cannot seem to find that which I am looking for. In fact, I don’t even know what I am looking for. The most beautiful women have held me in their arms and my servants treat me with the most delicious foods this world knows and I have such power that I can do more than any man in the human history could have done, and yet I am in deep misery. So this I ask of you: What is the secret for heavenly bliss? What is the secret that makes a great king fall on his knees in front of a crippled beggar to ask for advice? This secret you must reveal to me, for without it I no longer want to live in this vain world. I know that you are only making fun of me and I know that you know the answers to all my heavenly questions.”

The blind beggar started laughing and slapping his thighs with his palms. “You sure are great in your ability to amuse me, oh venerable king. It sure seems like a dreadful dilemma that you have there, for you have achieved everything a man can achieve in this world, and yet you are in sorrow and misery. And now you have come to me in search of heavenly riches, as you have found that the worldly riches are nothing but vanity and mere dust under your feet. You have come in great distress, expecting me to reveal to you the heavenly secrets, but I can sense that you might not be ready to receive them, oh mighty king.”

The king grabbed the blind beggar’s feet and screamed: “I am ready, I am ready! Can’t you see? I have taken ahold of your dirty feet, even when I myself am the great king. Can’t you see that my heart is starving in this world of vanity?”

The blind beggar laughed again and said: “I am only a blind beggar, so I cannot see your desperation with my eyes, but I can hear your suffering words with my ears. Clearly you have a desire in your heart to know the heavenly secrets, but it remains a mystery whether this desire is truly sincere or not. The only way to know whether or not it is a sincere desire is for you to sacrifice your entire kingdom, to give up your throne and your gold and your armies and your beautiful wives and the comfort of your palace and so to show that your desire truly is sincere. Only then can I impart to you the heavenly secrets that your heart desires to know.”

“You are a fool!” shouted the king in outrage. “How could I ever give up my kingdom and my throne and my gold and my armies and my beautiful wives and the comfort of my palace for a mere promise from a decaying beggar who has nothing to give but his slimy words? What would the people think of me, of their king, if I would take the advice of a blind beggar and become myself like him? I would be ridiculed and mocked and they would think I have gone entirely mad! Even the gods would laugh at me! Many preposterous words have I heard in my life but this goes beyond anything else! I have come to you, a sickly beggar, and kneeled down before you and touched your dirty feet and still you ask for more! Still you ask me to give up everything I have achieved and become a puny derelict like you. If I were an insensible man, I would immediately cut your head off with my own sword or at least send you to the gallows, but because I have come to you with sincerity and with an aching heart, I forgive you one last time and ask you to impart your heavenly secrets to me, or else I shall show you what happens to men who disobey the orders of the king.”

“Oh kind king, I am eternally grateful for your graciousness,” said the blind beggar. “But you have come knocking to the doors of the divine, unprepared and with a heart that is not yet ready for the ultimate knowledge. Even though I am nothing but a blind and crippled beggar, I can sense your kingly immaturity and your unwillingness to truly give up the treasures of this world for the treasures of heaven. And indeed are the treasures of heaven glorious compared to the bleak treasures of the earth. But nonetheless, I can hear in your voice a despair which I have only heard in a few individuals throughout my lifetime. As you are not yet ready for the impartation of the divine secrets, I can promise you that in five years time you shall be ready for them, but then, I am just an old weakling and I have great pains in my back because sitting at this street corner begging for alms is very tiring, so I may not be alive in five years time when you finally are ready for the secrets.”

The king stood up and declared thus: “So it shall be, that in five years time this crippled beggar shall impart to me his heavenly secrets, because then I shall be ready for them. And in order to ensure that this man is still alive after five years have passed, I shall invite him to live in my palace, sleep in the comfort of a featherbed and enjoy the foods of the royal kitchen.”

And so the king ordered the blind beggar to climb in the golden sedan chair and made the servants carry him to his royal palace, while the king himself was walking beside the chair with a big smile on his face, as if he was transporting his most treasured possession.

Short story – Bartender and the miserable pop star

Pop

 

Once it happened that a pop star, whose popularity was on a decline, was sitting at the bar. The star was feeling miserable. He ordered one glass of cheap whisky after another.

“What’s the matter with you?” asked the bartender.

The pop star glanced at the bartender and answered, “I am addicted to attention. And now it has happened that they are forgetting about me.”

“Who are forgetting about you?” asked the bartender.

“The tabloids, the people, everyone. No one is giving me attention anymore. Without attention, who am I? Without attention, how can I go on living?”

The bartender looked at the drunken man and said, “I can’t see the problem with that, really. No one to disturb you. No one to ask for an autograph. No one to write about you on the paper.”

The pop singer fell even deeper into his despair. “Exactly! No one to tell me that I have succeeded. No one to tell me I’m more important than other people. I might as well jump off the bridge. If people are no longer interested in me, what reason do I have to live?”

The bartender looked at the man and asked, “What do you mean by success?”

The star raised his head and looked fiercely at the bartender. “What do you mean what do I mean? Success is success. You know, being better than the rest. Being wanted, admired, and talked about. That’s how you know you have succeeded in life.”

“When you were at the peak of your success, could you walk outside freely without having someone guard your back?”

“Of course not! That’s when you know you’ve made it… when you need a bodyguard to hold the fans off you,” said the singer and sipped his whisky.

The bartender burst into laughter. “If you ask me, that sounds more like an imprisonment than a success.”

The pop star was starting to feel irritated. “You’re just envious! If you had ever experienced it for yourself, you wouldn’t say that. But you are just a puny bartender. How can you know anything?”

“Yes, I’m just a puny bartender. But at least I don’t need a million people to verify to me that there is reason to get out from the bed in the morning.”

The pop star remained silent for a little while. He emptied his glass and said, “You’re right. I think I’m going crazy. But I just don’t know if I can live without someone affirming to me that I matter. I don’t know if I can cope with the emptiness of not being told that I am good enough.”

The bartender was starting to feel sorry for the man. “You know, I remember when I was a schoolboy, and my mother would tell me ‘Good boy!’ each time I brought home a straight A. Any other grade and my mother would say ‘You’ve gotta do better than that, boy!’. Sometimes she would even tell me that I was not going to amount to anything with those grades. I developed, over time, a terrible hang-up about school. I learned that only perfection was good enough for my mother. I craved for that ‘Good boy!’ from my mother. I craved for that attention. Only when I heard her say it did I know that I was good enough.”

The pop star was twiddling his empty glass. The bartender saw that he was listening.

“Over my school years I developed a severe anxiety, because there was only one way to succeed — to get perfect grades. I had panic attacks almost every day and I started to seclude myself from other people because I was so obsessed to perform well. And not just well, no, well wasn’t good enough. I had to be the best. And I was… for some time. Eventually I went to college, and by the second year I felt I was losing my mind. Constantly I heard my mother in my head saying ‘You’re not good enough, you must do better than that!’ I felt that without her approval, I wasn’t worth anything. It was all I lived for.”

The pop singer raised his head and asked, “What happened then?”

“Then my mother died. All of a sudden. She just wasn’t there anymore. It was absolutely devastating. All my life I had been working hard to please her and to get her approval, and now she was gone. It took some time. It took a few years or so. I gradually started to realise that I was still alive, even though she wasn’t there to give me attention or approval.. or even to scold me. It was actually quite liberating. I dropped out of college because I realised that it wasn’t me who wanted to be there, but it was my mother who wanted me to be there. I still hear her voice in my head every now and then, but I just ignore her. I don’t need her to make decisions for me, nor do I need her to approve of me anymore. In fact, after her death, almost everything in my life changed. I wasn’t anxious anymore, because there was no longer anyone to satisfy or to make happy, no one whose wishes I had to fulfil. I went in for all kinds of crazy artistic and experimental hobbies and activities. I found so much joy in not pleasing other people. With the death of my mother I felt that also the door of my prison was unlocked. It was the prison of living up to a social role to the extreme. It was the prison of playing the social game without knowing that, actually, it’s just a big hoax.”

“What do you mean by a hoax?” asked the singer.

“Well look at yourself. You are all miserable because you base your sense of worth on the praise of people you don’t know, of people you have never ever even met. One day they may be cheering for you, and the next day, all of a sudden, they forget about you or write nasty things about you. It’s a very, very unstable foundation for a life, don’t you think? We have been taught that the social game is very important and serious, and that we must play by the rules. By praise and blame we have been conditioned like dogs to pursue things we don’t really want or need. They hoax you into believing that you must earn your right to exist, and then you start going mad. That is when you lose your freedom and become a slave.”

Short story – The old man in the woods

Oldman

Once it happened that a lone traveler was wandering deep in the forests. Far away from the nearest human settlement he stumbled upon a small, ramshackle hut.

The traveler became curious. At first the cabin looked abandoned. “Who could possible live here?” the traveler thought.

He couldn’t resist, and decided to take a closer look. The traveler walked over to the house and knocked on the door. To his surprise, someone opened the door.

The traveler saw an old man and said, “Good day, sir. I’m sorry if I disturb you, but I couldn’t resist knocking on your door.”

The old man looked at the traveler with his sharp look and said, “Go gather the scrogglings,” and then closed the door.

The traveler was dumbfounded. He didn’t understand what the old man meant. He knocked on the door again. Again the old man opened the door, looked at the traveler with his sharp look and said, “Go gather the scrogglings,” and pulled the door shut.

What a mysterious man,” the traveler thought. He became even more intrigued.

Once more he knocked on the door, and once more the old man opened. This time the traveler opened his mouth before the old man got to say anything. “Go gather the scrogglings!” the traveler spluttered.

The old man looked at the traveler, but this time he didn’t say anything. He kept on looking at the traveler with his fierce eyes. The traveler was starting to feel uneasy.

“May I come in?” asked the traveler.

The old man looked at the traveler for a long while. Then he moved aside to let the uninvited visitor into his small cottage.

The traveler looked around the hut and couldn’t help but notice the numerous beautiful paintings on the walls of the shack that otherwise seemed rather rudimentary.

“Did you make these?” asked the traveler.

The old man didn’t answer.

“Are you living here all by yourself?” asked the traveler.

Still no answer.

The traveler was becoming more and more suspicious about the old man. Why would he stay in the middle of the forest all alone? What was he doing here?

Maybe he is one of those enlightened masters who live in absolute solitude,” the traveler thought to himself.

“Are you one of those enlightened masters?” asked the traveler.

The old man suddenly burst into a vociferous laughter.

“Are you one of those fools who ask too many questions?” asked the old man.

The traveler now felt even more disturbed. He thought about leaving the cottage, but he was too much interested. He wanted to know what the old man was doing in the woods. He wanted to know what the old man knew.

“Yes, I’m just a fool,” answered the traveler. “Can you help me become more wise?”

The old man grabbed a broom that was resting against the wall and swung a blow towards the traveler. The traveler managed to parry the swing with his arms. Nonetheless it hurt like hell.

“Why did you do that?” asked the traveler.

“I am testing your wisdom,” said the old man. “How could I help you unless I knew from where to start?”

Then the old man swung again. Again the traveler got his arms in front of the hit.

“That hurts!” shouted the traveler.

Once more the old man swung his broom. This time the traveler grabbed ahold of the broom. The old man released his hold of the broom, grabbed a bowl of water from the table and tossed the water at the traveler.

Now all wet, the traveler asked, “What is wrong with you?!”

Again the old man bursted into a belly laugh.

“What is so funny?” asked the traveler, trying desperately to make sense of the old man.

The old man looked at the traveler and said, “Your confusion is funny.”

“I’m not confused,” said the traveler with a slight sense of irritation. “You are behaving like a child, and you are telling me I am confused.”

“But I am like a child. How can I not behave like one?”

“A child couldn’t survive alone in the woods,” said the traveler. “If you were stupid you would already have starved to death.”

All of a sudden the old man took a wooden spoon and threw it at the traveler. It hit him right in the forehead.

“Stop that!” shouted the traveler.

“Who said a child is stupid?” asked the old man.

The traveler remained silent for a moment. “This man is crazy,” he thought.

Then he asked, “What are you doing in the forest? Are you an enlightened master? I have heard stories of men like you. They say that the enlightened masters behave in odd ways. Some say that they might appear to be quite mad.”

“What do you want?” asked the old man.

“I want to know everything about you!” said the traveler.

“I am just an old man living in a small house in the woods. Why would you be interested in such a man?”

“I have never met an enlightened master before. In fact I have never met anyone who has met one.”

The old man’s face turned grim. “Then you should continue your search.” He walked over to the door and opened it in a gesture to wish the visitor goodbye.

“Please, good sir, before I leave, tell me one thing; do you think there is hope for man?”

The old man shut the door and said, “What good is in hope? What good is in wishing for better times? Hope is nothing but a false promise.”

“But if there is no hope, how can we live?” asked the traveler.

“If there is hope, there is no life,” said the old man.

The traveler did not understand the old man. Nonetheless, he went on asking.

“But when one is fearful, what else is there than hope for something better to come?”

“Hope is nothing but fear in disguise. Both are worthless.”

The old man walked back to the door and opened it to bid farewell to the visitor.

“Please, tell me one more thing; what is the meaning of life?”

The old man took the broom and smashed the traveler in the head.

“What is the meaning of an old man hitting you with a broom?” asked the old man.

Short story – At the therapist’s office. Part One.

 

Therapist1

Henry is 25. He lives with his parents. Henry’s parents are worried about Henry. He doesn’t seem to have motivation to go on living, or rather, to go on being an active participant of society. They think he is depressed. Henry stays mostly in his room and plays his piano a big part of the day. Parents often say to Henry that he can’t just play the piano all his life. “You can’t make a living that way,” they say.

But Henry doesn’t care. Not that Henry hasn’t ever been away from home. Quite the contrary, actually. He has dropped out of two universities. Not because he couldn’t manage, but because he felt it was mostly nonsense that didn’t interest him much.

And it isn’t that Henry is socially awkward or anything. He does have some friends.

But something seems to be wrong.

Parents see in Henry this talented boy who has all the doors open for him in the world, but for some reason he just doesn’t have the motivation to go and take advantage of those opportunities.

They have become exceedingly worried, and they feel a growing urge to do something, not just watch their son go down with the “sinking ship of his life”. They decided to make an appointment to a therapist.

Henry didn’t really have anything against it.

 

AT THE THERAPIST’S OFFICE

 

THERAPIST: Good afternoon, Henry.

HENRY: Hey.

THERAPIST: I am Mr. Fairhead, I’m a trained psychologist, and my job is to help adolescents and young adults get back on track, so to speak, not only in their educational and professional lives, but also in things concerning the inner workings of their minds. This for the reason that the science of psychology believes that our mental state has a profound effect on everything that goes on on the “external” level of our lives. They go hand in hand. If we can get the inner right, the external will surely follow.

HENRY: Okay.

THERAPIST: So. Here’s how it’s going to go; I will ask you simple questions, and I would like you to answer them to the best of your abilities. All right?

HENRY: Sure.

THERAPIST: You parents told me that you like playing the piano. Is that correct?

HENRY: Yeah, I guess so.

THERAPIST: Okay, good. I also heard that you have been studying in two different universities before. How did it turn out?

HENRY: What do you mean how it turned out?

THERAPIST: What I mean is how did you like it? Was it difficult? Was it hard to make new friends, to fit in to the competitive environment?

HENRY: Well, I can’t say I enjoyed it. I mean, I had been sitting in classrooms since the day I turned seven. People told that university was going to be different somehow, that university is the place where “the real stuff” happens. So I thought that the lecturers in university would actually be different, and that there truly was something special there, but it turned out to be just the same old memorise-and-repeat kinda stuff. I was there just enough so that I could see what it was all about. I don’t see any point why I should’ve stayed longer.

THERAPIST: But you never graduated. Don’t you think that it could help you in life… to have a degree?

HENRY: It’s just a piece of paper. What I think of it is that it’s mostly just a proof for some employers to see that a specific person is obedient enough to have accomplished all the nonsensical tasks and tests during a four to six year period, that you’ve had nothing better to do during this time than to sit in a classroom and listen to some weary old professor who probably doesn’t care shit about you. It certainly doesn’t prove that you are any more mature or intelligent than you were before. It just proves that you are obedient and in some occasions also that you have a better-than-average memory. But of course the institution has to have degrees. If they didn’t, no one would ever leave. They’d all stay indefinitely. There must be some way to trick the students to believe that now they’re ready. Come on, that’s the very reason they applied in the first place; because they didn’t believe they were “ready for the world”. Not that you are any more ready or un-ready after you get the paper in your hands, but at least you can make yourself believe that you are. It feels better that way.

THERAPIST: Well, that’s an interesting point of view. Maybe we move on to the next subject… Umm, okay. I would like to ask you, Henry, something about your social life. Please tell me if I’m going too personal. You parents told me that you’ve never had a girlfriend — or at least not that they know of… Do you feel somehow that there are some kind of obstacles or challenges to forming social bonds with other people?

HENRY: I don’t think I have challenges. I think that most people just have a very odd attitude towards what they call social relations. Most people place so much importance on other people, no matter whether it’s about people they like or dislike. They are so personal about it. I mean, look at death. It’s such a big deal for us that we cannot even speak about it, even when we know perfectly well that everyone and everything is eventually going to die, one way or another. We look for other people to somehow satisfy us, to make us happy, and then we try so hard to cling to them. And because we cling, we suffer. We are so fixated on the so-called personal aspect of the social life. This is also the reason we have enemies in the first place. We have our in-group that we draw our sense of identity from, and then there is everybody else, the people who don’t belong to our in-group, and we might as well regard them as our enemies. I don’t have challenges, I just don’t seek other people to somehow make me complete.

THERAPIST: But Henry, you certainly cannot deny that social relationships are one of the greatest cornerstones of human life, can you? Without our family and without our friends, we would be quite lonely and miserable.

HENRY: You only feel lonely to the extent to which you feel alienated from the world, or, should I say, from the universe.

THERAPIST: What do you mean, Henry?

HENRY: If you feel that you are not part of the world, but that you are just some separate observer looking at the world, then of course you are going to feel lonely. But then, no amount or quality of social relations is truly going to make that loneliness go away. And because of this, we cling to other people, and when they eventually leave us, it is so difficult and painful to let go. I don’t feel that I am separate from the world. I feel that I am deeply part of the world, and thus I don’t ever feel lonely, even when I am utterly alone without no one around. I’m perfectly content by myself.

THERAPIST: That’s interesting. I heard, Henry, that your parents believe you might be depressed. They said you don’t seem to have the drive to, should I say, go out there and build a life for yourself. Even though apparently you are a rather talented and intelligent young man. Would you concur if I suggested that maybe this is caused by a certain kind of despair or hopelessness?

HENRY: No, I wouldn’t concur.

THERAPIST: Hmm. But it is a fact that you are still living with your parents, isn’t it? And isn’t it also a fact that you are already twenty-five years old?

HENRY: Yeah.

THERAPIST: So Henry, if I proposed that maybe when you are seeing many of your friends advance in the world, some even building families, careers, and so on, that maybe for that reason you feel a little blue, would you agree that there might be a sense of truth in that?

HENRY: Umm… No, I wouldn’t say that.

THERAPIST: What do you want, Henry? Don’t you see any point in life? Don’t you see that life has any meaning for you?

HENRY: I don’t think life is meaningless in the way that you are probably implying. But on the other hand, it seems that many people have a deep need and urge to find some superficial meaning to their lives, as if life itself wasn’t enough as it is. And those people are often very unhappy. To me the meaning of life is just life. The beauty of life is the meaning. And when you see the life’s beauty, you don’t need to try to find some superficial sense of meaning to life. When I play music, that itself is the meaning. Just to play, or to listen, is meaning in itself, and therefore satisfactory.

THERAPIST: You are a tricky one, Henry, I tell you that. I feel that there is something you are hiding from me. And not only from me, but also from the people closest to you. You parents, maybe your friends too. I just cannot figure out what it might be.

HENRY: Why do you think that?

THERAPIST: Because you are, first of all, a rather handsome young man, you don’t seem, at least on the surface, to be as disturbed as your parents suggested, and you appear to be quite smart too, but even then something seems to be not quite right. With all these qualities by your side, you refuse to take part in the game of life. That is what remains a mystery to me.

HENRY: Does that bother you?

THERAPIST: Yes, it does. It does bother me, Henry.

HENRY: I’m sorry.

THERAPIST: Are you?

HENRY: I guess so.

THERAPIST: Tell me, Henry, if right now you could be anywhere in the world doing anything you’d like, where would you be?

HENRY: Well, now that I’m here, I might as well be here. I don’t mind being here.