This is a story by my colleague and friend Katharina Lamprecht from Bruchköbel near Frankfurt, Germany…
One day an old Sufi master came through a little village, where just previously a big blast had occurred. In the middle of the village square was a huge hole in the ground and stones and lumps of mud and earth scattered everywhere. „Master“, the people cried, “look at the disaster that happened to us. The center of our village, our village´s pride and joy, is destroyed. What shall we do? Please, advise us.” „Dig“, the old man answered. „Dig? But there is already such a big hole. Wouldn´t it be better to fill it up“?
“If you have to overcome an obstacle, there are different ways to do so. You can either ignore it, remove it or use it. You never know if there is a treasure hidden”. Pondering these words, the people began to dig slowly, deeper and deeper until they hit upon a natural spring of pure sweet, delicious water which in time brought trees and flowers to their village square.
« Ceci est une poubelle », a déclaré Louise alors qu’elle me remettait le monstre en carton-pâte avec le museau grand ouvert. À partir de ce moment-là Fred, le monstre de la poubelle, s’est trouvé assis dans la salle de délibération en attendant de la nourriture. Au début Fred se contentait des déchets du bureau. Pourtant alimenté par des déchets mentaux de beaucoup de conversations il prenait goût à toutes ces choses dont les clients n’avaient plus besoin et qu’ils voulaient laisser dans la salle de délibération. J’ai pris l’habitude de présenter Fred aux clients. Avec le temps Fred bouffait les mots maladroits du thérapeute et les pensées lourdes des clients. Il bouffait des souvenirs accablants et des habitudes mal aimées. Une cliente envoyait ses pensées dépressives même de la maison à Fred. À la fin Fred mangeait aussi ce qui me pesait lourd. Et la nuit il pouvait … consommer tous les rêves disgracieux.
In a land in our time there lived a man, who read a book and found lots of wonderful stories therein. There were true and invented stories, experienced and pensive, enjoyable and painful stories. There were stories which contained stories, and such which were actually not stories. For every story he read, there occurred to him nearly five which he had either experienced or thought up himself. So the thought came to him, that a lot in the world was a story which could be healing for himself and others; he only needed to absorb the healing stories well and to forget the terrible ones immediately. Then he would learn which story he had used when and for what. So he organised his own stories which he knew, and which had become a help to himself and others, or could become so. Sometimes he noted it down when a new story came to his ears and sometimes when a helpful story occurred to him, he memorised it.
Then he saw before him in a picture the storystories of this life arranged in long shelves, as in a large pharmacy. And behind the counter there sat a man who had learnt to listen to himself and others. He was a master of his subjectspecialty. His talent was that he understood how to tell the right thing at the right time to himself and to those who visited him.
So you’re having trouble with the ghosts in your home? They’re in your room, behind the cupboard? And under the cellar stairs, too? Listen! I’ve also met them, and I have some experience with them. Mine were probably not exactly the same ghosts you’ve met, but I bet yours are similar to the mean characters which hung around my house. When I was a child, I often came across them and still do today, now and then. When I was little, I was terribly afraid of them. Then I discovered something about them:
In reality, they can’t do much, they only behave as if they can. Their only aim is to make you afraid. When they manage that, it gives them a kick. When they don’t manage it, they get bored. And when they are bored for too long, they go away. You can annoy the ghosts, too. For example, you say: “Good morning dear ghost! How are you today? Did you sleep well? Do you want to come and have some breakfast?” Then the ghost gets really angry. Perhaps it then tries to make you more scared. But if you continue in this way, it loses interest in you and soon looks for something else.
“When you meet a lion”, so Mr. Mniyka from Kenya told me, “you must look him unwaveringly in the eyes. A single short glance to the side, a mere tenth of a second, and the lion attacks. He leaps faster than you can move or speak or even think. That is why, when you come across a lion, look him fixedly in the eyes. Look at him, simply look at him, unwaveringly – so long….until he goes.
The pictures followed him. It was like a bad film, which he had not consciously chosen, but stumbled into by mistake. Whenever he passed a stroller, he saw himself dragging the child out of it and trampling it on the ground. When he saw a beautiful woman go past, he saw himself tearing her clothes off her body and raping her. Were he with his family, he feared he could suddenly take a knife and stab one of them. Were he alone at home, he saw himself setting the curtains on fire. Were he on holiday, he feared hearing the voice of God telling him: “Set off today, go away from here without any belongings, and rely solely upon me from now on.”
It was torture. The more he tried to suppress these gruesome pictures and thoughts, the more they plagued him. Finally he said to himself in anger: “You idiot, you deserve it.” And he began to imagine everything in the smallest possible detail. How he trampled a child. How he raped a woman. How he stabbed his family. How he set his parents’ house on fire. How he went on a far journey without possessions. That day, the pictures lost their power. They became paler and paler.