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.
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.
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