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.
Mr Gundolf said: “I have begun a partnership. But now I have met a woman whom I like even better than my girlfriend.” I answered: “I bought a house and moved in. A few weeks later, I saw a house which was even more beautiful than the one in which I now live. I stayed put.”
“I’m full”, I said. “But there’s always room for a slice of cake”, they replied. “I don’t want any”, I said. “But it tastes good”, they explained. “I need to lose weight”, I said. “But you don’t need to”, they said. “My doctor said I have a fatty liver”, I said. “We know someone with a fatty liver who lived to be over 90”, they responded. “No thank you, but could I have another cup of coffee?” I asked. “With milk, please”. Then they gave me coffee with milk and left me in peace. Since then, I only use these few words.
The guests told these and also some other stories to the king on the seventh day. When the sun’s rays had sunk in the west and the last storyteller of the day had finished his tale, the king scratched his head. “How can these stories be of use to us?” he asked out loud. “Possibly not at all”, murmured a scribe quietly. “Unless he who hears them now gets up and crosses the bridge.”
Our ferry left from Copenhagen. It sailed homewards in the direction of Germany. I stood at the railing on the upper deck. At the quay stood a pretty, delicate young woman. She waved at me. I am sure she meant me. Did I know her? No. She was a stranger to me. But the young woman’s gesture touched me. “Wait!” I wanted to say “stop the ship!” It became clear to me a ship such as this is very heavy. Even the helmsman couldn’t bring a ship of this size to a halt in seconds. I waved back, and the ship sailed on.
Far out at sea beyond the coast, behind the stormy cape, is a small island. It is so small that it is only shown on the most exact maps. All the same, it possesses a certain fame in informed circles. The sailors name it the “Island of Love”.
Quite a few people at some point in their lives undertake a journey there. They explore this island in detail. They thereby discover astonishing things.
Some presume, before they get to know the island better, that you will immediately get from the Coast of Being in Love to the Hill of the Homeland, and are surprised at the length of the path that leads them there, through the mysterious Valley of the Middle. Some are amazed that it is not possible for them to visit the soft slopes of the Familiar and at the same time to be at the Peak of Arousal. Others already look forward to the Pot of Passion – as the largest volcano crater of the island is called. Yet they are amazed that the ascent is quite strenuous and that it leads past the seething Chasm of Fear and the smoking Vent of Anger. Those who seek danger bathe at the Cliff of Failure at the Cape of Excessive Demands. Yet even expert swimmers have come into distress and drowned at the east-lying Ocean of Boredom.
I say this because it is often forgotten that only those who traverse the island with effort and danger find the whole beauty of this place. Some build a house on the island or put up a tent. And I have seen those who have already lived there a long time smile at the enthusiasm of the newcomers who still harbour hope of exploring the Island of Love in only one day or a week.
She was divorced. She told me: “During our long marriage my husband brought me red roses. I never told him that the loveliest roses for me are cream-white. I always thought, if he really loved me, he would notice by himself.”
Do you also find that there are too many unhappy people in the world? Then I would like to tell you a story related to this.. In a large town, there lived a man who had a special trait. He could not bear to see people in misery. Perhaps that would not be worth mentioning, since there are many people who see themselves in this situation these days. But this man had a second trait. He had done everything he could to relieve the misery of the poorest people. He had, together with his friends and later co-fighters, helped hundreds of thousands to lead a worthy life.
The man asked himself: Why are some people so successful, when killing and destruction are concerned? Why do armies work more effectively than churches and many social organisations? And he decided to create his own army; a strict organisation with officers and soldiers, with flags and uniform. An army for peace. The war aim of this army was, so it was said, “to save at all cost the population of the slums which is threatened to go under in a sea of debauchery, alcoholism and vice”. That certainly did not please many pub landlords and pimps. The “soldiers” of the Salvation Army were attacked and often wounded; three of them were even killed. Gradually the persecution stopped. The Salvation Army remained in existence and continued to work against prostitution and pimping, homelessness, and the consequences of war, according to their Christian conviction. Their position was: “We want peace. There are enough calls for peace, but the evil in the world does not react to well-intentioned appeals. Conflict, strife, fear and desperation cannot be fought with admonitions, they demand a true fight!”
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