Our times - our tales.
The Big Man hanging onto a bag of money as if his life depended on it was getting bored. Being holed up here in this little bank with the police yelling at him form outside and without anything worthwhile happening. He was still wearing a balaclava he disguised himself for the hold-up. He knew the police could not just shoot him just in case one of his three hostages got hurt, perhaps even killed.
“Nothing the fuzz likes better than a circus! They silly bastards brought my wife here! She left me three month ago for another bloke, my best friend he was! Or so I thought.
They dragged my mum along who put me on the street, who wanted nothing to do with me since I was fifteen. They brought my uncle around too: I chased him out of my house for interfering with my five year old daughter. All I want from the cops is to give me a fair chance: a safe passage out of here. I just want to take my dough and disappear somewhere where I can spend some of it in peace. Perhaps I could still have some happiness in this rotten life.”
Among the hostages he held was an old man with a long white beard. He reminded the Big Man of his grandfather who, when he was about six, sometimes had him on his knee and told him a fairy tale.
“You! He turned to the old man. You tell me a story about a princess!”
The old man looked at him and he no longer saw a crook, he saw a child looking for a diversion. Reality is the harshest when there aren’t any doors open, he thought to himself. This man was an adult. He already heard Snowwhite and the Seven Dwarf, perhaps countless times. He most likely knew the Sleeping Beauty backwards. There was no alternative: he would have to think up something on the spot.
The Princess who only wanted to look at the stars.
Once upon a time in a faraway country there was a happy princess. She lived in her father’s palace, surrounded by exquisite things: they ate out of golden plates, they drunk spring water out of silver beakers. The gilded great halls were lined by sparkling mirrors and lit up by crystal chandeliers, adorned with pictures by famous by famous artists and were furnished by the best furniture craftsmen could produce in the kingdom. When the princess got tired of being confined to the palace she walked in the castle’s garden enchanted by the fragrance of flowers, listening to the joyful chirping of the finches, to the love song of the canaries. But most of the time she was enraptured with the warbling of nightingales and the glitter of the stars in the night sky.
“-How wonderful it is!” –she would often say. “that such a little insignificant bird can sing so beautifully! How magical it is that these tiny flowers can have such a wonderful fragrance! How marvellous it is that the night sky is lit up by such brilliant golden stars!”
Unknown to her at the time, there were winds of change sweeping through the world outside. The people no longer wanted kings and princesses they wanted to have a republic. Some of the people seeking to change the world and to gain power for themselves began to question whether it was right for some of privileged people to live in gardens and palaces, while others lived out their lives in abject poverty.
They met in dark alleys and smoke filled cafes. They organised, gathered the discontented people around themselves and spoke of a world where everyone is equal, where poverty no longer exists, where everyone can eat out of golden plates and live in palaces at ease and in comfort.
“-How can that be?” – asked some people in the crowd.
“It is very simple” – explained the speaker. “We take it away from those who have these things and give it to the poor. There will be enough for everyone. If you till the land whatever crops you will grow will be yours. You won’t have to give most of what is produced to the owner of the land, because you will be the owners. If you work in a factory it will be only you the workers, who will profit from your exertions. Nor will what you have left will be taken away by taxes. Until now the rich gathered the fruits of your labour and grew fat on it while you hardly had enough to feed your kids. Your produce will no longer make the capitalists wealthier, nor the greedy banker richer.”
The winds of change kept blowing indeed. The lands of the rich were taken away and shared among the poor, the factories were now managed by some of the workers and opportunists who saw the changes as a chance for them, to become rich – they posed as champions of the poor, waiting for new openings brought about by the changes. Some of those managers who were trusted by the new rulers for a time were allowed to remain in their position carrying on with their work as directed by their new masters.
The land and the factories belonged to everyone. Soon though, the new masters found out, that when all things belong to everyone, nothing belongs to anyone. Everyone wanted to take and no one wanted to give. Exquisite mansions fell into disrepair, stately gardens and parks were destroyed by those who took possession of them.
Some of the beautiful gilded palaces where the rich lived their lives of ease and ostentation were given to the orphans: there were many of those whose mothers and fathers were killed in the revolutions and wars that followed. Many more died of hunger that was brought about by the redistribution of resources. The old managers, the intellectuals who could foresee the demise that was to follow the destruction of the social and economic fabric of society were seen a s traitors of the people. They were gathered together into prisons and labour camps, the ones considered to be dangerous were shot or hung on trees lining the highways of the kingdom.
“They should be educated to understand their past crimes and to accept the wisdom of our Infallible New Leader whose truth is more resplendent than the Sun! Look at the poor they now live in palaces! Look at the orphans how they live and play in the gardens of the aristocrats! Look at the destitute, who now have roofs over their heads!”
But there were too few palaces and too many poor people. Some really did get to live in palaces, but because of the troubles that beset the kingdom, they had no firewood. They burnt up the carpets, they tore up the expensive parquetry to feed hungry stoves, they cut out even the fruit trees to keep themselves warm during the terrible winter, people everywhere were freezing to death in the trenches of the battle, in the fields, the forests and even in some of the palaces. Famines swept through the land, tens of thousands died. Those who lived soon grew tired of waiting for the glorious new world they were promised. What they did not have they stole and cared only for themselves and their families. “We are only stealing what belongs to us!” they said mockingly to each other.
The best of the palaces were kept by the state and were used by the new rulers to convince the foreign kingdoms of their fitness to rule. Some were made into universities and centres of art. Visitors to the kingdom did not see the effect of scourges besetting the people: they were shown only what remained of the glitter of golden palaces, the works of art hung in the museums and stately galleries, theatres of classical drama, opera and ballet or the mass meetings of workers and peasants praising the new heaven that descended upon the earth.
In the famines the expensive perfumes of the rich were drunk by the soldiers who craved alcohol to numb their mind, to forget the blood they had shed and to ease their grieving for the loved ones they lost in battle and in the purges. Brother fought brother, children sent their parents to prison or to death. The New Order saw its enemies everywhere: First it was the King and his family, then the aristocrats. They were followed by the rich merchants and the owners of land and of the factories.
In the end the poor turned on the not so poor in the villages. The children of one of the villages even hung other children whose parents had larger plots: simply because they still had some decent food, while they themselves often had to go without it. Even canaries were sometimes eaten to provide a moment’s relief of a hunger that was devouring the kingdom.
The king and his family were shot long ago, the princes and nobles who could escape ran away to faraway lands, but the beautiful princess was stolen from the prison by a kind old peasant lady who took pity on her.
Instead of silver beakers she now drank out of clay mugs. Rather than strolling through beautifully kept gardens, she was working in the fields with other girls, often singing the sad songs of her people. Her golden crown was replaced by a chain of daisies. She was no longer eating sumptuous feast, rather, she ate the humble meals of a peasant. Sometimes she even rubbed mud on her hair golden hair to stop it from shining so brilliantly. Her lithe figure became endowed with powerful muscles, her alabaster skin was tanned brown by the sun.
She no longer kept canaries in golden cages, but the nightingales came to visit her with the cool breeze in the fields on hot, tiring summer days, and the blood shed upon the earth did not mar the beauty of the stars. At times she felt so happy that her eyes would well with tears. She smiled with gratitude to the One who made both the Nightingale and the stars and she felt more free in that endless, golden wheat field than she ever did in her father’s palace.
The old man’s face was glowing with light as he uttered the final words of the tale and saw a light of peace enveloping the Big Man’s face: the Big Man no longer wanted to fight: He took off the balaclava and recalled the many, wonderful tales his Grandfather once read him and he no longer wanted either the money or his freedom.
He realised that he too, although neither a prince nor a princess, was a very special human being who could never be truly imprisoned. He threw away the gun and with his hands up he called in the police. Silently with an almost unnoticeable smile, he held his hands out for the handcuffs, because at the moment he realised, that no matter what happened to him, his soul would remain forever free.
A Misguided Planet.
Once upon the time in the 75th solar system of the Andromeda Galaxy there was a little planet. It was just the right distance away from its sun to generate beautiful green forests and verdant meadows from the rays of the Sun, there were fertile plains sand crystal clear seas and streams perfected through millions of years of evolution, snow white clouds of water vapour in its brilliant blue skies, silver coated fish in its streams and seas.
There were fur-coated animals in its forests blending in with one another, there was plenty of food for the plant eaters among the thriving plants and grasses The plant eaters numbers were balanced by the meat eaters who kept their numbers just right so that none of them would go hungry and all kinds of animals would prosper becoming stronger, and swifter and more beautiful because only this would make sure that all things happened as it was arranged by the Great Being Who rules every little corner of the Universe.
Then, as it is inevitable when the right conditions prevail, Intelligent Life came into being.
At first it looked like a worm or a fish, than it was not very different from its brothers the animals and its sisters the plants. Its father was the Sun and its mother was the Planet itself.
This new kind of life was not content like other life-forms to exist with other beings and things as they were, or to accept the unwritten rules of living together with other species. Even as the world they came into had everything they needed, they dreamed of a “better world” they could develop and build for themselves for their needs and self-pride.
They became numerous and they wanted to change things to make life more comfortable for themselves. They did not have a fur coat like other species, so they killed other animals to dress themselves in their skins, they used fibre provided by the plants to weave clothes for to dress themselves and when they overcame their fear from it, it used fire to keep warm in the winter and to keep themselves safe from the carnivores who would otherwise attack them during the night and eat them.
The Intelligent Species found that by cooperating with others, they could survive against all odds: even though they were naked, they could live through the terrible winter in caves and later built houses with the help of others of their kind. They learnt to tame other animals like the ride-ons, they could make friends with the barkers, and time then breed them to enhance their own protection and to help them in the hunt for other animals.
But over the years and centuries and millenniums later they became arrogant and selfish: they took more from the Planet than it could safely give and they cared little about the needs of other species, destroying their habitat and more and more they began to lord over others: cruelly exploiting their own kind.
Calling it “progress”, they began to change their world.
Where there were centuries ago old, majestic trees reaching for the skies, there were now only stunted bushes, dried up grass, ground broken up by their machines.
Before this in crystal clear, winding flowing waters on the plains there were millions of sparkling water creatures, and the wetlands were teeming with all sorts of abundant life.
On the banks of still and flowing waters were ga-gas and quacks-quacks, graceful fliers gliding in the sky, and there were huge horned moos bathing in the mire. Majestic felines roared and roamed on endless plains.
Alas, the huge trees were now gone and of the animals only a few species remained. A big curse, a monster called “Greed” overtook the virtues of Intelligent Beings. They began to deny the existence of the Great Being the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe so that they could live without abiding by the rules of their ancestors, brought to them by a long line of Prophets and Messengers of the past.
As it happened many times in the long ago, the Great Being sent a Messenger, but the Intelligent Beings persecuted Him and His followers, tortured them and finally put them to death and in front of a lot of people they killed the Messenger Himself.
Another Messenger emerged shortly after this with solutions for all the problems brought on by the Intelligent Beings, but they mocked Him, tortured Him and finally imprisoned Him. His teachings however spread to every part of the planet and many began to follow His teachings. You could tell them by the uprightness of their character, brightness of the eyes, and the kindness of their hearts.
But the majority of Intelligent Beings were captured by the beast called “Greed” were either unaware of Messenger or ignored His teachings. They started horrible wars killing young and old without mercy, thinking that only through cruelty to each other they could get what they desired. They abused by the gifts they were given by their Mother the Planet and finally the Planet itself began to die.
Father Sun became angry by devastation caused by the selfishness by the Intelligent Beings became a little hotter every day.
The frozen waters on the two poles of the planet and on the high mountains began to melt. The Planet trembled again and again killing tens of thousands. The huge roaring, crested waters surrounding the dry land began to rise. Every year they rose just a little higher. The ‘Beings as well as the animals had to move farther inland, to avoid being flooded out and even drowning. Death, sadness, and destruction began to spread all over the Planet.
But the followers of the Messenger never lost heart because they knew that even as the trials, calamities and devastation of this age were getting worse, a new world was emerging and all they had to do is to work hard, with all their hearts and minds to bring it about and their world will become richer, in beauty and in spirit, a better place, more beautiful and more glorious than ever before!
The New World was already emerging in their hearts and their eyes were delighted by snow-white buildings of marble and granite, with warbling Nightingales and blossoming gardens of paradise.
Click Once upon a time there was a small suburb called Flower Valley.
It was on the side of the town that many people living elsewhere in the city thought to be a bad place, they even sniggered to themselves when somebody mentioned the name of the place.
But Flower Valley was really a nice place where lot of poor people lived in little houses with nice little gardens. Old people and young people cared about each other and their children, Young mothers often chatted with their neighbours over the fence or having a cup of tea or coffee together in the kitchen, they met in supermarkets getting their groceries, or walking on the streets pushing their new babies. In other words it was not much different from any other place! There were good people and not so good people, some were happy, some were sad. Sometimes they fought and other times they were happily laughing away, enjoying each other’s company.
Then one day they were visited by some people called Bahá’ís. The kids met them on the street and took them from house to house to tell their message. Strangely enough they came at a time when many people turned away from God, thinking that they had no need for Him. What they thought they needed were bigger houses and shinier cars and perhaps even a big swimming pool to splash away in the summer!
People who had a lot, sometimes looked down on people who did not have so much, skinny people picked on fat people, fat people on skinny people. Those who thought they were smart picked on those whom they though were not so smart.
When the Bahá’ís talked to the people of the city in other suburbs, they politely listened and said “O yes we would send our kids to see how they would like to talk about God” but when it came to the time to start a childrens’ class no one turned up.
In Flower valley, however, it was different. There were children like Tuppence or Evelyn, Duke, Leila, Jenny and the others, who were attracted by the love and the spirit of the people who talked about God and His latest prophet, Bahá’u’lláh, and last but by no means least by the love that they showed towards the children and their parents. They learned short passages from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and `Abdu’l-Bahá including difficult words like ”cooperation” and “reciprocity” and they were happy playing games, singing songs of friendship and about the brotherhood of all man and women everywhere.
Tuppence was indeed very special: He was there at the Childrens’ Class before even the teachers arrived, making everyone happy with his welcoming smile and his ambition to become a teacher himself,
One day when the children heard a story about a Native American boy, they told their teachers that even known they were not completely black, they were all of Aboriginal heritage and proud of it. Perhaps this is why they have a connection with their land and not only their land, but with the heart of our whole planet!
They made their parents happy. Their teachers were pleased with their progress. More and more they began to see good things in themselves and everyone else and they lived happily ever after.If you don’t believe this story, go and find out for yourself!