Story 6 - Shared Roses.
Then came the years of famine. The boy was twelve. A great migration
began that many people undertook in the hope that they might escape the worst of the famine. She and her son were among them. One day, in the throng of the escape her son was stolen from her side. Many children were stolen in those days, to become laborers for somebody else.
Grief stricken to the deepest recesses of her soul the woman refused to marry again. She had many suitors, since she was attractive as a person and still young, but her heart was too heavy with grief and fear. She feared that she would not survive another lost love. She felt it would be better not to love again than having to bear the fear of loosing once more all that she had lived for. Instead of marrying, she made it her quest to find her lost boy, whom she still loved. But as the years passed the fading hope weakened her heart. She became more and more hateful and trusted no one. She hated especially the people who stole. Unfortunately, as the times were hard, there were many people who resorted to stealing from one another. Indeed, she herself had suffered hunger on several occasions when thieves had broken into her home and had stolen her living.
As time went by the villagers set up patrols to protect themselves from the thieves, nor did they deal kindly with whoever got caught. One day, the woman herself encountered a thief. She confronted the man on the spot, right in her own cottage. She screamed at him, but realized there was no one nearby to offer her help. Without wasting a moment she confronted the man in a rage of up-welling anger and grasped a knife and thrust it in him without thinking. It all happened in a flash of a whirlwind of uncontrollable emotions. Moments later the man lay on the floor in pain, grasping at his stomach, gasping for air, asking her for forgiveness. As she kneeled down to him she noticed a birth mark under his left ear that identified him as her son. She saw the birthmark as she lifted his head off the floor to give him a cup of water that he had requested. The birthmark was uncommon. It was the same as that of her son. She embraced her son while he died. She knew she would have embraced him for his whole life even as a thief. She would have cried for him and let her love heal him. Now she could cry no more.
"Unconditional, universal love is not an easy thing," commented Sylvia. "We may never pass the test. This means, we must be patient and gentle with one another if we fail," she added and hugged me.
I said thank you and kissed her, and hugged her in return. When my tears dried I replied with a story of my own that I had heard in Baghdad.
"The story is from a time before the Caliphats and before the great empire that preceded them," I explained. "It is a story from the time of the early kings. Among the families of the kings was a wise prince who in time became king himself in an oppressed kingdom. As a prince the young man had developed a great love for his kingdom and his people. His love was such that it had also inspired his people's love for one another.
"Later, as a king, he hired the best poets and musicians to compose songs of love with such purity and power as would be needed to inspire a revolution for the freedom of the kingdom from its oppressor. And the revolution succeeded. The people became free. Except in the euphoria of their freedom the songs of love that had inspired them to grasp their freedom had drifted into the background and soon vanished from sight and mind. They were replaced by other songs, songs of greed. In their greed the people became oppressors themselves, of one another, and this in a more cruel manner than that of the imperial oppressors, who had oppressed them before.
"It was in this period of darkness that a holy man started to sing the old songs again before the king. He sang them without a comment and without a prayer, as none of these were needed since the king understood the message of the holy person. But who of the people of the kingdom would sing his songs again? He asked the holy man, but received no answer. Who could inspire the people of his realm with songs of freedom in their deepest depression when the darkness of their depression was deemed to be freedom? The king received no answer to this question either. He determined that new songs would have to be written, but who of his people could write such songs in the darkness of the perversion that the people considered to be light?