The Princess and the Wizard

castle

By Peter F. Kean

Once upon a time, in a place far away, there was a beautiful princess who lived in a small room in the rearmost tower of a large castle. The tower was vine-covered, with large, dark leaves that hung down over the two small, barred windows and prevented her from seeing out. Sometimes, if she were in just the right spot, and the good wind was blowing in just the right direction, the dark leaves would move just enough to let her peek out onto the beautiful, sunlit world. The princess was sad and unhappy in her tower. She wanted desperately to leave the castle, but the castle was a labyrinth of gloomy tunnels and passageways – many of which were either locked or went nowhere. To make matters worse, a dragon lived in these tunnels and passageways. “Maybe,” thought the princess, “there is more than one dragon”.

One night, while the princess slept, she dreamed of the outside world and of the castle and her tower and of the dragon. In her dream, a Wizard with magical powers appeared. The princess knew the Wizard was magical because he could speak to her in a language that only she could understand. It made her feel warm and wonderful. The princess asked the Wizard to take her from the castle that had imprisoned her for so long. Sadly, the Wizard shook his head. “I’m sorry, princess, but the locks in the castle can only be opened from the inside. You must find your own way out”. “Is there not anything you can do to help me?” asked the princess. The Wizard thought for a moment and said, “I will let you read from the beginner’s book of magic. You must study and learn and under- stand the chants and incantations. When you do, you will be able to travel through dark and frightening places using only your own inner light to guide you. You will learn to look at locks and closed doors in such a way that the locks will fall away and the doors will part; and, most important of all, you will learn to speak to dragons so that they will lose their power to harm you”! “What a wonderful dream!” cried the princess. “If only it were real”. And the Wizard answered, “What is reality”?

The Princess considered this for a while and said, “Wizard, what is reality? How do I tell if something is real”? “Well,” said the Wizard, “Some people think that there is not a lot of difference between what is real and what is imagined, but I will tell you a secret! There is a world of difference between the real world and the imaginary world, and the imaginary world can be just as real as you want it to be. Believe me, it can get very confusing when some imaginary stuff gets mixed up with real stuff and you don’t know which is which! You see, there are so many things happening in the real world that it is impossible for anyone to keep up with it all. What you need, Princess, is a way to tell the difference between the real world and your imaginary world – especially if you imagine it is real!

In the real world, lots of things go on that Princesses and their parents and brothers and sisters (if they have any) and even ordinary human beings are just not aware of. I think you already know that dogs and cats can hear lots of sounds that humans can’t hear, but did you know that cats can communicate with each other using these sounds? Elephants, too, can communicate over tens of kilometers by making sounds that are so low in frequency that human ears cannot hear them. Light is also the same way. There are lots of things happening with light that Princesses can’t see, but they are real nonetheless.

I’ll give you another example, something that is happening to you right now. You are getting messages from your body, and I wager my magic wand that you are unaware of them.” The Princess had always wanted a magic wand, and she was quite certain that she was aware of everything she could possibly be aware of. “I wonder what kind of messages they could be”? She listened to her thoughts. “Hmmmm, no new messages in my head – just that old dumb voice saying the same old things; and there are no new or different sounds in the room. Maybe it’s something for me to read.” So the Princess looked around the room, but there was nothing for her to read. “Well, Wizard, you might as well just give me your wand right now because there are no messages for me. Not from my body nor from anywhere else.”

“Princess,” said the Wizard, “How do your bed clothes feel against your skin? How do your ears feel on the side of your head? Is your face cooler than your feet? And tell me, how does the air feel when you breath in and out? See! You are constantly getting messages from your body. Most of the time you do not pay any attention to them. But, believe me, if you didn’t get the messages, it would be impossible for you to stand up, and, you could, forget about walking or eating or even washing your face.”

“Wizard, you tricked me! They are not messages, they are sensations!” “True,” said the Wizard, “They are sensations, but sensations are definitely messages. If you don’t believe me, just put your finger on a hot stove and ask yourself, “What’s the message?”

“What has any of this to do with me getting out of the tower, past the dragons, and out of the castle?” asked the Princess. “Don’t forget about the locks, Princess.” said the Wizard, “Remember, only you can open them because they are all on your side of the doors; and if you can’t tell what is real, you won’t be able to tell what is not real; and if you can’t tell the difference, then you won’t be able to get the locks open or pass the Dragon.” The Wizard decided not to mention the dark tunnels because the Princess was becoming upset. “I think I am afraid to learn to tell the difference between what is real and what is not.” said the Princess. “I think you are more afraid not to.” said the Wizard.

The Princess thought for a while about her life in the Castle, and of the Dragon, the locked doors, and of the labyrinth of dark tunnels and passageways. She thought of how long it had been since she had anyone to talk with who really understood her; and, although she couldn’t really be positive that she wasn’t dreaming, she really couldn’t be positive that she was. Besides, she was beginning to like the Wizard! “I am so sad and unhappy living in this tower. Sometimes, when the wind blows just right I can see little glimpses of the outside. It looks so beautiful. Please teach me how to leave my tower and go out into the world.”

“I will do as you ask, Princess, but only if you promise that you will do your lessons even if you think you already know the answers. You must promise to pretend and act as if everything I ask you to do is something you are learning for the first time. You must also promise to practice your lessons for a few minutes every day. If you do this for me, I will teach you what you need to know to leave your Castle.” The Princess, who had been paying close attention to every word the Wizard said, agreed immediately.

“First,” said the Wizard, “I will teach you about reality. The first half of your first lesson is to learn to notice how things are the same, alike, or similar. Pretend you are at a special meeting and the room is full of functionaries and ministers, servants and ordinary people. How are they alike? How are their clothes similar? Practice noticing how things are the same. Imagine animals and how they are alike? How are gorillas like turtles? How are turtles like other animals? Like people? Like you? How are turtles alike? How can turtles, people, and things be the same in so many ways, when, at the same time, they are not? You can practice noticing how things are the same or similar for a few minutes every day – but only for a week or two or three or four; and, then, for the second half of the first lesson, I want you to notice how things are different! Notice how things in the world differ from each other. When you look out, notice how some clouds are larger, brighter, darker, smaller, rounder, flatter and every other difference you can think of to look for than other clouds nearby. Then notice colors. Did you know that Princesses who go to special schools and work with colors can tell the difference between thousands of different shades of color? Don’t worry if you can only notice a few hundred or so because most people can only distinguish that many. Perhaps when you imagine that you are at school, you can listen and notice who talks faster, slower, higher, lower, louder, softer. (If you wish, you can also notice how they are the same too.) Wherever you go, learn to notice differences. You can practice this just like the first half of the lesson.

The third half of the lesson (don’t forget that I’m a Wizard and, therefore, exempt from the laws of mathematics!) is to learn to notice how things can be alike and different at the same time. Just look at your bed and examine the four corner posts. Pick up and examine two leaves from the same tree. Two kittens from mp3 music website the same mother cat. Two children from the same parents. Notice the similarities and differences. Appreciate the uniqueness and special qualities of each one; and, finally, when you imagine that you are asleep, allow yourself to dream a dream of appreciation of all the ways that you are different from everyone else in the entire world. For after all, it is those differences that make you the very special and wonderful Princess that you are. The only you in the whole world!”

The Princess, who by now was quite uncertain as to what was really real and what really wasn’t real, said, “Wizard, I have been living in this tower for as long as I can remember. Every time I tried to leave I was frightened by the Dragon, (I think there is more than one!) came to a locked door, or I got lost in a dark tunnel, so I spend my days and nights in the only place I feel safe.”

The Wizard said, “If you wish, Princess, you can continue living in fear of dark tunnels, dragons, and locked doors, spending your days in your small room in the tower”. “No!” cried the Princess, “That is more frightening than learning to tell the difference between real and not real. I will practice my lessons and learn what I have to learn.” “Princess,” said the Wizard, “I will visit you whenever you wish me to.” The Princess said, “If I only could believe this was real.” And the Wizard said, “What is reality?”

© 1996 – 2010 Peter F. Kean

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