In the Valley of Tears
In virtues and beauty we pursue the ultimate.
Aron was astonished. He saw this valley with its steep, towering mountains for the first time. The mountains wore blue coats and their summits glistened snow white. The valley was in the shadow. Trees, bearing tears instead of leaves, lined the way.
“Stop!” Aron ordered his boots. “We've arrived.” He sat down on a blue rocky ledge and called out: “I was sent by the wind!” As proof of the truth of what he said, the wind, who accompanied Aron, made the tears clink like crystal drops.
“Whoever enters the valley of tears is very sad,” wailed the tears.
“That's right,” the sun prince nodded and in doing so lowered his gaze.
“Tell us about your sadness,” the tears encouraged Aron.
I own forests and fields. I speak with the lilies in the castle garden. I ride around in a golden carriage and call a pair of boots, who know every way, my own.”
The tears jingled in amazement.
“There are five officials who advise me and fulfill my every wish. And I have an angel who protects me.”
The prince had just ended the enumeration of all his conveniences when the wind had to get in on the act again.
“Don't forget to mention the throne room,” the swaggerer grandstanded in front of the tears. “You must know that it took away my breath that time when I blew in through the open glass cupola. What grandiosity, what splendor! I was overwhelmed. What I saw was gorgeous-er than anything I'd ever seen before,” bragged the wind. “Actually it was my curiosity that drew me to the throne room for I'd heard much about its magnificence. I had to see how nature beings thanked the king for his restrained governance, for he guided the sun land with much honesty and established harmony in the realm.”
“Tell us more,” begged the tears. They were now just as curious as the wind and wanted to see the throne room through his eyes. The wind was flattered. He was at the center of attention and the tears took in every word he said. Only Aron didn't quite understand what the throne room had to do with his sorrows. He saw it every day. For him the throne room was nothing out of the ordinary, nothing special.
“So I swept in, merrily and noisily as always, with such force, I was almost blinded by its beauty of this throne room (1) (2) (3) (4) (5). I was so overawed, I had to gasp for air at first, then I dared blow only softly and with gentleness. The walls were strewn with thousands of sun crystals which illumined the hall so splendidly that to my mind even the sun seemed put in the shade.”
“Aren't you exaggerating a bit?” asked the prince.
“On the contrary, everything I saw exceeded by far my wildest imagination. Let's take for example the sun throne: suns of gold, gems, and pearls on a royal-blue background gave me a friendly smile. The back of the throne was shaped like a huge number eight, whereby the upper circle took on gigantic proportions. Circular, colorful patterns swathed a blue sphere in front of which hovered a huge sun crystal in an artistically intertwined gold frame.”
“A symbol of sun and earth,” added Aron.
The tears were speechless. The wind continued his description of the throne room with great passion.
“So much beauty all at once one might think, and in reality everything appears in duplicate, a throne for the king and a throne for the queen. But behind the thrones, between them, rises all the way into the glass cupola a golden elf on a golden fountain. She carries a horn of plenty from which cascade water blossoms. Let me tell you, I was so blinded by all those riches and the beauty that, to afford my eyes a little rest, I looked inadvertently at the open glass roof through which birds and butterflies flew in and out in an endless stream of coming and going. Then I admired the fountain again until suddenly the elf sculpture came to life for the glockenspiel she bore in her hair announced the hour of virtues.
“Isn't that wonderful,” sighed the tears. “We have a truly civilized ruler.”
“Every hour the glockenspiel can be heard when the bell-shaped flowers in the elf's hair begin to ring out,” the wind went on.
“Then the elf stirs a little and holds on to the horn of plenty even tighter for after the first ring of the bell you can hear chuckling and whispering, and then the four virtues (1) (2) (3) (4) drop first into the swirling water. They have a lot of fun sliding down a. And how delicate they look,” the wind rhapsodized. The prince was surprised to see the wind in a dreamy mood. But Aron loved the virtues as well and he therefore nodded his head vigorously.
“They are clothed all in white and wear a gossamer sash which gleams in the colors of the rainbow. Diamond stars on the rainbow ties bear their names. The first to slide down the waterfall with the Key of Wisdom is PRUDENTIA (1) (2) then comes JUSTITIA (1) (2) (3) who wears a white feather in a spectacular head dress, followed by FORTITUDO (1) , whose chignon is embellished with endless, glowing needles, and TEMPERANTIA (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) with the amulet of harmony. It's very amusing to watch them. It's almost impossible to turn away from these enchanting beings who are firmly locking hands. Just then faith, love, and hope scurry through the water vapors. They too lock hands and beam happily. Then it's all over. As the glockenspiel subsides with a low tone, the rainbow dance of the virtues ends and the elf returns to being a statue. What a pity, thinks the onlookers and waits for the next full hour to relive the virtues' high-spirited performance once more.”
The tears were completely enthralled: “You paint such a joyous picture of those noble beings. They must be very beautiful. But what is the meaning of their attributes?”
Aron explained to the curious tears what the virtues are capable of: “Prudentia carries the key of wisdom on a grandiose finger bracelet. It is said that wisdom should lead to a good soul and a good soul gives good thoughts. That's why wisdom is the key to many doors. Justitia weighs the human heart against the pen of uprightness (1) , and courage is the mistress of the poles with which she always lifts herself up against defiance. However, moderation, thus it is written in the High Order, is the queen of equanimity. She's responsible for balance in the cosmic order and carries atop a ceremonial pole the glass child with the tuning fork in the amulet of harmony. With its assistance, she can produce harmony in the world and strike a balance between divergences. Everything that is in accord is stable, which is the reason why moderation is tirelessly concerned with uncovering anything off balance and with reconciling any dissonant tones. The universe can only be held together through the conjoining of two contrasting elements.”
The translucent ones jingled with excitement and each wanted to outdo the other with examples: “Too much and too little, hot and cold, strong and weak, thick and thin, heaven and earth, day and night, war and peace, good and evil.” The tears enumerated the opposites in the world which, according to the will of Temperantia, should swing in harmony with each other.
“Could it be that a little devil sits on one shoulder of moderation and laughs while on the other, a little angel sits shy and withdrawn?” probed the airbag.
“I've heard of it,” said the prince. “But I've never seen it.”
“And why don't moderation and faith hold hands too? Is it coincidence or just a random prank that separated them?” The tears in their curiosity were unstoppable. The wind puffed up his cheeks. “You are attentive listeners, ask the prince, for I didn't even notice this.”
Patiently, Aron instructed them in the teachings of the High Order of his people. “It's this way,” he began. “Intelligence, justice, courage, and moderation lock hands because they belong together. The Nubians can gain this ability on their own. But what you really need in life will come to you without much effort. These are the gifts of the Eternal, which only he can grant. They are: faith, love, and hope, the noblest of all sentiments. Whether we find the love of our heart (1) (2) (3) (4) ,
draw consolation from faith, or never lose hope, (1) (2) (3) (4) these are among the few things in life we cannot control. And this is why they are tied together in a common bond. It's this one fine, but essential, difference between natural and divine virtues (1) (2) (3) which separates them with regard to humans. It's no accident, as you can see, that each group rushes through the waterfall on its own, but rather a sign of their being different. Are you at all aware that the virtues reside in the rainbow ?"(1) (2) (3) (4) Aron asked the tears.
“But how should we?” jingled the tears who were very eager to learn. Now the wind chimed in again: “I've often asked myself why a rainbow encircles the sun palace like a gate everyday at the same time. Probably a gift from the seven worthies, another name for the virtues, to the Nubian ruler who increases the noble thoughts like a treasure,” the wind guessed rightfully and the prince nodded in agreement.
“So many interesting things all at once,” raved the crystal clear tears. “Tell us about anything else of splendor in the throne room,” they begged. The prince gradually lost his patience, but didn't dare displease the tears. They were his only hope for disentangling the knot of his life. Thus he didn't interrupt the exchange for the tears seemed to enjoy it.
“Seven peacocks parade through the throne room. They seem to be carrying the stars of the heavens on their splendid plumes that give the impression of angels' wings.”
“. . .but with ear-shattering voices. Their calls pierce your bones,” the tears jested since they had already experienced live peacocks on their jaunts through the valley.
But the wind was undeterred. As if he hadn't heard the remark, he simply continued: “But beauty has its price. The metallic gleaming plumed adornments are so long that the peacocks prefer walking to flying. I watched them strutting through the hall. They grace the throne with their presence only when the king and queen are enthroned. Most of their time is spent in the library. They can read and write and speak several languages. The peacocks aspire to joining the ranks of Nubia's scholars, so they told me,” the wind painted further the picture of harmony. “About the middle of the throne room are two impressive pyramids. To the left are the rushing cascades of the water pyramid. The water streams down without any enclosure and without ever flooding. It chose the pyramid form itself. To the right, the energy of the air forms a flowery pyramid. Water and air form two geometric forms in which they display colorful fishes and blossoms which are meant to accord the king their reverence.”
“Oh, we are sorry about that,” said the empathetic tears.
“Why so?” asked the wind.
“The fishes and blossoms are going to die. They can never get away.” Sorrowfully, they chimed their delicate tear bodies.
“I understand your concerns. But the opposite is the case,” the wind calmed the tears. “Both pyramids are connected to the outside world through an underground pipeline so that the water is constantly renewed and the fishes are led back into the sea. They come and go even though it is a long way to the sea. The blossoms too renew themselves daily. The energy attracts the blossoms through the pipelines and expels them again. Thus they can return to the flowers. Each pipeline is stenciled in the shape of the blossom which blocks the opening so that only those blossoms which correspond to the shape of the pipe can get inside. This works like a filter which can be exchanged according to the type of blossom.”
“How do you know all this?” Aron asked the wind. He had never lost any thought over why the blossom pyramid consisted only of one kind of blossom. “It never mattered to me.” Amazement was written on the prince's face.
“To me, yes,” the wind grinned. “You know how terribly curious I am. Right on the next day, I crawled around in the pipelines and examined it all.”
The prince shook his head and smiled, while the wind was already back in his element and resumed his pose.
“Well, I for one think this is genial. The blossoms come sorted by kind into the pyramid and leave again as they came. Rose, jasmine, and orchid pyramids alternate with camellia, tulip, and lily pyramids. Birds, butterflies, fish, water, and blossoms breathe in the cycle of life. They come and go, all safeguarded by the ruling couple. When the king and queen enter the throne room, the flowers greet them with their most precious gift, the blossoms; the water presents them with the most beautiful fishes; the birds and butterflies pause in their flight to bow to them, and as a crowning homage, the virtues bestow on them their rainbow dance.”
The tears were flabbergasted. Then the wind added: “Anybody who has ever seen this exuberant celebration of life will never forget it. Just as you now follow my every word, I too was unable to get enough of it all. Again and again, I looked over the throne room to etch every detail into my memory. I knew that the day would come when somebody would ask me about the throne room. I wanted to be able then to report everything the way I had seen it with my own eyes. That's why the hours in the throne room passed in a flash until the evening descended. Now the throne room was illumined in a wondrous way. The birds carried little sun rays in their claws, while sun crystals were attached to the butterflies' heads. Since there were so many of them, the starlit vaulting glass cupola soon resembled a starry sky. Then the king entered the throne room and the sun crystals on the walls flared as bright as day. I receded through the open glass cupola in the roof. I didn't want to be a nuisance and also had to find out where the butterflies' sun crystals and the birds' sunrays came from. It wasn't long before I discovered in the inner courtyard a flock of agitated birds and butterflies gathering around a tree. The sun rays were huddled in one nest and the sun crystals in another. Although the birds flocked to the palace in groups, the rays and crystals in their nests never went out. It was the sun's gift to the king, which she sent to him through the birds and butterflies. They felt so at home in the throne room that they didn't want to return to their nests for the night. Yes, that's the way it was when the king and queen ruled over the sunland. Now the little prince sits alone on the mighty throne for his parents have disappeared.”
A happy wind wiped the sweat from his brow so much had he exerted himself with making sure he wouldn't forget anything.
“Hopefully, the wind didn't exaggerate and it's still just as beautiful,” the tears asked Aron.
“The wind's memory is perfect. The throne room looks exactly as he says. I can confirm that. I'm the prince.”
The tears wiggled their translucent bodies. “You have more than anybody can expect in life. What makes you so sad?”
“My wish official refuses to fulfill my dearest wish.”
“Which is what?” asked the tears.
“I want to grow. And right away.”
A thin sound ran through the tears. They were laughing.
“This wish is dumb.”
“What do you mean?” asked Aron.
“Have you ever wished for the sun to shine at night?”
“Why should I? That would be stupid. At night shines the moon,” Aron looked at the tears with a wry grin.
“Well, then. Children grow every year a little bit. They get bigger and smarter—even little princes. Your wish is unreasonable because you'll grow anyway—in the course of time and with experience. But never immediately. This is normal but not sad,” was the tears' verdict.
“Do you have any other sad story to tell us?” the tears asked Aron.
The little prince made a doleful mien. Then he began to tell them what was really depressing him.
“I often don't feel like getting up in the morning. When I'm finally up, I don't know what to do. When I go horseback riding, I'd rather rest. When I'm resting, I'd rather have a party. When the party is really fabulous, I get bored in a short while.”
“Keep going,” clinked the tears.
“When I can't think of anything, I eat ice cream and pudding until I'm sick and I harass my officials, who are the best officials in the whole wide world,” Aron admitted regretfully.
“A prince who gets on his own nerves,” chuckled a few rash tear crystals.
“Be quiet,” commanded the older and wiser ones among them. “This is a serious matter. And why are you the way you are?” they asked of Aron.
“Because I don't know what I want and because I lost my parents who would stand by me and love me. I'm all alone in the world. Nobody can replace my parents no matter how hard the officials try and seek to fulfill my every wish,” the little prince said softly with his head drooping. “And it looks like they will never come back. Nevermore. That frightens me,” whispered the prince with a tearful voice. “I've lost the paradise.”
“That's really sad,” concurred the tears, who knew exactly what the prince was talking about. “Nobody can replace a mother and father and nobody can replace a child,” the tears shook their heads ponderously.
“Parents and children, that's like a family tree whose bark is overgrown with ivy. (1) That's how firmly their hearts are grown together. Each is a part of the soul of the other. And that's why a separation is so painful and why you have this terrible fear inside of you. It's a sign that you have lost your balance. It's like a mud slide pulling the ground from under your feet and you plunging into the depth. Everything in life that was important to you—parents, security, stability— went poof like dust.”
The tears' words were like a balm on Aron's suffering heart. Filled with gratitude, he drew in the comforting sounds like a patient who longs for a spoon full of honey.
“What is still certain?” a bitter prince asked without waiting for an answer. “It seems my life is dissipating into air. Nothing is as it once was. I've lost my compass. I feel incredibly ill.” The prince was broken in body and soul. The tears felt for him and asked him to leave his tears with them. They said: “Every tear you don't shed hurts. Only when your sorrow no longer imprisons your heart, will you once again be able to see and hear.”
The wind harkened sedulously to the exchange. Suddenly Aron saw the light. He knew now why he had to come to the valley of tears. And the prince wept because he had treated the officials unjustly, because had made unreasonable demands, because he never knew what he wanted. He wept over his ill temper which spoiled the day for him and the people near him. Then the prince wept because he felt abandoned by everybody and because he feared to lose all hope of ever seeing his parents again. He shed a thousand tears until he sat in a pool of crystal droplets.
The tears cleansed his soul which had to fight with so many moody spirits. At long last, he had washed it all away. His soul was clean and clear. His heart could see and hear again. He hung his tears turned to crystals on a tree. They were as pure as his heart.