Once upon a time, there were two towns. Although they were neighbouring towns, they did not maintain close contacts, just the most necessary ones, because they were totally different. Commercial relations, of course, functioned well. However, friendships or, God forbid, marriages between the people of these two towns did not exist.
It was not that the towns had different climates or natural surroundings, and the people also looked similar. And still, they lived completely different, even contrasting lives. The lives of people in the town called Alhambra were very simple. They did not have complicated relationships; men did not cheat on their wives, and women did not shout at their children. Children did not have tantrum attacks on the streets and mothers and daughters-in-law liked each other.
On the other hand, the life in Betrany was one big soap opera. People lived it and loved talking about it: who was involved in infidelities with whom, who robbed whom, how neighbours quarrelled and one of them set the other one’s house on fire, etc. In Alhambra, people did not talk about these kinds of things at all, so when a Betranian accidentally met with an Alhambrian, they were silent. Therefore, Betranians thought that Alhambrians were conceited, for they refused to speak about any topic a Betranian raised. Instead, they only spoke about how well they were, or boasted about their great harvest yields or about their ships.
It was very interesting that some professions did not even exist in Alhambra. For example, they had only one doctor, but he mostly tended his garden; and even policemen, soldiers and a town council were completely missing. Instead, they had a bunch of painters, writers, travellers and scientists.
One day, a Betranian was so unbelievably unhappy that he began longing for happiness. That was not exactly common in Betrania because people viewed life as something difficult; so, the idea of happiness was an unachievable utopia for them. It was so distant that it made them absolutely desperate, so they did not think of happiness. Never.
Except for this one Betranian. In the middle of another sleepless night, one of many in a row, when he troubled himself over his relationship with his father, his miserable work as a gatekeeper at Betrania’s town wall, and fear of what might occur on the upcoming day, he experienced a sudden and unexpected revelation. He understood that all he wanted was to be happy. Of course, nothing was resolved by this revelation, and his next day was again not worth a straw.
However, the feeling he experienced at understanding what he wanted was there, and the seed was planted. It germinated a few days later, when he was checking the cherries imported from Alhambra. This variety did not do well in Betrany and, since it was used to make a special liquor favoured by the women of Betrany, it was imported.
Only a few carts went through the town’s gate daily, and the carters were usually the same. The gatekeeper knew the carter with the cherries, too, so the gatekeeper did not bother checking the carter’s papers permitting him to enter the town. Bored, the gatekeeper looked into the cart, covered by canvas, and was just about to wave the carter to continue in his way to town, when he noticed something interesting. The carter had one of his eyes taped and his nose was swollen, almost to the size of a cucumber. The gatekeeper asked him: “What did you do to make yourself this bungled?”
The carter answered: “Last week, my cart broke down on the road, but it was nothing serious. As I was repairing it, a stone shot right at me from underneath a passing cart. I will be all right in a few weeks.”
“That’s horrible how some people ride nowadays; they see a man having problems and they do not even slow down. And the policemen found that asshole who did this to you?”, responded the gatekeeper.
“We do not have policemen, and that man stopped immediately when he saw what had happened. He did not notice me under my cart; it was an accident. And he immediately took me to the doctor for treatment. As I say, I will be all right in a few days.”
However, the gatekeeper would not stop inquiring. “But it is bodily injury; will you not take it to the court?”
“Not at all, and for what? I was at home only for three days and can work now. Besides, we do not have judges and, I have told you, that man had not done it intentionally.”
“Wait, wait, you do not have policemen and judges? And who is there to resolve arguments and investigate thefts?”
Well, in fact, there is nothing to investigate. If something happens, we settle the case among ourselves; we do not need referees or investigators for that.”
“And what, do you settle things also quickly, with blows?” smirked the gatekeeper, already imagining a juicy fight.
“We do not need to fight; we can come to an agreement.”
The gatekeeper was so stunned about what he had heard that he invited the carter into his booth by the gate and continued talking to him for a good hour. Questions were followed by answers, and the more questions the gatekeeper had, the more astonishing the answers seemed to him.
Eventually, he remembered his desire to be happy from a few days ago and said: “If this, what you are telling me, is all true, then you are probably all happy.”
The carter said nothing. He only looked into the gatekeeper’s eyes, and smiled almost imperceptibly.
“So, if I went to Alhambra, I would find happiness”, the gatekeeper thought. Never before would such a thing had occurred to him, not even in dreams. To want to live in Alhambra, a snobbish country full of morons!
He did as he thought. In a few months, the gatekeeper set off on a journey to Alhambra, fully convinced that his happy life was just about to begin.
However, the opposite was true. He could not get used to the new environment; although, he was only a few kilometres south of his home, everything was different. The sleepless nights continued in Alhambra, too. And he had nothing to talk about with those ‘morons’.
A few weeks after he returned to Betrania, the gatekeeper was again allowing a cart full of cherries to be let in the town. The old acquaintance from Alhambra sat in the cart.
“Those were absolute stupidities you told me about your town. There is no such happiness as you talked about present in Alhambra. I have just lost my days off work.” The gatekeeper continued his tirade, shovelling more on the carter.
“But we are not happy because we live in Alhambra, mister gatekeeper,” replied the carter when the gatekeeper at last had to catch his breath. “Our happiness is not a result of where we live. Our happiness comes from love.”
“Love is nothing; your wife will cheat on you anyway. All women are the same. “
I am speaking about a different love. In my home, we know that the only right thing to do is to love yourself. Yourself, exactly the way you are! And since we love ourselves, our own happiness is the most essential thing for us. Therefore, we choose thoughts that make us happy. Each thing can be viewed from a number of different angles. You, in Betrania, view the darkest side of things. We choose to see the brightest one. We do not engage in solving problems; instead, we take joy in things we are good at. Instead of envy, we join in other people’s happiness when they succeed in something. We do not bind each other with contracts or agreements because we know that we are together as long as we wish to be. If one party begins to want something else, we understand that something better is on the way. We simply choose to see the good side of things. We do not need to speculate about why people do what they do and we know when they say something they tell the truth. Instead of intrigues, we pay attention to our dreams and come up with inventions. Simply, our energy emanates from the love we give to ourselves. And since we know that we all place ourselves in the first place, we are governed by respect for each other. That’s why we are happy.”
At first, the gatekeeper did not understand a word of what the carter spoke. However, with every other talk with him, deeper and deeper knowledge was revealed to the gatekeeper, and one day he was struck by a strong sense of understanding. In the middle of another sleepless night, he experienced a deep sense of love for himself, and for his sleepless nights, ceasing to fight against them. He accepted them and experienced such a deep feeling, a flash of happiness, that his senses were paralysed for a moment.
The desire for the feeling of love to be repeated was so strong that he slowly, very slowly, began admitting that the ‘stupid’ carter of Alhambra knew more than he, the gatekeeper, did. The gatekeeper began looking at things from the carter’s viewpoint. It took a few years, but the gatekeeper turned into a gatekeeper – painter, a nut, who got soaked with things through hisongoing contact with Alhambrians. Until his death, he loved his sleepless nights, when he painted unbelievable artworks, which now hang in the national museum as the works of one of the most talented artists of his time. From the time he learned to love those nights, he lived one happy life, filled with love.
It does not matter where you live and what the circumstances of your life are. You can be a Betranian; the only thing that matters is whether your own happiness is your priority. Only when it is will you find a way to experience self-love, which assures that you end up living a happy life, filled with dreams that have come true. Inner happiness and love for yourself are closely linked.
„Dear Soul, I give you everything for free. By supporting me you won’t buy anything more. Although, you will support Letters to Soul to inspire other people. You will also support the experience of me becoming a writer. Thank you."