“Of course,” Gertruida says as she orders a fresh beer, “There is another story to tell. There are always many sides to each story, and it depends how you want to interpret it. But, in a nutshell, it is the story of the Curse of the Horizon…”
Once upon a time, in a land far from here, a small village existed at the edge of a big desert.They had enough of everything, but certainly not too much. And every day the men in the village said unto themselves: verily, there is more out there. If somebody can be so brave as to go to the horizon, he will bring much fortune and honour to our village.
The men would look at each other in the hope that somebody would be strong enough to do this impossible deed, and then they’d laugh and convince themselves only fools will attempt such an incrediblee task. But lo! One day a youth stood up and said he’d do it. The horizon isn’t very far, he said, so it can’t be that difficult.
So he set out towards the horizon. He walked and walked for many days. Then he happened upon a stream, and next to the water, some sweet berries grew. This, the young man thought, was his reward for being brave. No, he said unto himself, I shall not share this with the village – I shall go on.
So he walked even farther, always in the quest to find the horizon. And always the horizon shimmered quietly in the heat, calling him on. One day, when he was about to give up hope, he arrived at a city, next to a river. Now this young man had never seen so much water, or so many people, ever before. He wandered through the wide streets and stared in wonder at the wares the traders were selling.
One man stepped from the crowd and asked the young man where he came from, and where his journey was leading to?
“Oh, I’m about to find the horizon,” he said, “and have come far to do so.”
The people of the city admired the young man for his courage and applauded him on. They gave him food and water, new shoes and clothes, and asked him to tell them what he found on his way back.
Much heartened, the young man stepped forth, renewed in his hope to find the horizon.
Then one day, quite unexpectedly, he stood at the edge of the horizon. Behind him the endless path back to his village was almost unrecognisable. He glanced back trying to decide whether his return should be this way, or that? But, with the horizon at his feet, he simply couldn’t look back any more. He had to find out exactly what lay ahead. So he got down on his knees to peer over the edge. What he saw there, ended his life.
He cried out in anguish, but it didn’t help. He already received the Curse of the Horizon. He had no choice – forever after, he was doomed to return to the damning horizon over and over again.
“Oh, come on, Gertruida! These stupid stories all have terrible endings.” Kleinpiet shakes his head in dismay. “What did he see?”
“He saw his face in the mirror of time. He saw selfishness. He saw the ego that drove him. He also saw the jealousy that would await him when he returned to his village. He saw the gossip and the untruths that would surround him. He saw himself crumble under the pressure to return to the horizon time and again, so people will admire his courage. And he saw how it would end, because it was written in his name.”
“What then, please tell us Gertruida, was his name?”
“His name is OJ, and Hansie, and Lance, and Michael, and Marilyn, and Diana and James Dean. He has many other names, he lives in many villages and cities, and no matter how many times his story is told, it always ends when the horizon holds up the mirror. And in the mirror he can only see himself.”
“But gee, Gertruida…are you telling us ambition is wrong? That we should never attempt to improve, to be better, to progress?”
“No Kleinpiet. Not that. I’m telling you we all have a horizon, and it’s out there calling you. Some will insist on finding it. But some, the ones with wisdom, will settle for the berries. To be content requires a lot of bravery. To know there is still more out there, and yet be happy with less, requires a rare maturity. It is simple, really: when you reach your horizon, the road ends. There, you have to face who you really are and what you had to do to get there; and that may turn out to be something most of us would prefer not to do.
“It’s the old story of grasp and reach. Go for humility you can grasp comfortably, and not the heady fame you can touch when standing on tip-toe. Stay away from the horizon. Stick to the berries.”
Richard Wagner – Tannhäuser – Pilgrim’s Chorus
THE OLDER PILGRIMS
Through penance and repentance I have propitiated
the Lord, Whom my heart serves,
Who crowns my repentance with blessing,
the Lord to Whom my song goes up!
The salvation of pardon is granted the penitent,
in days to come he will walk in the peace of the blessed!