“Beinahe haben die deutschen Medien schon Mitleid mit Martin Schulz.” – so unterschreibt ZON einen Artikel zur aktuellen Politposse der SPD. Wenigstens nur beinahe – denn Mitleid hat dessen politisches Ränkespiel wirklich nicht verdient. Ein Kommentar dazu, weshalb ich das Gebaren einer der ältesten deutschen Parteien nur noch mit blankem Entsetzen verfolge.
Once we are born, we are put into a mysterious world full of adventures. A world filled with marvellous environments: forests, flowery meadows, endless mountains, vast seas. The one thing we have to do: we need to follow our path, even though we have no clue where to go.
Every journey has phases. Sometimes, you walk through a field full of colorful flowers, you breathe in and spring itself jumps into your lungs. That’s life! Except, of course, if you are allergic. Another time, you find yourself in a gigantic forest, while the sun rays break through the leaves and you look up to huge trees so old that they probably could tell you the story of this world. Well, and sometimes, you have to climb a mountain, as cold and rocky as you can imagine. It is hard to get a grip and more than once you almost fall. But you make it to the top – or to another valley.
It is never easy to follow a path when you have no clue about the destination. So, whenever you reach a crossroad, the question arises: where should you go? Shall I turn left? Shall I turn right? Which path will lead me to my goal? What is my goal? Which way will be easier? Or more pleasant? More enjoyable? Will the right path make me swim across the sea? Will the left path fill my heart with sadness?
We could argue now. Is it YOUR choice when you decide to follow the right path? Or is it fate. Maybe God? It doesn’t matter. That’s one of those philosophical problems we could talk about for ages, and depending on your personal point of view, it would be very hard to convince you of anything else. The good thing about it: it doesn’t matter. You may want to take the full responsibility for your deeds. Or you may want to shift the responsibility to somebody else – fate. Or a mystical entity you’ve never met in your life. All is fine.
We are not alone in this world. There are many subjects trying to follow their path. And from time to time, we meet such subjects. Some of them are just neutral, they say “Hello!”, nod their head, and move on. Others may stop and have a little chat with us. Some of them will agree to share the path with us. They might tell us inspirational things, or give us some hints for the rest of our journey. Or they might try to lead us into nowhere. Some of them walk ahead, but they stop and look back to make sure we are not struggling. If we are really lucky, there is somebody who decides to make our path his or her own. Going with us. Lending us a hand, their ears, their eyes, their good mood.
However, no matter how close we grow to anybody, how intimate we get, in the end, our path and our destination are our own. Nothing is better than to share a journey, to find friends, to find love. But in the end, you will only succeed as long as you are willing and capable of doing the way on your own. Don’t forget how to walk just because somebody carries you. Don’t stop looking forward just because somebody has always warned you about stones.
Life is a path, a journey, forward into an unknown territory. You may stop, you may look back at the wonderful things you have seen in the past. Don’t try to go back. Don’t try to bring them back. They are gone. For now. Though, they might show up again, depending on your path. Look back and take your experiences as a source of strength and knowledge for everything ahead of you.
Life is an adventurous path. Let’s face it!
Last year there has been a fascinating new tendency in choosing sexual partners: being sapiosexual, meaning that you are absolutely attracted by intelligence. Knowledge is sexy!
Guess what: I’d say sharing knowledge is even sexier!
So, after playing many many games of the famous German quiz app “Quizduell” I stumbled upon Twitter’s polling functionality, where you are able to attach up to four answers in a poll and people can choose one of those answers. My first thought: why not abuse this for a little quiz?
I have studied Egyptology for such a long time – more than 5 years. I have been a huge fan of Ancient Egyptian history for more than 23 years now. I have worked for excavation projects, I am currently working for an interdisciplinary archaeological project. I have worked as a guide for the Egyptian museum in Munich for five years. There MUST be some interesting facts I can share with my Twitter community, right?
The concept: every day at roughly the same time (= in the evening, German time) I share a question, introducing several aspects of the Egyptian culture. Architecture, religion, their writing system, history, geography, all that stuff. Trying to figure out questions which are interesting for a lay audience.
Once the poll has ended, I uncover the right solution(s) – adding a lot of additional facts. Like, when asking about the final consequence of the famous Battle of Qadesch, there is a lot to say about how the Egyptians “wrote history”, what the historic situation for the opponents was. Or maybe giving some interesting literature hints if somebody would want to dive into a scientific discussion.
My evaluation after almost two weeks: I get a lot of positive feedback, and people seem to like the idea! In most cases the “swarm intelligence” is right, so maybe I need to introduce even harder questions… 😉 But doing a quiz is only fun if you have some chance to get the right answer, and at least sometimes know what the question itself is about.
My private insight: doing a quiz right is not that easy. I try to make connections between my questions – and the Egyptian culture helps a lot in this case, because so many things are intertwined. The most difficult thing, though: Twitter and the whole concept does not allow endless chapters about scientific questions. However, many things in Egyptology cannot really be answered within 280 characters. And quite often, there are general answers – but there is always an exception from the general rule. Doing that quiz tries me. I have to look up even the simplest things to make sure I’m not saying something wrong. Which might happen anyway – I am just a human being, much more involved with machine learning and artificial intelligence these days. But I take it as my responsibility to do as much research as I can – or at least making transparent when I failed somewhere. An important aspect for science, I believe.
Doing this quiz helps me to reflect my knowledge and get a new coverage of my most favourite subject – an ancient culture so rich and colorful, so incredible that it touched my heart 23 years ago and never let go. Doing this quiz also shows me that studying Egyptology is not useless. Throughout the years I have met so many people being absolutely fascinated by this culture, so distant and so well-known, having been constant for such an enormous time.
Last, but definitely not least: thanks to any single person participating in this journey. Bringing joy and knowledge is the best thing in life. 🙂
Neulich wurde ich auf ein Charakterprofil einer Schweizer Politikerin in einer der hiesigen Zeitungen (ich meine, es war die NZZ) aufmerksam gemacht. Normalerweise werden in diesen kurzen Portraits vor allem die Errungenschaften und Leistungen einer Person aufgezählt. In diesem speziellen Fall schien es dem Redakteur aber wichtig, der Leserschaft ein weiteres Detail nahe zubringen: die gute Dame ist verheiratet, mit einer anderen Frau.
Derlei mediale Offenbarungen lese ich in letzter Zeit häufiger. Man denke etwa an den ehemaligen Landrat aus Regen (Bayern), Michael Adam, der als erster schwuler Landrat in einer vermeintlich stockkonservativen Region gewählt wurde und damit groß in die Presse kam. Für dessen politische Ambitionen man sich eher randständig interessierte – wohl aber für die Tatsache, dass er mit einem Liebhaber inflagranti im Büro erwischt wurde. Abgesehen von der dezenten Anrüchigkeit, die der Nachricht selbstverständlich zusätzlichen Wert verleiht, bleibt die Sexualität eines Menschen weiterhin ein Zuckerl für den Boulevardjournalisten, der damit die niedersten Triebe seiner Leser anschreibt.
Mich machen solche Meldungen allerdings in zwei Richtungen nachdenklich.
Einerseits stört es mich, nein: es ärgert mich. Ich bezweifle, dass sich die oben genannte Schweizer Politikerin maßgeblich durch ihr Privatleben definiert – jedenfalls ihr politisches Wirken wird darunter eher weniger zu leiden haben. Da fiele es schwerer ins Gewicht, wenn ihre Partnerin Chefin eines Medienhauses oder eine mächtige Wirtschaftsmagnatin wäre. Hier ließe sich ein Interessenskonflikt ablesen. Aber so? Oder ist es für das politische Wirken eines jungen Mannes wirklich entscheidend, ob er sich als Schwuler in einer konservativen Region durchsetzen kann? Ich möchte niemandem zu nahe treten, aber ich hoffe doch, dass die sexuellen Eskapaden eines Politikers normalerweise keine schwerwiegenden Auswirkungen auf das Leben der Mitbürger haben.
Das ist im Übrigen etwas, das ich immer wieder mit viel Belustigung zur Kenntnis nehme, wenn sich Menschen, die an schwerer Homophobie erkrankt sind, zum Thema äußern: diese Leidenschaft, sich in die intimsten Angelegenheiten anderer Menschen einzumischen, selbst wenn dieses Privatleben sich hunderte von Kilometern anderswo abspielt. Bisweilen wird das Internet eben zum Schaufenster für den arbeitslosen Gaffer.
Die Geschichte hat aber auch eine zweite Seite, die ich deutlich positiver bewerte. Denn nicht nur für mich, insbesondere und vor allem auch für jene jungen Männer und Frauen, die noch mit sich und ihrer Sexualität hadern, ist es äußerst wichtig, Identifikationsfiguren wahrzunehmen. Woran sonst sollten sie erkennen, dass mit ihnen alles in Ordnung ist? Die Schulfreunde machen, wenn es blöd kommt, dumme Witze, verwenden “Schwuchtel” oder “Schwuppe” kopflos (oder gar beabsichtigt) als Schimpfworte, die eigenen Eltern sind offensichtlich auch nicht die richtigen Ansprechpartner. An wen sich also wenden? Wann immer ich Geschichten lese und höre von Jungen und Mädchen, die keinen anderen Ausweg mehr aus solch einer Situation wissen als den Selbstmord, dann fließen bei mir die Tränen. Jeder Selbstmord ist tragisch, doch diese sind so wahnsinnig überflüssig, sinnlos, vermeidbar. Mit etwas mehr Füreinander.
Es mag also just für jene Menschen, die immer noch mit sich im Unreinen sind, eine große Erleichterung und ein Lichtbringer sein, dass es Menschen mit ähnlichen oder den gleichen Gefühlen auch in der hohen Politik, im Sport, im Film und Fernsehen, in der Kunst, der Literatur gibt. Ich bin glücklich, wirklich glücklich, über jedes Videospiel, in dem neben heterosexuellen auch homosexuelle Beziehungen abgebildet werden – in einer erwachsenen, in einer ehrlichen und gefühlvollen Weise. Dafür gibt es inzwischen viele gute Beispiele.
Wenn man selbst nicht betroffen ist, dann kann es einem gut und gerne mal “zuviel” werden. Als Disney plötzlich beschloss, eine einzelne Figur aus ihrem gesamten Portfolio lesbisch werden zu lassen, wurden Stimmen des Unmuts laut, die “Verschwulung” führe nun wirklich zu weit und wenigstens die Disney-Charaktere könne man doch in Ruhe lassen. Bisweilen kann ich für die Reaktionen sogar Verständnis aufbringen – auch wenn ich sie nicht teile. In den letzten Jahrzehnten erlebte die LGBT-Bewegung einen Befreiungsschlag nach dem anderen, und eine Gefühlsregung, die über Jahrhunderte hinweg unterdrückt und beseitigt worden war, bahnt sich endlich Licht. Dem ein oder anderen mag es nicht geheuer sein, wie viele Menschen es dort draußen gibt, die sich ihr Leben lang verstecken mussten oder selbst heute noch ihr Coming Out mit einem äußerst schmerzvollen Schritt in die glühende Lava vergleichen.
Aber: Es ist notwendig. Wie so oft trügt der Schein – die Welt wird nicht schwuler, lesbischer, bunter, nur weil man die Realität plötzlich abbildet. Auch wenn ich das nicht schlecht fände. Manchmal muss man anerkennen, dass die Welt nicht so aufgebaut ist, wie man es das ganze Leben lang gelernt hat. Wer sich dagegen wehrt, kämpft einen Kampf gegen Windmühlen. Doch wer bereit ist, das zu akzeptieren, der wird vielleicht eines Tages auch erkennen, dass in all dieser Vielseitigkeit sehr viel Wunderbares steckt. Und nur sehr wenig, was das eigene Leben weniger lebenswert macht.
Mich würde natürlich auch interessieren: Was denkt Ihr dazu? Was empfindet ihr, wenn ihr in einem Artikel förmlich mit der Nase auf die Sexualität eines anderen Menschen gestoßen werdet? Findet Ihr das in Ordnung? Notwendig? Störend? Oder sollte man das gar völlig unterlassen? Seht ihr eine Diskrepanz zwischen der Realität und dem medialen und kulturellen Abbild, wie es sich in den letzten Jahren manifestiert? Ich freue mich auf Eure Meinungen. 🙂
Second try, second chance! Five years ago, I have written my first master thesis. An Egyptological study about how the Ancient Egyptians used graphical tools and layout to structure their papyri. And for some reason I wonder why I have never published any of my results on my webpage. I definitely should have done that! But that’s for a second project.
This time, I have changed the university and the basic subject, as this master thesis will be done in computer science. I am studying CS with the minor “machine intelligence” – there are actually three chairs in Basel dealing with this topic, leaning towards artificial intelligence, biomedical data analysis, and computer graphics and vision.
Now, the first and obvious choice for me would have been the last one – I have studied media informatics in Munich and I do work a lot with 3D models in my day job. And it is a very fascinating field of study! I had some courses there and they were magnificent. The same with the biomedical data analysis, I had a full course on bioinformatics and really loved the algorithms and how they were used to solve problems which otherwise might take ages to calculate. Buzzword “sequence alignment”.
For some reason, though, artificial intelligence kind of made it into my head. For several reasons, to be honest. First, planning and the optimization of plans is something which has been stuck in my head for almost 30 years. As a child I went along and tried to be as structured and reasonable as possible: where am I? Where do I want to go? Which obstacles are in my way? Which options do I have? Now go find a route through this maze. A way of thinking of problems which can be adapted to anything in life. Trying to find the best or cheapest path from my current state to a goal state, that’s just how my brain worked.
Second, I love how this field has been very formal, very focused on maths during my studies. Don’t get me wrong, all informatics are about maths. You cannot do advanced informatics without knowing your maths. But in this particular field I learned a lot about how to define things formally and properly, how to write those things down and how to prove all that. It is – I have to admit it – quite a challenge. But it is well structured and very logical. Quite a contrast to my first master thesis, done in humanities, and quite a contrast to my bachelor thesis where I had to program, but not really to do anything mathematical.
Which leads to my third aspect – the challenge. Yes, it is a challenge, and yes, I am full aware of that. I could make my life much easier here. I don’t want to. I kind of need this challenge to get a deeper understanding of my own abilities. I want to convince myself that I can do that – and not just fulfill the task, but do it in an excellent way. This may sound arrogant, yes. In fact, it is not. To the contrary. I abuse this work to make myself more comfortable with my skills. And increase them. As I usually say: reach for the utmost to extend your possibilities. You won’t grow in life if you stick to what you already know.
This week I had my first meeting with my potential supervisors, and they spent some time on me and presented me with two topics I could choose from. Both topics sound very interesting, but challenging – I guess you will understand I don’t write them down here without having read the first papers. Better not write something down which is complete and utter nonsense. 😉 But they don’t sound like completely undoable jobs. Which is an important first trait.
One good thing about doing a master at my new university: the master thesis is kind of split into two parts. First, you have to do a preparation phase for your master. You choose a topic and start reading on it, gather all the relevant literature, figure out the current problems and the basic history of the work in this field. After one month, you report on your findings and either pass or fail. If you pass (and have finished the rest of your studies in a good enough way), you can finally start your real master thesis, a work to be done in six months.
The advantage, compared to my first master thesis: a lot of work is done before the actual work starts. Not having to get a first grip on the topic, already being familiar with the fundamental literature, having had some first thoughts about the problem and potential solutions, that’s really a big help when starting into a project. And it doesn’t take additional time. Besides, if you figure out after this one month that the topic does not really fit, you can still change. Better now than when writing your thesis, right?
Anyway. I am really motivated to do this in a good, motivated, organised and concise style. I have learned a lot about complicated project works over the last couple years, and I have improved my own discipline and tactics as well. Let’s see if it works out. And it might be a nice thing to leave some notes here on my website from time to time – not as a general “blog” of my master thesis, but to let you and myself know the current state and my thoughts about the work.
So, I’d say – let’s get started! 🙂
The internet is full of hatred. That’s something many people claim these days, politicians (especially those not in charge at the moment), actors, artists, writers, TV show hosts. They most likely speak of that little corner in the internet where the big party is going on – the social media corner. Sometimes it feels like the slums within a huge city. They all go there, there is the music, the fun, the jokes, the naked people. Anybody can leave their shit there, but nobody cares, and then they leave.
Next to the social media slums there is another district, the media district. It is built of huge skyscrapers, their facade done in glass. They shine and sparkle as they are the true defenders of freedom, liberal ideas, democracy. But underneath, there is the underworld, the darkest dungeon – propaganda media. Those who spread fake news and lies and things only half true. There is even some kind of pipe between those dungeons and the social media corner – a huge pipe blasting all the shit into the public. That’s business. That’s where the money comes from.
Okay, enough of these imaginations. Yes, we do have a problem with hatred in the internet. Therefore, more and more countries start to regulate the way social media platforms have to deal with that kind of shit. Germany, for example, introduced a new law – the “Netzwerkdurchsuchungsgesetz”, a name truly German. In the famous interwebs, we use the term “#NetzDG”. I haven’t put too much time into reading the thing, but in general social media platforms like twitter, facebook or youtube are now responsible for deleting user created content which is illegal by German laws. In other words: you can report something as not conform with the NetzDG and they have to check and, if necessary, to delete the stuff.
There is a huge wave of critic against this law, and even the government promised to have a second look at it. Which seems reasonable, sometimes you have to adjust things which don’t fit. Don’t give up just because it doesn’t work the first time. The loudest criticism: the NetzDG would be some kind of infrastructure or legal base for censorship.
Well, I am not a lawyer, I have never studied laws, so my opinion is just the one of a user using this famous interwebs. And yes: we do have a problem here.
One thing I never got so far: responsibilities. There are huge (and mostly American) companies providing a technical platform for people to exchange messages. At least, it has begun like that. Today, those platforms are known and advertised as social media, as a public space in web where everybody can meet and exchanges not just thoughts, but also data. These companies, they WANT everybody to become part of it. It is their business. They grab your data, they make money out of it.
It is plain simple for them. They need all the people, the more people they have, the more data they have. And the more advertisement they can sell. Removing people from their platforms doesn’t make money. So they do the necessary, but not the useful. That’s something we need to change. Yes, underneath such platforms there are algorithms and infrastructures trying to monetarize people. But we need to create a new climate such that especially technicians, IT and business people learn: if you create a new product, you have a responsibility. The larger it gets, the more people you attract, the more features you implement, the more careful you have to be.
When Mark Zuckerberg claimed that his platform did have no influence whatsoever on the results of the US elections, it was his way of defending his machine for money making. I don’t believe he is that stupid or has no good advisors. Of course, such a platform has influence. Or let’s take the Brexit case. If people share and retweet news which claim false information, like the NHS sums, people will read it. Those clever business people, they defend themselves and direct the responsibilities to the users: they could read the news and understand that they are wrong. We just offer the platform!
The truth is: people don’t work like that. And that’s the second part of responsibility: the users. Let’s face it. We often like and share stuff we have never read. There is this headline saying “This is how our government tries to remove our freedom!” and people will share it. Without even knowing the content. Maybe the content is wrong. Or the content is the complete opposite. But they won’t notice it – people read the headline and know “Ah, the government is removing our freedom, may they all hang!”. That’s how it works.
Another example: funny memes and pics. Oh, there is something funny, therefore we share it. Do you always use your time to look up the person who made the joke? It might be a racist. Or a guy offending women. It might be someone who spreads lies. But due to his funny tweet, he will gain new followers, thus reach for his other, darker news. By retweeting the fun stuff, you have some responsibility. But we never think about it.
And we cannot. How shall I read all the stuff there is on social news? Sometimes I already roughly know what this is all about, but I have no time to read it. Or no interest. And most of the times I am not really interested in the faces behind a funny joke. The tweet is funny, not the person. The joke may be stolen anyway. Who cares?
This is an inconvenient truth. We all work like that. And companies providing the platform, they know it. They use this. As such, they cannot avoid the responsibility of checking their content.
There is something else we need to make clear, though: illegal actions remain illegal, no matter whether done in reality or in the “safe zone” called famous interwebs. If you threaten a person, you have to face the consequences. If you lie about somebody and destroy their reputation, you have to face the consequences. We have courts and judges for that, and they will do their work. Which is why I am no super fan of anonymity in the famous interwebs. Which would be another discussion, and yes, I am well aware of the useful cases for those who are being repressed by cruel states. Let’s keep it like that.
But finding illegal actions is not enough. If you are provider of a public space, you have to make sure that the general climate is sufficient for the discussions and communications. Hatred, threats, wrong claims, they are never the basis of a discussion, they end it.
Twitter. Facebook. Youtube. You have a responsibility. It is a shame you have to be forced to it by law, but that’s something which has to be done. The NetzDG may not be perfect. But maybe there is a chance for something better.
Once upon a time, there was a prince. Not the regular type of prince. He was neither tall nor slim, neither athletic nor tough. In his palace in the center of his country he had 90 rooms, most of them filled with shelves and books and papers. From the very morning when the first rays of sunlight gently touched the ground up to the deepest nights, enlightened by the final rest of a candle, he sat in his rooms and read. He studied a lot, and all across the continent he was known to be a famous writer, scientist, a wise and knowing person.
However, he was not well liked. After a couple of years into his reign, the people started to wonder. They suspiciously gathered in their taverns and bars and started rumours. “He never tried to marry!” they said. “Who will be the next prince once he is gone?” Others claimed “He keeps that much of a distance to everybody! I know some courtier who has only seen him twice in three years!” Yes, the prince was wise and gentle, but he kept his distance.
Ten years after he was crowned, the prince had to host a huge festival. It was a celebration of his coronation, and thus there was no way for him to avoid this kind of event he hated so much. All the people on his lands were invited, there was food and beverage, loud music, there were clowns and artists. The people were running across the meadows of his palace, joyful. Later, in the evening, young girls and boys strolled away, hid in the giant maze behind the palace, trying to get some lonely moments.
Inside the palace, the prince was sitting on his throne. A fantastic ball had been organised with all those honorable people from everywhere – princes, princesses, some barons, even a high member of the church dared to come to this mundane activity. They held a dance just in front of the prince, who did not want to join. Caught in his own home he sat there and rolled his eyes.
It was more than just randomness, it was fate that he recognised that young man at the other end of the hall, who secretly chuckled. It was a handsome young man, not much younger than himself, with a shining smile. Maybe one of the courtiers. He had seen the prince and his boredom, and he thought it to be funny. That guy, he was a prince, powerful and mighty, rich and adored, but if once in a while there was a festival just for him he rolled his eyes.
The prince blinked several times, then slowly shook his head. The young man though, still looking at him, simply shrugged. The prince frowned, but the young man grinned. Whatever he did, that young man reacted to him, and the longer they played their secret game, the brighter the prince’s mood got.
At night, when the festival slowly ended, all the other noble people bowed in front of their host and gracefully thanked him for his hospitality. One of them was that man who had stood there in the corner, playing his games with the powerful lord. But before the prince could stop him, he turned around and fled the room. Helplessly the prince stared after him.
On the next day, the prince got up late. His thoughts were filled with strange and strong images, and thus he did not dare to sleep a lot. He had spent hours within the library, but the page he read never got turned. He was deeply sunken in thoughts about his life, circling around himself. And even on this next morning, he returned directly to his library, his cozy chair where nobody in this world could disturb him.
“Mylord?” one servant hesitantly said as he came closer.
“Yes, what is it.” The prince was not happy about the unknown disturbance.
“There is a letter for you, mylord. A young man delivered it this morning. He said it would be important and ease your mind.” With these words he gave the small but carefully written letter to the prince.
He did not have to read the letter to know its origin. Carefully, almost scared, he opened the sheet and started to read. Some servants gathered behind the door, and they all were almost shocked when there was laughter coming out of the dark room! They had never seen their lord to be delighted by any disturbance in the morning, and still, this letter had amused him! It had been written with care and ease, with wisdom, with a sensitive empathy and many words.
Some hours later, the prince left his study room. “Servant!” he yelled, and one of them quickly rushed towards him. “Take this letter. Go ahead and bring it to the maze within our gardens. Leave it there, close to the fountain.” The servant bowed and took the letter without any look of inquiry.
This was the starting point for a strange ceremony held for a long time, and the servants wondered a lot. Every day their lord received a letter in the morning, and in the afternoon he sent another one into the maze. They never knew the addressee and even though they had a close look at the maze they never found out.
One day, though, things changed. Another letter arrived at the prince’s palace, but late in the afternoon, which left the prince nervous and unsteady. He ordered his men and tried to use his time, but his mind was racing. When the letter arrived he ran to the library. And did not come out for several days.
When he finally returned to the living, he looked pale and thin. His skin and his eyes were sad and full of tragedy. But his voice was harsh and stable as he yelled “Servant! Saddle the horse!” He had not been out on a ride for ages, and the servants shared worried glances, but they did as he ordered. And so, the prince went out on a ride, with nothing more than a little bag over his shoulder and his horse between his legs.
Three weeks he rode into the same direction, passing cities and villages and meadows, churches and taverns and mountains. Some people he passed raised their brow, saying “Did you see that man? He almost looked like our prince!” And then, when he had crossed his land’s borders, people said “Look at that man, whom nobody will stop, he clearly knows where he wants to go!”
The wild ride brought him into countries he had never heard about, into the deepest wilderness and along unknown civilizations. But his eyes were steady, his route was clear, and his horse was tired.
After three weeks, he reached his final destination. A small village in the middle of nowhere, hardly called to be the home of the living. Some crows were sitting on a large rock next to the road, staring at him like he was the first man in centuries to come along. The meadows were green and bright, the trees were tall and telling stories of centuries, the sky was bluer as his own sky has never been. It must have been paradise.
The prince stopped at a certain house. He did not care for the beautiful landscape, he did not care for the wilderness, he did not care for the emptiness. He got off his horse, bound it to the fence and stepped towards the door. But when he lifted his hand to knock on the bright wood, the door opened before he could do so. A young man had opened. The young man he had seen at the hall, so much time ago, during his celebration.
“Why did you come?” the young man asked, and his voice was filled with bitterness.
“Why do you say it like that?” the prince asked, and his fingers fumbled for his bag. He opened the lacing and threw the bag on the stairs. Inside the bag, there were dozens and dozens of letters, each and every single one of them once carried into the palace. “You know why I came.”
The young man did not even waste a look to the ground. His dark and sad eyes sparkled full of despair in the sun when he looked at the prince. “You shouldn’t have come. I told you so.”
“Why? I am here, I told you I would come.” the prince replied, trying to do another step towards the door. But the young man shook his head, left the door frame and stepped outside the house.
“Look at this. Look at all of this. This is my home, my world, my life. Wild meadows. Lonesome trees. My beloved village full of emptiness. Now think of it. You are a prince, what do you know of the world we are living in? You have the meal, the beverage, the books. You have your palace with servants and fine clothes. I love my life, but I cannot give you what you are looking for.”
A dark and bitter sadness was in his words.
“I told you, many times, but you never listened. You live in your own world, unwilling to experience reality. Now, here you are. This is the real world. Far from any of your fancy visions.”
Then he turned back to the prince, sadly staring at him.
“I wish you would have never come.” He turned his back and went up the stairs and into the door. Within the door frame, he stopped for a moment.
“You are wrong.” the prince then said with a gentle voice.
“Is it the meals I miss in the morning? Is it the beverage in the evening? Is it a soft and gentle bed I cannot live without? Is it a palace full of thousands of servants I cannot live without? Is it a people who never loved me I would grief about? There is no money, no property, no comfort in life. I told you, thousand times, and you denied, everytime.
“You wrote to me about your dreams, your future, your destiny. You told me your story as if it were mine. You shared your fears, your sacred wishes, your anger and pain. You stormed into my life with a smile and hook me with a gentle letter. Yes, you told me never to come. But… you told me who you are.”
The prince did a deep sigh, bowed down and took the bag with all the letters.
“You told me never to come. I came. For you. When I wake up in the very morning, my first thoughts are about you. My joy, my grief, all my emotions were packed in those moments with your letters. My fun and pride, all my soul was covered by writing to you. When I dined, I imagined you sitting there, reading my lines. Smiling. You were everywhere. You told me I was crazy. I am. But I knew it. And I wanted it.
“You told me it cannot be. You told me it will not be. You told me my words would never be right, and here I am.” The prince did another deep sigh. “I came here for one reason. One reason alone.”
The young man turned around, and anger, despair, fury were in his face. “Who do you think you are! What do you want! There is nothing I can give you! There is nothing here! I cannot stand it, so go, leave, and accept it!”
The prince looked at him for some moment, then he reached for another letter, a closed one, which had been hidden in his jacket. He handed it to the man who took it, hesitatingly.
“I understood. You could have seen.”
With those words, he turned around and went down the stairs.
The young man, though, he opened the letter. There was not much in there. Just one single line.
I wanted to be the one who made you smile. And to give you what you need.
“But… you were! You are!” the young man said, still staring at the words.
The prince did not turn around. “You could have told me. Too late.” he said.
If you look close enough, you see another page attached to the back of this story. A little piece of paper with some hastily drawn lines. It seems like some stories don’t end the way everybody believed them to end.
The young man looked up again, staring at the back of the prince. But suddenly, the lord turned around, and their eyes met, for a split second, little more than an eternity. The prince’s feet, they took him back towards the stairs, up the stairs, and as the young man opened his mouth in surprise, they were met by the prince’s lips. Heat and agony paired, thrown into a vortex of desired pleasure. Willingly, he closed his eyes, as he feeled the start of an eternal fire kindling. And the door closed. Behind them.