Once upon a time there lived a princess in a far off land where no one had visited for a very long time. Our princess had been banished to her room for objecting to her uncle’s wishes to have her marry a young man from a neighboring family. This uncle was fiercely loyal to his tribe and was prepared to do anything to guarantee peace for his people. A marriage had been arranged between his niece and the son of a neighboring family, to assure that peace would reign in the region for years to come.
Genie, the niece, had been betrothed to a distant cousin who was the eldest son of that nearby family. When word of that promise first reached Genie, she was aghast. How could her uncle do this to her? She had a mind of her own and felt amply capable of choosing her own mate. But Genie had forgotten about a promise made by her father to his brother, the uncle. Whoever should pass on first would leave full authority to the remaining brother to do as he saw fit for the health and well-being of the community.
Since his death, Genie’s father had been on her mind constantly; and she believed he appeared to her at times, especially in her dreams. On these occasions she felt he was telling her to obey the uncle and do as ordered for the betterment of their tribe. While she was growing up Genie followed these instructions to the letter. Whatever her uncle asked for, she would obey, without hesitation. Over the years a number of requests had been made and responded to as she believed was her duty. Now Genie had grown into a fine young woman and was preparing to go out into the world. There would be suitors to meet, services to her community, along with a variety of additional duties and obligations that fell to the eldest woman, or mistress, of the castle. These, Genie could accommodate without hesitation, but never did she imagine having to give away the most precious thing in her life, her Self – her own true Self.
As the wedding date approached Genie grew more depressed and weary until she could no longer face the day. She stayed in her suite most of the time, as she had been ordered, presenting herself only for meals. Her uncle repeatedly had her summoned to him to discuss the impending wedding. But she usually refused and remained unwilling to participate in any of the planning for the event. Eventually Genie became ill. She simply could not tolerate the idea of being given away without having any say in the matter. How could she do this and remain true to her Self.” She was further haunted in this regard by her dreams where her father would appear and reinforce this obligation to honor the vow he had made. While alive, he continuously emphasized that the safety of the tribe was always first and foremost. Only then could one entertain the idea of personal goals. This is where Genie felt caught, between the dreams about father and her uncle’s incessant pressure; and her despondency continued to grow as the dreaded date approached.
During this period of her illness Genie thought of many things. She thought of taking her own life. She thought of running away. She thought she might just let herself die of supreme sadness while in the throes of this plight. She could not come up with any other way out of this dilemma until one night an angel came to call. Genie was asleep at the time, tucked away in her room, far removed from the rest of the house. Her uncle was gone away, along with most of the servants. So she was in fact truly alone. In her dream state Genie noted that the angel wore a flowing gown that seemed to radiate white light and it was cinched at the waist by a glowing blue ribbon.
“Why are you here?” Genie asked the angel.
“To help you, my dear,” was the reply. “How may I be of service? I can see that you are troubled indeed.”
“Yes, it is so,” Genie answered. “My father comes to me in the night and begs me to carry forward the family honor. My uncle comes to me during the day and insists that I marry a cousin from a nearby tribe in order to keep the peace. I want to honor their wishes but my soul hurts deeply. And I feel ashamed because I desire none of this and just want to lead my own life. Apparently that means I am quite selfish, because I place my desires above family needs.”
“I see,” reflected the angel. “This is quite a dilemma. To whom do you give your loyalty? To your Self, or, to your family? Even though some family members are dead, they remain very much alive in your heart. This is indeed a difficult situation which, apparently, so troubles you that you have rendered yourself ill while attempting to resolve it.”
“I feel that I am dying inside,” Genie stated flatly. “I feel that I am slowly slipping away. I have no fight left. My uncle has banished me to my room and wants nothing to do with me until I conform to his wishes. My father comes to me in the night and reinforces my obligation to cooperate. No one regards my fate except from their point of view.”
“And you agree with them?” the angel asked.
“Why of course not,” Genie snapped. “I totally disagree. But I am trapped between two powerful forces that are pulling me in opposite directions. My duty, it seems, is to protect the family by contributing to the ongoing peacemaking process. My tribe needs this of me and I am told repeatedly that it is necessary. I am sickened by this, but appear to have little say in the matter.”
“It sounds as if you have many doubts,” the angel reflected, “and some of these are about yourself.”
“Why yes,” Genie responded. “My father also taught me to be true to myself and to never sacrifice my needs for another’s gain, no matter what was at stake. He taught me that the most precious gift life had to offer was one’s deepest Self because that connected you to the Divine within, one’s Soul. But how can it be true that One’s Self must never be denied and also true that you have to sacrifice yourself for the betterment of your tribe?”
“This presents quite a dilemma,” the angel commented. “How do you swim between these two shores without being torn apart by their inherent contradictions? A true quandary, indeed.”
Suddenly, a shot rang out, and a castle guard began shouting: “The Prince has been shot. The Prince has been shot.” All who could hear came to investigate. At the entrance-way to the castle lay the bleeding body of the Prince who was to be Genie’s husband. He had come to call but was attacked as he approached the door. A shadow moving around in the nearby bushes suggested an intruder was still present and likely responsible for the tragedy. Genie’s uncle, having just arrived himself, knelt beside the fallen Prince, begging him not to die. He feared that the death of the Prince at his castle would bring an end to years of peaceful coexistence between these families. A look of horror and pain had spread across his face. What assassin had brought this tragedy to his house? And Genie too was aghast for she knew of no reason why this young man should be attacked. As she moved closer to where the body lay she could see for herself the despair on her uncle’s face. He was beside himself with grief and concern, while her husband-to-be lay bleeding.
As Genie looked upon this scene the angel returned to interrupt her and whispered: “This outcome has not yet occurred, my dear one. These are only your fears you see, as thoughts projected forward. This is one possibility that can be played out as an ending to your current dilemma. Other possibilities exist as well, given your inclination to move in one direction or another. This bleeding body is merely one such projection. The Prince is not here, nor is he in any danger at the moment. I have shown you this so you could see a possible outcome of your not choosing.”
“My not choosing?” Genie repeated, in surprise.
“Yes, your not choosing,” the angel went on. “When you fail to make a commitment toward one direction or another, various possibilities come into play. These exist as a function of your indecisiveness and usually reflect your worst possible fears. On the other hand, when you commit to a particular direction, then the images you see reflected ahead of you represent a firmer set of possibilities.”
“I direct my own future?” Genie repeated.
“Yes,” the angel answered. “By your choices you do so.”
“How do I choose then?” Genie wanted to know.
“On this matter we cannot advise,” the angel stated. “Free will requires that you wrestle with your dilemma until you find your own answer. But remember, making no choice is a choice nevertheless and, as such, can be filled with dire consequences as I’ve just shown you. So choose well when you do so. But choose you must, for this aspect of life cannot be avoided.”
And with that said the angel disappeared and Genie was once again alone in her room. Now she could see clearly the horns of her dilemma. She had to choose between her needs and those of the tribe, or so it seemed.
As Genie pondered all this, she began to realize that other possibilities could exist as well. Each time she envisioned a choice, she could see it played out in her mind. With the knowledge gained through this process she could perhaps more easily make the best decision for all concerned. And this she in fact did later that night. The scene she envisioned saw her visiting the Prince and asking him how he felt about this marriage. As she visualized this encounter she realized that he could likely be as unhappy as she was, wrestling with the same problem of honoring his family at the expense of his needs.
Genie decided to follow up on this. The next morning she went to her uncle and asked for permission to visit the Prince. He happily agreed, thinking that perhaps she was finally coming around to his point of view. He insisted, however, that she only visit for a few hours, since anything beyond that would be considered improper.
Genie left immediately for her visit with the Prince. As she rode her horse in the direction of the neighboring castle, she came upon a bear. The bear stopped her and asked for directions.
“My dear Princess,” he began, “I am at a loss as to where to find the best supply of honey. Which would it be - North or South?”
“Sir Bear,” Genie responded, “how can I, a mere human, advise you on the best path to honey? You are a bear after all, and only you and other bears can determine that direction.”
The bear retreated and carried on his way. As Genie rode on further, an owl flew by and landed in a nearby tree.
“My dear Princess,” the owl began, “where can I find the best morsels of food for my likings as an owl, and a predator who likes to hunt only at night?”
And again, Genie replied. “Sir Owl, I cannot help you. I am a human after all and I know little of matters that have to do with owls. You will have to find your own way with this request as I can only comment on human enterprises, and even there I’m not always sure what to do.”
The owl flew away leaving her alone again to continue her journey. And then, all of a sudden, a bandit appeared and demanded all of her money.
“I have no money, sir,” she stated flatly. “I am on my way to my cousin’s castle to discuss a matter of great importance. I have no wealth of my own, only my clothes and this horse that has carried me this far.”
And the bandit withdrew, leaving her alone once again, to carry on with her journey to meet the Prince.
It seemed that no matter which way Genie turned she had nothing to offer these characters that crossed her path. She could not help the bear, nor could she advise the owl. She could not even provide a mere trinket or bobble for the bandit who was far more dangerous than the others. So, why was she so insistent on having to please her uncle and her father? That question pressed upon her with even more vigor in light of what just happened. “This is not my issue,” she suddenly realized. “It belongs only to my uncle and his interpretation of my father’s wishes. It does not involve me or the Prince. We are only being used by those who see us as some mode of exchange. Somehow, in their view, the Prince and I can fix the problem of maintaining the peace, a threat to which appears to exist in their minds only. A marriage is no cure for a warring heart. It’s this negative attitude that must be corrected.”
With this realization, Genie turned her horse around and returned home. She decided she could not help her uncle after all. He had to confront his own issues about war and peace and this would lead him out of the darkness and fear that still lay in his heart. Upon her return to the castle the uncle was made aware of these realizations and her final decision to not marry the Prince. She included a detailed account of her encounters along the trail to the Prince’s castle. In these descriptions the uncle saw “signs” that perhaps he was mistaken after all. Another approach to maintaining the peace in the region would have to be sought. In the meantime, there would be no wedding. On that he was certain.
Genie retreated to her room again, but not in sadness this time. She had broken through to an important realization for herself. She could solve her problems only, and not those of others. They would have to look after their affairs and find answers that did not warrant the use of others. Accepting this she began to feel happy again. A renewed sense of freedom started opening inside of her. It had become plainly evident that all the messages she had received so far, said one simple thing. “To thine own Self be true and let Love take care of the rest.” So from that moment on Genie did just that, determined now to remain true to her “inner voice.”