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  • Writer's pictureIndia Wittmershaus

Bedtime Story

"Sleep well my dear."

"Wait, Mama."

"Yes, my darling."

"Can you tell me another bedtime story?"

"Alright, but just a very short one."

"Yes, please."

"All right. Once upon a time, in another world, a world far from ours where equality reigned, justice and freedom, there was a person who wondered why there was so much diversity in the world. Why does everyone look different, even though they look so much alike and they all have the same attributes? Why do they behave so differently, although they have the same instincts? Why do people always surprise you, although they are so predictable? Why is every love different, although there is love everywhere?

Because this person asked many questions and always found new ones to ask, they were called the questioner. And because the answers to their questions varied from person to person, their never stopped asking and was always looking for new answers. They went through villages, cities, countries and whole continents and met many different people. They were all different. They looked different, they moved differently, they communicated differently, and they all had different answers to their questions. And so, they moved on and on. They got to know cultures, learned languages, rites and ways of life.

One day, it was a cloudy day, he met another questioner at a lake far from any civilization. They set up a camp together, bathed in the lake and shared their respective meals. They lit a fire and sat down with their backs leaning against the rocks. The clouds broke piecemeal and flew briskly across the sky, occasionally revealing the starry heavens.

They had spoken little during the day. There was no need for it, they were travelers and travelers knew how to communicate without many words. But now the day was over and the questioner wanted to know the other's story so he asked them about it. What is your story? And the other told of their eternal journey, a journey through places and cultures, a journey in which they asked people why. Why does each person look different? Why does everyone behave differently? Why do people always surprise you? Why does love exist?

The questioner realized that here a person was speaking who was guided by the same questions as himself. Questions about people, about life, about being. And so they too told of their experiences. About the people they had met, the answers they had gotten and how different everything was and yet so alike so related to each other. They talked throughout the night. They compared their experiences and realized that they had had many similar ones.

As morning dawned and the first rays of sunlight glistened in the lake they lay down to bed. After a few hours, they shared a breakfast together and then dismantled their camp. They said goodbye to each other with great respect. They had both learned a lot and yet had not received a definitive answer to the questions they had asked. So, enriched yet ignorant, they departed in opposite directions under the midday sun.

What remained was the glittering lake and the last remains of a burnt fire among the rocks. Here had sat two people, full of knowledge and full of thirst for knowledge. Insatiable and eager to learn and understand. Both had dedicated their lives to learning, to questioning. What they had not understood, however, was that despite all the similarities, despite all the differences, one thing united them. The ability and the urge to ask questions.

The end."

"That was a good story, Mama."

"Did you learn anything from it, too, sweetheart."

"I think so."

"That's good, my darling. Now go to sleep and when you've thought about it in peace you can ask me anything you want about it tomorrow."

"I will. Good night, Mama."

"Sleep well, my dear."

Written by India Wittmershaus.

Cover illustration by Amr Abbas.


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