Friday, 9 January 2015

About the importance of discarding artificial constraints


Amongst all young women in the kingdom, princess Ameline possessed the blondest hair, the bluest eyes, and the saddest heart. Her parents, the late King and Queen, had entrusted her to a convent for her education years ago, so long ago that nobody could remember.

Ameline was not a good student and, instead of repeating litanies with the other novices, she had taken up the habit of scurrying out of the convent to play in the nearby woods.

One Tuesday afternoon, barbarians attacked the convent, killed all nuns and novices, stole all cookies, and went away. When Ameline returned to the convent, she found herself to be the only survivor of the massacre.

She left the convent, walked to the city, and went directly to the Royal Palace, which she found empty except for an old man who earned his living by guiding tourists. "Where are the courtiers and the servants?" inquired Ameline.


The old man examined her attentively and smiled. "You are princess Ameline," he said. "I have not seen you for a long time." He explained to Ameline that, after the King's and Queen's death years ago, the kingdom administration had decayed into oblivion, and finally vanished altogether. "Nevertheless, the palace is yours," he went on, "and also the gold in the caves."

As a result, Ameline started a new life, and began to live like real princess. Even though she was overall respected, she lacked one essential thing, and that deprivation made her feel deeply unhappy: Princess Ameline had no birthday.

Hardly a week went by without Ameline being invited to this or that birthday party. Everybody in the kingdom had his own birthday, that is, everybody except Ameline. Every night, she dreamed of having her own birthday party and eating her own birthday cake, but that was not to be.

Ameline's parents were dead, as well as the nuns in the convent. How could she possibly find out on which precise day she had been born? What is even worse, Ameline had no clue about how old she was. As time passed, she grew more and more depressed about her deficiency.

How could she be sure that she was old enough to marry? What if she ever wanted to sell her palace? How could she prove to the notary that she was of age? When the old man, whom Ameline had allowed to continue his job as tourist guide in the palace, saw her whither away, he decided to have a talk with her.


"My situation is hopeless and no one can help me," Ameline explained. "It would have been better if I had been killed in the convent." The old man listened attentively to Ameline's troubles, and shook his head. "You are mistaken to think that you are the only one who has no birthday," he replied.

The princess was surprised to hear that. Was the old man lying in order to comfort her? "That's not true," she countered irritated. "I have seen everybody in the kingdom throwing birthday parties." 

The old man nodded. "When the kingdom administration disappeared, the registries turned to dust, and people were no longer certain of their birth date. Initially, the uncertainty created some disorientation, but after a while, people shrugged their shoulders and began to throw birthday parties whenever they saw fit. Some people, twice per year, others even twice per week."

The princess stared at the old man until she finally seized the meaning of his words. Then she went to the palace kitchen, and gave the cook orders to bake her cakes for a dozen birthday parties. She had a lot of catching up to do.

For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my book The 10 Principles of Rational Living


[Image by rizkapb under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]

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