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THE KING


There once was a great king. A conqueror of countless countries, the protector of many people. Schooled in philosophy and skilled in combat, he was bold of body and mighty of mind. Virtuous was he, and conscious of his vices, which, though few, he kept in check, for he was their master, not their slave. He was magnanimous with his minions, good and kind. As a rival he was valiant and fierce, and as a ruler gentle and just: for above all else the king had a good heart.

One day in the twilight of his reign, while engaging in open discourse with his subjects (as was often the case) the king was asked a very curious question. He was asked if, at any time during his reign, he ever felt fear. The king was silent for a moment before responding: "Since succeeding my father, himself a laudable leader, to the throne when I was twenty-five," he said, "I have fought many a bloody battle, some of which nearly cost me my life. In battle I faced many a fierce foe, and witnessed terrible tragedies. Yet never during my fifty-year time as king, have I felt fear."

No one dared to doubt the veracity of the king's words, yet in their hearts many wondered how this could be. "After all, he is human just like the rest of us, and every human being is bound, at least once in his life, to be afraid."

Sensing the general disbelief, the king went on: "I have never felt fear in facing these foes because none of them matched the power of the one who came before, the one I fought prior to taking the throne, the only one I ever feared."

"Please tell us, dear king," the subjects asked of their sovereign, "who it was that made you fear."

The king went on: "In my princely days, I fought an enemy more savage than the cruelest warrior, more cunning than the serpent Satan himself. This enemy was shrewder than the keenest statesman, more dangerous than the deadliest disease. I could have fled, and almost did, but instead I faced this enemy of mine, and for years we waged a wrathful war fought to the death. And throughout I felt an unrelenting, almost unbearable fear."

"Surely you were the victor, for you said it was fatal, and you are here to speak about it."

"I was victorious, yet so was my enemy."

"How could your enemy win if he died?"

"He did not die. What died was the fear," the king replied. "One only fears what one does not know. In fighting bitterly, my foe and I came to know one another, and we came to respect, and I might even say, to love one another. We made our peace, and my inveterate adversary became my dearest friend, my only true friend. And we have lived together in harmony ever since."

These words caused quite a stir among the people, for though the king was friendly with all, he was known to have no friends. In the minds of his subjects arose the same question: "Who is the one that was once the king's feared foe only to become his faithful friend?"

The king's answer came as a surprise: "I am."

And he concluded with the words, "Here lies the path to self-knowledge and self-love: You must recognize the devil within, face him and fight," the king said. "And when you reconcile with your mind, when you make your master your ally, your fear will be gone forever."

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