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The Human Heart

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This is the legend an old peasant woman told me while we were sitting rainbound around the fire in an old inn in the Jura mountains:

It happened long, long ago at the beginning of all times. God had just created the heaven and the earth, the sun and the moon, all the blooming and growing things, and all the crawling and flying and running and swimming creatures, and it was near the eve of the Sabbath day and the Lord was looking for His rest. And then He bethought Himself of making Man, who should be the master of all things on the earth and a younger and lesser brother to the angels.

Yet there was a great hurry to fashion this new creature, for the Sabbath was drawing nearer and nearer, the hour of rest was at hand, and the eternal laws have to be kept in Heaven as well as on earth. Therefore the Lord could not make any new qualities to endow this new being, but had to take the little rests of those that were at hand and make them do.

Thus He took the courage of the lion, and the gentleness of the lamb, the faithfulness of the dog and the guile of the serpent, the tenderness of the turtle-dove, the hatred and flerceness of the tiger, the fleetness of the horse, the slowness of the snail, the pride of the peacock and the humbleness of the earth-worm, and all the innumerable other qualities of all the beasts and birds and fishes, all the divers odds and ends that were left over from the work of creation, poured them into a big vessel and put this vessel over a roaring fire so that the antagonistic and contradictory qualities therein should melt and mingle and fuse into a whole. A whole that would contain everything and yet be different, a whole that should be harmony, wisdom and peace.

Yet Satan was out for mischief, and when the Lord was attending to other duties (for He has not only our world to take care of but also the millions of stars one sees in the sky, each one of them a separate world) he moved the vessel away from the fire so that nothing in it could melt and fuse. And after a while the Lord sent one of the angels to pour the mixture, which by now should have been all done and ready, into the earthen mold which He had fashioned to become the heart of Man. The angel-careless and in a hurry-lifted the vessel without looking, poured the unmelted and lumpy mass into the heart, sealed it, and strolled away to enjoy his rest.

But since that time the human heart is constantly at war with itself, being good and bad, noble and base, treacherous and loyal, wild and gentle at the same time, containing every conceivable quality, swayed now by one trend and then by the other, never to be trusted, never whole. Only when the heart experiences the burning fire of an almost unendurable sorrow, or an almost unbelievable love, or the fierce and flaming passion for some holy cause, only then all that is divergent and contradictory in it melts and mingles, and is purified and harmonized. And those hearts that have gone through the fire, those hearts you can trust.

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