THE RITUAL OF PEACE AND LOVE
Many hundreds of years ago, there was a good and just man by the name of Tarkan. He had little in the way of material possessions, but he was happy. He lived peacefully with his neighbours and helped others whenever he could. He cherished his family above all - his wife and his two young sons.
As a young man, Tarkan developed a habit that he would maintain throughout his life - it was a habit that helped to keep him kind and compassionate toward others. Each day, just after rising, Tarkan would go to his window and look out toward the houses around his. He would think individually of each person who lived in each of those houses and he would whisper all of their names to himself. As he did, he would tap his chest just over his heart with the mention of each name.
Having finished his listing of all of his neighbours, he would do the same for all of the animals he knew of. And then, Tarkan would close his eyes and imagine all of the cities he knew of, all of the nations he knew of, and he would whisper their names as well, always touching the area of his heart with each utterance.
Finally, Tarkan would say a prayer wishing peace and happiness to every sentient being on the earth.
With this ritual completed, Tarkan would go about building a fire to warm the house, waking his sons, and preparing for his labour of the day.
As Tarkan was an early riser, his sons only occasional witnessed their father's morning ritual. When they did, they were at first baffled, wondering who he was talking to and why he would stand at the window in this way every day. As they grew older, they sometimes tried to copy their father's ritual, although they were too young to fully understand.
One terrible day, soldiers burst into Tarkan's modest home. A division had arisen in the land and the people were taking sides against one another. Everyone was compelled to choose or be considered a traitor. With swords brandished, the soldiers dragged Tarkan outside and demanded that he join their faction and fight those of his neighbours who were on the other side. As his wife and young sons watched, they demanded that Tarkan join them in destroying homes and driving the opponents away. Tarkan refused. "I love all my neighbours" he said, "both man and beast. I will not raise a hand against anyone."
"If you do not join us, you will die!" shouted one of the soldiers, and he threatened Tarkan with his sword. The young boys began to cry. "Say yes, father" they begged. But Tarkan simply shook his head gently "I love all my neighbours. I will not raise a hand against anyone."
There was a sudden movement and Tarkan doubled over in pain, his hands clutched to his belly. The soldiers stormed off and Tarkan's wife and children bent over him weeping. Minutes later, there was blood in the sand and Tarkan was dead.
Tarkan's wife and sons fled to the safety of a nearby land. At times angry about Tarkan's refusal to cooperate with the soldiers, their admiration for his courage and bravery grew. When his sons were grown and on their own, the older son moved back to their homeland and the younger remained in the neighbouring land. Both sons independently began to imitate their father's morning practice each day. They taught it to their own children, and they in turn taught it to theirs. The practice grew in both lands as others heard about it and learned the story of Tarkan's love of peace and his bravery. Eventually, thousands and thousands of people practiced the ritual each day.
As the two sons had been separated by considerable distance, the tradition in the two locations grew separately. Many years later, members of one group learned about the other group. They were delighted to learn of a kindred movement and they arranged for a grand reunion at a village near the border between their lands.
Hundreds attended and they celebrated joyously with food and drink and great words of praise for the memory of Tarkan. The leader of the reunion ascended the platform to speak and announced the key event of the gathering. Everyone would join together the following morning for the ritual. "Please assemble here at 7:00 tomorrow morning" she said.
A rumble came from the crowd. "7:00?" someone shouted angrily. "The ritual is always performed at 6:00. It dishonours Tarkan's memory to practice at 7:00." There was worry and some arguing in the crowd as the convener spoke with the elders of the two communities. She returned smiling. "Your leaders have agreed that we will meet at 6:30." There was a low murmuring and neither group was completely happy, but everyone eventually agreed and went off to sleep with excitement about the next morning's events.
The next morning, the moment that they had all been waiting for finally arrived. Hundreds assembled to perform the practice just minutes before 6:30. As they gathered, half of them lined up facing south and half faced north. "Turn around" they shouted at each other. "You're facing the wrong direction!" "No," others yelled, "you are facing the wrong direction." "How dare you disgrace Tarkan's memory like this?"
No one knows who threw the first blow, but once again there was blood on the sand and the north facing and south facing Tarkan followers became bitter enemies, and remain so to this very day, just as they continue their daily ritual of peace and love.