The town and the two streets

By Paulo Coelho

The following story is told by Sheikh Qalandar Shah in his book Asrar-i-Khilwatia (Secrets of the Recluses):

In eastern Armenia there was a little village with two parallel streets, called North Way and South Way, respectively. A traveler from afar walked down South Way, and soon resolved to visit the other street; however, as soon as he entered it, the merchants noticed that his eyes were filled with tears.

“Someone must have died on South Way,” said the butcher to the textile salesman. “That poor stranger, who just came from there, look how he cries!”

A child heard the comment, and as he knew what a sad thing someone dying is, he began to cry hysterically. Before long, all the children in that street were crying.

Startled, the traveler decided to leave immediately. He threw away the onions he was peeling in order to eat them – that being the reason his eyes were filled with tears – and went off.

However, the mothers, worried by their children’s weeping, soon went to find out what had happened, and discovered that the butcher, the textile salesman and – by this time – several other merchants, were all deeply concerned about the tragedy which had occurred on South Way.

More rumors began to spread; and since the town hadn’t many inhabitants, everyone on both streets knew that a terrible thing had happened. The adults began to fear the worst; but, since they were worried about the gravity of the tragedy, they decided not to ask anything, so as not to make matters worse.

A blind man who lived on South Way and didn’t understand what was going on, decided to speak up:

“Why such sadness in this town, which as always been such a happy place?”

“Something terrible happened on North Way,” answered one of the inhabitants. “The children are crying, the men frown, mothers send their sons home, and the only traveler to pass through town for many years, left with his eyes filled with tears. Perhaps the plague has hit the other street.”

Before long, rumors of an unknown deadly disease spread through the town. And since all the weeping had begun when the traveler visited South Way, the inhabitants of North Way were sure that that was where it had begun. Before nightfall, people from both streets abandoned their houses and left for the mountains of the East.

Centuries later, that ancient village where a traveler passed peeling onions continues abandoned to this day. Not far away, two settlements emerged, called East Way and West Way. Their inhabitants, the descendents of the former inhabitants of the village, still do not speak to each other, for time and legends placed a great barrier of fear between them.

Sheikh Qalandar Shah says: “all in life is a question of attitude towards things, and not the actual things themselves. It is always possible to discover the origin of a problem, or choose to enlarge it in such a way that I no longer know where it began, its true size, how it can affect my existence, and how it is capable of distancing people I used to love.”

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  1. katie says:

    I like the story of “inflating an event”. it really can happen. but also: how much does one do it just with oneself, especially when fear reigns…

    it helps me to set new priorities….
    the dream pushes, but it is now time to look around & see my environment as it is, and do my next steps …
    not just assuming….

  2. Shine says:

    Thanks Paulo for your beautiful collection of stories. love

  3. […] The town and the two streets […]

  4. Noura- Abouloyoun says:

    I had a fight with a friend..
    And after alot of quarellling, and us blocking each other on the internet and in our lives..
    I forgot what made us mad at each other in the beginning..
    But now its too hare to make a step.
    Its just over, And i dont know why..

    1. Jack Hider says:

      why is it too hard?

  5. Clover says:

    Acknowledge the mess, action measures and dammit move on. The time for decision is at the beginning-not now. Done is done. My blunders are all life-size, ever lasting.
    (Work related.)
    Posted by austere

    Bartolomeo, darling, you should listen to your own words. What makes you believe I am not free? Still, one cannot help but try to help a crying soul, I have a huge heart.

    Angels are angels and demons are demons.
    But we can all love eachother.

  6. austere says:

    Guilty as charged… so often one builds up castles and dragons in one’s own mind… and situations take on a life of their own.

    Thank you for this, Paulo.

  7. Soul says:

    Dear Hildegarde,

    You might want to read this article about compassion. It has helped me. Everything is an oportunity for us to grow. We are here to love (everything, as hard as it may seem).


  8. Tania says:

    Yes all these small worries or gossip /false news are so small ,yet people make them bigger I guess …but they need to learn to surrender them to God and Let Go ..your journey is to become whole ..Blessings Tania

  9. Anlao says:

    One of the biggest challenges I found lately is putting into practice the old saying :”if you have nothing good to say, don’t speak at all”. Challenging because I thought of myself as very smart and knowledgeable, and surely others would benefit from my never-ending insights. I thought I would really help people, but lately I got to wonder “would my help really help them?”
    I am shocked of how much silence I bring to the conversations now.
    Anyway, I’ve been wondering lately whether I should speak, even though negatively in a matter of importance to other’s life, people I love. This story came at a good moment to remind me to ask questions before assuming anything. I love them dearly, and I want more than anything for them to raise above their challenges. Telling them what I see (diagnosing with a specific mental state) does seem like a solution (if we diagnose we can treat), but my fear is that will limit their view to the box I will describe for them.
    I feel good about the discipline I had so far, but I know I have more changes to make, in order to really succeed I need to forget what I think I know and stop seeing them with those “glasses”. I hope my love is strong enough for that.

    Thank you, today it was a real strength giver.

  10. a Muslim says:

    A very beautifl message has been conveyed by the story..mostly v awl have time to comfirm the truth,,and to find out the real thing..but sumtymes its too late to discover the truth,,and everythng shatters away!
    and dont u awl agree that dis is real picture of our lives..v all r in habbit of spreading rumors n gossiping all around..widout even knowing dat whatever v r spreading is true or not..and this is one reason which has ruined the peace of the world…spreading false news has destroyed the lov btween humans..nd dis has lead to the wrst relations and worst circumstances of the world!

  11. Pepper says:

    I love this story! Thank you for sharing!!

  12. Agnieszka says:

    Hmm..sometimes no matter where you go..there will be tears.
    As I wrote before:
    “Don’t ask God for a way to heaven because He/She will show you the most difficult one.”