Momo’s Riddle

Imagination and creativity is the tool to break out of the mold, to leave behind that what everybody knows to be true.

This is probably the reason that I like imaginative stories so much, one of my favorites being “The Neverending Story” by Michael Ende. Quite a while ago I had found out that there was another book by Mr. Ende, titled Momo. Some years later, when working on the translation of a German book about cymatics into English, I even had to translate a quote from Momo used in this book ‘Water Sound Images‘. But only when I worked on some updates for the second printing of ‘Water Sound Images’ I ran again into this short excerpt from Momo and decided that now it was time to finally read it in its entirety.

Traditionalist that I am, I got the book from the local library and started to enjoy it one chapter at a time before turning off the lights and going to sleep. It got more and more exciting and today, a Sunday, I did not even turn on the computer until I was done with the entire book. Something like that had not happened in a long time but I just could not put a book down.

Momo, a young girl, and the hero of the story, at one point is asked to solve the following riddle:

All dwelling in one house are strange brothers three,
as unlike as any three brothers could be,
yet try as you may to tell brother from brother,
you’ll find that the trio resembles each other.
The first isn’t there, though he’ll come beyond doubt.
The second’s departed, so he’s not about.
The third and the smallest is right on the spot,
and manage without him the others could not.
Yet the third is a factor with which to be reckoned
because the first brother turns into the second.
You cannot stand back and observe number three,
for one of the others is all you will see.
So tell me, my child, are the three, of them one?
Or are there but two? Or could there be none?
Just name them, and you will at once realize
that each rules a kingdom, of infinite size.
They rule it together and are it as well.
In that, they’re alike, so where do they dwell?

I will certainly not spoil the story by telling what the answer is – you will have to read the book for yourself.

But I have to say that Momo’s story is a great example of what needs to be done to break the mold of existing conditions that keep us going into a direction that we do not like. It is a lesson that, in order to make big changes, we first have to see that those changes are possible.

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