This is a coming of age story. About a young boy discovering his capacity to be potent. To make a difference. But to do this there is Risk. Any sensible person would have done a risk Assessment and decided to stay in the comfort zone. One old cow. One market place. One purse of money. One knacker’s yard. Deal done. Not Jack. He sells the cow for some beans. How stupid is that? (His mother makes her feelings known very clearly. She is, of course, a Sensible Adult.)
Jack is unrepentant. He plants his beans to see what will happen. Nothing much. That’s the trouble with Taking a Risk. One is never sure of the outcome. Cinderella couldn’t guarantee her Prince. Dick Whittington his streets of gold. Aladdin his lamp. That’s just the Way Things Are. No Risk. No Gain. (And, of course, no Pain.)
We are in the country of Kiergaard and his Leap of Faith. Of Pascal’s Wager. Both should be seen as a Bad Influence. Suggesting that taking a leap of Faith is a worthy practice. (But, surely, the whole Christmas story is about Leaps of Faith .Mary and Joseph; the Shepherds; the Magi ; God. All involved in one lemming like leap. How unwise. Look how all that ended.)
So, Jack and a handful of beans. What to do? Obvious. Plant them. Bury them. Take a chance that they will find favourable conditions and grow. (That’s also the story of therapy. Create favourable conditions for growth and see what emerges. It is of course the story of any conception .Create the right conditions and see what grows. Even if the result is not what we were expecting)
The beans having been planted, something breaks the surface. A small shoot at first. Then it keeps on going. And growing. And growing until its’ tops are out of sight. What to do now? Fence it in and invite the public to come and see it. Charge an entrance fee. That would solve their money problems. Hire an accountant to give them the best return on their money. Jack has a different idea. (He always will have.) He climbs the beanstalk. To who knows where or what. Life or Death. Heaven or Hell. Angels or Giants. Poverty or Riches. Or all these.)
We know what happens. A golden goose. A magical harp. Oh. And a giant.That ‘s just the way things are. Music and money. But also giants and danger. Giants who resent having their things stolen. The giant comes down. The tree is felled. No more giant. Everyone lives happily after. Except the giant. That’s another part of these stories. They accept that not everything is fair all the time for everyone. The giant loses out. Jack’s happiness is gained at a cost to someone else. That’s unfair. But this is not a cosy morality play. It’s about the harshness of things.
Bettelheim puts it like this“The unrealistic nature of these tales (which narrow-minded rationalists object to) is an important device, because it makes obvious that the fairy tales’ concern is not useful information about the external world, but the inner process taking place in an individual.”
That works for me! I know my generosity is tempered by my meanness. My kindness by my cruelty. My wealth by my poverty. That’s what makes me human.