(I used the text below as the foreword of my book “Eleven Minutes”)
For I am the first and the last
I am the venerated and the despised
I am the prostitute and the saint
I am the wife and the virgin
I am the mother and the daughter
I am the arms of my mother
I am barren and my children are many
I am the married woman and the spinster
I am the woman who gives birth and she who never procreated
I am the consolation for the pain of birth
I am the wife and the husband
And it was my man who created me
I am the mother of my father
I am the sister of my husband
And he is my rejected son
Always respect me
For I am the shameful and the magnificent one
discovered in Nag Hammadi, 1947
( one hour after I posted this text here, Methaper wrote me: “Sorry Paulo, but this original koptic text Nag Hammadi Codex NHC VI,2 is 3rd-4th century “AD”, not “BC”. It has the greek-koptic Titel βροντη “bronté” and is NOT explicitely an hymn to goddess Isis, even if some historians regard it as “not impossible”.Kindest regards Metapher”)
(thank you, already corrected)
Xenophobia is defined as “an unreasonable Fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers or of that which is foreign or strange. It comes from the Greek words ξένος (xenos), meaning “stranger,” “foreigner,” and φόβος (phobos), meaning “fear.”
Ruth: Life means adventure, change, things that not everybody has the courage to face and accept. When one sees someone who is unfamiliar, a subconscious fear springs up: “why dare he take two steps forward and run risks where nobody knows him? I wonder if he wants to infiltrate his ideas and destroy the world that we have built with so much toil?”
D.H.: For a few months in 2001 I had an Arab student living in my home here in Boston. Everyone admired his kindness, and on many an evening we would gather in a local bar to chat about the customs of his country. Right after the attacks of the 11th September, the very same people who had laughed the day before at his stories began to hate him.
Dasha: Xenophobia isn’t just the fear of strangers, it’s being afraid of what happens between different generations. Most people are afraid of today, they prefer to live in the past. My country (Russia) is an excellent example of this.
Aspen: Every child, if he is raised with the necessary amount of strictness and freedom, could collaborate infinitely to make this planet a better place to live. But one of the first things we learn is “not to talk to strangers”.
Warrior of Running Water: Here in Denmark we have a festival that lasts about a week and attracts 100,000 strangers to celebrate life, share common interests and learn from the differences. People embrace for no reason except being on the same path, they sing and get drunk together. When the festival is over, a strange atmosphere takes over the town again, and strangers are once more seen as a threat.
Neel P.: We have to trust in love. We have to remember what we were told: “love your neighbor as yourself”. If we trust in love, we don’t need to fear anything any more, but the truth is that we never trust enough…
Radek: People in my country (Poland) lived through the tyranny of Hitler and the Soviet oppression, and they don’t seem to have learned anything. It terrifies me to see people who experienced the horrors of Nazism behaving the same way today, avoiding everything that is unknown or different. The worst of it all is that they use religion to justify their acts, arguing that all those who aren’t Christians should be banished from society. This blind faith is worse than having no faith at all.
A very wealthy man asked a Zen master for a text which would always remind him how happy he was with his family.
The Zen master took some parchment and, in beautiful calligraphy, wrote:
– The father dies. The son dies. The grandson dies.
– What? – said the furious rich man. – I asked you for something to inspire me, some teaching which might be respectfully contemplated by future generations, and you give me something as depressing and gloomy as these words?
– You asked me for something which would remind you of the happiness of living together with your family. If your son dies first, everyone will be devastated by the pain. If your grandson dies, it would be an unbearable experience.
“However, if your family disappears in the order which I placed on the paper, this is the natural course of life. Thus, although we all endure moments of pain, the generations will continue, and your legacy will be long-lasting.”
As soon as he arrived in Marrakesh, Morocco, a missionary decided he would stroll through the desert at the city’s boundary every morning. On his first stroll he noticed a man lying on the sand, caressing the ground with his hands and leaning his ears towards the earth.
“He is mad,” the missionary said to himself. But he saw the man every morning during his walks and after a month, intrigued by that strange behaviour, he decided to approach the stranger.
He knelt beside him and asked, in broken Arabic, “What are you doing?”
“I keep the desert company and offer solace for its loneliness and its tears.”
“I didn’t know the desert was capable of crying.”
“It cries every day, because it dreams of being useful to mankind and turning into a huge garden where people could cultivate, flowers and sheep.”
“Well, then, tell the desert it accomplishes its mission very well,” said the missionary. “Every time I walk here, I am able to understand the true dimension of the human being, as its open space allows me to see how small we are before God. When I look at its sands, I imagine the millions of people in the world who were raised alike although the world isn’t always fair towards everyone. Its mountains help me meditate. As I see the sun rising on the horizon, my soul fills with joy and I get closer to the Creator.”
The missionary left the man and went back to his daily chores. To his surprise, he found him the next morning at the same place, in the same position.
“Did you tell the desert everything I told you?” he asked.
The man nodded.
“And even so it keeps crying?”
“I can hear each of its sobs,” answered the man, his head tilted towards the ground.
“Now it is crying because it spent thousands of years thinking it was completely useless and wasted all this time blaspheming God and its own destiny.”
“Well, then tell the desert that despite having a short lifespan, we human beings spend much of our days thinking we are useless. We rarely find the reason for our destiny and think God has been unfair to us. When a moment finally arrives in which we are shown the reason why we were born, we think it is too late to change and keep on suffering. And as the desert, we blame ourselves for the time we have wasted.”
“I am not sure the desert will bother to hear it,” said the man.
“It is used to suffering and it can’t see things differently.”
“So then let us do what I always do when I feel people have lost faith. Let us pray.”
Both of them went down on their knees and prayed; one turned to Mecca as he was a Muslim and the other joined his hands in prayer, as he was Catholic. They prayed, each one to his own God.
The next day when the missionary resumed his daily walk, the man was no longer there. The ground where he used to embrace the sand seemed to be wet as if a small spring had formed. During the following months that spring grew and the city’s residents built a well around it.
The place is now called “The Well of the Desert’s Tears”. It is said that those who drink its water will be able to transform the reason of their suffering into the reason of their joy and will end up finding their true destiny.
Today, we see signs of society reverting to this sense of ‘oneness’ – but rather spontaneously.
And the example of Greek (Athenian) democracy comes to mind because it showed how society is responsible for each individual and vice versa. But than an important change happened with the Punic wars at the beginning of the Roman empire.
And from the moment the Romans won the war, a new ‘society’ was born and Rome became the city that started ruling the world.
At that time, there were other cities that also had an incredibly rich culture, but they were never able to progress as Rome did.
What is my point? We started as individuals, responsible for who we are today (with our family being a microcosm of our responsibilities). But in society, we go beyond the family; we cannot control everything.
So we started off as being ‘one and everything’ at the same time — and I hope that we can move towards this again.
I started talking about this because people say the old society was based on the individual – but I disagree. I think that old society was based on the combination of the individual and the collective. There was a perfect communion.
I am always struggling with myself, but I am very optimistic in this sense.
People are realizing more and more that happiness is freedom, and freedom is to be able to “travel light”, not possessing a lot of things, because at the end of the day, the things start to possess you.
I remember that I considered to buy a castle here in France: I went to see some.
One day I realized that if I buy a castle, I cannot think about anything but taking care of it. Therefore, I bought a small watermill, so to keep it is very easy, and I have time to go to the mountains, to walk, do spend my life in the way that I would like. In short: the less you have to keep, the more you have in freedom.
If I look back at my life I see many occasions where society tried to make me conform to “normality”. This resulted in three hospitalizations in an asylum when I was a teenager (which I describe in my book Veronika decides to die), torture when I was a young adult by the hands of the paramilitaries, and many defeats.
You could look at these experiences and say “Paulo’s life is tragic” but I don’t see it that way.
What I do see is someone trying to remain true to oneself. Yes there is a price but I believe that life tends to be very generous to those that are brave enough to take these risks.
In a word, I’ve always had faith in life, even when I thought “God forgot me”.
Be happy with your contradictions.
Following the challenge posted in 3.000.000 Twitter here is the film of our dinner (each one gives an statement, and I speak in the end)
Seguindo o desafio postado em 3.000.000 Twitter, aqui um pequeno filme sobre o jantar (cada um fala de si mesmo e eu falo no final)
La cena com los lectores/amigos seleccionados en el post 3.000.000 Twitter (cada uno habla un poco de si mismo, yo hablo en el final)
When I wrote The Zahir, the main character says: writing is getting lost at sea. It’s discovering your own untold story and trying to share it with others. It’s realizing, when you show it to people you have never seen, what is in your own soul. In the book, a famous writer on spiritual matters, who believes he has everything, loses the thing that is most precious to him: love. I have always wondered what would happen to a man if he had no one to dream about, and now I am answering that question for myself.
When I used to read biographies of writers, I always thought that when they said: “The book writes itself, the writer is just the typist”, they were simply trying to make their profession seem more interesting. I know now that this is absolutely true, no one knows why the current took them to that particular island and not to the one they wanted to reach. Then the obsessive re-drafting and editing begins, and when I can no longer bear to re-read the same words one more time, I send it to my publisher, where it is edited again, and then published.
And it is a constant source of surprise to me to discover that other people were also in search of that very island and that they find it in my book. One person tells another person about it, the mysterious chain grows, and what the writer thought of as a solitary exercise becomes a bridge, a boat, a means by which souls can travel and communicate.
From then on, I am no longer the man lost in the storm: I find myself through my readers, I understand what I wrote when I see that others understand it too, but never before. On a few rare occasions, like the one that is about to take place, I manage to look those people in the eye and then I understand that my soul is not alone.
Once I heard an interviewer ask Paul McCartney: “Could you sum up the Beatles’ message in one sentence?” Tired of hearing the same question myself, I assumed McCartney would give some ironic response, after all, given the complexity of human beings, how can anyone possibly sum up a whole body of work in a few words?
But Paul said: “Yes, I can.” And he went on: “All you need is love. Do you want me to say more?”
No, said the interviewer, he didn’t. There was nothing more to be said. The Zahir could be summed up in the same way.
The origin of fear lies in the unknown. Be it the darkness, ghosts, weather calamities or whatever is unknown to the man is feared the most. If you are walking in darkness, you are afraid to go ahead, fearing what will come next. However, as the light appears, the fear tends to settle down. Fear, thus, is just a manifestation of your imagination ruled by cowardliness. When we get certain information on our fears, we get relaxed. However, it’s not going to be possible that we will always get the information on the unknown. Then what can we really do to manage our fears?
1. Accept your fears: There’s no need to fight your fears. The more you fight, the more they will haunt you. If you accept them the way they are, they will bring a shift in your consciousness necessary to move beyond the fear.
2. Fear is normal: There’s nothing to be embarrassed about in being afraid. If you are afraid, then you are. Society has connected fear with the sign of weakness and that is one of the reasons why we hate to accept that we are afraid. When you accept fear as a normal emotion, it doesn’t bother you anymore.
3. Explore the unknown: Every year, make a list of things that you fear the most. Then, do something everyday that gets you closer to the unknown factor residing in your fear. Gradually, you will overcome all your fears one by one.
4. Know the roots: Go into the source of your fear. Some fears are based on past conditioning. Having a good understanding of the roots from where it all started will help in moving toward state of fearlessness.
Moving on, death seems to be the second issue bothering everyone if the world ends. There’s nothing one can do to avoid death. You can avoid the possibility of birth by using pills, protection and so on, but man hasn’t been able to interfere in the business of death. What you can do is accept it with open arms. If the world ends, it ends. It will release all of us from a life where we yearn for things that are useless to show off to the people who don’t matter. When the world ends, it will end for everyone. Why we are giving it so much attention?!
(I found this very interesting text by chance, and decided to post it here. To read the full article, please CLICK HERE )