20 SEC READ Becoming aware

“In every religious tradition there is a practice of devotion and a practice of transformation.

“Devotion means trusting more in ourselves and in the path we follow. Transformation means to practice the things this path imposes on us.”

“When you say: ‘I am determined to study medicine,’ this sentence exercises an impact on your life even before you register at a school.

“You see this step as something positive and want to advance in its direction. The same happens with any religious tradition.”

“The key is to be fully aware of your actions. When you swallow a cup of water deeply, with all your ardor, illumination is present in its initial form. Being illuminated always means having clear vision concerning something.”

 

Adapted from the book of Thich Nhat Hanh (Living Buddha, Living Christ):

Wisdom

According to the dictionary: deep knowledge of things, natural or acquired; erudition; rectitude.

According to the New Testament: But it was what the world calls foolish that God chose to put the wise to shame with, and it was what the world calls weak that God chose to shame its strength with (Corinthians 1: 25-27).

According to Islam:
A wise man became a object of irony for the inhabitants of the city. One day he was walking down the main street with some of his disciples when a group of men and women began to insult him. The wise man went up to them and blessed them.

When they left, one of the disciples remarked: “They say terrible things, and you answer them with nice words.”
And the wise man replied: “Each one of us can only offer what he has.”

According to the Hassidic (Jewish) tradition: When Moses ascended to Heaven to write a certain part of the Bible, the Almighty asked him to place small crowns on some letters of the Torah. Moses said: “Master of the Universe, why draw these crowns?” God answered: “Because one hundred generations from now a man called Akiva will interpret them.”
“Show me this man’s interpretation,” asked Moses.

The Lord took him to the future and put him in one of Rabbi Akiva’s classes. One pupil asked: “Rabbi, why are these crowns drawn on top of some letters?”
“I don’t know.” Replied Akiva. “And I am sure that not even Moses knew. He did this only to teach us that even without understanding everything the Lord does, we can trust in his wisdom.”

A scene that I witnessed in 1997: Hoping to impress his master, a student of the occult whom I know read some manuals on magic and decided to buy the materials mentioned in the texts. With considerable difficulty he managed to find a certain type of incense, some talismans, a wooden structure with sacred characters written in an established order.
When we were having breakfast together with his master, the latter commented:
“Do you believe that by rolling computer wires around your neck you will acquire the efficiency of the machine? Do you believe that by buying hats and sophisticate clothes you will also acquire the good taste and sophistication of those who made them?

“Objects can be your allies, but they do not contain any type of wisdom. First practice devotion and discipline, and everything else will come to you later.”

The mouse and the books

When I was interned (as a lunatic…) in Dr. Eiras Hospital, I began to have panic crises. One day, I decided to consult the psychiatrist in charge of my case:

“Doctor, I am overcome by fear; it takes from me the joy of living.”

“Here in my office there is a mouse that eats my books”, said the doctor. “If I get desperate about this mouse, he will hide from me and I will do nothing else in life but hunt him. Therefore, I put the most important books in a safe place and let him gnaw some others. In this way, he is still a mouse and does not become a monster.

“Be afraid of some things and concentrate all your fear on them – so that you have courage in the rest.”

30 Paulo Coelho Quotes on Life’s Greatest Wonders

If you’re having a hard time with your sense of direction, metaphorically, these Paulo Coelho Quotes can help you understand that perseverance, diligence, and faith in yourself are keys to getting what you want.

Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho was born on August 24, 1947. He first expressed his interest in writing during his teens. Due to his introversion and his resolution to reject the traditional path, his parents committed him to a mental institution. He escaped three times before being released at age 20.

He briefly attended law school before dropping out and lived as a hippie during the 1960s where he mostly traveled. When he returned to Brazil, he worked as a songwriter; most notably collaborating with Brazilian icon Raul Seixas. This led to his arrest over allegations that his lyrics were rebellious.

His first book, Hell Archives, was published in 1982 though it failed to gain significant success. In the late ’80s, The Pilgrimage and The Alchemist were published. However, it was in 1994 that the latter became an international bestseller after being re-published. Since The Alchemist, he has been a hugely prolific writer. His works are a combination of autobiographies, fictions, and essay collections.

Often cited as one of the most influential contemporary authors, Coelho’s books combined have sold in hundreds of millions. His journey, as arduous and diverse as it was, is an excellent example of persistence in the name of passion. Here are 30 Paulo Coelho quotes to live by.

Everything tells me that I am about to make a wrong decision, but making mistakes is just part of life. What does the world want of me? Does it want me to take no risks, to go back to where I came from because I didn’t have the courage to say “yes” to life? – Paulo Coelho, Eleven Minutes

When you find your path, you must not be afraid. You need to have sufficient courage to make mistakes. Disappointment, defeat, and despair are the tools God uses to show us the way. – Paulo Coelho, Brida

And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. – Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

paulo coelho achievement quotes

But no one can lose sight of what he desires. Even if there are moments when he believes the world and the others are stronger. The secret is this: do not surrender. – Paulo Coelho, The Fifth Mountain

Waiting is painful. Forgetting is painful. But not knowing which to do is the worst kind of suffering. – Paulo Coelho, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept

paulo coelho suffering quotes

Scars speak more loudly than the sword that caused them. – Paulo Coelho, Manuscript Found in Accra

The best way to destroy the bridge between the visible and invisible is by trying to explain your emotions. – Paulo Coelho, Brida

Beware when making a woman cry. God is counting her tears. – Paulo Coelho, Adultery

paulo coelho woman quotes

Don’t listen to the malicious comments of those friends who, never taking any risks themselves, can only see other people’s failures. – Paulo Coelho, Eleven Minutes

The worst killing is that which kills the joy we get from life. – Paulo Coelho, Hippie

Now that she had nothing to lose, she was free. – Paulo Coelho, Eleven Minutes

paulo coelho freedom quotes

We are the ones who create the messes in our heads. It does not come from outside. – Paulo Coelho, Adultery

When someone leaves, it’s because someone else is about to arrive. – Paulo Coelho, The Zahir

People never learn anything by being told, they have to find out for themselves. – Paulo Coelho, Veronika Decides to Die

paulo coelho learning quotes

We must never stop dreaming. Dreams provide nourishment for the soul, just as a meal does for the body. – Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage

Don’t be intimidated by other people’s opinions. Only mediocrity is sure of itself, so take risks and do what you really want to do. – Paulo Coelho, Aleph

One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving. – Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

paulo coelho loving quotes

I understand once again that the greatness of God always reveals itself in the simple things. – Paulo Coelho, Like the Flowing River

Talent is a universal gift, but it takes a lot of courage to use it. Don’t be afraid to be the best. – Paulo Coelho, The Winner Stands Alone

Anyone who loves in the expectation of being loved in return is wasting their time. – Paulo Coelho, The Devil and Miss Prym

paulo coelho expectation quotes

We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. – Paulo Coelho, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept

Men. They thought they ruled the world but couldn’t so much as take a step without, that very same night, seeking the opinions of their partners, lovers, girlfriends, mothers. – Paulo Coelho, Hippie

How much I missed, simply because I was afraid of missing it. – Paulo Coelho, Brida

paulo coelho missing quotes

Anxiety was born in the very same moment as mankind. And since we will never be able to master it, we will have to learn to live with it—just as we have learned to live with storms. – Paulo Coelho, Manuscript Found in Accra

The boat is safer anchored at the port; but that’s not the aim of boats. – Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage

Certain things in life simply have to be experienced -and never explained. Love is such a thing. – Paulo Coelho, Maktub

paulo coelho love quotes

The mirror reflects perfectly; it makes no mistakes because it doesn’t think. To think is to make mistakes. – Paulo Coelho, The Winner Stands Alone

Behind the mask of ice that people wear, there beats a heart of fire. – Paulo Coelho, Warrior of the Light

paulo coelho heart quotes

It is possible to avoid pain? Yes, but you’ll never learn anything. Is it possible to know something without ever having experiencing it? Yes, but it will never truly be part of you. – Paulo Coelho, Aleph

What people regard as vanity—leaving great works, having children, acting in such a way as to prevent one’s name from being forgotten—I regard as the highest expression of human dignity. – Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage

Inspire your loved ones with these 30 Paulo Coelho quotes. These might be the very words they need to hear to find love, happiness, and fulfillment in their journey.i

Selected by Sayingimages

 

Chernobyl and I

2004: I saw the nuclear plant from the window of the plane. We arrive in a small village, where an improvised museum was created. A sleepy young man take the five people to a room where there arte some artifacts, masks, and a projector connected to an old television. We start watching the video, filmed in the morning of April 26, 1986. A normal day in a normal city.

A man is sitting, having coffee. A mother is strolling with her baby on the street. People are busy, going to work; one or two people are waiting at the bus stop. An elderly man is reading the newspaper at a public square bench.

But the video has a problem: there are several horizontal lines, as if the tracking bottom needed to be adjusted, so that I and the other people, who are with me, could see a better image.

I think of having someone fixing it, but I also think that someone must have noticed it, and soon they will take care of it. The video about the small  city keeps running with absolutely nothing interesting besides the scenes of ordinary life.

It is possible that some of these people know that an accident has happened 2km from there. It is also possible that they know that there were 30 casualties, which is a high number, but not high enough to change the routine of the city’s inhabitants.

The scenes now show school buses parking. There they’ll stay for many days, while nothing happens. The images are very bad, and I turn to Katya, asking her to see what is going on.

She doesn’t answer – she lost her voice.

I turn to Oleg, who says a single sentence:

‘It isn’t the tracking. It is radiation.’

At 1:23 a.m. on April 26, the worst disaster created by the man took place in Chernobyl, Ukraine, where I am now watching this video.

With the explosion of a nuclear reactor, the local people were submitted to a radiation 90 times higher than the one from the Hiroshima bomb.

It was necessary to evacuate the region immediately, but no one, absolutely no one, said anything – after all, the government doesn’t commit errors.

A week later, a small note of five lines came up in Page 32 of the local newspaper, mentioning the death of the workers, and nothing else. In the meantime, Labour Day was being celebrated throughout the entire former Soviet Union, and in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, people were parading unaware that invisible death was in the air.

I am thrown back to my past: I am at a bar in Jardim Botânico, in Rio de Janeiro, when Globo TV broadcasts the news. At this point, devices in Sweden, thousands of kilometers from Ukraine, detected the radioactive dust that is travelling in their direction.

Only 30 deaths on that day. And yet, according to the 1995 report from the United Nations, a total of nine million people around the world were directly affected by the disaster, among them 3-4 million children.

The 30 deaths, according to expert John Gofman, turned into thousand of fatal cancer cases and the same number of non-fatal cases. The silence of the guilty, however, lasted much more than expected; after all, no one sees the radioactive dust. But finally, when the entire world learned about it, when the dust had already spread throughout Europe, 400,000 people had do evacuate.

As many as 2,000 cities were simply scratched off the map.

The video, filmed by the KGB – the secret police from the Soviet Union – ends with agents putting on special clothes.

Katya, Oleg, Yuri and Lena are crying.

We get up. Because of the silence of the guilty, the innocent also stay in silence – because there is nothing, absolutely nothing, to say.

Paulo Coelho: Now Our Supporter

by WorldReader

Our library just got bigger. More precisely, three new books have been added to our existing collection of over 28,000 e-books. But these aren’t just any books – these three best-selling titles were donated by Paulo Coelho, considered to be one of the most influential authors of our times.

The three donated books are: Christmas Stories, The Supreme Gift, and Stories for Parents, Children and Grandchildren, and are available for free to readers across Africa on mobile phones and e-readers. These cultural and joyful stories captivate readers of all ages, and are supplemented by beautiful illustrations by his wife, Christina Oiticica. Each of these novels add a unique dimension to our library and will serve as outlets for reflection, enjoyment, and global learning to the millions of African readers who access Worldreader’s e-books. Read the full press release here.

Coelho’s famous bestselling book, The Alchemist, pushed him into the international limelight in 1998, and is one among many globally loved classics, which include: The Pilgrimage, Brida, Veronika Decides to Die, and Eleven Minutes. Coelho has sold over 195 million copies of his books worldwide, translated into more than 80 languages and found in 170 countries. Now, they’ll be in even more countries.

Worldreader’s partnership with Coelho is a big achievement, not only because we are always striving to expand our digital library, but because the participation of renowned writers such as Coelho add literature of the highest quality to our collection. Coelho states, “We’re thrilled that millions of readers in Africa can now enjoy timeless tales for free and at the click of a button (…) The power of digital technology to enable access to books and ultimately improve people’s lives is undeniable.” We couldn’t agree more. There is enormous potential to touch the hearts and minds of thousands when technology and great ideas are combined.

Paulo is a model for cultural and educational sharing, an identity internationally recognized by the United Nations, who named him a Messenger of Peace in 2007. His donated books are invaluable additions to our library that will inspire readers and promote our mission to spread global literacy.

Vacations!

Although I enjoy my work a lot (once I tweeted: “if you do what you love, every day is a holiday”) I need to stop being in front of the computer – and this is the main reason for taking vacations.

I will be back by the end of August.

Meanwhile, you can download to your phone (iOS or Android my FREE DAILY MESSAGES

If it happens you are visiting this blog for the first time, please check the ARCHIVES

Paulo

I thank all those

I thank all those who laughed at my dreams;
You have inspired my imagination.
I thank all who wanted to squeeze me into their scheme;
They have taught me the value of freedom.

I thank all who have lied to me;
You have shown me the power of truth.
I thank all those who have not believed in me;
You have expected me to move mountains.
I thank all those who have written me off;
You have aroused my courage.

I thank all those who have left me;
They gave me room to create.
I thank all those who have betrayed me and abused;
You have let me be vigilant.
I thank all those who have hurt me;
They have taught me to grow in pain.

More importantly, I thank all
Who love me as I am;
They give me the strength to live.

My top 9 travel tips

I realised very early on that, for me, travelling was the best way of learning. I still have a pilgrim soul, and I thought that I would use this blog to pass on some of the lessons I have learned, in the hope that they might prove useful to other pilgrims like me.

1. Avoid museums. This might seem to be absurd advice, but let’s just think about it a little: if you are in a foreign city, isn’t it far more interesting to go in search of the present than of the past? It’s just that people feel obliged to go to museums because they learned as children that travelling was about seeking out that kind of culture. Obviously museums are important, but they require time and objectivity – you need to know what you want to see there, otherwise you will leave with a sense of having seen a few really fundamental things, except that you can’t remember what they were.

2. Hang out in bars. Bars are the places where life in the city reveals itself, not in museums. By bars I don’t mean nightclubs, but the places where ordinary people go, have a drink, ponder the weather, and are always ready for a chat. Buy a newspaper and enjoy the ebb and flow of people. If someone strikes up a conversation, however silly, join in: you cannot judge the beauty of a particular path just by looking at the gate.

3. Be open. The best tour guide is someone who lives in the place, knows everything about it, is proud of his or her city, but does not work for any agency. Go out into the street, choose the person you want to talk to, and ask them something (Where is the cathedral? Where is the post office?). If nothing comes of it, try someone else – I guarantee that at the end of the day you will have found yourself an excellent companion.

4. Try to travel alone or – if you are married – with your spouse. It will be harder work, no one will be there taking care of you, but only in this way can you truly leave your own country behind. Traveling with a group is a way of being in a foreign country while speaking your mother tongue, doing whatever the leader of the flock tells you to do, and taking more interest in group gossip than in the place you are visiting.

5. Don’t compare. Don’t compare anything – prices, standards of hygiene, quality of life, means of transport, nothing! You are not traveling in order to prove that you have a better life than other people – your aim is to find out how other people live, what they can teach you, how they deal with reality and with the extraordinary.

6. Understand that everyone understands you. Even if you don’t speak the language, don’t be afraid: I’ve been in lots of places where I could not communicate with words at all, and I always found support, guidance, useful advice, and even girlfriends. Some people think that if they travel alone, they will set off down the street and be lost for ever. Just make sure you have the hotel card in your pocket and – if the worst comes to the worst – flag down a taxi and show the card to the driver.

7. Don’t buy too much. Spend your money on things you won’t need to carry: tickets to a good play, restaurants, trips. Nowadays, with the global economy and the Internet, you can buy anything you want without having to pay excess baggage.

8. Don’t try to see the world in a month. It is far better to stay in a city for four or five days than to visit five cities in a week. A city is like a capricious woman: she takes time to be seduced and to reveal herself completely.

9. A journey is an adventure. Henry Miller used to say that it is far more important to discover a church that no one else has ever heard of than to go to Rome and feel obliged to visit the Sistine Chapel with two hundred thousand other tourists bellowing in your ear. By all means go to the Sistine Chapel, but wander the streets too, explore alleyways, experience the freedom of looking for something – quite what you don’t know – but which, if you find it, will – you can be sure – change your life.

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1 MIN READ: Do you feel useless?

The younger people realise that the world is full of huge problems, which they dream of solving, but no one is interested in their views.
‘You don’t know what the world is really like,’ they are told. ‘Listen to your elders and then you’ll have a better idea of what to do.’

The older people have gained in experience and maturity, they have learned about life’s difficulties the hard way, but when the moment comes for them to teach these things, no one is interested.
‘The world has changed,’ they are told. ‘You have to keep up to date and listen to the young.’

That feeling of uselessness is no respecter of age and never asks permission, but corrodes people’s souls, repeating over and over:
‘No one is interested in you, you’re nothing, the world doesn’t need your presence.’

Walk neither faster nor slower than your own soul.
Because it is your soul that will teach you the usefulness of each step you take.
Sometimes taking part in a great battle will be the thing that will help to change the course of history. But sometimes you can do that simply by smiling, for no reason, at someone you happen to pass in the street.
Without intending to, you might have saved the life of a complete stranger, who also thought he was useless and might have been ready to kill himself, until a smile gave him new hope and confidence.

taken from MANUSCRIPT FOUND IN ACCRA

2 min read: meeting Henry Miller’s widow

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The Japanese journalist asks the usual question: “And what are your favorite writers?” I give my usual answer: “Jorge Amado, Jorge Luis Borges, William Blake and Henry Miller.”

The translator looks at me astonished: “Henry Miller?” But she soon realizes her role isn’t to digress and gets back to her work. At the end of the interview, I want to know why she was so surprised about my answer.

“I am not criticizing Henry Miller; I’m his fan too,” she answers. “Did you know he was married to a Japanese woman?”
Yes: I’m not ashamed to be fanatic about someone I admire and try to know everything about their life.

I went to a book fair just to get to know Jorge Amado, I travelled 48 hours in a bus to meet with Borges ( this ended up not happening due to my own fault: when I saw him I froze and said nothing), I rang the bell of John Lennon’s door in New York (the porter asked me to leave a letter explaining the reason of my visit and said Lennon would probably call, this never happened). I had plans of going to see Henry Miller in Big Sur, but he died before I was able to gather the money for the trip.

“The Japanese woman’s name is Hoki,” I answer proudly. “I know too that in Tokyo there is a museum devoted to Miller’s watercolors.”
“Would you like to meet her tonight?”
But what a question! Of course, I would like to be near someone that lived with one of my idols.
I imagine she must receive visitors from all over the world and several interview requests; after all, they stayed together for almost 10 years.

We stop at a street where the sun probably never shines, as a viaduct passes over it. The translator points to a second-rate bar on the second floor of an old building.

We go up the stairs, we enter the completely empty bar and there is Hoki Miller. In order to conceal my surprise, I try to exaggerate my enthusiasm about her ex-husband.
She takes me to a room in the back where she set up a small museum – a few pictures, two or three signed watercolors, a signed book and nothing else.

She tells me that she met him when she took a masters degree in Los Angeles and played piano in a restaurant to support herself, singing French songs (in Japanese). Miller went there for dinner, loved the songs (he had spent a great part of his life in Paris), they went out a couple of times and he asked her to marry him.

She tells me delightful things about their life in common, about the problems originated by the age difference between them (Miller was over 50, Hoki wasn’t 20), of the time they spent together. She explains that the heirs from the other marriages got everything, inclusively the copyrights of the books – but that didn’t matter to her, what she lived with him lies beyond financial compensation.

I ask her to play that music that caught Miller’s attention many years back. She does it with tears in her eyes and sings ‘Autumn Leaves’ (Feuilles Mortes).

The bar, the piano, the voice of the Japanese woman echoing in the empty walls, not caring about the ex-wives’ victories, about the rivers of money Miller’s books shall make, about the world fame she could enjoy today.

“It wasn’t worth it to fight for inheritance: his love was enough to me,” she says at the end, understanding what we felt.
Yes, for the complete absence of bitterness or rancor in her voice, I understand that love was enough.

You, who they call Lord

EM PORTUGUES AQUI: Você, que eles chamam Senhor
EN ESPANOL AQUI : Tú, a quien ellos llaman Señor

by Abbot Burkhard

You, who I can feel deep inside my soul.
You, who has created this world.

When I look into the microcosmos, in the macrocosmos, everywhere I find you.
I sense your greatness.

You, who they call Lord,
who they call Father,
who they call Allah,
who they call Jahwe,
You, who is there.

Who is with us. Who walks with us.
The older I become, the more I can call you friend.
You are the friend of my life, who loves me and who called me to carry your message to the people.
Thank you.

I want to ask for everyone who is here today, to feel some of God’s Greatness and His love, who wants us, who loves us.
Jesus Christ showed us a way which we can walk together.
In spite of everything and everyone, we can find ways together,
seek and find ways which will gift us with a better and more beautiful life.

Paulo has written that he is searching for the sense in his life.
And while searching he went across new paths, wrong tracks and detours, like the all of us.

Let’s keep on looking for you in the humans beings that are present in our path.

Amen

_____________________________
Istanbul, Turkey, on March 19, 2011. You can see the video of Abbot Burkhard praying in German in 6:09 min of our collective prayer

(translated by Nayla )

The Alchemist, by Paree

Andy Warhol

 

“Don’t pay any attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches. During the 1960s, I think, people forgot what emotions were supposed to be. And I don’t think they’ve ever remembered.

Isn’t life a series of images that change as they repeat themselves? I’m afraid that if you look at a thing long enough, it loses all of its meaning.

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself. Since people are going to be living longer and getting older, they’ll just have to learn how to be babies longer.

I suppose I have a really loose interpretation of “work,” because I think that just being alive is so much work at something you don’t always want to do. The machinery is always going. Even when you sleep.

Fantasy love is much better than reality love. Never doing it is very exciting.

The most exciting attractions are between two opposites that never meet.

I have Social Disease. I have to go out every night. If I stay home one night I start spreading rumors to my dogs.

Sex is more exciting on the screen and between the pages than between the sheets.

In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.”

BY ANDY WARHOL

Andrew Warhola (August 6, 1928 – February 22, 1987), known as Andy Warhol, was an American painter, printmaker, and filmmaker who was a leading figure in the visual art movement known as pop art. The author of this blog considers him to be the MOST important visual artist of his generation

30 SEC READ The vase and the rose

The Grand Master gathered together all the disciples in order to decide who would have the honour of working at his side.

‘I am going to set you a problem,’ said the Grand Master. ‘And the first one to solve that problem will be the new Guardian of the temple.’
Once this briefest of speeches was over, he placed a small stool in the middle of the room. On it stood a priceless porcelain vase containing a red rose.
‘There is the problem,’ said the Grand Master.

After a few moments, one of the disciples got to his feet and looked at the master and at his fellow students, . then he walked  over to the vase and threw it to the ground, shattering it.

‘You are the new Guardian,’ the Grand Master said to the student.

‘I made myself perfectly clear. I said that there was a problem to be solved. Now it does not matter how beautiful or fascinating a problem might be, it has to be eliminated.
A problem is a problem. It could be a very rare porcelain vase, a delightful love affair that no longer makes any sense, or a course of action that we should abandon, but which we insist on continuing because it brings us comfort.
There is only one way to deal with a problem: attack it head on. At such moments, one cannot feel pity, nor be diverted by the fascination inherent in any conflict.’

20 SEC READING: What is truth?

I read the following piece of news in the Spanish newspaper “La Vanguardia”.

“What is truth? The President of the Court, Josep Maria Pijuan, had to check which of the versions of rape offered by the girl victim, 11-year-old J., was closest to reality. The lawyers attending the questioning did not believe that she would manage to avoid contradicting herself in her deposition.

“At a certain moment the judge asked a rather philosophical question: What is truth? Is it what you imagine or what they asked you to tell?”

The girl stopped for a minute, then she answered:

“Truth is the bad they did to me.”

“Lawyer Jufresa, a renowned and prestigious jurist, said that was one of the most brilliant definitions she had heard in her whole career.”

The mechanism of terror

An old legend tells of how a certain city in the Pyrenees mountains used to be a stronghold for drug-traffickers, smugglers and exiles. The worst of them all, called Ahab, was converted by a local monk, Savin, and decided that things could not continue like that.

Knowing the nature of men as well as he did, they would only take honesty for weakness and soon his power would be put in doubt.

So what he did was call some carpenters from a neighboring town, hand them a drawing and tell them to build something on the spot where now stands the cross that dominates the town. Day and night for ten days, the inhabitants of the town heard the noise of hammers and watched men sawing bits of wood, making joints and hammering in nails.

At the end of ten days the gigantic puzzle was erected in the middle of the square, covered with a cloth. Ahab called all the inhabitants together to attend the inauguration of the monument.

Solemnly, and without making any speech, he removed the cloth.

It was a gallows. With a rope, trapdoor and all the rest. Brand-new, covered with bee’s wax to endure all sorts of weather for a long time.

At the end of the meeting, several groups formed, and most of them felt that Ahab had been deceived by the saint, since he lacked the courage he used to have. So he would have to be killed. For the next few days many plans were made to this end. But they were all forced to contemplate the gallows in the middle of the square, and wondered: What is that thing doing there? Was it built to kill those who did not accept the new laws? Who is on Ahab’s side, and who isn’t? Are there spies among us?

The gallows looked down on the men, and the men looked up at the gallows. Little by little the rebels’ initial courage was replaced by fear; they all knew Ahab’s reputation, they all knew he was implacable in his decisions. Some people abandoned the city, others decided to try the new jobs offered them, simply because they had nowhere to go or else because of the shadow of that instrument of death in the middle of the square. One year later the place was at peace, it had grown into a great business center on the frontier and began to export the best wool and produce top-quality wheat.

The gallows stayed there for ten years. The wood resisted well, but now and again the rope was changed for another. It was never put to use. Ahab never said a single word about it. Its image was enough to change courage to fear, trust to suspicion, stories of bravado to whispers of acceptance.



in “The Devil and Miss Prym”

The Magic Mountain

I think that one of the most beautiful regions in the world is Languedoc, a part of the Pyrenees in southwest France. I have been there several times and its valleys, mountains, vegetation and rivers always impress me. However, as human beings are quite unpredictable, it was precisely in this magnificent place that the first great European “heresy” arose, Catharism.

Many books have been written on the subject, yet it is possible to summarize the Cathar philosophy in one simple phrase; the Universe was created by the devil, all this apparent beauty is a diabolic work.

According to the encyclopedia, they were dualists who believed in the existence of two gods, one of good (God) and one of evil (Satan), who created the material world. Because of this, they took a vow of chastity and had no intention of procreating and presenting the devil with more followers. They called themselves “perfect” and were disposed to martyrdom to prove the importance of their belief. The symbolic end of the movement, which triggered off the first crusades recorded in history, took place on March 15, 1244 in the fortress of Montségur. After a long siege when they were offered the choice of converting to Catholicism or else die, approximately 250 “perfect” men, women and children climbed down the mountain singing of their intent to throw themselves into the flames of the bonfire specially made for the occasion.

For a long time I was interested in Catharism. In 1989 I met Brida O’Fern (who later on became a character in a book of mine), who had been a Cathar in an earlier incarnation. At the beginning of that same year I had met Mí´nica Antunes, who at that time was just my friend, now my friend and agent.

Since for spiritual reasons I needed to go on the Cathar walk (a trail linking together the castles/fortresses of the “perfect ones”) I invited her to take part in a stretch of the walk.

Mí´nica and I reached the foot of the Montségur Mountain one August afternoon. We had planned to climb it the following day, and after dinner we went to chat in the place where the bonfire had been lit almost 800 years before (an insignificant monument marks the spot). The weather was overcast, with clouds so low that we could not even see the ruins at the top of the gigantic rock. Just to provoke Mí´nica, I said that it might be interesting to make the climb that very night. She said no, and I was relieved, imagine if she had said yes!

At that moment a car drove up, the same make and color as mine. An Irishman stepped out and asked, as if we were from the region, from what point the rock could be climbed. I suggested that he make the climb the next morning with us, but he was determined to go up that very night, he wanted to see the sun rise from up there, claiming that perhaps he had been a Cathar in a past life.

“I wonder if you could lend me a lamp?” he asked.

And everything seems to fit; Brida, the obligation of going on the Cathar walk, the joke with Mí´nica a few minutes before, and now this fellow, with a car just like mine. It is a sign. I go to the hotel in the village where we are staying and borrow a lamp, the only one they have.

Mí´nica seems scared, but I say that we have to go ahead. Signs are signs, I say. The newcomer asks where the path is. I told him it did not matter and to just start going up the path.

And for some time, (I cannot remember how long) the three of us climbed a mountain that we did not know at night and with the fog that only allowed us to see a few yards ahead of us. Finally, we penetrated the clouds, the sky filled with stars, the moon was full, and standing before us was the gate of the fortress of Montségur.

We entered and contemplated the ruins. I looked at the beauty of the firmament, wondering how we got there without any accident, and then I think it is better not to ask any questions and just admire the miracle. The Cathars contemplated this very same sky, and believed that all these stars were the work of the devil. I shall never understand the Cathars, although I do respect the integrity with which they dedicated themselves to their faith.

I have returned to Montségur and climbed the mountain several other times, but have never again managed to find the path that we used that August night in 1989.

Mysteries exist.

20 sec reading: The Drunkard Disciple

A Zen master had hundreds of disciples. They all prayed at the right time, except one, who was always drunk.

The master was growing old. Some of the more virtuous pupils began to wonder who would be the new leader of the group, the one who would receive the important secrets of the Tradition.

On the eve of his death, however, the master called the drunkard disciple and revealed the hidden secrets to him.

A veritable revolt broke out among the others.

“How shameful!” they cried in the streets, “We have sacrificed ourselves for the wrong master, one who can’t see our qualities.”

Hearing the commotion outside, the dying master remarked, “I had to pass on these secrets to a man that I knew well. All my pupils are very virtuous, and showed only their qualities. That is dangerous, for virtue often serves to hide vanity, pride and intolerance. That is why I chose the only disciple whom I know really well, since I can see his defect: drunkenness.”

Viva N. Sra. Fátima!

nossa-senhora-de-fatima

In the spring and summer of 1916, three children, Lucia Santos and her two cousins, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, claimed to have experienced the visitation of an angel on three separate occasions. The angel appeared to them as they watched their sheep, taught them specific prayers to pray, to make sacrifices, and to spend time in adoration of the Lord.

On May 13, 1917, ten year old Lúcia Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto were herding sheep at a location known as the Cova da Iria near their home village of Fátima, Portugal. Lúcia described seeing a woman “brighter than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal goblet filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun”. Astonished they ran back to their village and told everyone. Further appearances were reported to have taken place on the thirteenth day of the month in June and July. In these, the woman asked the children to do penance and Acts of Reparation as well as making personal sacrifices to save sinners. The children subsequently wore tight cords around their waists to cause themselves pain, performed self-flagellation using stinging nettles, abstained from drinking water on hot days, and performed other works of penance.[citation needed] According to Lúcia’s account, in the course of her appearances, the woman confided to the children three secrets, now known as the Three Secrets of Fátima.

Thousands of people flocked to Fátima and Aljustrel in the following months, drawn by reports of visions and miracles. On August 13, 1917, the provincial administrator Artur Santos (no relation to Lúcia Santos), believing that the events were politically disruptive, intercepted and jailed the children before they could reach the Cova da Iria that day. Prisoners held with them in the provincial jail later testified that the children, while upset, were first consoled by the inmates, and later led them in praying the rosary. The administrator interrogated the children and tried unsuccessfully to get them to divulge the contents of the secrets. In the process, he threatened the children, saying he would boil them in a pot of oil, one by one unless they confessed. The children refused, but Lúcia told him everything short of the secrets, and offered to ask the Lady for permission to tell the Administrator the secrets.That month, instead of the usual apparition in the Cova da Iria on the 13th, the children reported that they saw the Virgin Mary on 15 August, the Feast of the Assumption, at nearby Valinhos.

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