The dawn of time

Looking back toward the dawn of civilization: we could not survive alone. So we were obliged to come together. We lived in a symbolic world in the classic (holistic) sense. Not because it was politically correct or because it was imposed by society or because it was good for our health – rather, it was because we had no wall separating the magic from what we call ‘reality’.

So in the very beginning, when you heard thunder – it was God speaking. You looked to the mountain – it was God who lived there. You looked to the fire – a God was also there.
So compared to the beginning, we were what we still are now – but which we no longer recognize — we were ONE. Full of imagination and creativity.
Human beings were like cells from the same body, and these cells interacted with one another, for better or for worse.
But then we lost this “oneness” as society became more schizophrenic.

We were individuals, but at the same time we were the tribe – society. There are some studies showing that at the very beginning we were monotheists as we could not put god everywhere.
But then polytheism gradually emerged. We started naming places and giving gods and goddesses specific tasks.

Embedded in our genes is this sense of oneness which does not imply sacrificing our individuality. We had this connection with nature because we could not remain in the same place for long. We had to stretch and go beyond our limits because the basics – food, water, shelter – were elsewhere, so we had to move. This meant that we did not get attached to any one place, which also affected our values because we were constantly going beyond our comfort zone – we were forced to go to the second, third, fourth, etc. mountain – but then eventually, everything changed.
Moving from hunters to dwellers – we settled down, we stopped moving.

Time to be ready to new adventures!

1 MIN READ: the law and the fruits

Illustration by Ken Crane
In the desert, fruit was scarce. God called one of his prophets and said:

– Each person may only eat one fruit a day.

The custom was obeyed for many generations, and the ecology of the place was preserved. Since the remaining fruit supplied seeds, other trees appeared. Soon, the entire region was turned into fertile soil, which was the envy of other towns.

But the people continued to eat one fruit a day – they remained faithful to what the ancient prophet of their forefathers had told them. However they never allowed the inhabitants of other villages to take advantage of the abundant harvest with which they were rewarded each year.

The result was that fruit rotted on the ground.

God called a new prophet and said:

– Let them eat as much fruit as they like. And ask them to share the abundance with their neighbors.

The prophet came to the town with the new message. But he was stoned – for by now the custom was ingrained in the hearts and minds of each of the inhabitants.

With time, the younger villagers began to question the barbaric old custom. But, since the tradition of the elders was unbending, they decided to abandon the religion. Thus, they could eat as much fruit as they wished, and give the rest to those in need of food.

The only people who remained faithful to the local church, were those who considered themselves saints. But in truth they were unable to see how the world changes, and recognize how one must change with it.

Online Bookstore HERE
Kindle (four languages) HERE

 

10 SEC READ: Another wrong step

As if nothing had changed overnight, the warrior takes another wrong step and dives once again into the abyss. Ghosts provoke, loneliness torments him.
Now that he is more aware of his acts, he did not think this would happen.

But it did. Shrouded by darkness, he talks to his master.

“Master, I fell again into the abyss “, he says.” The waters are deep and dark”.

“Remember something “, responds the master. “It is not the diving that causes the drowning, but the staying underwater”

The warrior uses his remaining strength to get out of the situation he is in.

in in WARRIOR OF THE LIGHT: A MANUAL

10 sec reading: My wife and the burnt light

My wife and I were reflecting on the past year, whilst dining at a restaurant.

I started to complain about something that hadn’t happened the way I wanted it to.

My wife focused her attention on a Christmas tree that someone put there. I thought that she wasn’t interested in the conversation, so I changed the subject:
“This tree has a beautiful illumination”?, I said.

“Yes, but if you look carefully you can see one burnt light among dozens.
“ It seems to me that instead of thinking of this year as dozens of enlightened blessings, you chose to look at the one light that did not glow”

 

Today…

I am going to think of this day as the first day of my life.

If it’s cloudy, I want to watch to see in which direction the clouds are going. I always think that I don’t have time or don’t pay enough attention.

Above my head exists a sky about which all humanity, over thousands of years, has woven a series of reasonable explanations.
Well, I will forget everything I learned about the stars and they will be transformed once more into angels or children or whatever I feel like believing at that moment.

Time and life have given me plenty of logical explanations for everything, but my soul feeds on mysteries. I need mystery, I need to see the voice of an angry god in a rumble of thunder, even though many of you here might consider that heresy.
I want to fill my life with fantasy again, because an angry god is far stranger, far more frightening and far more interesting than a phenomenon explained by the sages.

For the first time, I will smile without feeling guilty, because joy is not a sin.
For the first time, I will avoid anything that makes me suffer, because suffering is not a virtue.

I will not complain about life, saying: everything’s always the same and I can do nothing to change it. Because I am living this day as if it were my first and, while it lasts, I will discover things that I did not even know were there.

Even though I have walked past the same places countless times before and said ‘Good morning’ to the same people, today’s ‘Good morning’ will be different. It will not be a mere polite formula, but a form of blessing, in the hope that everyone I speak to will understand the importance of being alive, even when tragedy is threatening to engulf us.

I will pay attention to the words of the song the minstrel is singing in the street, even though others are not listening because their souls are heavy with fear. The music says: ‘Love rules, but no one knows where it has its throne; in order to know that secret place, you must first submit to Love.’

And I will have the courage to open the door to the sanctuary that leads to my soul.
May I look at myself as if this were the first time I had ever been in contact with my own body and my own soul.
May I be capable of accepting myself as I am: a person who walks and feels and talks like anyone else, but who, despite his faults, is also brave.

May I be amazed by my simplest gestures, as if I were talking to a stranger; by my most ordinary emotions, as if I were feeling the sand touching my face when the wind blows in from Baghdad; by the most tender of moments, as when I watch my wife sleeping by my side and try to imagine what she is dreaming.

And if I’m alone in bed, I will go over to window, look up at the sky and feel certain that loneliness is a lie, because the Universe is there to keep me company.

And then I will have lived each hour of my day as if it were a constant surprise to me, to this ‘I’, who was not created by my father or my mother or by school, but by everything I have experienced up until now, and which I suddenly forgot in order to discover it all anew.

And even if this is to be my last day on Earth, I will enjoy it to the full, because I will live it with the innocence of a child, as if I were doing everything for the first time.
 
 
taken from THE MANUSCRIPT FOUND IN ACCRA

240_f_123907239_1whci5fj9byebxyut5hlvetoh2iyccf3

30 SEC READ: Success

Success comes to those who do not waste time comparing what they are doing with what others are doing; it enters the house of the person who says every day: ‘I will do my best.’

People who seek only success rarely find it, because success is not an end in itself, but a consequence.

Obsession doesn’t help at all, it becomes confused as to which path to follow and ends up taking away the pleasure of living.

The truly rich person is the one who is in contact with the energy of Love every second of his existence.

You must have a goal in mind, but, as you go along, it costs nothing to stop now and then and enjoy the view around you.

At such moments, it is important to ask yourself: ‘Are my values still intact? Am I trying to please others and do what they expect of me, or am I really convinced that my work is a manifestation of my soul and my enthusiasm? Do I want success at any price or do I want to be a successful person because I manage to fill my days with Love?’

Do that in 2017. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

10 sec read: The umbrella

As tradition dictates, upon entering his Zen master’s house, the disciple left his shoes and umbrella outside.

“I saw through the window that you were arriving,” said the master. “Did you leave your shoes to the right or the left of the umbrella?”

“I haven’t the least idea. But what does that matter? I was thinking of the secret of Zen!”

“If you don’t pay attention in life, you will never learn anything. Communicate with life, pay each moment the attention it deserves – that is the only secret of Zen.”

2016: closing cycles

ESPANOL AQUI: CERRANDO CIRCULOS
PORTUGUES AQUI: ENCERRANDO CICLOS
_____________________________

One always has to know when a stage comes to an end. If we insist on staying longer than the necessary time, we lose the happiness and the meaning of the other stages we have to go through.
Closing cycles, shutting doors, ending chapters – whatever name we give it, what matters is to leave in the past the moments of life that have finished.

Did you lose your job? Has a loving relationship come to an end? Did you leave your parents’ house? Gone to live abroad? Has a long-lasting friendship ended all of a sudden?
You can spend a long time wondering why this has happened.

You can tell yourself you won’t take another step until you find out why certain things that were so important and so solid in your life have turned into dust, just like that.
But such an attitude will be awfully stressing for everyone involved: your parents, your husband or wife, your friends, your children, your sister.
Everyone is finishing chapters, turning over new leaves, getting on with life, and they will all feel bad seeing you at a standstill.

Things pass, and the best we can do is to let them really go away.

That is why it is so important (however painful it may be!) to destroy souvenirs, move, give lots of things away to orphanages, sell or donate the books you have at home.

Everything in this visible world is a manifestation of the invisible world, of what is going on in our hearts – and getting rid of certain memories also means making some room for other memories to take their place.
Let things go. Release them. Detach yourself from them.

Nobody plays this life with marked cards, so sometimes we win and sometimes we lose.
Do not expect anything in return, do not expect your efforts to be appreciated, your genius to be discovered, your love to be understood.

Stop turning on your emotional television to watch the same program over and over again, the one that shows how much you suffered from a certain loss: that is only poisoning you, nothing else.

Nothing is more dangerous than not accepting love relationships that are broken off, work that is promised but there is no starting date, decisions that are always put off waiting for the “ideal moment.”

Before a new chapter is begun, the old one has to be finished: tell yourself that what has passed will never come back.
Remember that there was a time when you could live without that thing or that person – nothing is irreplaceable, a habit is not a need.
This may sound so obvious, it may even be difficult, but it is very important.

Closing cycles. Not because of pride, incapacity or arrogance, but simply because that no longer fits your life.

Shut the door, change the record, clean the house, shake off the dust.

Stop being who you were, and change into who you are.

Bene Gesserit Litany against fear

I must not fear.

Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.

Only I will remain.

_____________________________

from 1965 novel Dune by Frank Herbert
Illustration by 5scanner

1 min reading: A Christmas tale

PARA LER EM PORTUGUES CLIQUE AQUI: Um conto de natal
PARA LEER EN ESPANOL, VEA AQUI >
Cuento de Navidad


A medieval legend tells us that in the country we know today as Austria the Burkhard family – a man, a woman and a child – used to amuse people at Christmas parties by reciting poetry, singing ancient troubadour ballads, and juggling. Of course, there was never any money left over to buy presents, but the man always told his son:

“Do you know why Santa Claus’s bag never gets empty, although there are so many children in the world? Because it may be full of toys, but sometimes there are more important things to be delivered, what we call “invisible gifts”. In a broken home, he tries to bring harmony and peace on the holiest night in Christianity. Where love is lacking, he deposits a seed of faith in children’s hearts. Where the future seems black and uncertain, he brings hope. In our case, the day after Father Christmas comes to visit us, we are happy to be still alive and doing our work, which is to make people happy. Never forget that.”

Time passed, the boy grew up, and one day the family passed in front of the impressive Melk Abbey, which had just been built. The young Burkhard wanted to become a priest. The family understood and respected the boy’s wish. They knocked at the door of the monastery and were given generous welcome by the monks, who accepted the young Buckhard as a novice.

Christmas Eve came around. And precisely on that day, a special miracle happened in Melk: Our Lady, carrying the baby Jesus in her arms, decided to descend to Earth to visit the monastery.

All the priests lined up and each of them stood proudly before the Virgin trying to pay homage to the Madonna and her Son.

At the very end of the line, young Buckhard anxiously waited his turn. His parents were simple people, and all that they had taught him was to toss balls up in the air and do some juggling.

When it came his turn, the other priests wanted to put an end to all the homage that had been paid, since the ex-juggler had nothing important to add and might even mar the image of the abbey.

Nevertheless, deep in his heart he also felt a great need to give something of himself to Jesus and the Virgin. Feeling very ashamed before the reproachful gaze of his brothers, he took some oranges from his pocket and began to toss them in the air and catch them in his hands, creating a beautiful circle in the air.

At that instant, the baby Jesus, lying in Our Lady’s lap, began to clap his hands with joy. And it was to young Buckhard that the Virgin held out her arms to let him hold the smiling child for a few moments.

(based on a medieval story)
 
 

Online Bookstore HERE
Kindle (four languages) HERE

 

The pine tree in St. Martin (ENG, PORT, ESPA)

________________
PARA LER EM PORTUGUES CLICAR AQUI> O pinheiro de St. Martin
PARA LEER EN ESPANOL CLICAR AQUI > El pino de St. Martin
________________

On Christmas Eve, the parish priest of the little village of St. Martin, in the French Pyrenees, was getting ready to celebrate Mass when he began to smell a delicious perfume. It was winter, the flowers had disappeared a long time ago – and yet there was this pleasant smell as if springtime had appeared out of season.

Intrigued, he went outside to look for the cause of such a marvel, and came across a boy sitting in front of the school door. By his side was a kind of golden Christmas tree.

“But what a beautiful tree!” said the vicar. “It seems to have touched the sky, for it gives off such a divine scent! And it’s made of pure gold! Where did you find it?”

The young man did not seem very happy at what the priest had said.

“It’s true that what I carry with me was growing heavier and heavier as I went along, and the leaves did get harder. But it can’t be gold, and I’m afraid of what my parents are going to say.”

The boy went on to tell his story:

“This morning I left to go to the big city of Tarbes with the money that my mother gave me to buy a nice Christmas tree. But when I was going through a village I happened to see a lonely old woman who had no family to spend the great feast of Christianity with. I gave her some money for her supper, because I was sure that I could get a discount on the tree I was going to buy.

“When I reached Tarbes, I passed in front of the big prison and there was a bunch of people waiting outside to visit the inmates. They were all sad, for they would spend the night far from their beloved ones. I heard some of them commenting that they did not even have enough to buy a slice of Christmas cake. Right there and then, moved by the romanticism of people my age, I decided that I would share my money with those people, who needed it more than I did. I would keep just a very small amount for lunch; the florist is a friend of my family and he would surely give me the tree, and then I could work for him all next week to pay off my debt.

“However, on reaching the market I found out that the florist I knew had not come to work. I tried as hard as I could to find someone who would lend me money to buy the tree elsewhere, but it was all in vain.

“I convinced myself that I would be able to think better what to do if I had something to eat. When I approached a bar, a foreign-looking boy asked me if I could spare him some money, because he had not eaten in two days. Since I imagined that the child Jesus must once have been hungry, I handed him the little money that I had left, and returned home. On the way back I broke a branch off a pine tree; I tried to make it look nice by trimming it, but it just grew as hard as metal and it’s far from being the Christmas tree that my mother is expecting.”

“My dear boy,” said the priest, “the perfume of this tree leaves no doubt whatever that it has been touched by Heaven. Let me tell you the rest of its story:

“As soon as you left that lonely old woman, she immediately asked the Virgin Mary, a mother like herself, to return to you such an unexpected blessing. The parents of the prisoners were certain that they had come upon an angel, and prayed thanking the angels for the Christmas cakes that they bought. The boy that you met gave thanks to God for satisfying his hunger.

“The Virgin, the angels and Jesus heard the prayer of those who had been helped. When you broke the branch off the pine tree, the Virgin bathed it in the perfume of mercy. As you walked along, the angels touched the leaves and they turned to gold. Finally, when everything was ready, Jesus looked upon the work and blessed it, and from then on, whoever touches this Christmas tree will have their sins forgiven and their wishes fulfilled.”

And so it was. The legend goes that the sacred pine tree is still there in St. Martin, but that its force is so great that all those help their brothers on Christmas Eve, however far they may be from the little village in the Pyrenees, are blessed by it.

(inspired by a Hassidic tale)

Book excerpt: The Spy

Dear Mr. Clunet,

I do not know what will happen at the end of this week. I have always been an optimistic woman, but time has left me bitter, alone, and sad.
the-spy-paulo-coelho-cover-244.jpg
Knopf

If things turn out as I hope, you will never receive this letter. I’ll have been pardoned. After all, I spent my life cultivating influential friends. I will hold on to the letter so that, one day, my only daughter might read it to find out who her mother was.

But if I am wrong, I have little hope that these pages, which have consumed my last week of life on Earth, will be kept. I have always been a realis­tic woman and I know that, once a case is settled, a lawyer will move on to the next one without a back­ward glance.

I can imagine what will happen after. You will be a very busy man, having gained notoriety defending a war criminal. You will have many people knock­ing at your door, begging for your services, for, even defeated, you attracted huge publicity. You will meet journalists interested to hear your version of events, you will dine in the city’s most expensive restau­rants, and you will be looked upon with respect and envy by your peers. You will know there was never any concrete evidence against me — only docu­ments that had been tampered with — but you will never publicly admit that you allowed an innocent woman to die.

Innocent? Perhaps that is not the right word. I was never innocent, not since I first set foot in this city I love so dearly. I thought I could manipulate those who wanted state secrets. I thought the Ger­mans, French, English, Spanish would never be able to resist me — and yet, in the end, I was the one manipulated. The crimes I did commit, I escaped, the greatest of which was being an emancipated and independent woman in a world ruled by men. I was convicted of espionage even though the only thing concrete I traded was the gossip from high-society salons.

Yes, I turned this gossip into “secrets,” because I wanted money and power. But all those who accuse me now know I never revealed anything new.

It’s a shame no one will know this. These enve­lopes will inevitably find their way to a dusty file cabinet, full of documents from other proceedings. Perhaps they will leave when your successor, or your successor’s successor, decides to make room and throw out old cases.

By that time, my name will have been long for­gotten. But I am not writing to be remembered. I am attempting to understand things myself. Why? How is it that a woman who for so many years got everything she wanted can be condemned to death for so little?

At this moment, I look back at my life and realize that memory is a river, one that always runs back­ward.

Memories are full of caprice, where images of things we’ve experienced are still capable of suffo­cating us through one small detail or insignificant sound. The smell of baking bread wafts up to my cell and reminds me of the days I walked freely in the cafés. This tears me apart more than my fear of death or the solitude in which I now find myself.

Memories bring with them a devil called melan­choly — oh, cruel demon that I cannot escape. Hear­ing a prisoner singing, receiving a small handful of letters from admirers who were never among those who brought me roses and jasmine flowers, pictur­ing a scene from some city I didn’t appreciate at the time. Now it’s all I have left of this or that country I visited.

The memories always win, and with them comes a demon that is even more terrifying than melan­choly: remorse. It’s my only companion in this cell, except when the sisters decide to come and chat. They do not speak about God, or condemn me for what society calls my “sins of the flesh.” Generally, they say one or two words, and the memories spout from my mouth, as if I wanted to go back in time, plunging into this river that runs backward.

One of them asked me:

“If God gave you a second chance, would you do anything differently?”

I said yes, but really, I do not know. All I know is that my current heart is a ghost town, one popu­lated by passions, enthusiasm, loneliness, shame, pride, betrayal, and sadness. I cannot disentangle myself from any of it, even when I feel sorry for myself and weep in silence.

I am a woman who was born at the wrong time and nothing can be done to fix this. I don’t know if the future will remember me, but if it does, may it never see me as a victim, but as someone who moved forward with courage, fearlessly paying the price she had to pay.

From “The Spy” by Paulo Coelho.

Character of the week: Santa Claus

One of the problems we have in this world is that too many adults believe in Santa Claus, and too many children don’t
Lee Lauer

A critic is a man who found out when he was about ten that there wasn’t any Santa Claus, and he’s still upset.
James Gould Cozzens

Santa Claus has the right idea: visit people once a year
Victor Borge

I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph.
Shirley Temple

Christmas is a time when kids tell Santa what they want and adults pay for it. Deficits are when adults tell the government what they want and their kids pay for it.
Richard Lamm

Alas! How dreary would be the world if there was no Santa Claus! There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.
Francis P. Church

Santa Claus is anyone who loves another and seeks to make them happy; who gives himself by thought or word or deed in every gift that he bestows.
Edwin Osgood Grover

Let me see if I’ve got this Santa business straight. You say he wears a beard, has no discernible source of income and flies to cities all over the world under cover of darkness? You sure this guy isn’t laundering illegal drug money?
Tom Armstrong

There are three stages of a man’s life:
He believes in Santa Claus.
He doesn’t believe in Santa Claus
He is Santa Claus.

Hope


According to the dictionary
: a tendency of the spirit to consider something as probable; the second of the theological virtues; expectation; supposition; probability.

For the ancient Greeks: In one of the classic myths of the Creation, one of the gods, furious at the fact that Prometheus stole fire and in doing so gave men their independence, sends Pandora to marry her brother Epimetheus. Pandora brings along a box, which she is forbidden to open. However, just as happens to Eve in the Christian myth, her curiosity gets the better of her: she raises the lid to see what is inside, and at this moment all the troubles of the world spill out and spread all over the Earth. Only one thing remains inside: Hope, the only arm to combat the misfortune that has scattered throughout the world.

In a Hassidic story (Jewish tradition): At the end of the forty days of deluge, Noah emerged from the Ark. He disembarked full of hope, lit some incense, looked around him, and all he saw was destruction and death. Noah cried out:
“Lord Almighty, if you knew the future, why did you create man? Just for the pleasure of punishing him?”
A triple perfume rose to the sky: the incense, the perfume of Noah’s tears, and the aroma of his actions.
Then came the answer:
“The prayers of a just man are always heard. Let me tell you why I did this: so that might understand your work. You and your descendants will use hope and will always be rebuilding a world that came from nothing. In that way we shall share the work and the consequences: now we are both responsible.”

The individual’s three greatest hopes: 1] Meeting the beloved one; 2] to be rich; 3] immortality. (Source: Irving Wallace, The Book of Lists, 1977)

An Arab story: The great Caliph Alrum Al-Rachid decided to build a palace that would mark the grandeur of his reign. Besides the chosen terrain stood a shack. Al-Rachid asked his minister to convince the owner – an old weaver – to sell it to be demolished. The minister tried, but without any success.
Back at the palace, it was suggested that they simply expel the old man from the site.
“No,” answered Al-Rachid. “It will become part of my legacy to my people. When they see the palace, they will say: he was great. And when they see the shack, they will say: he was just, because he respected the desire of others.”

The black tunnel

“I saw only a tunnel, with a man pointing a gun at me and telling me to get out of the car.”

I saw a tunnel too, except this one led to a hotel in Rio de Janeiro, the Glória Hotel. I looked at that hotel, expected the worst and thought to myself: “it’s not fair, I’m only 26 years old!” Fair or not, in the early morning of 27 May 1974 I stood before death and could not see what was happening beside me. Just the tunnel and the hotel. But my story does not matter, it serves only to say that I understand perfectly well what Sorin is telling me in a bar lost in the middle of the Carpatian Mountains.

Sorin Miscoci’s calvary began on 28 March 2005, near Baghdad. He had been designated to spend a week there at the request of a Rumanian TV station and ended up being kidnapped for 55 days.
“Later on, when they freed me, the American security agents asked me how many people were there. And I told them: one. They laughed and said that just wasn’t possible. It was the psychologist who helped me, explaining that in situations like this, nothing in the surroundings has any importance. All you see is the focus of the crisis, what is threatening you, and you simply forget the rest.

Sorin has just got married to Andrea, who strokes his hand. We have been traveling together for three days and we will continue for another week. Cristina Topescu, an old friend who worked as a journalist in the same TV as Sorin, says that when the time came to mobilize the country, few colleagues came forward to speak to the President of the Republic, for fear of losing their jobs.

“I asked God for only one thing: to die with a bullet in the heart. I had already seen videos of prisoners being decapitated; I asked, begged to be shot,” adds Sorin.
Andrea gives him a kiss. He smiles, asks if I want to stay in that restaurant or if we should go to the only karaoke in Sibiu. I prefer to interrupt the conversation at that point – it was better to go and sing together.

On the way to the discotheque, I think about the black tunnel: without wanting to romanticize a dramatic situation, I felt that this happens to everyone. When we are faced with something that really threatens us, it is impossible to look around, although this is the correct and safer procedure. We can’t see clearly, use logic, gather information that can help us and those who try to get us out of that situation.

We reach the karaoke, drink some more, sing Elvis, Madonna and Ray Charles. Ours is an interesting group: Lacrima, who was abandoned by her mother when she was only two months old. Leonardo, who has just got over a depression that lasted two years. Cristina Topescu, who recently overcame difficult moments. Sorin and his 55 days in captivity, and Andrea, who almost lost the person she loved. And me, with scars all over my body and soul.

And even so we drank, sang and celebrated life. To have friends like these gives me more than hope, it makes me understand that the true survivors will never be victims to their torturers, because they manage to keep alive the most important thing in human beings: joy.

20 SEC READ: Together (ENG, ESPA, PORT)


Illustration by Ken Crane

_______________________
EM PORTUGUES: A brasa solitária
EN ESPANOL: La brasa solitária
_______________________

Juan always attended Sunday services at his parish. But then he began to find that the pastor always said the same things, so he stopped going to church.

On a cold winter’s night two months later, the pastor paid him a visit.

“He must have come to try to convince me to go back,” Juan thought to himself. He imagined he could not tell the real reason: those boring sermons. He had to find an excuse, and as he was thinking he pulled two chairs up close to the hearth and began talking about the weather.

The pastor said nothing. Juan, after some vain attempts to start up a conversation, sat in silence too. They both sat there without speaking, just looking at the fire for close to half an hour.

Then the pastor rose, and with the help of a branch that had not yet burned, pulled an ember aside and placed it far from the fire.

The ember, without enough heat to go on burning, began to go out. Juan quickly tossed it back into the middle of the fire.

“Good night,” said the pastor, rising to leave.

“Good night and many thanks,” answered Juan. “No matter how bright it is, an ember removed from the fire will end up going out quickly.
“No matter how clever a man may be, far from his neighbors he will never manage to conserve his heat and his flame.”

Different wells in your heart (Hafez)

There are different wells within your heart.
Some fill with each good rain,
Others are far too deep for that.

In one well
You have just a few precious cups of water,
That “love” is literally something of yourself,
It can grow as slow as a diamond
If it is lost.

Your love
Should never be offered to the mouth of a stranger,
Only to someone
Who has the valor and daring
To cut pieces of their soul off with a knife
Then weave them into a blanket to protect you.

Peeling oranges

Ernest Hemingway, the author of the classic The Old Man and the Sea, went from moments of harsh physical activity to periods of total inactivity. Before sitting to write pages of a new novel, he’d spend hours peeling oranges and gazing into the fire.

One morning, a reporter noticed this strange habit.

“Don’t you think you’re wasting your time?” asked the journalist. “You’re so famous, shouldn’t you be doing more important things?”

“I’m preparing my soul to write, like a fisherman preparing his tackle before going out to sea,” replied Hemingway.

“If I don’t do this, and think only the fish matter, I’ll never achieve anything.”

Tobacco kiosk

by Fernando Pessoa ( Portuguese poet, 1888-1935 )

I am nothing
I shall always be nothing
I cannot wish to be anything.
Aside from that, I have within me all the dreams of the world.

Windows of my room,
The room of one of the world’s millions nobody knows about
(And if they knew about me, what would they know?)
Open onto the mystery of a street continually crossed by people,
To a street inaccessible to any thought,
Real, impossibly real, certain, unknowingly certain,
With the mystery of things beneath the stones and beings,
With death making the walls damp and men’s hair white,
With the Destiny driving the wagon of everything down the road of nothing.

Today I am defeated, as if I knew the truth.
Today I am clear-minded, as if I were about to die
And had no more kinship with things
Than a goodbye, this building and this side of the street becoming
A long row of train carriages, and a whistle departing
From inside my head,
And a jolt of my nerves and a creak of bones as we go.

Today I am bewildered, as one who wondered and discovered and forgot.
Today I am divided between the loyalty I owe
To the outward reality of the Tobacco Kiosk of the other side of the street
And to the inward real feeling that everything is but a dream.
I have missed everything.
And since I had no aims, maybe everything was indeed nothing.

I go down from the window at the back of the house.
I went to the countryside with grand plans,
But all I found in it was grass and trees,
And when there were people, they were just like other people

I step back from the window and sit in a chair. What should I think about now?

I have dreamed more than Napoleon did.
I have held against the hypothetical heart more humanities than Christ.
I have secretly created philosophies no Kant has ever written.
But I am, and perhaps always should be, the one from the attic
Although I don’t live in it;
I shall always be someone not born for this;
I shall always be the one who just had qualities;
I shall always be the one who has waited for a gate to open next a wall without a door
And sang the song of the infinite in a poultry-yard,
And heard God’s voice in a blocked-up well.
Believe in myself? No, not in me and not in nothing.
May Nature be dissolved on my feverish head
Her sun, her rain, the wind that ruffles my hair,
And the rest, let it come if it must, it doesn’t matter.

Hearts in thrall to the stars,
We have conquered the whole world before leaving our beds.
But we were awakened and it was opaque,
We rose and he was strange to us
We left the house and it was the whole world,
And also the Solar System, the Milky Way and the Indefinite…

Eat chocolates!
Know there are no metaphysics in the world but chocolates.
Know that all the faiths don’t teach more than confectionery.
Eat, dirty one, eat!
If only I could eat chocolates with the same veracity you do!
But I think, and when I lift the silver paper of a leaf of tin-foil
I let everything fall to the ground, as I have done to my life.)

Musical essence of my useless verses,
If only I could face you as something I had created
Instead of always facing the Tobacco Kiosk across the street,
Forcing underfoot the consciousness of existing,
Like a carpet a drunkard stumbles on
Or a straw mat stolen by gypsies and worth nothing.

But the Tobacco Kiosk owner has come to the door and is standing there.
I look at him with the discomfort of an half-turned head
And the discomfort of an half-grasping soul.
He shall die and I shall die.
He shall leave his signboard and I shall leave my poems.
His sign will die, and so will my poems.
And soon the street where the sign is, will die too,
And so will the language in which my poems are written.
And so will the whirling planet where all of this happened.
On other satellites of other systems something like people
Will go on making something like poems and living under things like signboards,
Always one thing facing the other,
Always one thing as useless as the other,
Always the impossible as stupid as reality,
Always the mystery of the bottom as powerful as the mysterious dream of the top.
Always this or always some other thing, or neither one nor the other.

But a man has entered the Tobacco Shop (to buy tobacco?),
And plausible reality suddenly hits me.
I half rouse myself, energetic, convinced, human,
And I will try to write these verses in which I say the opposite.

I light a cigarette as I think about writing them,
And in that cigarette I savour liberation from all thoughts.
I follow the smoke as if it were my personal itinerary
And enjoy, in a sensitive and capable moment
The liberation of all the speculations
With the conscience that metaphysics is a consequence of not feeling well.

Afterwards I throw myself on the chair
And continue smoking.
As long as Destiny allows, I will keep smoking.

(If I married my washwoman’s daughter
Maybe I should be happy.)
Upon that, I rise. And I go to the window.

The man has come out of the Tobacco Kiosk (putting change in his trousers?).
Ah, I know him: he is Esteves – without metaphysics.
The Tobacco Kiosk owner has come to the door.
As if by a divine instinct, Esteves turned around and saw me.
He waved hello, I greet him “Hello there, Esteves!”, and the universe
Reconstructed itself for me, without ideal or hope, and the owner of the Tobacco Kiosk smiled.

(I could not find the name of the translator)

20 SEC READING: the city on the other side

Illustration by Ken Crane

A hermit from the monastery of Sceta approached Abbot Theodore:
 
‘I know exactly what the purpose of life is. I know what God asks of man and I know the best way to serve Him. And yet, even so, I am incapable of doing everything I should be doing in order to serve the Lord.’
 
The Abbot remained silent for a long time. Then he said:
 
‘You know that there is a city on the other side of the ocean, but you have not yet found the ship or placed your baggage on board and crossed the sea.
‘Why then bother talking about it or about how we should walk its streets?
 
‘It is not enough to know what life is for or to know the best way to serve God.
‘Put your ideas into practice and the road will reveal itself to you.’
 
 

Online Bookstore HERE
Kindle (four languages) HERE