Living with others

The young man crossed the desert and finally reached the Sceta monastery. There he asked – and was given permission – to attend one of the abbot’s talks.

That afternoon the abbot spoke about the importance of farm work.

When the talk came to an end, the young man commented to one of the monks:

“That really impressed me. I thought that I was going to hear an illuminated sermon on virtues and sins, but the abbot only spoke about tomatoes, irrigation and things like that. Where I come from, everyone believes that God is mercy: all you need to do is pray.”

The monk smiled and answered:

“Here we believe that God has already done His part; now it’s up to us to continue the process.”

Xenophobia (comments from my friends)

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.

11 minutes of sex

En ESPANOL AQUI>>>: Once minutos
EM PORTUGUES: Onze minutos

The men she had met since she arrived in Geneva always did everything they could to appear confident, as if they were in perfect control of the world and of their own lives; Maria, however, could see in their eyes that they were afraid of their wife, the feeling of panic that they might not be able to get an erection, that they might not seem manly enough even to the ordinary prostitute whom they were paying for her services. If they went to a shop and didn’t like the shoes they had bought, they would be quite prepared to go back, receipt in hand, and demand a refund. And yet, even though they were paying for some female company, if they didn’t manage to get an erection, they would be too ashamed ever to go back to the same club again because they would assume that all the other women there would know.

‘I’m the one who should feel ashamed for being unable to arouse them, but, no, they always blame themselves.’
To avoid such embarrassments, Maria always tried to put men at their ease, and if someone seemed drunker or more fragile than usual, she would avoid full sex and concentrate instead on caresses and masturbation, which always seemed to please them immensely, absurd though this might seem, since they could perfectly well masturbate on their own.
She had to make sure that they didn’t feel ashamed. These men, so powerful and arrogant at work, constantly having to deal with employees, customers, suppliers, prejudices, secrets, posturings, hypocrisy, fear and oppression, ended their day in a nightclub and they didn’t mind spending three hundred and fifty Swiss francs to stop being themselves for a night.

‘For a night? Now come on, Maria, you’re exaggerating. It’s really only forty-five minutes, and if you allow time for taking off clothes, making some phoney gesture of affection, having a bit of banal conversation and getting dressed again, the amount of time spent actually having sex is about eleven minutes.’

Eleven minutes. The world revolved around something that only took eleven minutes.

And because of those eleven minutes in any one twenty-four-hour day (assuming that they all made love to their wives every day, which is patently absurd and a complete lie) they got married, supported a family, put up with screaming kids, thought up ridiculous excuses to justify getting home late, ogled dozens, if not hundreds of other women with whom they would like to go for a walk around Lake Geneva, bought expensive clothes for themselves and even more expensive clothes for their wives, paid prostitutes to try to give them what they were missing, and thus sustained a vast industry of cosmetics, diet foods, exercise, pornography and power, and yet when they got together with other men, contrary to popular belief, they never talked about women. They talked about jobs, money and sport.

Something was very wrong with civilisation, and it wasn’t the destruction of the Amazon rainforest or the ozone layer, the death of the panda, cigarettes, carcinogenic foodstuffs or prison conditions, as the newspapers would have it.

It was precisely the thing she was working with: sex.

__________________________________________
Taken from “11 Minutes”, (Goodreads reviews HERE). available world wide in paperback, hardcover and in Kindle + Nook + iBookstore

10 sec read: Yom Kippur (ENG, PORT, ESPA)

A Hassidic tale

On the day of Yom Kippur

On the day of Yom Kippur, Rabbi Elimelekh of Lisensk took his disciples to a bricklayer’s workshop.
“Watch how this man behaves,” he said. “Because he manages to communicate well with the Lord.”

Without noticing that he was being observed, the bricklayer ended his work and went to the window.
He took two pieces of paper from his pocket and raised them to the sky, saying:

“Lord, on one paper I have written the list of my sins. I have erred and there is no reason for me to hide that I offended You several times.
“But on the other paper is the list of Your sins towards me. You have demanded of me more than what is necessary, brought me difficult moments, and made me suffer. But since today is the Day of Atonement, You pardon me, I pardon You, and we shall continue on our path together for another year.”

No Dia do Perdí£o Judaico:

No dia do Yom Kyppur, o rabino Elimelekh de Lisensk levou seus discí­pulos até a oficina de um pedreiro.
“Reparem o comportamento deste homem”, disse. “Porque ele consegue entender-se bem com o Senhor”.

Sem notar que estava sendo observado, o pedreiro terminou seus afazeres e foi para a janela. Tirou dois pedaços de papel do bolso, e levantou-os para o céu, dizendo:

“Senhor, numa folha escrevi a lista de meus pecados. Eu errei, e não tenho porque esconder que Te ofendi várias vezes.
” Entretanto, no outro papel está a relação dos Teus pecados para comigo. Exigiste de mim além do necessário, me trouxeste momentos difí­ceis, e me fizeste sofrer.  Mas como hoje é o Dia do Perdí£o, Tu me perdoas, eu te perdôo, e continuaremos juntos o nosso caminho por mais um ano”.

En el Dí­a del Perdón:

En el dí­a del Yom Kyppur, el rabino Elimelekh de Lisensk llevó a sus discí­pulos adonde trabajaba un albañil.
-Fijaos en el comportamiento de este hombre -les dijo, -pues él consigue entenderse bien con el Señor.

Sin darse cuenta de que estaba siendo observado, el albañil concluyó sus tareas y se acercó a la ventana. Sacó del bolsillo dos pedazos de papel, y los levantó hacia lo alto, diciendo:

-Señor, en una hoja he escrito la lista de mis pecados. He cometido algunos errores, y no tengo por qué esconder que Te ofendí­ en varias ocasiones.
“En el otro papel está la relación de Tus faltas para conmigo. Me exigiste más de lo necesario, me trajiste momentos difí­ciles, y me hiciste sufrir. Pero como hoy es el Dí­a del Perdón, Tú me perdonas, yo te perdono, y continuamos juntos nuestro camino durante un año más.

Enduring

EM PORTUGUES: Aguentando firme
EN ESPANOL: Soportando todo
____________________________

Every warrior of the light has been afraid to enter a combat.
Every warrior of the light has betrayed and lied in the past.

Every warrior of the light has lost faith in the future.
Every warrior of the light has trodden a path which was not his own.

Every warrior of the light has suffered because of unimportant things.
Every warrior of the light has doubted that he is a warrior of the light.

Every warrior of the light has failed in his spiritual obligations.
Every warrior of the light has said yes when he meant no.

Every warrior of the light has hurt someone he loved.

That is why he and she are warriors of the light:

They had endured all this without losing the hope to improve.
 
 

in WARRIOR OF THE LIGHT: A MANUAL

The hidden Player

The warrior always hears the words of some wise people, such as those of T.H. Huxley:

“The consequences of our actions, are the scarecrows of fools, and the beacons of lovers.

“The chess-board is the world, the pieces are the phenomena of the universe.
‘The rules of the game are what we call the laws of Nature.
‘The player on the other side is hidden from us. We know that his play is always fair, just, and patient.”

It is up to the warriors to take up the challenge.
They know God will not allow His chosen ones to pretend not to know the rules of the game.
 
 

In Warrior of the Light: A Manual

20 SEC READING: asking questions

Warriors of light always keep a certain gleam in their eyes.

They are of this world, they are part of the lives of other people and they set out on their journey with no saddlebags and no sandals.

They are often cowardly.
They do not always make the right decisions.

They suffer over the most trivial things, they have mean thoughts and sometimes believe they are incapable of growing.

They frequently deem themselves unworthy of any blessing or miracle.

They are not always quite sure what they are doing here.

They spend many sleepless nights, believing that their lives have no meaning.

That is why they are warriors of light.
Because they make mistakes.
Because they ask themselves questions.

Because they are looking for a reason – and are sure to find it.

 
________________
in in WARRIOR OF THE LIGHT: A MANUAL

Your epitaph / Seu epitáfio

Once someone asked me:
“What do you want to be your epitaph?” [ text on your tombstone]
I answered:” I will be cremated, but if I ever had an epitaph, it would be:
‘ Paulo Coelho died while he was alive.” “

The person said “Why this epitaph? Everybody dies when he or she is alive.”
I said, “No, this is not true. If the same pattern is repeated over and over again, you are not alive anymore. To die alive is to take risks. To pay your price.”

Some epitaphs:

“Don’t Try” Charles Bukowski

The best is yet to come.” Frank Sinatra

“I had a lover’s quarrel with the world” Robert Frost

“Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty I’m Free At Last.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

“A tomb now suffices him for whom the world was not enough” Alexander the Great

“Truth to your own spirit” Jim Morrison

SO, HERE IS MY QUESTION
What should be written in your tombstone?
Qual seria o seu epitáfio?

USE COMMENTS BELOW TO ANSWER, ALLOWING PEOPLE WHO ARE NEITHER IN TWITTER NOR IN FACEBOOK TO READ IT

| USE “COMMENTS” ABAIXO PARA RESPONDER, PERMITINDO QUE GENTE QUE NAO ESTí NO TWITTER OU FACEBOOK POSSA LER TAMBEM

2:52 min video: Warrior


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TURN THE VOLUME ON, CLICK ON THE PHOTO

The river of passions


All the roads in the world lead to the heart of the warriors of light.

They plunge unhesitatingly into the river of passions always flowing through their lives.

The warriors knows that they are free to choose their desires, and they make these decisions with courage, detachment and – sometimes – with just a touch of madness.

They embrace their passions and enjoy them intensely.

They know that there is no need to renounce the pleasures of conquest; they are part of life and bring joy to all those who participate in them.

But they never lose sight of those things that last or of the strong bonds that are forged over time.

A warrior of light can distinguish between the transient and the enduring.

_____________________
in in WARRIOR OF THE LIGHT: A MANUAL

10 SEC READING: The right tolerance


 
The warriors of light always keeps their hearts clean of feelings of hatred.

When they go to fight, they always remember Christ’s words: “love your enemies”.

And the warriors obey.

But they know that the act of forgiving foes does not force them to accept everything.

Warrior cannot lower their heads – otherwise they lose sight of the horizon of their dreams.

The warrior notes that the adversaries are there to test our persistence, our ability to make decisions.
Adversaries are a blessing – because they force the warriors of light to fight for their dreams.

Love your enemy. But never forget: he is not your friend.

 
_____________________________________________
in WARRIOR OF THE LIGHT: A MANUAL
 
 

History of The Claddagh Ring


(thanks for the link, KEALAN MOORE )

The Claddagh Ring is believed to have originated in the fishing village situated near the “shore” or “Claddagh” of Galway Bay.

The Claddagh outside the City Walls, and further separated by the River Corrib, was exclusive community or fisher-folk forbidden to use spade or hoe and ruled by a periodically-elected “King” whose sole distinguishing mark was his right to use a white sail on his fishing hooker.

The ring shows two hands holding a heart which wears a crown. This motif is explained in the phrase: “Let Love and Friendship reign”, and ideal poesy for a wedding ring used by a small community for over four hundred years.

This distinctive design is associated with one of the Tribes of Galway, the Joyce family. Margaret Joyce married Domingo de Rona, a wealthy Spaniard, who, when he died, left her his fortune, which she subsequently used to build bridges in the Province of Connacht.

Margaret, who later married Oliver Of Ffrench, Mayor of Galway 1596, was providentially rewarded for her good works and charity by an eagle which dropped a gold ring into her lap. This fanciful legend had a more factual opponent in the story of Richard Joyce, or Joyces.

Richard en route to the West Indies, was captured by Algerian corsairs and sold as a slave to a Moorish goldsmith who trained him.

Released from slavery in 1689, at the demand of William III of England, Joyce, in spite of substantial inducement to stay, returned to Galway and set up as a goldsmith. His work marked with an anchor signifying Hope and initials R.I. still exists.

The Claddagh Ring motif is attributed to him.

The Claddagh Ring became popular outside the Claddagh about the middle of the last century, especially as it was the only ring made in Ireland worn by Queen Victoria and later by Queen Alexandra and King Edward VII.

These rings were made and supplied by Dillon of Galway to whom the Royal Patent was granted. This tradition has been carried on to this day.

The tradition of how to wear this ring is very distinctive. If the owner of the ring wears it with the crown pointing towards the finger nail, he or she is said to be in love or married. To wear the ring with heart pointing to the finger nail, he or she is said to be unattached to anyone.

10 sec reading: patience and speed

A Warrior of Light needs patience and speed at the same time.

The two biggest mistakes of a strategy are
a]to act prematurely
bto let the opportunity pass by.

To avoid making these mistakes, the warrior copes with each situation as if it were unique, and applies no formulas, prescriptions or the opinions of others.

Caliph Moauiyat asked Omar Ben Al-Aas what was the secret of his great political skill:

“I have never gotten involved in any matter without first studying the way out;
“on the other hand, I have never become involved and wanted to get out right away,” was his answer.

____________________________

in WARRIOR OF THE LIGHT: A MANUAL

The moment to decide

The warrior of the light is terrified when faced with important decisions.

“That is too great for you,” says one friend. “Go on, be brave,” says another. And his doubts only increase.

After some days of anxiety, he withdraws into a corner of his tent, where he usually sits to mediate and pray. He sees himself in the future. He sees the people who will benefit and lose out because of his actions. He does not wish to cause unnecessary suffering, but nor will he abandon the path.

So the warrior allows the decision to appear.

If he must say yes, then he shall bravely say it.
If he must say no, then he shall say so without fear.

Talking with the devil

The man is admiring the sunset on a beautiful beach, beside his wife, enjoying well-deserved holidays. Everything seems absolutely in place, when all of a sudden, from the bottom of his heart there comes a nice, friendly voice that asks him a difficult question:

“Are you happy?”

“Yes, I am,” he answers.

“Then look around you carefully.”

“Who are you?”

“I am the devil. And you can’t be happy, because you know that sooner or later tragedy can appear and upset your world. Look carefully around you, and you will understand that virtue is just one of the faces of terror”.

And the devil began to show everything that was happening on the beach. The excellent family man who at that very moment was packing and helping the children to get dressed would like to have an affair with his secretary, but was terrified at how his wife would react.

The wife who would like to have a job and her independence, but was terrified at how her husband would react.

The children who behaved well, terrified by the idea of punishment.

The girl reading a book, alone under her beach umbrella, pretending to be casual, while her soul was terrified at the possibility of never finding the love of her life.

The young man with the racket exercising his body and terrified at having to live up to his parents’ expectations.

The old man who did not smoke or drink saying that he felt much better that way, when the truth was that the terror of death whispered like the wind in his ears.

The couple running past, their feet splashing the water where the waves broke on the beach, all smiles, and hidden terror saying that they would grow old, uninteresting, invalid.

The rich man who stopped his speedboat in everyone’s view, waving and smiling and sunburned, and filled with terror because he could lose all his money at any moment.

The owner of the hotel who came out to greet his guests just when the sun was setting, trying to make them all happy and full of cheer, and demanding miracles of his accountants, with terror in his soul because he knew that no matter how honest he was, the men in the government would always discover all the flaws they wanted in his accounts.

Terror in each one of those persons on that lovely beach at a sunset that would take your breath away. The terror of remaining alone, the terror of the dark that filled their imagination with devils, the terror of doing something not included in the manual of good behavior, the terror of God’s judgment, the terror of the comments of men, the terror of justice that punished any fault, the terror of the injustice that left the guilty free and threatening. The terror of risking and losing, the terror of winning and having to live with the envy of others, the terror of loving and being rejected, the terror of asking for a raise, of accepting an invitation, of going to unknown places, of not managing to speak a foreign language, of not having the ability to impress others. The terror of growing old, of dying, of being noticed because of your defects, of not being noticed because of your qualities, of not being noticed neither for your defects nor your qualities.

“I hope that this has made you calmer,” concluded the devil. “After all, you are not alone in your fears.”

“Please don’t go away until you hear what I have to say,” answered the man. “We have the incredible capacity to detect pain, remorse, wounds – or terror, as you prefer to call it. But my father once told me the story of an apple-tree that was so laden with apples that its branches could not sing in the wind. Someone passing by asked why it did not try to call attention like all the other trees did. ‘My fruits are my best advertisement,’ answered the apple-tree.

“Of course, I am no different from anyone else, and my heart is filled with many fears. But despite everything, the fruits of my life speak for me, and if some day a tragedy happens, I know that I have not spent my life without taking risks.”

And the devil, disappointed, left him to try to scare other – weaker – people.

Problems of communication

In front of the cathedral

I was feeling very lonely when I left Mass in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral right in the heart of New York.

Suddenly I was approached by a Brazilian:

“I very much need to talk to you,” he said.

I was so enthused by this meeting that I began to talk about everything that was important to me. I spoke of magic, God’s blessings, love. He listened to everything in silence, thanked me and went away.

Instead of feeling happy, I felt lonelier than before. Later on I realized that in my enthusiasm I had not paid any attention to what that Brazilian wanted.

Talk to me.

I tossed my words to the wind, because that was not what the Universe was wanting at that moment: I would have been much more useful if I had listened to what he had to say.

 

Whom do we love?

Ever since we are children, we are asked: do you love daddy? Do you love auntie? Do you love your teacher?

Nobody asks: do you love yourself?

And we end up spending a good deal of our life and energy trying to please others. But what about ourselves? Jesuit Anthony Mello has a fine story on this subject.

Mother and son are at a snack-bar. After taking the mother’s order, the waitress turns to the boy:

“And what will you be wanting?”

“A hotdog.”

“Nothing of the sort,” says the mother. “He wants a steak and salad.”

Ignoring the comment, the waitress asks the boy:

“Do you want that with mustard or ketchup?”

“Both,” answers the boy.

And then he turns to the mother in surprise:

“Mother! SHE THINKS THAT I’M FOR REAL!”

 

Nobody believes

Legend has it that right after his Enlightenment, Buddha decided to go for a walk in the country. On the way he came upon a farmer, who was impressed at the light shining from the master.

“My friend, who are you?” asked the farmer. “Because I have the feeling that I am standing before an angel, or a God.”

“I am nothing of the sort,” answered Buddha.

“Maybe you’re a powerful sorcerer?”

“Not that either.”

“So, what makes you so different from the others that even a simple peasant like me notices it?”

“I am just someone who has awoken to life. That’s all. But I tell everyone that, and nobody believes me.”

 

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.”

Animal promiscuity

Recently I read an interesting polemic article in the American newspaper New York Times (25/03/2008). Written by Natalie Angier, the text is based on the research of prominent biologists and psychologists concerning monogamy. The conclusion that they reach is impressive: conjugal infidelity is present throughout the animal kingdom.

And that’s not all: studies have shown that certain species “pay” for sex, while others reward their “lovers” with presents and affection. To complete the picture, jealousy and machismo are also to be found there: females are violently attacked if they copulate with another partner.

Of course we are not animals, but the similarities mentioned above are very revealing. Some of the more interesting parts of the article are worth transcribing.

1] Many species are raised from a very tender age to marry someone chosen by the family. They fly and play together, they sing and dance together. In other words, they are raised to impress the community with proof that they were born for one another.

2] Nevertheless, social monogamy is rarely accompanied by sexual monogamy. DNA tests carried out on monkeys, birds and wild animals, when their descendency is examined in the light of modern science, show that between 10% and 70% of the offspring was fathered by someone other than the resident male.

3] Professor David Barash of the University of Washington in Seattle states that: “in the infantile world, infancy. In the adult world, adultery”. For a long time, swans were believed to be a model of fidelity. Through such DNA tests, it has been concluded that not even swans are immune to temptation.

4] The only completely monogamous species is an amoeba – Diplozoon Paradoxum – which is found in organisms of certain fish. Barash explains: “male and female meet while still young, and their bodies literally merge as one. From then on, they are faithful until death do them part”. In this case, death coincides with that of the fish that shelters them.

5] The “oldest profession in the world”, as prostitution is known, is also present in the animal kingdom. It is common to find males that shower their females with presents: rodents, caterpillars and insects. But when the same male decides to have, shall we say, an extracurricular affair, the lover receives better presents than the companion.

6] The law of competition also applies to the animal world: if supply is great, the price comes down. However, if there is a shortage of females, they become objects of desire that deserve the best and most sophisticated rewards.

Please understand that I have transcribed in this column the result of research conducted by scientists and psychologists specialized in studying animals. All of us can – and should – have our own opinion with respect to monogamy. We can all say that we are a highly evolved species, which is absolutely true. The only thing that we can’t do is to blame science for showing results that often contradict our way of thinking!

So what do I actually do?

Sometimes readers complain that I say very little about my private life in this column. I do talk a lot – mostly about my questionings in the imaginary world. They insist: “but what’s your life like?” Well, then, for a whole week I went out with a notebook and jotted down more or less what happens in seven days:

Sunday: 1] In silence, I drive the 540 kilometers from Paris to Geneva. Six hours and no important conclusion, no extraordinary revelation. Since I love my work, I swore never to think about it on Sundays, so I try to control myself.

2] Filling station: I see a very interesting collection of metal maquettes. I think about buying them all, but then I reckon that further ahead I will have excess baggage, and many of them could break on the journey. I will use the Internet to do that.

3] Bath. Nap. Dinner with a friend. She tells me that the man she is interested in just wants to make love, nothing else. I don’t know what to answer.

Monday: 1] the alarm clock goes off at 10:15, and – Plan B (those born under Virgo always have a Plan B) – the hotel telephone operator also calls the room. I am here as a member of the board of a prestigious foundation, and hesitate whether or not to wear the cowboy boots worked in red, white and black leather. I decide to put them on – certain things are tolerated in artists.

2] A quick breakfast with a friend who works in a bank. I ask what he thinks of the current crisis – and he gives a series of answers that he himself does not believe in. I show him today’s newspaper: a bankers’ conference to resolve the crisis. One of them declares that they do not really know the “financial products” they are selling. It’s great that I have my money in savings: Virgos do not run any risks in this area.

3] Lunch with the board of directors. I asked what they thought of the situation in Georgia. Nobody wanted to talk about that, but they did love my cowboy boots.

4] The meeting is very good, without any stress at all. I learn a lot. When it’s over, I place some documents on the roof of the car.

5] When I leave, all the documents fly into the middle of the street. I spend half an hour gathering everything, with cars honking their horns and cursing me. A member of the board passes by, stops further up the street and asks if I want any help. I say no, it is enough for one of us to risk his life for something so stupid.

6] Today I can telephone using the “free hands” system while I drive. I ask Mí´nica, my agent, to cancel Prague and Berlin (the more I travel, the less desire I have to travel). She says that we need to get together before the Frankfurt Book Fair to “get some details right”. Paris or Barcelona? Paris, she decides. I call Paula, my assistant, to ask why my blog had few comments yesterday – she explains that they changed the configuration, and have just approved a hundred comments.

7] I reach Paris at eleven o’clock at night. I expected to have a stack of things waiting for me, but there were only two packets of books to sign, and a couple of letters. But I traveled! I was in another country! I realize that I traveled a little over 24 hours.

8] Dinner. I leave the computer turned on to download “American History X”. I go to sleep about two in the morning, after reading some pages of “My year inside radical Islam”, by Daveed Gartstenstein-Ross. The book is excellent, but I can’t really get into it.

Tuesday: 1] Breakfast at 10 with coffee and milk, orange juice, bread with oil – always the same, even when I am in hotels, which is the biggest part of the year. Three Echinacea pills, a herb that is said to fortify the organism against the flu and has proved faithful to its reputation (even if there is no scientific basis for this).

2] Internet: read readers’ e-mails. Read work e-mails (my office filters the most relevant), read clippings, visit a site in Brazil and one in the United States for the news of the day. I see that it is all more or less the same business as always: permission (always given) to quote some extract of mine in books, invitations to conferences (always refused). Today I have an interview with a Finnish newspaper that is going to publish these columns. I spend an hour in front of the computer.

3] Walk non-stop for an hour – no matter where I am, I rarely miss doing this. Today I invite my assistant to join me; she has just come back from holidays in Brazil and is going to get married in October. We talk about the holidays.

4] Back to the computer. Update the blog, read an interview with the stupid actor David Thewlis, who says that his role in “Veronika decides to die” (which opens next year) was “just another two weeks of work”. This irritates me. I read the rest of the interview and see that he complains about everything he has done in his life. My irritation goes away.

5] Archery. Bath. Computer again. I ask them to check again that there is no problem with Sunday’s flight to Brazil. In principle there is none.

6] I forgot to write down where I had dinner. I watch “Welcome to Sarajevo”. I read the Herald Tribune from front to back. I pick up “My year inside radical Islam”, but don’t get beyond a few pages.

Wednesday: 1] The same as 1, 2 and 3 above, except that this time my walking companion is called Maarit, a reader whom I met in the social community Myspace. She is studying to be a nun. We talk a lot about the situation of the Catholic Church, and promise that we will keep in touch.

2] Mí´nica arrives. We talk from 3 in the afternoon until 2 o’clock the next morning, discussing the program for launching the new book, what I should say in Frankfurt, and where her birthday party will be held (she will be 40 in November). I suggest that she throws the party in her house in Barcelona, but she says that they have put up some scaffolding, so the view of the city is spoiled. I answer that at night all city views are alike – a bunch of lights flashing on and off. Even so, she is not convinced. She says that I must hold more interviews. We spend all this time locked inside the apartment, since Mí´nica simply hates to walk. Chris prepared dinner and has been asleep for some time already.

3] At 2:15 in the morning I say that I am tired, I want to sleep, but she seems as lively as if she had just woken up. And she is the one who today went through the torture chambers they call “airports”!

4] I manage to convince her to go to bed at 2:30 in the morning. We still have a whole lot of pending business to see to. No Herald Tribune today, no “My year inside radical Islam” either.

Thursday: 1] Breakfast with Mí´nica, my agent and friend, who spent less than a day in Paris and 10 hours talking to me (in the same place, for she hates walking, despite the beautiful autumn day). She goes off to Barcelona, and I go to the computer to check my e-mails, requests for authorization, invitations (all already duly filtered by the office). Reading the e-mails sent by my readers.

2] The idiotic part of the day is thanks to Frei Betto, a Brazilian religious man who up to a few minutes ago I considered my friend, but who is the author of a column published in a newspaper in the interior of the country, where he attacks me gratuitously – or rather, attacks everything that means “popular culture”. With the Internet, we know everything. I send an e-mail to him cutting off any bond of friendship. For the sake of precaution, I send copies to all the friends we have in common so as to be sure that it will reach him.

3] Juliette arrives to borrow a sound system I was given when I was in St. Moritz, in Switzerland. It’s for her husband’s surprise party (he’s turning 40 – everyone around me seems to be turning 40). The sound system looks like an electric toaster, but it really emits digital impulses, which allows the music to be heard with the same intensity and volume in a room filled with 200 people. I have never used it, but at least it is coming in handy for a friend.

4] Walk for an hour, as usual. Practice some archery, as usual. Write my weekly column (which you are reading right now).

5] Dinner with Chris in a Japanese restaurant. I ask for the same dish as always. I don’t know why, but whenever I go to a new restaurant and like what I eat, I end up ordering the same food the next time. Lack of imagination, I guess.

Friday: 1] Breakfast, computer, walk. Update the daily blog.

2] I take my newspaper and go for a walk in the Champ de Mars, near my apartment in Paris. I look at people getting ready for the winter: most of them are taking pictures of the Eiffel Tower or talking on the cell phone. I pass a museum (the Branly), see that there is no queue and decide to go in. An exhibit of the Indian art of several continents – I begin to imagine that there is something wrong with our civilization, for these tribes and people are capable of doing far more interesting and striking work than what we see today in the art world. But it does no good to complain or write about this – there are theses and more theses on contemporary “artistic concepts”, including a cow soaked in formol (sold for 30 million dollars) and two walls made of rusty iron (at a price of around 5 million dollars). I think that Frei Betto, in his new incarnation as an avant-garde intellectual, probably also has a thesis defending this.

3] I go back home, the bags are packed, the driver waiting, and the car heads for Charles de Gaulle airport. The flight is scheduled for 22:15, but the modern torture chambers known as “airports” demand that we be there ages before take-off.

4] Take-off at 23:50 (a one-hour delay). I am going to spend twenty days in Brazil before going to Frankfurt. But as usual I won’t go to any of the “in” restaurants, which means that soon I’ll be hearing the same old question: “when are you coming to your country?”

As far as I can understand, if you don’t go to “in” restaurants, you just don’t exist.

The Warrior of Light and his temperament

The Warrior of Light can afford to live each day different from the next. He is not afraid of crying over old regrets or feeling happy at new discoveries. When he feels that the hour has come, he casts everything aside and departs for the adventure he has dreamed so long about. When he understands that he is at the limit of his endurance, he leaves the fight, without feeling apologetic for having done one or two crazy and quite unexpected things.

The story below illustrates what I mean.

A man in quest of sanctity decided to climb a high mountain with just the clothes on his back and remain up there meditating for the rest of his life.

Soon he realized that one set of clothes was not enough, because it would get dirty very quick. He descended the mountain, went to the nearest village and asked for other clothes. Since everyone knew that the man was in quest of sanctity, they handed him a new pair of shoes and a shirt.

The man thanked them and climbed back up to the hermitage he was building on the top of the mountain. He spent the night putting up the walls and the days in meditation, eating the fruit of the trees and drinking the water of a nearby spring.

One month later he discovered that a mouse was chewing the extra clothes he had left to dry. Since he wanted to concentrate only on his spiritual duty, he went back down to the village and asked them to find him a cat.

The villagers, in respect for his mission, satisfied his request.

Another seven days and the cat was almost dying of starvation because it could not eat just fruit, and there were no more mice in the place. He went back down to the village for milk; as the villagers knew it was not for him – after all, he resisted without eating anything other than what nature offered him – once more they helped him.

The cat finished the milk quickly, so the man asked them to lend him a cow.

Since the cow gave more milk than was needed, he began to drink it too, so as not to waste it. In a short time – breathing the mountain air, eating fruit, meditating, drinking milk and doing exercises – he turned into a model of beauty. A lovely girl who climbed the mountain looking for her lamb fell in love with him and convinced him that he needed a wife to look after the house while he meditated in peace.

The man spent three days fasting, trying to know which was the best decision to make. Finally he understood that marriage is a blessing from above, and accepted the proposal.

Three years later, the man was married, with two sons, three cows, an orchard of fruit trees, and he ran a place for meditation, with a huge waiting line of people who wanted to know the miraculous “temple of eternal youth.”

When someone asked him how all that had started, he would say:

“Two weeks after I arrived up here, I had only two garments. A mouse began to chew one of them, and…”

But no-one was interested in the end of the story; they were sure that he was a wise businessman just trying to invent a legend to be able to raise even higher the price he charged the lodgers at the temple.

But like a good Warrior of Light, he did not bother about what others thought; he was happy because he was able to transform his dreams into reality.

Challenging the teacher

Is the bird alive?

The young man was at the end of his training, soon he would go on to be a teacher. Like all good pupils, he needed to challenge his teacher and to develop his own way of thinking. He caught a bird, placed it in one hand and went to see his teacher.

‘Teacher, is this bird alive or dead?’

His plan was the following: if his teacher said ‘dead’, he would open his hand and the bird would fly away. If the answer was ‘alive’, he would crush the bird between his fingers; that way the teacher would be wrong whichever answer he gave.

‘Teacher, is the bird alive or dead?’ he asked again.

‘My dear student, that depends on you,’ was the teacher’s reply.

The unwanted apprentice

‘We have no doors in our monastery,’ Shanti said to the visitor, who had come in search of knowledge.

‘And what about troublesome people who come to disturb your peace?’

‘We ignore them, and they go away,’ said Shanti.

‘I am a learned man who has come in search of knowledge,’ insisted the foreigner. ‘But what do you do about stupid people? Do you just ignore them as well until they go away? Does that work?’

Shanti did not reply. The visitor repeated his question a few times, but seeing that he got no response, he decided to go and find a teacher who was more focused on what he was doing.

‘You see how well it works?’ said Shanti to himself, smiling.

The yogi and the wise fool

Nasrudin, the wise fool of Sufi tradition, passes in front of a cave, sees a yogi in deep meditation, and asks him what he is seeking.

– I am contemplating the animals, and I learn many lessons from them which can transform a man’s life – says the yogi.

– Teach me what you know. And I will teach you what I have learned, because a fish has already saved my life – answers Nasrudin.

The yogi is surprised: only a saint can have his life saved by a fish. He decides to teach everything he knows.

When he finishes, Nasrudin says:

– Now I have taught you everything, I would be proud to know how a fish saved your life.

– It is simple. I was almost dying of hunger when I caught it, and thanks to it I was able to survive three days.

Enlightenment in seven days

Buddha told his disciples: whoever makes an effort can attain enlightenment in seven days. If he can’t manage it, certainly he will attain it in seven months, or in seven years. The young man decided that he would attain it in one week, and he wanted to know what he should do: “concentration” was the reply.
The young man began to practice, but in ten minutes he was already distracted. Little by little, he began paying attention to everything that distracted him, and thought that he was not wasting time, but was getting used to himself.

One fine day he decided it was not necessary to arrive at his goal so fast, because the path was teaching him many things.

It was at that moment that he became an Enlightened one.