Twenty years later: Between Ekaterinburg and Novosibirsk

I am right in the heart of Siberia. At certain moments I have wondered for the thousandth time about these 90 days of pilgrimage to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the first time I followed the Way to Santiago. When I was in Sofia I thought of giving up, and now I am happy that I kept on, although I cannot manage to write on the train because of the constant shaking of the carriage, but at least I can scribble down some notes and transcribe them on the computer when I arrive at some city that is connected to the Internet. In this way the people who are accompanying this blog will be able to understand my state of mind better.

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One of the people on the train shows me a prayer that she claims was found among the belongings of a Jew who died in a concentration camp:

“Lord: when You come in Your glory, do not remember just the men of good will; remember also the men of bad will.

“And on Doomsday, do not only remember the cruelty, torture and violence that they practiced: remember too the fruits that we produced due to what they did to us. Remember the patience, courage, solidarity, humility, grandeur of spirit and fidelity that our torturers ended up arousing in our souls.

“Lord, grant that the fruits we produce can serve to save the souls of men of bad will.”

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I have to live all the graces that God has given me today. Grace is not for saving up. There is no bank where we deposit the graces received so that later we can use them as we wish. If I do not enjoy these blessings, I shall lose them for ever.

God knows that we are life’s artists. One day he gives us a chisel to make sculptures, the next day brushes and a canvas, and then a pen for writing. But we will never be able to use a chisel on a canvas, or a pen on a sculpture. Each day has its own miracle. I must accept today’s blessings in order to create what I have; if I do this with a sense of detachment and without feeling guilty, tomorrow I shall receive more.

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Life is like a long bicycle race meant to carry out our personal legend. At the start we are all together, sharing camaraderie and enthusiasm. But as the race develops, the initial joy gives way to the real challenges: fatigue, monotony, and doubts as to one’s own ability.

We notice that some friends have given up the challenge – they are still racing, but just because they cannot stop in the middle of the road; there are many of them, riding alongside the support car, chatting with one another, fulfilling an obligation.

We end up separating from them, and then we are obliged to face loneliness, surprises at the unknown bends, problems with the bicycle. And at the end of some time we begin to wonder whether it is all worth so much effort.

Yes, it is worth it. The thing is not to give up.

Aside from everything else, if we stop pedaling, we end up falling to the ground.

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Of all the powerful arms of destruction that man has been capable of inventing, the most terrible – and most cowardly – are words.

Knives and fire-arms leave marks of blood. Bombs destroy buildings and streets. Poisons are eventually detected.

But destructive words manage to arouse evil without leaving any tracks. Children are conditioned by their parents for years, artists mercilessly criticized, women systematically massacred by their husbands’ remarks, the faithful kept far from religion by those who claim they are capable of interpreting God’s voice.

Try to see if you are using this arm. Try to see if they are using this arm against you. And allow neither of these two things.

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In one of his rare writings, the wise Sufi Hafik comments on the idea of the Journey:

“Accept wisely the fact that the Road is filled with contradictions. The Road often denies itself so as to stimulate the traveler to find out what lies beyond the next bend.

“If two traveling companions are following the same method, that means that one of them is on the wrong path. Because there are no formulas to attain the truth of the Road, and each of us must run the risks of his own steps. “Only the ignorant seek to imitate the behavior of others. Intelligent men waste no time with that, they develop their personal abilities; they know there are no two leaves alike in a forest of a hundred thousand trees. No two journeys on the same Road are alike”.

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Siberian proverbs (that I believe are universal):

If you cannot be a star in the sky, be a bulb in your home.

After death the wise man stays alive, although his body is reduced to ashes. But the ignorant man, even when alive, is already dead.

Love is a sickness that nobody wants to be cured of. Whoever has been attacked by it does not attempt to get better, and those who suffer from it do not want to be healed.

When you see two dragons fighting, keep your distance and do not try to separate them; they might patch things up between themselves and end up attacking you.

The next text will be posted on the 1st of June.

P.S: Dear reader,

During this journey, that is filling my soul with very interesting experiences, one of the most magical moments comes every night when I read the comments posted on this blog. Even though I can’t answer all of you, I want you to know that it’s very important to me to know that I’m not alone on this path. Thank you so much for your support and for the words and ideas that are now engraved on my heart.

Paulo Coelho