Stories & Reflections
“I have fought a good fight, I have kept the faith,” says Paul in one of his Epistles. And it seems appropriate to remember the theme now that a new year is stretching out before us.
Men can never stop dreaming. Dreams are the food of the soul, just as food is to the body. In our existence we often see our dreams come undone, yet it is necessary to go on dreaming, otherwise our soul dies and Agape does not penetrate it. Agape is universal love, the love which is greater and more important than “liking” someone. In his famous sermon on dreams, Martin Luther King reminds us of the fact that Jesus asked us to love our enemies, not to like them. This greater love is what drives us to go on fighting in spite of everything, to keep faith and joy, and to fight the Good Fight.
The Good Fight is the one we wage because our heart asks for it. In heroic times, when the apostles went out into the world to preach the Gospel, or in the days of the knights errant, things were easier: there was a lot of territory to travel, and a lot of things to do. Nowadays, however, the world has changed and the Good Fight has been moved from the battle fields to within us.
The Good Fight is the one we wage on behalf of our dreams. When they explode in us with all their might – in our youth – we have a great deal of courage, but we still have not learned to fight. After much effort we eventually learn to fight, and then we no longer have the same courage to fight. This makes us turn against ourselves and we start fighting and becoming our own worst enemy. We say that our dreams were childish, difficult to make come true, or the fruit of our ignorance of the realities of life. We kill our dreams because we are afraid of fighting the Good Fight.
The first symptom that we are killing our dreams is lack of time. The busiest people I have known in my life had time for everything. Those who did nothing were always tired and could hardly cope with the little work they had to do, always complaining that the day was too short. In fact, they were afraid of fighting the Good Fight.
The second symptom of the death of our dreams are our certainties. Because we do not want to see life as a great adventure to be lived, we begin to feel that we are wise, fair and correct in what little we ask of our existence. We look beyond the walls of our day-to-day life and hear the noise of spears clashing, feel the smell of sweat and gun-powder, see the great defeats and the faces of warriors thirsty for victory. But we never perceive the joy, the immense joy in the heart of those who are fighting, because for them it does not matter who wins or loses, what matters only is to fight the Good Fight.
Finally, the third symptom of the death of our dreams is peace. Life becomes a Sunday afternoon, not asking too much of us and not asking more than what we want to give. So we feel that we are “mature”, leave aside the “fantasies of childhood” and guarantee our personal and professional success. We are surprised when someone our age says they still want this or that out of life. But deep in our heart we know that what has happened is that we gave up fighting for our dreams, fighting the Good Fight.
When we give up our dreams and find peace, we enjoy a period of tranquility. But our dead dreams begin to rot inside us and infest the whole atmosphere we live in. We start acting cruel towards those around us, and eventually begin to direct this cruelty towards ourselves. Sickness and psychoses appear. What we wanted to avoid in fighting – disappointment and defeat – becomes the only legacy of our cowardice. And one fine day the dead and rotten dreams make the air difficult to breathe and then we want to die, we want death to free us from our certainties, from our worries, and from that terrible Sunday-afternoon peace.
So, to avoid all that, let’s face 2007 with the reverence of mystery and the joy of adventure.
Learning from the simple things
In the Bragavad-Gita, Arjuna the warrior asks the Enlightened Lord:
“Who are you?”
Instead of answering “I am this,” Krishna## begins to talk of the small and big things in the world – and to say that he is there. Arjuna begins to see the face of God in everything around him.
However, although we are created in the image and likeness of the Almighty, we spend all our life trying to lock ourselves inside a bloc of coherency, certainty and opinions. We do not understand that we are in the flowers, in the mountains, in the things that we see on our way to work every day. We rarely think that we came from a mystery – birth – and are heading towards another mystery – death.
If we reflect on this, if we realize that the Divine presence and universal wisdom are in everything that surrounds us, we shall perform each action with more freedom. What follows are some stories on the matter:
The philosopher and the boatman
Sufi tradition tells the story of a philosopher who was crossing a river in a boat. During the crossing, he tried to display his wisdom to the boatman.
“Do you know what great contribution Schopenhauer left to humanity?”
“No,” replied the boatman. “But I know God, the river, and the simple wisdom of my people.”
“Well, just know that you have lost half of your life!”
In the middle of the river the boat hit a rock and sank. The boatman was swimming towards one of the banks when he saw the philosopher drowning.
“I don’t know how to swim!” he shouted in despair. “I told you that you had lost half your life by not knowing Schopenhauer, and now I am losing my whole life for not knowing something so simple!”
The German philosopher Schopenhauer (1788-1860) was walking along a street in Dresden, seeking answers to the questions that troubled him. All of a sudden he saw a garden and decided to spend some hours contemplating the flowers.
One of the neighbors noticed the man’s strange behavior and went to look for a policeman. Some minutes later, a policeman approached him.
“Who are you?” asked the policeman in a rough voice.
Schopenhauer looked at the man from head to toe.
“That is what I want to find out while I look at the flowers. If you can answer that question, I shall be forever grateful.”