The talking donkey

A peasant was returning home when he saw a donkey in the field.

“I’m not just any donkey,” said the animal. “I saw the messiah being born. I’ve lived for two thousand years and I am alive to give this testimony.”

Alarmed, the peasant ran to the church and told it to the parish priest. “Impossible,” he said.

The peasant took the priest by the hand and took him where the donkey was. The animal repeated everything it had said.

“I’ll say it again: animals don’t speak,” said the priest.

“But you heard it!” the peasant insisted.

“How foolish you are! You’d rather believe in an ass than in a priest!”

The mountain will tell me when I am old

I have chosen a mountain to define my limits. In 1989 (I was just over 40yrs and I had already published The Alchemist and The Pilgrimage in Brasil), I was on my second sacred pilgrimage in the Pyrenees. I saw a mountain in the distance called Pic du Gez and I said, ‘okay, I have nothing to do today, so I’m going to climb that peak’.

First, it was very difficult to get close to the base – from a distance it looked so easy. When I finally arrived at the bottom, I had about five hours to climb about 2,000m. Not a big deal. So I started climbing, and I got lost. I had no water, no food, I had nothing. Eventually, I made it to the top and looked around. It was summer. There was no snow, it looked like the moon and I thought, ‘I don’t know my way back. I can’t take the same route that I took to get here’. I spent nearly four hours climbing and I had no energy for the descent (which is more difficult than the ascent). So I sat down, and my first decision was that I wasn’t going to smoke – I needed to preserve all my energy.
As I looked around, I saw a city in the distance and I said ‘I’m going to that city’.
And again, it seems easy to navigate when you see something like that in the distance. So I started my descent, heading towards the city, but soon after I began I could no longer see the city anymore. I said, ‘my God, I may die here’. And then I thought ‘well, that’s not so bad. I die on a mountain. Winter will come, my body will disappear and I will become a legend’.

Eventually, I made my way to the city, but I couldn’t sleep that night. My body was completely tense. I had gone beyond my limit.
I called my wife Christina the next day and said, ‘yesterday, I was lost in a mountain, I almost died’.
And she said, ‘okay Paulo, great, but don’t call me very often because our telephone bill is getting very high’. And I thought: “I almost died and here she is talking about my telephone bill because I was always calling collect’ (laughter).

After this experience, I decided that this mountain would tell me when I get old.
So once a year, I return to climb this mountain. One day, I will be unable to climb it and when that day comes, it will be a turning point, telling me that I can no longer overstretch myself that way and that I need to find something else.
I will find something else.

Odessa is like that

Catherine the Great received some boxes of freshly harvested oranges in the dead cold of winter. The note that came with it said they were from a distant port. The note said, ‘See what we are capable of bringing to you? We need your help to grow even more.’ Impressed, she sent a massive amount of money so that this port could develop further.

However, the oranges had been brought from other countries through the Black Sea. Without telling lies, the note to the empress did not explain the whole truth, as I learned when I disembarked there. The phrase I most heard during my 90 days of aimless travels was ‘Odessa is like that.”

When I decided to travel, I knew I needed at least one official commitment each week to help me resist the temptation to return to Brazil too soon. In this case, I agreed to come to Ukraine at the invitation of the government to attend the 20th anniversary forum of the disaster at Chernobyl. The event lasted only one afternoon and the wind was telling me to stay, so I decided to stay another week there. When I was asked what I wanted to do, I explained that I wanted to have some surprise meetings with my readers, giving them only two or three days notice that I was there. Many asked where I wanted to hold these meetings.

“Odessa,” I responded, without hesitation.

Everyone seemed very surprised. They wanted to know why. I told them I chose it because of Sergey Kostin, a person I met in Switzerland. In keeping with a tradition that began in Puente la Reina, the local bookseller there organized a party/book signing for 50 readers, chosen by lottery.

A friend of mine lent us his plane. When we landed, my representative in Russia asked to see an invitation for the party to make sure that everything was on schedule.

“It doesn’t have the date, time or place on it!”

“Odessa is like that,” answered the bookseller, “those who received the invitation will phone the number on the invitation 3 hours before the event and receive the necessary information. Otherwise, we will have many counterfeit tickets.”

We did not think there would be many people there, but I asked my representative not to worry since we didn’t have any expectations. I visited the staircase from the movie Battleship Potemkin,” the only reference I had to the city. Since ‘Odessa is like that,’ the party was a success and there were many more people there than we expected. The bookstore owner introduced me to a gigantic man that he said wanted to make a sculpture of me.

I never accept these offers because they usually mean standing and posing for days at a time, and I intended to return to Kiev the next morning, but the bookstore owner insisted.

“You will only need to stand for one hour, Odessa is like that.”

It was Easter, and Orthodox Easter is an important day for Christianity. I felt like I should accept just to give the man pleasure, as my need to return to Kiev would be a real excuse to limit my stay in his studio.

I went there with some friends. Alexander Petrovich Tokarev, the sculptor, says he spent a sleepless night praying (a custom in the Orthodox Church). Even without sleep, the work begins. I’m a little anxious; I don’t think he will achieve anything in such a short time. His hands were sweating profusely, and though they were moving quickly, his movements were precise, a kind of spiritual ballet. The other works in the studio surrounding me showcased his genuine talent and love to achieve the impossible. I began to feel sad because I would soon have to tell him to stop working because I had to leave.

However, exactly an hour later, the sculpture was finished! I was reminded once again that if you wish to do something, the universe will conspire in your favor.

Why should I have been surprised? After all, Odessa is like that!

The two paths

When they asked Abbot Antonio if the path of sacrifice led to heaven, he answered:

– There are two paths of sacrifice. The first is taken by the man who mortifies the flesh and pays penance because he believes that we are condemned. The man who follows this path feels guilty and judges himself unworthy of living happily.

– The second path is taken by the man who, even though he knows that the world is not as perfect as we would like, prays, does penance and offers up his time and toil to improve the world around him. So he understands that the word sacrifice comes from sacro ofício, holy work. In this case the Divine Presence helps him all the time and he obtains results in heaven.

The beggar and the guru

A baker wanted to get to know a great guru in his town a little better, so he invited him to dinner. The day before, the guru went to the bakery disguised as a beggar, picked a bread roll off the display and began to eat it. The baker saw this and tossed him out into the street.

The following day, the guru and a disciple went to the baker’s house and were treated to a splendid banquet.

In the middle of the meal, the disciple asked, How does one tell a good man from a bad man?

Just look at this baker. He is capable of spending ten gold pieces on a banquet because I am famous, but is incapable of giving a piece of bread to feed a hungry beggar.

Too shy to dance

When I was an adolescent I envied the great ballerinos among the kids on the block, and pretended I had other things to do at parties — like having a conversation. But in fact I was terrified of looking ridiculous, and because of that I would not risk a single step.

Until one day a girl called Marcia called out to me in front of everybody: Come on!

I said I did not like to dance, but she insisted.

Everyone in the group was looking, and because I was in love (love is capable of so many things!), I could refuse no further.

I did not know how to follow the steps, but Marcia did not stop; she went on dancing as if I were a Rudolf Nureyev.

Forget the others and pay attention to the bass, she whispered in my ear. Try to follow its rhythm.

At that moment I understood that we do not always have to learn the most important things; they are already part of our nature.

When we become adults, and when we grow old, we need to go on dancing. The rhythm changes, but music is part of life, and dancing is the consequence of letting this rhythm come inside us.

I still dance whenever I can. With dancing, the spiritual world and the real world manage to co-exist without any conflicts.

Ninja training

The Ninja warriors go to the field where some wheat has just been planted. Obeying the trainer’s command, they jump over the places where the seeds were sown.

Every day the Ninja warriors return to the field. The seeds turn into buds, and the warriors jump over them. The buds turn into small plants, and the warriors jump over them.

They do not become bored. They do not feel it is a waste of time.

The wheat grows, and the jumps become higher and higher. In this way, when the plant is ripe, the Ninja warriors still manage to jump over it.

Why? As a result of their jumping over what many may have seen as insignificant, has allowed them to be keenly aware of their obstacles.

 

(taken from “Manual of the warrior of the light )

20 SEC READ: The Chinese bamboo

After the bamboo seed is planted, you don’t see anything for approximately five years, other than a tiny shoot. All of its growth happens underground; a complex root system that extends vertically and horizontally in the earth begins to form.

At the end of the fifth year, the Chinese bamboo grows until it is approximately 25 meters tall.

Many things in life, personal and professional, are like the Chinese bamboo. You work, invest time, energy, do everything possible to nurture your growth and, sometimes, you don’t see anything for weeks, months or even years. But if you have the patience to keep working, to keep persisting and nurturing, your fifth year will arrive and with it will come changes that you hadn’t even dreamed of.
Remember that one must be very daring to reach great heights, and at the same time, a lot of depth to stay grounded.

Taken from ALEPH

20 SEC READ: Learning to live with some wounds (ENG, PORT,ESPA)

Illustration by Ken Crane
____________________
EN ESPANOL CLICAR AQUI: Puercoespines
EM PORTUGUES CLICAR AQUI: Os Porcos-Espinhos
____________________

During the Ice Age many animals died because of the cold. Seeing this situation, the porcupines decided to group together, so they wrapped up well and protected one another.

But they hurt one another with their thorns, and so then they decided to stay apart from one another.

They started to freeze to death again.
So they had to make a choice: either they vanished from the face of the earth or they accepted their neighbor’s thorns.

They wisely decided to stay together again. They learned to live with the small wounds that a very close relationship could cause, because the most important thing was the warmth given by the other.

And in the end they survived.

Destroying and rebuilding

I am invited to go to Guncan-Gima, the site of a Zen Buddhist temple. When I get there, I am surprised to see that the extraordinarily beautiful building, which is situated in the middle of a vast forest, is right next to a huge piece of waste ground.
 
I ask what the waste ground is for and the man in charge explains (I can’t verify if it is true, but it must be):
 
‘That is where we will build the next temple.
‘Every twenty years, we destroy the temple you see before you now and rebuild it again on the site next to it.
‘This means that the monks who have trained as carpenters, stonemasons and architects are always using their practical skills and passing them on to their apprentices.
‘ It also shows them that nothing in this life is eternal and that even temples are in need of constant improvement.’
 
 

Online Bookstore HERE
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The Worst Reviews of Classic Books

selected from a post By Bill Henderson, Publishers Weekly

“The final blow-up of what was once a remarkable, if minor, talent.”
-The New Yorker, 1936, on Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner

“Whitman is as unacquainted with art as a hog is with mathematics.”
-The London Critic, 1855, on Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

“That this book is strong and that Miss Chopin has a keen knowledge of certain phrases of the feminine will not be denied. But it was not necessary for a writer of so great refinement and poetic grace to enter the overworked field of sex fiction.”
-Chicago Times Herald, 1899, on The Awakening by Kate Chopin

“What has never been alive cannot very well go on living. So this is a book of the season only…”
-New York Herald Tribune, 1925, on The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Here all the faults of Jane Eyre (by Charlotte Brontí«) are magnified a thousand fold, and the only consolation which we have in reflecting upon it is that it will never be generally read.”
-James Lorimer, North British Review, 1847, on Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontí«

“That a book like this could be written–published here–sold, presumably over the counters, leaves one questioning the ethical and moral standards…there is a place for the exploration of abnormalities that does not lie in the public domain. Any librarian surely will question this for anything but the closed shelves. Any bookseller should be very sure that he knows in advance that he is selling very literate pornography.” –
Kirkus Reviews, 1958, on Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

“Her work is poetry; it must be judged as poetry, and all the weaknesses of poetry are inherent in it.”
-New York Evening Post, 1927, on To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

“An oxymoronic combination of the tough and tender, Of Mice and Men will appeal to sentimental cynics, cynical sentimentalists…Readers less easily thrown off their trolley will still prefer Hans Andersen.”
-Time, 1937, on Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

“Its ethics are frankly pagan.”
-The Independent, 1935, on Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham

“At a conservative estimate, one million dollars will be spent by American readers for this book. They will get for their money 34 pages of permanent value. These 34 pages tell of a massacre happening in a little Spanish town in the early days of the Civil War…Mr. Hemingway: please publish the massacre scene separately, and then forget For Whom the Bell Tolls; please leave stories of the Spanish Civil War to Malraux…”
-Commonweal, 1940, on For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

“Monsieur Flaubert is not a writer.”
-Le Figaro, 1857, on Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

10 second reading: the wrong gift

A friend of mine, Miie T. decided to abandon everything she knew “” she was an economist “” in order to dedicate herself to painting.

For years she sought an adequate master until she met a woman who lived in Tibet and specialized in miniatures.
Miie left Japan and went to the Tibetan mountains and moved in with the teacher, who was extremely poor, to learn what she needed to learn.

At the end of the first year, Miie returned to Japan for a couple of days and returned to Tibet with suitcases filled with gifts.
When her teacher saw what she had brought, she began to cry and asked Miie not to come back to her home, saying,

“Before your trip, our relation was of equality and love. You had a roof, food and paints.
“Now, as you brought me these gifts, you have established a social difference between us.
“If this difference exists, there can’t be comprehension and surrendering.”
 
 

Incompetence behind authority

Jean was walking with his grandfather through a public square in Paris.
At a certain point, he saw a shoemaker being mistreated by a client, whose footwear showed a flaw. The shoemaker listened calmly to the complaint and apologized, promising to correct the error.

Jean and his grandfather stopped to have coffee at a bistro.
At the table next to them, the waiter asked a man to move his chair a little in order to make space. That man burst into a torrent of complaints and refused to move.

“Never forget what you have seen today,” Jean’s grandfather said, “the shoemaker accepted the complaint, while this man next to us didn’t want to move.

“Useful men, who do useful things, don’t mind being treated as useless.

“But the useless always judge themselves as being important and hide all their incompetence behind authority.”

 

Taken from “Like a flowing river”

20 SEC reading: the rich and the poor boy

An old Arab story goes that two boys – one rich and the other poor – were returning home from the market.

The rich boy bought honey-covered cookies and the poor one, a piece of old bread.

‘I will let you eat my cookie if you play the dog for me,’ the rich boy said.

The poor boy accepted and, on his fours on the walkway, he began to eat the rich boy’s goodies.

The wise man Fath, who was watching the scene, said:

‘If this poor boy had a little bit of dignity he would find out a way of making money.

‘But he prefers to turn into the rich boy’s dog in order to eat his cookies.
‘Tomorrow, when he is grown up, he will do the same for a public office and will be capable of betraying his country for a bag of gold.’

Elk-Shaped Structure Discovered in Russia

A huge geoglyph in the shape of an elk or deer discovered in Russia may predate Peru’s famous Nazca Lines by thousands of years.

The animal-shaped stone structure, located near Lake Zjuratkul in the Ural Mountains, north of Kazakhstan, has an elongated muzzle, four legs and two antlers. A historical Google Earth satellite image from 2007 shows what may be a tail, but this is less clear in more recent imagery.

Excluding the possible tail, the animal stretches for about 900 feet (275 meters) at its farthest points (northwest to southeast), the researchers estimate, equivalent to two American football fields. The figure faces north and would have been visible from a nearby ridge.


A man named Alexander Shestakov first discovered the glyphs using satellite images. He alerted researchers, who sent out a hydroplane and paraglider to survey the giant structure.

This has since progressed to an on-the-ground excavation by a team led by Grigoriev. They’ve found that the stone architecture of the geoglyph is quite elaborate. When they excavated part of a hind leg the largest stones were on the edges, the smaller ones inside. This past summer they also found the remains of passageways and what appear to be small walls on the hoof and muzzle of the animal.

“The hoof is made of small crushed stones and clay. It seems to me there were very low walls and narrow passages among them. The same situation in the area of a muzzle: crushed stones and clay, four small broad walls and three passages,” Grigorievwrote in an email to LiveScience. He cautioned that his team didn’t excavate all the way down to the bottom of the walls, not wishing to damage the geoglyph.

(read this very interesting article by CLICKING HERE )

20 sec reading: the giant tree


By Paulo Coelho

A carpenter and his apprentices were travelling through the province of Qi in search of building materials.
They saw a giant tree; five men all holding hands could not encompass its girth, and its crown reached almost to the clouds.

‘Let’s not waste our time with this tree,’ said the master carpenter. ‘It would take us for ever to cut it down. If we wanted to make a ship out of that heavy trunk, the ship would sink. If we tried to use it to build a roof, the walls would have to be specially reinforced.’

The group continued on its way. One of the apprentices remarked:

‘Such a big tree and no use to anyone!’

‘That’s where you’re wrong,’ said the master carpenter. ‘The tree was true to its own destiny.
“If it had been like all the others, we would have cut it down. But because it had the courage to be different, it will remain alive and strong for a long time yet.’

Illustration by Ken Crane

Men and women were not as they are now

“According to him [Plato], at the beginning of creation, men and women were not as they are now; there was just one being, who was rather short, with a body and a neck, but his head had two faces, looking in different directions. It was as if two creatures had been glued back to back, with two sets of sex organs, four legs and four arms.

“The Greek gods, however, were jealous, because this creature with four arms work harder; with its two faces, it was always vigilant and could not be taken by surprise; and its four legs meant that it could stand or walk for long periods at a time without tiring. Even more dangerous was the fact that the creature had two different sets of sex organs and so needed no one else in order to continue reproducing.

“Zeus, the supreme lord of Olympus, said: ‘I have a plan to make these mortals lose some of their strength.’

“And he cut the creature in two with a lightning bolt, thus creating man and woman. This greatly increased the population of the world, and, at the same time, disoriented and weakened its inhabitants, because now they had to search for their lost half and embrace it and, in that embrace, regain their former strength, their ability to avoid betrayal and the stamina to walk for long periods of time and to withstand hard work. That embrace in which the two bodies re-fuse to become one again is what we call sex.”

– Ralf Hart (in Eleven Minutes)

1 min reading: the two jewels

A deeply religious Rabbi lived happily with his family, an admirable woman and two dear sons. One time, he had to be away from home for several days due to work. When he was away, a serious car accident killed his two boys.

Alone, the mother suffered in silence. But being a strong woman, backed up by her faith and trust in God, she endured the shock with dignity and bravery. However, she constantly worried how she was going to break this sad news to her husband. Even though he was a man of faith, he had already been admitted to the hospital for cardiac problems in the past and his wife feared that learning about the tragedy would kill him too.

On the eve of her husband’s arrival, she prayed earnestly and was given the grace of an answer.

On the following day, the Rabbi returned home, embraced his wife warmly and asked for their sons.
His wife told him not to worry about that, he should take a shower and rest.

Hours later, both of them sat down to have lunch.
She asked him for details about his journey, he told her about everything he had experienced, spoke of God’s mercy, but asked about the boys again.

His wife, in a quiet embarrassed posture, answered her husband, “Leave them alone, we’ll worry about them later. First I want you to help me solve a problem I consider serious.”

Her husband, already worried, asked, “What happened? I noticed you are worn! Tell me everything that goes through your soul and I am sure we will solve any problem together, with the help of God.”

“While you were away, a friend of ours visited me and left two jewels of incalculable worth for us to save. Those are very precious jewels! I have never seen something so stunning! He is coming to get them back and I don’t want to give them back to him as I have already taken a liking to them. What do you say?”

“Well now, woman! I don’t understand you! Vanities have never appealed to you!”
“It is that I had never seen such jewels! I can’t accept the idea of losing them forever!”

And the Rabbi answered:
“No one loses what he doesn’t own. Keeping them would be like stealing! We are going to return them and I will help you get over them. We will do that together, today.”

“Very well, my dear, as you wish. The treasure will be returned. In truth, that has already been done. The precious jewels were our sons. God trusted us their guard and during your trip he came to get them. They are gone…”

The Rabbi embraced his wife, and together they shed many tears, but he had understood the message and from that day on they fought to overcome the loss together.

All we need is today

“All we need is the morning. As long as there is sunrise, then there is the possibility that we can face all of our misfortunes, celebrate all our blessings, and live all our endeavors as human beings.
Spirituality is something that has become necessary in these troubled times. Yet it is inherently superfluous.
We need it to remind ourselves, to bolster ourselves, to integrate ourselves, to fulfill ourselves.
If we could simply acknowledge the mystery of night and the glory of morning, we would need neither civilization nor spirituality.

At its simplest, life begins with dawn. That is blessing enough. All else becomes fullness immeasurable. At dawn, kneel down and give thanks for this wonderful event.
We may think mornings are so common they are unworthy of veneration, but do you realize most places in the cosmos do not have mornings?

This daily event is our supreme goodness. Greet the dawn. That is your miracle to witness. That is the ultimate beauty. That is sacredness. That is your gift from heaven.
That is knowledge that life is not futile. That is enlightenment. That is your meaning in life. That is your directive.
That is your comfort. That is the solemnity of duty. That is inspiration for compassion. That is the light of the ultimate.”

~Deng Ming-Dao from 365 Tao: Daily Meditations

The name of the angel

A baby asked God, “They tell me you are sending me to earth tomorrow, but how am I going to live there being so small and helpless?”

“Your angel will be waiting for you and will take care of you.”

The child further inquired, “But tell me, here in heaven I don’t have to do anything but sing and smile to be happy.”

God said, “Your angel will sing for you and will also smile for you. And you will feel your angel’s love and be very happy.”

Again the child asked, “And how am I going to be able to understand when people talk to me if I don’t know the language?”

God said, “Your angel will tell you the most beautiful and sweet words you will ever hear, and with much patience and care, your angel will teach you how to speak.”

“And what am I going to do when I want to talk to you?”

God said, “Your angel will place your hands together and will teach you how to pray.”

“Who will protect me?”

God said, “Your angel will defend you even if it means risking it’s life.”

“But I will always be sad because I will not see you anymore.”

God said, “Your angel will always talk to you about Me and will teach you the way to come back to Me, even though I will always be next to you.”

At that moment there was much peace in Heaven, but voices from Earth could be heard and the child hurriedly asked, “God, if I am to leave now, please tell me my angel’s name.”

“You will simply call her, ‘Mom.'”

 

(unknown)