16 July 2013

Cabral, Part V (Final)

I am happy to present today the fifth and final segment of Facundo Cabral's essay, “Rooted in the Universe.” Once again our bard opens up the whole world to us, and something beyond the world, as he writes. He points out a common philosophical fallacy: to become consumed by the particular time-space situation in which we find ourselves only to miss out on the "big picture," the greater world that is there to be seen, appreciated and enjoyed if we dare do so. Finally he summarizes the connection between truth, freedom and the fullness or depth of living (plenitud), which he has mentioned in earlier sections, with this simple expression: "To accept reality is to disabuse oneself; thus truth makes us live to the full."

Rooted in the Universe

Facundo Cabral

Translated by David Rodriguez

33. The first sign of wisdom is to know who it is that knows. The second is to abide in that which we love, which intensifies our radiance. We thus become more engaged and we endure longer. Love revitalizes [aggiorna] us in such a way that we win everyone’s affections. You are allowed to fall but you are not allowed to stay down. Nowadays society is inert because it is caught in a traffic jam that is already out of control because our cities are out of control. Perhaps we have stopped thinking in order to change all ideas and start from scratch. There will no longer be great myths to follow, nor ideologies. We will now have to communicate from man to man because this is the era of the individual. Witness the Internet. As a result, the quality [of communication] will improve. The macro will yield to the micro and disappear. This means that from now on there will be no television set, political view, or family that can douse the sacred fire that is the soul, where intelligence lives forever and has been nourished by the universe for countless ages.

34. People who ask, advance. People who do not ask, stay behind, that is, they die because life is movement. Everything re-creates itself continuously, so we must focus. For a single woman you might miss out on the rest. For a single house you might miss out on the world—that is, for a corner you miss out on the seas and rivers, that is, dolphins, whales, salmon, sharks. For a family, an ideology, and a religion, you might miss out on architects, Egyptologists, poets, philosophers, shamans, anthropologists, prophets, myriads of ways to appreciate the spiritual and the stars, orchids from Colombia, Bacon, Alberto Giacometti, Nietzsche, the Gulf of Aqaba, Alexandria, Tokyo; the Greece of Homer, so dear to Lawrence Durrell; Guanajuato, where I fell in love with Catherine Valezca, even though I did not get a chance to tell her so; Chichicastenango, where they commanded my skeleton with a dance; Paris, where Rilke used to see beauty wake up every morning next to Rodin; Trastevere in Rome, where Fellini would direct his characters, where Michelangelo’s Moses is tired of tourists who suffocate him in San Pietro in Vincoli, where he hardly fits.

Moreover, you might miss out on London, Berlin, Brussels, Prague,—where the Romantics held such a lofty concept of happiness that they never obtained it, so they felt miserable, a sadness which excited them and a pain they enjoyed, like singers of flamenco and of tango,—Madrid, where Lupe is always on the brink of thought but never falls; Miami, the bridge between Latinos and Saxons; the Sahara where I met Erich Fromm, who used to say that Suzuki was a Zen Buddhist because he had experienced [Zen Buddhism] and that authenticity made him difficult to read because Zen does not give rationally satisfactory answers unlike the books of Western intellectuals who explain it more easily although they have not experienced it.

35. Do not idolize anything or anyone because to idolize means to lose your independence, which unmistakably produces conflict and sickness, just like you can easily lose what you gained effortlessly, just like poverty afflicts someone who does not enjoy what he possesses in excess. The great step is to go from egotism—which jeopardizes and enslaves you to so many external things—to inner freedom. Thus you attain peace and peace makes you live everything to the full. It enriches you.

36. The latest “saviors” are skeptics, but they do not challenge the teaching of the Buddha nor invalidate the Bible. The teaching of Buddha is not undermined by one who does not believe in reincarnation, and the Bible is not dead because it faces the more realistic scientific currents concerning the history of the earth and human evolution. Such inferences are as na├»ve as the notion of a crimeless society—notwithstanding the fact that anyone could become better if he decides to do so. The universe could use more good intentions, for it is the way it is and not the way we would like it to be. True faith starts by working on oneself in order to believe in oneself. And, when someone is firmly rooted in himself, he wants to see everything. Thus we come to know reality and can then understand it. Thus we are saved from illusions.

37. We know that behind one mask there is always another just like we can also see the purity there is in nudity, the liberties of jazz and the rictuses of dictators. To accept reality is to disabuse oneself; thus truth makes us live to the full. Do not deceive yourself; then no one will deceive you. Be firm like Buddha, Jesus, Spinoza, Einstein, Ford. Be firm but open to the world and be attentive to life’s proposals. Preach the virtues but do not hide the truth. You will never regret that you decided to act, but you will never forgive yourself if you fail to do so. Besides, you have nothing to lose, for not even one of your ears is your own work. And do not worry about the future because the journey does not end in the summit of a mountain but in the peace of the valley.

38. You have no account to render to anybody, nor anything to explain, if you harm no one. Therefore, you should not exhaust yourself in the useless tasks of wanting to impress and to please. The important thing is, rather, that you enjoy what you do and be convinced [that it is right for you]. Moreover, if you have a big dream, you must be willing to devote a great deal of effort to materialize it because it takes greatness to achieve greatness. If you study little, you will learn little. If you live halfheartedly, you will get to know only half of life. If you think in terms of divisions, you will see a divided world. If you work out of sheer obligation, you are throwing away your labor and you are another miserable creature. If you are timid, you will not know love, which is brave.

39. You are not depressed: you are distracted from the present where life is unfolding, for example, in sunrises and sunsets, seagulls, condors, eagles, doves and swallows, mountains, valleys, rivers and seas, sport, art, agriculture, architecture, forests, macaws, monkeys, tigers, lions, crocodiles, elephants, streams, human beings of all colors, the illusory time that spurs you on, and eternity that allows you to change course and start afresh at every turn. You are not depressed. You are distracted from the wonders that are going on around you, from births to harvests, from revolutions to concerts, from soccer championships to interplanetary voyages. You are not depressed about something that happened but distracted from the whole that exists in the now.

You are not depressed: you are distracted.

© Facundo Cabral

Earlier installments: I | II | III | IV