60. The man that planted trees
62. The passiveness
63. Expectations of failure
64. To escape to the past or to the future
65. Investing in the future
67. Illnesses of the will
68. Living better with less
69. Austerity and temperance
70. The mirror of the desires
60. The man that planted trees
Jean Giono wrote time ago a magnificent story on a curious personage that he knew in 1913 in an abandoned and deserted corner of the Provenza. He was a 55 years old shepherd named Elzéard Bouffier. He lived in a place where all the land appeared sterile and lean. Around him extended a desolate place where some families under a very rigorous climate were living, in the middle of the poverty and of the conflicts caused by the continuous desire to escape from there.
That man had been proposed to regenerate that barren land. And he wanted to do it with an at the same time surprising and simple system: to plant trees, as many as he could. He had sown already 100.000, of which had already germinated 20.000 more or less. Of those, he expected to lose the half on account of the rodents and of the bad weather, but even thus they would remain 10.000 oak trees where before had nothing.
Ten years after that first encounter, those oak trees were higher than a man and they formed a forest of eleven kilometers long for three kilometers of wide. That persistent and conscientious shepherd had continued his plan with other vegetable species, and thus he planted beech trees, that were founded widespread so far away as the view could reach. Also he had planted birches in all the valleys where he had founded sufficient humidity. The transformation had been so gradual, that had come part of the environment without causing greater amazement. Some hunters that rose to that place had noted it, but they attributed it to some whim of the nature.
In 1935, the hills were covered with trees of more than seven meters of height. When that man passed away, in 1947, he had lived 89 years and really those spots had changed a lot. All was different, even the air. Instead of the rough and dry winds, blew a smooth breeze loaded with the fragrances of the forest. The houses had been restored. There were young couples. That place had become a place where it was pleasant to live. In the sides of the mountains there were fields of barley and rye. At the end of the narrow valley, the meadows began to become green again. Instead of the ruins, now extended carefully attended fields. The people of the low lands, where the land was expensive, had been installed there, bringing youngness, movement and spirit of adventure.
"When I think -concluded the French writer- that a man alone having only his spiritual and physical resources, was capable to cause to create this land of Canaan in the desert, I convinced me that, in spite of all, the humanity is admirable; and when I consider the greatness of spirit and the kind of tenacity that implied to obtain this result, I get full of immense respect toward that old and illiterate peasant, that was capable to carry out a work worthy of God".
A man plants trees and the whole region changes. All we know people as this man that pass unnoticed but that, there where they are, the things tend to improve. His presence instills optimism and desires to work. They get recovered of misfortunes and of difficulties that discourage to others. They possess a constructive defiance and their small or large efforts cause to rectify the course of the lives of the men.
As it has been written by Alejandro Llano, there are things that do not have solution, and it costs us a great effort to accept them. And there are other things that have solution, but we have convinced ourselves that they do not have. Therefore, one of the reasons by which it costs us so much to change the things that do not go well is because we believe that we cannot change them. It is necessary to have faith in which the man can be transformed and can change, so much himself as also to the environment that surrounds him. Each one has to sow with constancy what he can contribute: his good humor, his patience, his diligence, his capacity to listen and to love. It could be able to seem little thing, but these are elements that finish for doing fertile the driest lands.
It is said that the white death -the death by freezing- is a sweet death: it comes with a species of drowsiness, full of pleasant sensations in which one feels, even, optimistic... and between two dreams escapes the soul. That man, Guillaumet, knew it. It would have cost nothing to him to let him self recline on the iced floor, not to raise again after a fall, to say: that is enough, all is finished! and not to try it again.
The history is of Antoine of Saint Exupéry, in "Land of men", where he relates the adventure of a pilot whose airplane had crashed in the Andes and, after an incredible crossing, he appeared destroyed but alive, when everyone had lost the hope to find him.
That man had lots of reasons to stop fighting for the survival. He did not know the way back. All the things indicated that almost with security that superhuman effort would be of no avail. He was alone, lost, broken of blows, of fatigue, of exhaustion. He was knocked down at every step by the storm, in a zone where it was told that: "The Andes, in the winter, do not return the men".
"I have done what I have been able to and I have no longer any hope. Why to persist in this martyrdom?" It would have sufficed to him to close the eyes to avoid the rocks, the ice and the snows. And no longer there would be blows, neither falls, neither torn muscles, neither burning ice, neither that weight of the life that he had to drag so heavy.
But Guillaumet thought about his woman, his children, his companions. Who will be able to maintain the family that was waiting for him in some place of France if he decided to stop? No, he could not fail to them. They wanted him, they expected him. What would have happened if they knew that he was still alive? "If my woman believes that I live, she believes that I walk. The companions believe that I walk. All they have confidence in me, and I am a rabble if I don't walk." When he felt again, he repeated those words. When the legs refused to advance more; when all the bones of his body moaned numb by the cold and the exhaustion; when after descending he had to rise again, as in a never ending carousel, he repeated again the same refrain: "If they believe that I live, they believe that I walk, and I am a rabble if I do not continue".
When they founded him, his first phrase was like a summary of his extraordinary tenacity: "What I did, I swear it to you, no animal would have done". Saint Exupéry comments it thus in his work: is the noblest phrase that I know, a phrase that situates the man, which gives honor to him, that re-establishes the true hierarchies.
When Guillaumet was exhausted and overwhelmed to know that it was almost impossible to find nobody in those mountains, he rejected the voice of the exhaustion that incited him to be thrown on the floor and to renounce. The animal only bears the exhaustion when he is incited by basic impulses, like the fear; nevertheless, the man has multiplied the motives to be recovered and to endure: the values that influence in his conscience can be felt, as it happens to the animals, but also they can be thought. When we feel them, only we experience their attraction or their repulsion; when we think them, we can see the valuable thing although almost we do not feel anything.
What is innovative of the man, as indicates José Antonio Marina, is that he can govern his behavior by "thought" values, and not only by "felt" values. If we only could accommodate our conduct to what we feel, we would not be able to speak of liberty, because we would not be able to direct freely our feelings. In spite of the grievous protest of his muscles and that he only felt exhaustion, Guillaumet could think about other values, or to recover of his memory the lived values in other occasions, and to adjust to them his behavior. Once more, the spiritual thing is introduced in the corporal thing, expands it and enriches it.
62. The passiveness
"Christine was amazed about how simple resulted suddenly the conversation with her. Something trembled under her skin. Who I am now, what is passing to me? Why can I do suddenly all this? With what ease I move, and even when always all they told me that I was stiff and clumsy? And with what ease I speak, and I suppose that I do not say any ingenuousness, because this important gentleman listens to me with interest. What happens? Have the circumstances changed for me today, or is that I carried it all inside, and simply I lacked the value to take the plunge, was I always too much passive and frightened? My mother told it to me. Maybe it is not all so difficult, maybe the life is infinitely more tolerable than I believed, only one must have a little more of courage, to feel more secure, and the force comes then from unsuspected places."
This reflection of the protagonist of a novel of Stefan Zweig recalls me, at the same time, another of Susana Tamaro about the passiveness. The passiveness -assures the Italian writer- is one of the biggest poisons of our time. One becomes passive at the moment in which he decides not to grow more, because he thinks that he should not go beyond. It is as the rotation of an electric switch and, by rotating it, we close ourselves to the wealth that the life continuously is offering to us.
The passiveness uses to arise of a phrase or of a thought that stops us in front of a new idea to attack. Certainly, if for twenty years I never incline myself to collect something, when I arrive to the twentieth first year, the back no longer will bend. Why does it not bend? Simply, because for a long time we have said to it that it was useless to bend. But it is the mind who decides that, not an inexorable destiny.
There are people that arrive at an advanced age with the body and with the mind young, and not simply because they have been lucky with the health, but because they have carried out a prolonged interior work, they have known to feed the force of a spirit that has done them to live young during a long time. They are people capable to bend their back, but, above all, to bend their thoughts. Still they are capable of being amazed and of producing amazement. Instead of judging from the passiveness, they know how to listen and how to put interest in the things. They have cultivated with respect and attention their mind and their body; they have treated them with the dignity that they deserve.
I insist on the importance of the diligence and the firmness because the heart of the man is a place in which many times the evil is imposed on the good precisely by passiveness. The evil is simple, banal, and spontaneous. It doesn't require effort neither opposition. The evil is a shortcut. The good, on the other hand, is a travel. This travel is presented to us, at times, solitary, rough, difficult, and, from time to time, also no popular and full of falls. Therefore, to do the good requires rejecting the superficiality of the conformism and the deceits of the prejudice. The good is an extremely serious thing. The kindness is a severe road and, in its severity, it needs of the force. The kindness, like the love, requires force. It requires values as the boldness, the patience and the wait. The victory on the evil does not come walking in an idyllic evening by the beach of a sea in calm, but raising the mountains, avoiding brambles and briars, assuming risks. Evil cannot be fought with evil, but neither with an empty rhetoric on good and the good feelings. To do good does not suffice to have a good heart, also one must achieve -among others things- to temper the soul and the body in front of the onslaughts of the passiveness.
63. Expectations of failure
We can imagine a convinced person about his uselessness for some task. For example, he has been convinced that he is a bad student. With that expectation of failure, what proportion of his personal resources will he be capable to mobilize?
It seems obvious that most of his potential will remain inactive. That person already has said to himself that he does not know that the knowledge to study has not been given to him, that he will never be able to be a brilliant student. The worse aspect is that the problem is aggravated with its first consequence: if he begins the classes or the hours of study with those perspectives, what attitudes will he take? Will they be vigorous, firm, positive, sure attitudes? Will they reflect his true possibilities? Most probably the answer is: no.
When a person is convinced that he is going to fail, it is difficult for him to find motives to put a constant and intense effort. He begins with some convictions that underline what he cannot do, and those convictions reinforce attitudes of passiveness, of staggering, of lack of firmness. He will mobilize a very small part of his potentialities and personal resources. What results will be derived from all this: for certain, some mediocre results. And those mediocre results very possibly will reinforce his initial negative conviction, the bad appraisal that the person has, makes the things to end badly. That was the origin of the problem: I do not serve to study, and this will not change.
This is a classical example of descending spiral, of vicious circle of wrong appraisal about oneself. When one falls in this dynamic, the failure calls to failure. Besides, over the years, by being greater the time that they have been deprived of the good experience of obtaining results, their conviction that they are incapable to reach good results goes enlarging each time more. This carries them to do little or nothing in order to discover and to promote their own resources. Rather, they use to seek the way to remain just as they are doing with the minimum possible effort.
We now imagine now another person (or the same one, but with a different attitude). He has illusion and hope. He is convinced that he can cause to yield a lot more his talents. I do not say that he believes to be what he is not, but that he believes that he can take more profit of what he is in reality. What proportion of his resources will utilize that person? It is doubtless that a lot greater. What class of attitudes will he take? The most probable is that he will be more courageous, surer, with greater energy. He will be convinced that he will arrive further, and he will put more pledge to achieve it. With that effort, he will produce, for certain, better results.
It is an opposed dynamic to the vicious circle of the one that I explained before. In this case, the advance calls to the advance (the same as before the failure called to the failure). When there is faith and there is hope, each step ahead generates more faith and more hope, and encourages us to advance to a still higher step.
But is that perhaps the people that think thus are not going to fail never? Is it sufficient with being convinced of being able to reach something to reach it? Is it not to confuse the illusion with the reality? It is evident that those people will also fail many times, like everyone. On the road of the personal improvement, that is the road toward the happiness, if someone thinks about a lineal advance and without any stumble, he knows very little about the human reality. But not every stumble must be considered negative: it could be adequate to cite here that "who stumbles and does not fall, advances two steps".
Our life, our personal history, or the history of the humanity, shows us numerous examples of how who maintains some firm and clear convictions enjoys always an interminable source of energy. When, in each small or great daily battle, he leaves victorious, he is happy and he continues ahead; and when he fails, he removes the experience and continues also ahead putting all his illusion.
It is clear that there are other cases, well different, of people that in their candor think that they can arrive to where they will never be able to arrive. They are ingenuous men or women, more or less well-meaning, with better or worse intention, but, in any case, very far away from his personal reality and to the reality that surrounds them. I am not referring to extreme cases, but to the current and normal people, that understand that the key of their life is not in which they have received or in which they have thought, but, rather, in the interpretation that they give to each day and in what they consequently do.
64. To escape to the past or to the future
There are who live chained to a failure or to an injury that, by doing so, would never stop of suppurate. They are people that are embittered today because twenty years ago their mother didn't want them, or they could not study what they wanted, or their boyfriend betrayed them, or they lost unjustly their work, or whatever it could be. They have not forgiven that old pain, and there they are, turning over their bitterness, been tortured with their errors and their grudges. Martin Descalzo said of them: "they seem statues of salt that fail to live the present by so much looking backwards".
There are others that also live centered in the past, but not by bitterness but by yearning. I do not refer myself to the ones that are a little nostalgic and that like to take in account for their present decisions our history and our roots, but to those people who do not like the present but they neither have the necessary value to improve it and, therefore, they dedicate their few energies to regret the present situation and to sigh for other, supposedly better, passed times. They do not realize that the world has got worse in some things but it has also improved in other things, and that it cannot be told that whichever passed time was better, and they should think if perhaps they think thus more by their bad memory that by their good perception of the reality. Maybe the world has not got worse, but they are the ones that have aged and now there are others that rule the roost. Besides, the present that we have is in good measure result of the past that they did. And, if the past is condemned to be increasingly more passed, and the ones that live in it, with it will sink. The past is useful in the measure that illuminates the present and feeds the future, in the measure in which it leaves to be past and becomes a driving force for the present and not in a sterile yearning.
The ones that live chained to the past are used to be also intimidated by the future. It has been more an error of the old age, but frequently it is seen in young people and it is really devastating. It is a fear that paralyzes and consumes the people, like those spiders that first anesthetize and then immobilize their victims in order to devour them little by little.
Others live conditioned by the future, because they postpone everything that costs them. They don't dare to elude it directly and, therefore; they resort almost unconsciously to delay everything that they consider uphill. They do not feel with spirits and immediately they leave it for another moment, which frequently never arrives. They do not realize that to be discouraged is to flee the effort, and this is initially very comfortable but eventually causes exhaustion. Their life is a continuous strategy of withdrawal and postponement. With the first difficulty, they think about leaving it for this afternoon, or for this night, or for the weekend. Every small project or aspiration immediately remains without being done until the next month, or for the holidays, or for the next year, with the false excuse that I will have more time and more liberty because I begin the career, or I finish it or I get married, or whatever would be. Then goes arriving all that and there are new delays, new yielding, and one must expect again, perhaps the children to be older and no longer they need so many cares, or to the retirement, and so on until already they found themselves without energies and finally they understand that to leave the things for further on is almost always an extremely deceitful strategy.
In a similar way, as how some consume marijuana or cocaine to elude for a time the reality of the life, thus flee to the past or to the future those that do not have the value to take with force the reins of the present. They do not realize that it is necessary to do today what we have to do today, and that one must seek the happiness in attacking the present with a little of courage.
65. Investing in future
A man was lost in the desert. He seemed condemned to die of thirst. By luck, he arrived to an old rambling tumbledown cabin, without ceiling either window. He prowled around a little until he founded a small shadow where he was able to accommodate and to be protected a little from the sun. Looking in better, he distinguished in the cabin's interior an old bomb of water, quite oxidized. He dragged to it, got the handle and began to pump, to pump with all his forces, but of there did not leave anything. He was disappointed, he reclined himself against the wall plunged in a deep sadness. Then he noted that by his side there was a bottle. He cleaned the dust that covered it, and could read a message written on her: "Utilize all the water that contains this bottle to feed the bomb of the well. Later, please fill it again before going".
The man unscrewed the cover and he saw that, really, it was full of water. Full of water! Suddenly, he was in front of a terrible dilemma: if he drunk the bottle, he would calm his thirst by a small time, but if he utilized it to feed that old and oxidized bomb, perhaps he would obtain fresh water from the fund of the well, and he would be able to take all the water that he wanted, and to fill his now empty bottle, but perhaps not, perhaps the bomb did not function and he would waste foolishly all the content being so much thirsty. What should he do? Should he bet on those little reliable instructions, written perhaps so much time ago?
At the end, he summed up his courage and emptied the entire bottle in the bomb; he got the handle and began to pump. The old machinery was grinding heavily. The time passed and our man was increasingly more nervous. The bomb continued with its dry squeaks. Suddenly arose a little bit of water, that immediately became greater and, finally, it became a great spurt of crystalline and fresh water. He drank anxiously, he filled its canteens and, at the end, he filled also the bottle for the next traveling man. He took the small note and added: "Believe me. It functions. You have to throw all the water".
This simple history recalls us a constantly present reality in the life of every person: any achievement supposes almost always to postpone a possible present gratification and to run the risk that the sacrifice turn out to be unproductive. And although it is certain that good part of our efforts are unproductive, or at least they seem to be, it is also certain that when we tend to satisfy us with short-term satisfactions and we do not invest in better objectives for a longer period of time, it is easy then that we slide for the slope of the mediocrity or of the conformism. Each day some opportunities are presented to us that can help us or that can open doors that conduct us to better situations. And if you do not bet, if you do not invest in the future, it is sure that at the end you will have lost. Because there are trains that are lost and then they pass again, but others do not.
All we should sacrifice things of a lower order to achieve other things that are of an upper order. We cannot get used to avoid those challenges. There is people to which turns out to be difficult to think about the beyond, that use to leave the things for further on, and that makes his life to be a disorganized life, of constant surrenders and abuses, a life that is barely controlled and that, at the end, does not carry to the desired port.
The people that try to attack as soon as possible the costly duty feel psychologically more clearly, and the people that tend to delay it feel more disappointed and more frustrated. To begin, from among the pending tasks, by the one that costs more, uses to be a way of proceeding that lightens the mind, that enlarges the efficacy of our efforts and that improves our quality of life. The ones that always find motives to delay what cost them, are people that live tortuous slaveries, however how much they decorate it with appearances of happy spontaneity or of bohemian abandonment.
The voluntarism is an error in the education of the will. It is not an excess of willpower, but an illness -among the many possible- of the will. That illness, besides, affects to all of us in some facet or in some moment of our life. Because, when we think about the voluntarism, perhaps we imagine a tense and stiff person, and certainly there are, and not few, but the voluntarism is something that, in one way or another, in some circumstance or in other, concerns to all of us.
The voluntarism wants to resolve the things trusting too much in the effort of the will, speeding up, trying one's best, with a fund of pride more or less veiled, dazzled by a search of self-satisfaction by having done oneself the things for one same, without counting too much with the others.
The voluntarism disturbs the lucidity, among others things because it carries to listen little, to be little receptive. It carries to grasp excessively the own vision of the things. To think that the things are like one sees them, without realizing up to what point the others contribute always with another perspective and they enrich with it our life.
The voluntarism damages also the spontaneity, the simplicity, the naturalness. It carries to try to solve the interior problems only by ourselves. The voluntarist finds difficult to open his heart to the others. He expects to be the one that, with his determination and his pledge, can leave the trench in which perhaps he has fallen. The sad thing is that sometimes he does not realize that he has dug already a lot and that he can not leave the trench only by his own forces, or that, at least, he should had consider ridiculous not to have asked for aid.
The voluntarist uses to be stiff, but insecure. He tends to rely too much on norms and on criteria that can support his insecurity, applying them in a little stable way. He considers the authority and the habitual obedience in the professional relations, the family, etc., in a little intelligent, little flexible and intransigent way.
The voluntarist manages quite badly his own failures. After them, he uses to take up again his habitual self-sacrificed fight, but also at times he is tired. It is then when the dangerous fragility of the voluntarist´s motivation is declared. It is easy for this person to sink and to fall perhaps in a big apathy, or to take refuge in victimism or in a useless defiance, or even he takes some other unexpected registrations and he arrive to extremes that surprise a lot to whom didn't know him truly.
The voluntarist proposes himself sometimes little realistic goals, in his desire to excel and to arrive longer than he can cover. He is favorable to the feelings of inferiority, fruit to the comparisons with the others that he makes constantly, in an exaggerated eagerness to stand out against others better gifted than him, which generates him a continuous reference to the frustration.
The voluntarism, in addition to be an error in the education of the will, is also an error in the education of the feelings. It could be able to say that the voluntarist is, curiously, quite sentimental. He is a person whose main emotional motivation is the sense of the duty. A person that tends too much to make use of the satisfaction or the relief that produce to him to comply with what he understands is his duty, with a rigorism not well integrated in a stable affectivity.
The self-sacrifice and the eagerness to comply with the own duty are not bad, evidently. And the voluntarist people use to be admirable in their self-sacrifice, in their domination over their inclinations. And all these are fundamental elements to carry intelligently the reins of the own life. Those people lack, and the question is essential, to learn to modulate theirs inclinations, to educate their whims, to form their character. The sense of the duty is something very necessary. But a good emotional education should seek as much as possible a synthesis among the self-sacrifice -because there are always things that cost- and the pleasure: what I have to do, I do it not simply to displeasure, because I should do it; but I try to do with pleasure, because I understand that it improves me and it will satisfy me more, although it costs to me.
Thus, the great achievement of the emotional education is to obtain -as much as possible, I insist- the union between the desire and the duty. Thus, besides, is reached a greater degree of liberty, because the happiness doesn't consist in doing what one wants, but in wanting what one should do. Thus, the life will not be a continuous effort to go ahead based on the force of the will. We will feel tied to the must, but not obliged, neither forced, neither coerced, because we will perceive the duty as an ideal that carries us to the fullness.
67. Illnesses of the will
We have spoken of the voluntarism, and now we continue with some other errors in the education of the will. All they can be given of form more or less intense or permanent in any person without coming to suppose an important pathology.
The impulsiveness is declared in diverse characteristics: tendency to change too much from an activity to another; tendency to act frequently before thinking; difficulty to organize the pending tasks; excessive need of supervision of what one does; difficulty for keeping the turn in the conversation or in any situation of group; tendency to raise the voice or to lose the control in front of something that contradicts us, etc.
The tendencies of compulsive style, on the contrary, use to be reflexive and methodical, sometimes even accompanied by a strong interior debate. For example, a person can feel the need to verify three times that the lights have been put off or that the key of the gas is closed or that the door of the street is not open. Or he can feel the need to speak to her husband or to his wife several times a warning that he or she knows, because he or she has repeated fully already many times, but that he or she fails to remove out of the head. Or feels envy, or jealous, or ill will toward something or toward someone for some motives that, when he or she analyze them, he or she understands that they are absurd.
That person can perceive with plenty of clarity the lack of sense of those facts or attitudes, and even to try to be opposed to them, but at the end he prefers to yield to calm the anxiety of the doubt on if he has closed well the door, he has forgot to say or to do something, or whatever could be. He sees how the not desired thoughts interfere, and, although he understands that they are inappropriate, the obsessive idea continues present. They are occurrences that seem to perforate the thought and to be installed in it: some people are absorbed for an excessive critical sense that causes them to see all with bad eyes; other suffer a perfectionism that causes them to lose efficacy and practical sense; other fall in the constant rumination of what they have done or they are going to do, and that carries them to the resentment or to the exhaustion; etc.
Those thoughts -worries, appetites, self-incriminations, complaints, analytic circles of no way out, etc. - can come to be like a discomfort that is not alleviated with any distraction, an anguish that impregnates all. Any thing, even being not important, revokes the decision that we took of not consider again that matter and to accept it as it is. When those pathologies are important they can become serious illnesses, like the ludopathy (compulsive gambling), kleptomania (pathological robbery), pyromania (pathological incendiary eagerness), prodigality (compulsive expense), etc.
In the impulsive or compulsive tendencies, the will is found without capacity to stop the impulse, sometimes because it is not noted in time, other because it fails to get rid of its untimely occurrences. On the other hand, there are other occasions in which the problem is exactly the contrary: the incapacity of the will to decide and to pass to the facts. It is the case of people prisoners of the perplexity that never know what option to take. Or that fluctuate constantly between an option and another. Or that they have a lot of difficulties to maintain the already taken decisions, normally for lack of resistance to bear the ordinary frustrations of the life. As it is natural, those capacities can also be hypertrophied, as it is the case of the obstinacy, in which the capacity to face the difficulty is exaggerated or badly directed.
Many of those lacks of the will are related to the interior fears of the man. The answer to those stimuli of the fear -affirms José Antonio Marina- does not arise in a mechanical form, as it is in the case of the animals, but the stimulus slows right down in the interior of the man and can be fought or promoted. The attention may remain disturbed and can cost a lot of work to think about another thing, because the memory evokes time and again the situation, or other similar passed situations, but always it is impossible to strive in order to educate those interior starts.
The will of each person is the result of all a long history of creation and of personal decisions. We cannot come to have a full and direct control on it, but we can afford a certain guidance of it from our intelligence. All we are tacked continuously by thoughts or spontaneous feelings of the most diverse kind, but one of the functions of our intelligence is precisely to control them.
68. To live better with less
Many times we get surprised of how our house goes little by little being filled of a multitude of things which utility is more than doubtful, that we have been buying without barely need them.
Perhaps in a time they seemed very necessary. For example, a machine that reduces a little the physical effort turns out to be immediately indispensable. We take the elevator to rise or to descend one or two flats, or the car to travel through only some hundreds of meters, and, at the same time, frequently we propose to do a little more exercise or to practice all the weeks a while of sport.
To be comfortable at home, is it necessary to pass to 25 degrees in winter and to 18 degrees in summer? In how many houses it is almost necessary to be in undershirt in full winter, or to open the windows, because there is a suffocating heat? And have we not caught a cold sometimes on account of the severities of the air conditioning in a café, an assembly hall or an airplane?
The idea of consuming with a little more of sensibleness and of head, to carry a way of life a little simpler or, in short, to live better with less, is an idea that by fortune is being popularized in the American culture with the name of downshifting (it would be able to be translated as deceleration or simplification). Starting from the principle that the money never will be able to fill the emotional needs and of that a well managed life comes given more by the quality of our relation with the others that by the things that we possess or we can possess, this cultural movement does not try only to reduce the consumption, but above all of making us to deepen in our relation with the things, in order to discover better ways to enjoy the life.
Fed up already with the tyranny of the installment purchases, the mortgages and the anxiety by achieving a greater standard of living, many men and women begin to ask themselves if their quality of life would not improve by renouncing to the fever to gain more and more, and trying, on the other hand, to be centered in spending a little less or, better said, in spending better. This tendency of the downshifting, which is extending also little by little in Europe, includes also the idea to extend the useful life of the things, to try to recycle them, to seek practical formulae to share the use of some of them with relatives or neighbors, etc. In any case, there is always a common point: the money does not guarantee the quality of life as easily as it was first thought.
In search of a new concept of austerity, the developers of this way of life sought the way to renounce to whims and superfluous expenses until they reduced their expenses in a twenty percent. "The first thing that one must do -uses to affirm Vicki Robin, one of the most qualified representatives- is to ascertain the degree of satisfaction that the things produce to us, to distinguish a passing illusion of the true satisfaction. With this formula, each one can detect the values that provide him welfare and to discover which ones can be ignored by him, and thus to reach step by step a new more satisfactory vital equilibrium."
For example, in the education or in the family life, it is frequent that the parents, due to the lack of time for the emotional attention of their children, each time buy them more and more things, motivated at times by a certain feeling of guilt. Nevertheless, to educate well can cost money -and perhaps the money has to be saved from other less necessary things-, but many times is exactly the badly employed money what damages the education. Toth said that there are many talents that are lost for the lack of resources, but many more talents are lost in the soft comfort of the abundance. There are not few number of parents that, by working so much until the extenuation and by reducing the number of children to be able thus to spend more and more money in them, they do that the misused money finishes damaging them.
It is precise to prevent the risks of the consumerism in the family. To obtain that the children know what costs to gain the money and they know how to administer it well. We should avoid that they know the price about all but they do not know the value of anything.
69. Austerity and temperance
Midas was a king that had more gold than any other man in the world, but it never seemed sufficient to him. Always he desired to have more. He spent the hours contemplating his treasures, and he recounted them time and again. A day appeared an unknown personage, of shining white attire. Midas became startled, but immediately they began to speak, and the king said to him that he never was satisfied with what he had and that he thought constantly in how to obtain still more. "I would like that everything I touched were transformed into gold", concluded. "¿Really do you want that, king Midas?" "Of course", said him. "Then, your desire will be fulfilled", the elf said before disappearing.
The gift was granted to him, but the things did not go as the old monarch had dreamed. Everything that he touched became gold, even the food and the beverage that he tried to carry to the mouth. He was frightened, he took in his arms to his small daughter, and at the same moment, she was transformed into a golden statue. His servants fled from him in order not to have the same destiny.
Seeing that he became the richest man of the world and, at the same time, the most unfortunate and poor one of all, consumed by the hunger and the thirst, condemned to die bitterly, he understood his stupidity and began to cry. "Are you happy, king Midas?" a voice was heard. Turning round, he saw again to the elf and Midas responded: "I am the most unfortunate man in the world!". "But if you have what you more wanted", retorted the elf. "Yes, but I have lost what in reality had more value." The genius took pity of the poor monarch and he sent him to submerge in the water of a river, to be purified of his curse. Thus he did and all returned to the normality. From then, he never was seduced for the greed and the eagerness of wealth.
The old story of the king Midas has been interpreted always as an instructive invitation to the temperance. Only the one that lives with a certain austerity, without being enslaved for the desires of possessing and to hoard, is capable of enjoying really the things and to reach a lasting happiness.
The family is perhaps the best environment to cultivate the sobriety and the temperance. Educating in those values prompts to the man above the material appetites, does him clearer, more apt to understand other realities. On the other hand, the intemperance ties the man to his own weakness. Thus, who educates his children in a clumsy eagerness to satisfy all their desires, causes them a big damage. It is a condescendence that can be born of the affection, but that also -and perhaps more often- is born of the selfishness, of the desire to be saved of the effort that supposes to educate well. The dynamics of the consumerism is intrinsically insatiable. The people that fall in that error manage capricious and whimsical ways of life, and introduce them into a spiral of constant search of comfort. They avoid the normal sufferings of the life, and they are found then weak and badly accustomed, with one of the most painful vital mortgages that can be suffered, because always they will do little, and that little will cost them a lot.
Therefore I would dare to say that an excessively indulgent education, that facilitates the laziness and the intemperance -they are used to go united-, is one of the saddest forms to ruin the life of a person.
Therefore I always see with sadness the signs of ostentation and of excess of comfort. I suffer seeing how they lose the liberty that disappears just as begins the excess of goods. The eagerness by the luxury carries with it a deprivation, an erroneous bet for the material things that leaves the people without defenses in front of the challenges of the life. Therefore the tragedy of the king Midas is fully present in the existence of many men today. When the attention is focused in the material things, one treats with less consideration to the people and falls in a wheel of yearnings and uneasiness that incite to the consumption and that disturbs the equilibrium of the spirit. The more they have, the more they desire, and instead of being filled, is opened in them the emptiness. Midas knew how to admit his error and how to abandon it. In this we can imitate him.
70. The mirror of the desires
Who has not escaped from the imagination of thinking to be the protagonist of a spectacular adventure, in which stand out with own light the qualities that we more desire to have?
It is true that without desires there are not projects and that without projects there are not achievements. The desires expand our interior world, they transcend it, and they give life to it. They are important, evidently. But we should take in account that they don't become hypertrophied and they finish being a mechanism of evasion, because to open the imagination of the desires is for many people an authentic design drug that submerges them in a sad dependence.
It is well reflected in a dialogue between Harry Potter and the wise magician Dumbledore. Harry has discovered a surprising mirror, the mirror of Oesed (the word "OESED", put in front a mirror, reads itself "DESIRE"). When Harry looks in that mirror, he sees himself accompanied by his parents, the ones that he never came to know.
Harry arrives for third consecutive day to the room of the mirror. Dumbledore explains him about how the mirror shows the deepest and desperate desire from our heart: "For you, that never you knew your family, to see them surrounding you (...). Nevertheless, Harry, this mirror will not give us the knowledge or the truth. There are men that have been consumed in front of this, fascinated for which they have seen. Or they have driven crazy, by not knowing if what it showed to them is real or even possible".
Every person lives situations that he desires to prolong or ones that he aspires to abandon as soon as possible. There are many things that invite us to take refuge in the ideal world of our imagination. It is true that to be evaded in dreams provides a certain relief, but we know that there are not lasting, and when we run again into the stubborn reality we note immediately that it was not a good solution. To be enclosed in an imaginary world is an easy task, because any physical legality puts bonds to our imagination, and we feel completely free, but it is a fictitious liberty, an illusion that goes back as we advance, a marvelous sophistry that maintains us during a time in flight but that we do not know where it will let us drop.
All we have free entrances to that life of fantasy, full of color but unreal. To escape of it, to flee out of the reality, gives us not knowledge neither gives us truth, but a greater frustration. Therefore Dumbledore gives a last counsel to Harry: "And if some time you cross the mirror, you should be prepared. It is not good to let the dreams to drag neither to forget the real life, you recall it".
When the people are left to drag for the dreams, their imagination becomes a torrent of desires and ideas with which they try to evade the reality that displeases them. Occasionally they open the eyes and they see that the effort is interposed on the road toward any achievement, and that annoys them and causes them to return to the hot refuge of their interior world. They become passive people with asleep will and dispersed look.
The peace and the dynamism are not spontaneous fruits, but fruits of the effort by conquering the interior disorder, fruit of sorting out our head and our heart, and that is not something that comes after the fight, but more well stems from the fact of being fighting, of taking care habitually in not allow us to be devoured for so many occasions of self fraud that are presented to us each day.
One must not forget to live the real life. The world is a succession of opportunities that parade in front of the eyes of tired men. A life that becomes full of illusion and of sense in the measure that one discovers how much important can he be for the others, how much he can help them, the illusion that we provide to their life, to their real life.