0. Presentation

Alfonso Aguiló

“Character and success in your life”
100 stories and reflections on the personal improvement
Translation by Manuel Hernandez Pujadas: manueljmj@wanadoo.es

 

ALFONSO AGUILÓ PASTRANA was born in Madrid in 1959. He has a graduation in civil engineering and y PADE of IESE, but he abandoned quickly the exercise of that profession to be dedicated to diverse works of educational ant formative nature. Since 1991 he is vice President of the European Institute of Studies of the Education (EISE) and since 2007 President of “Asociación Madrileña de Empresas Privadas de Enseñanza” (AMEPE-CECE Madrid) and since 2015 President of “Confederación Española de Centros de Enseñanza” (CECE). He has published more than two hundred articles in diverse magazines and specialized publications, as well as ten books on themes of education and anthropology:  “Your son from 10 to 12 years”, “To educate the character”, “Questions around the faith”, “The tolerance”, “Character and personal value”, “To educate the feelings”, “25 present-day questions about the faith”, “Is it reasonable to be a believer?” and “The God’s call”.  In 1999 he created in the internet the site www.interrogantes.net and he was Principal of Colegio Tajamar (2002-2013).

(1) interrogantes = questions

 

Many people do large investments of time, energy and money to expand each time more their own knowledge and to improve their own personal abilities.  Nevertheless, most of the times those people present later serious lacks in which refers to the education of their own character: pessimism, indecision, disorder, insecurity, dependence of the states of spirit, difficulty to work in team or to relate to the others, or other defects in their way to be that suppose an important ballast, not only for their worth as professionals but also for their happiness and their fulfillment as persons.
The character of a person is, very often, what marks the ceiling of his possibilities in the professional area and in his family or friendship relations. Most of the times, what lacks us is not more know-how, titles or languages, but a better relation with the others, to dominate the states of spirit, to learn to organize us, to manage to be cordial and optimistic, to understand better the alien and the own problems, to cultivate more what gives light and sense to our life and so on. Almost everyone senses that he would have to improve in many of those aspects, but few know how to achieve it.  Through stories, examples and anecdotes of the everyday life, in these pages there are reflections on how to accede to that change: a change that passes for changing ourselves and in many cases by changing before our perception of the problems.

 

Summary

I. Character and personal improvement

1.  The force of the education
2.  Seeing in others our defects
3. To become adult
4.  The force of the expectation
5.  Intelligence guided intelligently
6.  Intelligent reactions
7.  Happiness and money
8.  The attraction of the virtue and of the goodness
9.  The risk of the slowness
10.  Sense of humor

II. To rely on the others

11.  Personal interdependency
12.  Playing in team
13.  The abyss of the solitude
14.  To allow the others to convince us
15.  The reasons of the others
16.  The forms are important
17.  Way of explaining and brains
18.  Spontaneity, to where?
19.  Having conversation

III. Be centered in the others

20.  The exaltation of the ego
21.  Believing in the others
22.  Fear to the interference
23.  Corresponding
24.  The little glass in the eye
25.  People interested in the others
26.  To give energy to the others
27.  The true love
28.  The false compassion

IV. Liberty, ideals, commitment

29.  The ideals of the youth
30.  To feel interpellated
31.  Question of habits
32.  The impatience of the men
33.  The moral solitude
34.  Simple solutions
35.  Human models
36.  The shadows and the fears
37.  Religion and moral education
38.  Respect to the sacred

V. Character, autonomy and authority

39.  Latent decisions
40.  Authority and authoritarianism
41.  The theory of the germs
42.  An exterior impulse
43.  Learning to say”no”
44.  Independence and education
45.  Closed minds
46.  The judgment of the children
47.  Self-control and coherence
48.  The problem of being a fool
49.  The great men

VI. Overcoming the difficulty

50.  The miracle of the perseverance
51.  The test of the pain
52.  The blows of the life
53.  The interior liberty to elect
54.  Intelligent memory
55.  Successes and failures
56.  Be recovered
57.  The pain of the others
58.  Defending the rights of the others
59.  The human will

VII. Constancy and tenacity

60.  The man that planted trees
61.  Tenacity
62.  The passiveness
63.  Expectations of failure
64.  To escape to the past or to the future
65.  Investing in the future
66.  Willfulness
67.  Illnesses of the will
68.  Living better with less
69.  Austerity and temperance
70.  The mirror of the desires

VIII. The risk of the addiction

71.  The myth of Sísifo
72.  Inadvertent addictions
73.  The lion and the gazelle
74.  The avoidability of the disaster
75.  Addictions and love
76.  Love and liberty

IX. The risk of feeling oneself a victim

77.  The inner dialogue
78.  The spiral of the complaint
79.  The comfort of the rout
80.  The rhetoric of the self-considered victims
81.  The temptation of the innocence
82.  The sound barrier

X. Pride and egocentrism

83.  Arrogance I?
84.  Escaping from oneself
85.  The spiral of the grudge
86.  The sense of fault
87.  The risk of the self-deception
88.  The control of the wrath
89.  The satisfaction of the desires
90.  A new code

XI. Reflection and renewal

91.  Resistance to be renewed
92.  The power of the language
93.  The sorrow of reading
94.  Capacity of admiration
95.  Coherence and proximity
96.  To take risk to loose
97.  A head well furnished
98.  The true culture
99.  Eagerness to learn
100.  The tacit knowledge

I. Character and personal improvement

1.  The force of the education
2.  Seeing in others our defects
3. To become adult
4.  The force of the expectation
5.  Intelligence guided intelligently
6.  Intelligent reactions
7.  Happiness and money
8.  The attraction of the virtue and of the goodness
9.  The risk of the slowness
10.  Sense of humor

1.  The force of the education

"The mister of the flies" is a magnificent novel of William Golding.  It relates the history of about thirty English boys that are the only survivors of a plane crash.  They have to organize their life alone in a small deserted island, without the aid of adults.  Grouped around two leaders, Ralph and Jack, quick they verify that to live together is not a simple task.  The first conflicts appear, difficult to resolve in that situation, and finally the violence explodes, that flows into an open war among them, with tragic consequences. 

The history of the difficult coexistence of these shipwrecked youths is sprinkled of multitude of details that show the fundamental importance of that learning and those values that the man has accumulated during centuries and that he transmits from one generation to another by means of the education.  Opposite to other more ingenuous visions on the kindness of the children, Golding shows the wickedness that nests in the human heart, and points out that the only possibility of rescue of the man should come him from outside.  Without aid, without education, the man is found very defenseless in front of the push of his bad tendencies. It is certain that he seeks naturally the goodness, but it is also certain that his nature is injured and that it needs many cares to function correctly. 

Any person with a little experience of the life knows what the wickedness of the man is, has seen already many times its ugly face of inhumanity.  Golding unmasks the roussonian simpleness of the natural kindness of the man and its progressive degradation by the radical wickedness of the society and of the culture. And he questions also the arrogant rationalism of the 19th century, that did to many to trust that the economic and scientific progress would bring with itself a moral progress equally fast.  The ones that fed that ideal thought have founded once and for all with the final formula of the efficacy and the welfare, but soon they saw that their optimism was hasty, that the economic and scientific advance does not signify that the men can have better understanding among them, neither that they improve their mutual respect, neither that they live in peace.  And the fact is that, at the end, even when a lot of economic or scientific progress could be reached, it will never be easy to educate morally to the man. 

The history shows numerous well eloquent testimonies of to where can the wickedness of the man arrive.  Not even in his blackest nights could the man dream up to what point was he going to degrade and to devalue.  But perhaps he neither knew how much force remains hidden in his interior to conquer dangers and to surpass tests. 

Every man, to be good, or to be maintained in good, needs aid in order to yield those latent talents that he possesses. It is certain that at the end is always the own liberty the one that has the last word, but it would be quite ingenuous to undervalue the enormous influence that the education has.  Therefore, to educate well the children in the family, to the students in the school or in the university, or any another task related to the education of the new generations should be considered as one of the pledges of more significance and responsibility in any society that really thinks in its future. 

To transmit the scientific or economic progress is relatively easy, but to transmit the moral progresses will always be difficult, since they require personal assimilation and practical employment.  As it has been written by Leonardo Polo, "without habits there is not education, only there is illustration".  It is indispensable, therefore, the personal effort by acquiring those habits.  And that will turn out to be costly always, in any place or epoch.  It is a personal progress that lasts the entire life and of which depends to a large extent the success in the way we live. 

2.  To see in others our defects

A professor related it, of those that observe and that reflect.  The protagonist of the anecdote is a eight years old boy that was agitated in crying and defiance while his mother struggled to introduce him in the school bus.  With the aid of a discreet and politically incorrect spank, finally she got he entered in.  Once the boy was inside, something calmer, he was asked by the professor for the motive of his annoyance.  After some excuses, Guillermo -thus he was called- explained that his mother had not bought him the calendar of chocolate that he wanted, but another, in his opinion worse one. In front of his angry demand, looking that his mother went to change the calendar, she had the good sense to refuse his petition, and that was the reason of the anger of him. 

The professor tried to show to him that this was typical of a capricious boy, but Guillermo refused to accept it.  Suddenly, he had an inspiration:  "Then.., you want to be like Dudley, and that your mom treats you as the aunt Petunia?".  The boy opened the eyes a lot, he remained quiet an instant, as imagining something, and later his answer sounded high and forceful:  "¡No! ¡Never!". 

Any reader of Harry Potter will have understood immediately the reaction of Guillermo.  Nobody resulted more repulsive than the capricious cousin Dudley and nobody as unpleasant as his parents.  In the books of Harry Potter barely any direct moral recommendations are done, but the capricious and spoiled boys are unpleasant, and the envious and cruel ones turn out to be unpleasant and odious.  Harry Potter and their friends are wanted, they are respected, they study (more or less), and they get annoyed but they use to forgive between them.  The large Weasley family is nice and welcoming, and carries the narrowness without too many tragedies; they are the counterpoint of the odious family with which Guillermo wanted to have nothing to do. 

This anecdote is a good example of how there are occasions in which the best to notify the need to change oneself is to see our defects incarnate in another person.  Those defects, dispossessed of the indulgence with which we see them in ourselves, become for us much more alive, rougher, more unpleasant.  Contemplated with the objectivity that gives to see the things from outside, they seem us less logical, less excusable. 

To discover with clarity in ourselves something unpleasant is one of the large motors of the personal improvement.  The positive models have the force of the "I want to be like", but the negative models can also enclose a very important positive potentiality.  The aforesaid "I do not want to be like", expressed with firmness in front of  the alive image of the own defects reflected in another person, results at times the more efficient repulsive. 

We are so used to live together with the bad thing, small or large, that exists in us, that it is easy that we no longer be too much surprised of it.  Our defects have been born of small concessions to the selfishness, to the laziness, to the arrogance or to any vice like that.  By doing habitual those concessions, the defects are consolidated, they become chronic, and little by little our sensibility is put out and also our refusal in front of their objective ugliness.  That is why we need that something or someone awakes us of that lethargy.  If we do it, and if we have, besides, the necessary value to look at those defects face to face, and to call them for his name, already we will have traveled through the most difficult part of the road to conquer them.  That is why, the aid of someone from outside who makes us to see us loyally what we do not do well is one of the better signs of friendship and of affection that exist; and the receptiveness in the presence of  that aid, one of the better examples of intelligence and of sensibleness. 

All we have a notable and sharp insight facing the alien defects.  They are emphasized in front of our eyes with a scandalous clarity.  We would be able to advance a lot if each time that we observe in another person a defect we thought if also we have it, in greater or smaller degree.  To Guillermo, that mental exercise was very sound. 

3.  To become adult

And then an event of considerable importance happened to Emily.  Suddenly Emily realized who she was.  There was not clear motives to understand why it didn't had happened five years before or five years later; and it was neither easy to know why occurred to her exactly that afternoon. 

Each time that she moved an arm or a leg, this simple movement produced to her an impression of amusing surprise, observing the speed of her members obeying her orders.  The memory told her that always they had obeyed her, but she had never realized the surprising thing that it resulted. 

Each consideration came to her mind as a flash and without words.  When she was convinced of the amazing fact that she was "she", she began to calculate the reach that that discovery could have.  In the first place, why was owed that, among as much people as it could have been, she was exactly this specific person, Emily Bas-Thornton, born such year such among every year of every time, and inserted in this determined wrapping of meat?  Had she chosen that, or had God done it?

In second place, why had she not noticed this before?  She had lived in this way a lot of years and never before had she thought in it.  She had the same sensation that an individual that recalled suddenly at eleven o'clock at night, seated in her chair, that she had accepted an invitation to have a dinner that night.  How should I have been seated all the afternoon without being disturbed at all by any small worry?  How had she been able to pass so many years without noticing a so evident fact? 

The reflections of this protagonist of a novel of Richard Hughes bring to our consideration an important and interesting reality: each one of us is an unrepeatable human being, and we have a mission to comply, something that nobody can do for us, and besides in it is the key of our success in the life. 

It is not a matter of becoming visionaries neither in Quixotes of a strange mission; and is also certain that we can be happy of many ways; but we should not elude for laziness or selfishness those personal challenges that the life arises to each one of us.  To discover and to accept this is a sample of the true wake up to the adult stage. 

Many discover it in the adolescence, but others barely come to understand it never.  They are victims of a species of syndrome of Peter Pan by which their mind resists to become adult.  It costs to them to take the reins of their life.  It would be told that they see the dividing line that separates the youthfulness of the mature age -a line that seems to them a trench of unfathomable depth- and they seek some ford or bridge to cross it, after prowling it during months or years, but they not decide themselves to leave it behind in a bound.  The sad thing is that there is no delay to them in regretting the days of their youth and the way in which they have squandered them. 

All this is manifested with clarity in the immaturity of some married couples, which result not in a project between two adult and conscious human beings, but -as Susanna Tamaro has written- the flight to a dream of two children. 

Perhaps the education has a lot to see in this.  The fear to require in the parents; or that not to notify that the small infidelity of now conducts to the flagrant injustice of tomorrow; even not to speaking about the consequences, surely by fear to be accused of being a jinx; or not to stimulate the personal effort, in order not to disturb.  All those errors, if they aren't taken in time, they conduct to a sad and unconscious extension of the infancy, one of the large tragedies of our time, and that always finishes in a bitter awakening. 

4.  The force of the expectation

It was during the course 1968-69, in a school of California.  The Doctor Robert Rosenthal closed its briefcase and addressed himself to a group of professors that listened to him with attention:  "The results of the tests carried out do not leave place to doubts.  I am in conditions to assure you that this 20 per 100 of students that I have indicated to you have some intellectual abilities above normal".  The professors took good note of all that and they returned to their habitual work.  Eight months later, the final qualifications threw a forceful result: the performance of that group of theoretically more intelligent students was notoriously above the remainder. 

The anecdote, and its conclusion, seems obvious.  But there is a small detail:  Rosenthal had elected that 20 per 100 of students at random. 

The experiment of this professor of Harvard is enough known in the world of the education.  What had improved the performance of those students were not their natural aptitudes, but the high expectations of their professors and the greater attention that -perhaps unconsciously- all had dedicated to them.  At the same time, the own students, conscious that it was expected more from them, had strived more. 

The way in which we relate to the others, be students, children or collaborators, conditions enormously their personal performance.  The mere fact to know that someone expects a lot of us, and that trusts in that we will be capable of obtaining something -although they were capacities for which we are not really very endowed-, supposes a large stimulus and adds an energy that carries us to obtain superior goals. 

When one trusts in the people's potential of development, that relation transmits confidence and security, generates a special motivation to surpass obstacles and to succeed.  "Treat a person as he seems that is and will continue being like has always been.  Treat he as he can reach and he will become", said Goethe.  Against that is the easy resource to go to the sure thing, to count with the ones in which we have always counted, with probed results tested, attending above all the security and avoiding the complication that supposes the new task of discovering people, or of discovering new talents in the people that we already know.  That attitude can be due to the laziness, to the distrust or to the skepticism, but the consequences are almost always the frustration of numerous potentialities in the people. 

The image that each one has of him is, to a large extent, a reflection of what the others see in him.  Therefore, the expectations that we put in a person can be enough to change a lot that person, improving or getting worse his personal motivation.  Therefore one must distrust a little ours "teaching intuition", that at times boasts of premonitions or impressions of the type of "I know how a person is at first sight" or "I already see since the first moment who is worthy and who not" or other hurried judgments in which we attribute to a small data or to a hunch the value of a sentence, that later often it fulfils, not by our intuition but by the force of the prejudice. 

To help truly to the others one must learn to value to the people.  We are more transparent than we think, and therefore does not suffice with the strategy of simulate some expectations, but one must change his mind to see with better eyes to the others.  Because if a person tends to value in little to the others, he will tend to treat them with little consideration, to think badly of them, to speak badly of them and, at the end, to hamper that they develop the talent they have. 

5.  Intelligence guided intelligently

Generally, the problem of the majority of the people is not their lack resources.  Their main difficulty uses to be that they lack the necessary control on the personal resources that they already possess. 

Let´ s we consider a comparison.  The director of a movie, or of a television report, can obtain very different effects from a same reality that he is filming.  The angle and the movement of the camera, the type of background music and its volume, the color and the quality of the image, and so on, can create in the audience enormously different impressions.  There is a full collection of details that influence a lot in the feelings that a same reality can generate in whom experiences it or presences it. 

Something like this happens with the interior world of any person.  Depending on how the camera is used with which we observe what happens to us, or the music with which we accompany that look, or the dialogues that we establish in our interior, a same objective situation can generate in us very different subjective effects.  It can put us in the screen positive or negative ideas, favorable or unfavorable emotional conditions, encouraging or depressive arguments. 

Although perhaps it is a simplification, it can be told that there are two ways to live.  Or well it is allowed that the mind continues its course spontaneously in front of what ever happens to us, or well we opt for directing consciously our mental activity.  Those two styles correspond, by telling it in a simple way, to two levels of use of the intelligence: the simple intelligence and the intelligence guided intelligently.  The true intelligence -I ask excuses for the redundancy- is the second thing: to establish in our interior the emotional and intellectual styles that we consider better (or more adequate to our situation). 

All we have the experience of how the simple fact turns round a negative thought (whether it is envy, grudge, victimism, exasperated criticism, sadness, etc.) accentuates and amplifies our negative perceptions on the reality in question.  If we continue thus a little time, that interior dialogue finishes us carrying, by its own dynamics, to a situation in which probably the matter remain out of sensible proportion.  To what it is owed?  Without doubt it is owed, in a large extent, to the force of our mental images.  And those mental images were not at first, we have provided them.  We have been constructing a movie in which the image, the music and the dialogues have conducted us to a little real, negative emotional state and that can damage us enough.  Which is the solution?  Come to be the director of that movie, not a simple spectator of it. 

Have you felt some time tormented by an incessant interior dialogue, by one of those situations in which the mind revolves to great velocity and seems almost impossible to stop?  Many times our mind talks to it in a endless way, weighing pros and cons of an unimportant decision, seeking a new argument to give us the reason in an old discussion without importance, or accumulating wrongs on determined person to which perhaps we should treat with more affection and comprehension. 

Do an effort by taking you the command of that voice, of that music and of those images.  Do not let that your head becomes filled of recurrent ideas on your large qualities notified or inadvertent for the others, neither on your large limitations likewise notified or inadvertent for all, neither on the large defects or qualities of the others, what they have done to you or said to you or on what they didn't say. 

Do you speak yourself constantly with a complaining or sad or bitter tone of voice?  Try to do it with a more positive and happier, more cordial tone.  Think also if you speak with a irritated tone of voice or if it is stimulant.  Think if you treat yourself with the affection and the comprehension, and also the demand, with which you should treat any friend to whom you truly appreciate and to whom you want to help to improve. 

6.  Intelligent reactions

A day, the donkey of a villager dropped in a well.  The poor animal was braying with bitterness during hours, while his owner sought vainly a solution.  A pair of days passed, and finally, the man desperate due to the lack of remedy for that misfortune. He thought that, as the well was almost dry, and the donkey was already very old, really would not be worthy to remove him, and would be better to bury him there.  He asked to some neighbors that came to help him.  Each one of them got a shovel and they began to throw land in the well, in the middle of a great desolation.  The donkey noted immediately what was happening and brayed then with greater bitterness. 

A little later, everybody stopped listening to his pitiful moans.  The peasants thought that the poor donkey should be already suffocated and covered with land.  Then, the owner showed up in the well, with a fearful and sad look, and he saw something that left him amazed.  With each shovelful, the donkey did something very intelligent: was shaken the land and stepped on it.  He had already climbed more than two meters and he was quite up.  He did it all in complete silence and absorbed in his task.  The peasants were filled with courage and they continued throwing land, until the donkey arrived at the surface, gave a leap and left it trotting peacefully. 

To carry a difficult life, or to have misfortunes more or less serious, is something that happens to everybody.  The life, at times, seems that imprisons us as in the bottom of a well, and that even it throws us land on our top.  In front of that, there are intelligent ways to react, like that donkey did, that of what it seemed his prison, he knew how to do his last hope of salvation; and other styles that are rather the opposite, own of people that do not know how to take a profit from their own resources and that, on the other hand, they dominate what would be able to be called "the art to embitter the own life". 

There is who has himself accustomed to leave his mind to digress through the past to become an inexhaustible source of bitterness.  They see their youthfulness as a gold age lost for ever, what provides them a permanent reserve of frustration and, above all, it causes them to think little in the present.  Their suppositions on the future are likewise sad and somber, and that facilitates them to find motives to abandon the majority of the reasonable efforts to improve the things.  They are quite given to victimism, to blame the others, or to the society, or to their friends or relatives or to whatever other thing, which spoils all their efforts.  But almost always the solution to their problems seems to be outside of their reach.  They think badly of the others, and they conduct themselves as if they could read with great clairvoyance the thoughts of the others; when, in reality, they succeed few times (even thus, they will continue considering ingenuous to the ones that have a more positive vision of the people or of the situations).  Also they show a surprising capacity to see fulfilled their black prophecies (they do enough so that thus it would be), and in the personal contact they are susceptible and unpredictable, of those that tell you something and it is difficult to know if they say it as a joke or seriously, but what it is sure is that later they will reproach you that you take as a joke the serious things or that you have no sense of humor. 

All we have misfortunes, every day.  The key is how we react in front of them.  Of that depends in good part our quality of life and that of the others to which we relate. 

7.  Happiness and money

In an interview to the multimillionaire Barbara Hutton, a journalist addressed to her beginning with the typical set expression:  "Although we know that the money does not give the happiness, tell us, please…".  She didn't leave him to finish the phrase:  "Come on, young, but, who has said you that foolishness?" 

Although there are lots of popular sayings that maintain that the money doesn't assure anything, it is frequent to see that, then, in the practical life are few the ones that believed it.  The answer of that woman to the interviewer, who was embarrassed, is a good example of it. 

It is evident that a person with such a fortune would receive as a catastrophe a deterioration of her economic situation.  The same as a beggar would receive with great satisfaction any important improvement in his standard of living. 

Does the money influences a lot, then, in the happiness?  During more than ten years, a large American team of investigators directed by David Myers and Ed Diener had tried to throw some new light on this question through extensive statistical studies. 

Since the beginning they were proposed not to be set only in the subjective sensations of happiness that had the interviewed, but also in the judgment that they deserved to the others.  This focus facilitated to them one of their first conclusions: almost all the ones that felt happy were also seen thus to the eyes of their more intimate friends, to the eyes of their relatives and to the ones of the investigators that interviewed them. 

Soon they verified also, with certain amazement that the personal impression of happiness is distributed of quite a homogeneous way in almost all the ages, economic income levels or academic qualification, and it is neither affected in a significant way by the race or the sex.  For example, they only founded a certain relation between economic incomes and sensation of happiness in some poor countries, like the India or Bangladesh; in the other cases, it was used to be even slightly more frequent the contrary thing. 

The investigation concluded indicating a series of characteristics of the character that seem common to almost all the people that feel happy: the happy person is cordial and optimistic, he has a high control on himself, possesses a deep ethical sense and enjoys a high self-esteem.  Although it is difficult to know in what measure those characteristics of the character contribute to the happiness or are rather a part of its effects, we can conclude with Myers and Diener in emphasizing the great importance that for all has the personal improvement. 

Although the illusion -legitimate- of many people is to win a price in the lottery, the reality is that later it is verified that those to who has touched are not, little time after, happier than before.  Another illustrative fact is that the surveys carried out in countries in phases of great economic growth do neither offer the differences expected in the feeling of subjective welfare of the population. 

It would be able to be told that, once they have resolved their basic needs, each one tends to be adapted to his economic level, and that their happiness barely depends on the level in which each one is situated.  It is true that an improvement of the economic level uses to result in the feeling of happiness, but that impression uses to be of short duration.  In an analogous way, a deterioration of that level uses to produce a certain unhappiness (in that case, besides, the effects are used to be something more lasting), but with the time it is usually accepted and later on come to recognize and to enjoy what before barely was valued itself. 

In general, the money does not seem to collaborate a lot to feel happy in a stable way.  Neither the fame uses to contribute a lot by itself (moreover, one must be very mature emotionally to know to digest of adequate form the praise).  To have a great talent, or to be very healthy, or to have a great physical attractiveness, can neither be considered as the axis of the happiness: undoubtedly they can favor it, and to create a favorable climate to feel happy, but it is not always thus, far from it. 

As Seneca wrote, "all the men want to be happy; the difficult thing is to know what does mean "happy life".  One must succeed in that search, because who does not, lives expecting a tomorrow that never arrives. 

8.  The attraction of the virtue and of the goodness

Sometimes, one tends in his interior to label as unpleasant, for example, determined people or determined tasks or determined aspects related to the improvement of the character, and does not realize up to what point those mental bonds that he has gone establishing in his mind, in more or less conscious way damage him. 

In front of possible concrete points of personal improvement that we notify in our life (we see, for example, that we should be more patient, or less egoist, more tidy, less irascible, or the like), it is frequent that we tend to see those objectives as a very distant ones or like something little accessible to our forces.  We see them perhaps as attractive advances, yes, but that to reach them would require such an effort that only to think in it already produces in us a deep refusal.  We perceive it as somewhat painful and exhausting, which would carry us to a way of life of too much tension. 

Nevertheless, the personal improvement does not suppose neither requires that.  At least usually has no reason to be presented thus.  The advance on the road of the personal improvement should be understood and be undertaken, more like a process of liberation.  A gradual progress takes place that gets us free, day by day, of the ballast of our defects.  Not an exhausting ascent to an endless port of mountain, but a progressive relief of the load of our errors, a gradual relief of the cause of our main problems.  Therefore, although always there will be also backward movements, small or large, if we achieve as a group to improve, we will find us each time with more autonomy, we will advance with more ease and we will feel better.  Each man should acquire the self-control, and that is the itinerary of what Aristotle began to call virtue: the happiness will come like a fruit of a life according to the virtue. 

If we would put more attention, for example, in the positive aspects of a determined person, or in the challenge that supposes to have ordered the cabinet or the office, or even in the exciting thing that can come to be, so much for a man as for a woman, to cook, to maintain cleaned the house or to educate the children. .., if we endeavor for seeing these things thus, the road is made a lot more passable. 

It would be able to be objected that this is not difficult to do…, but only for some minutes, or even some days.  But, how to impede that after a little time we return to do it as before?  I can strive, for example in order to vary my humor during a while, that is not a little thing, but…  How maintain me thus and to become to be a long lasting good mood person? 

A way to achieve is to try to change the road; it is to be endeavored in changing the image that is presented to us in the mind when we think about those things.  For example, instead of representing in the imagination the tempting thing that results what you should not eat or not drink or not to do, try to think about the attractive and liberating that results to be a honest and healthy person, and to achieve that those representations take a greater space in your imagination. 

Or if you are invaded by thoughts related to the selfishness, the laziness or the lie, you try to stir up the image to be a loyal, sincere, diligent, and generous person, and enjoy a little in the contemplation of those values and those virtues that you should desire to see in your life.  Even, if you want, consider also the unpleasant thing that would result if you get converted little by little in an egoist, lazy or disloyal person, and you can compare an image with the other. 

Is this important?  I think that yes.  If a person manages to form an attractive idea of the virtues that he desires to acquire, and he tries to have those ideas well present, it is a lot easier than he comes to possess those virtues.  Thus he will achieve, besides, that the way comes to be less arduous and more satisfactory.  On the contrary, if he constantly thinks in the attractiveness of the vices that he desires to avoid (a creeping and poor attraction, but that always exists, and whose force never should be underestimated), it is more probable that the undeniable charm that always have those errors do it difficult to manage the separation of them. 

Therefore, to deepen in the attractive of the goodness, to represent it in our interior as somewhat attractive, happy and motivating, is something a lot more important than seems.  Many times, the processes of improvement become ineffective simply because the image of what one has been proposed to reach is not enough alluring or desirable. 

9.  The risk of the slowness

There are people that one day turn out well ten things and only one badly, and they arrive at their home in an estate of total discouragement.  Why?  Because they permit that this small thing that resulted badly remains floating in their memory a negative image that fills up almost completely the "screen" of their mind.  He has passed in that day for many positive things, but he has the ability -the misfortune- of consider it barely.  It is as if all the positive things remained immediately cornered in their memory.  Only the negative ones remain well engraved.  The rest pass and in little time they remain reduced to distant, gray, blurry images, as old pale photos. 

Sometimes, for example, a friendship, or a marriage, or a professional relation is deteriorated simply because one tends to recall and to store unpleasant experiences suffered in the relation with that person, while the pleasant immediately lose relief in the memory. 

Why does this happen?  Perhaps it is because what produces displeasure is very important to us, although it could be foolishness.  For example, the form that has to eat, or the disorderly form that leaves what he uses, or loses the things, or speaks in a tone that turns out to be unpleasant to the others.  Or that maybe has left to have determined deference with us.  Or something that he repeats to us, that was said in a moment of annoyance and that we are fed up with that recall.  Or perhaps it happens the other way round, and we are the ones that recall time and again that occasion in which we felt so uncomfortable and offended. 

The list of examples could be endless.  But, although all those negative things could be certain and objective -they do not use to be thus too much-, that way to recall them and to have them present does not help in nothing to resolve the things.  Besides, we know that it could also be able to be done another very long list of positive examples, of so many pleasant things that are used to remain into oblivion.  All would be very different if we endeavored in having them more present, and they we tried to generate the necessary circumstances so that they can be repeated. 

Therefore it is a good thing to be asked from time to time:  "If I continue turning over these ideas in this manner…, where does this will carry to me?  What I´ m going to obtain?  Toward where does it conduct me?  Toward where do I want to go?"  A person should be capable of taking occasionally a little distance on himself, and to analyze his feelings as if he was contemplating another person, for thus act on them.  Otherwise, he will turn out to be enormously vulnerable in front of the ups and downs of his emotional states. 

"I agree -it could be able to be objected-, it is necessary not to get muddied in the bad memories, yes…  But how?, because it is not so simple, it is not easy to change the way we act, a lot of time and effort is needed…".  It is true; I am not going to deny it.  But it does neither have to be always thus.  It is possible to change in little time.  Many times it is better understood a thing in a lightning of clarity that after years of pedaling. 

Sometimes, the processes of personal improvement fail because they go so slow and lazy that the change barely is seen to arrive, and then one is tired immediately.  It is as if we would see a movie contemplating a shot now, another shot after, and a third shot a while later. 

Acting in this way, it is difficult to get something clear.  But the fault would not be of the movie, because with that way to see it we cannot know if it is good or it is bad.  One must take it with its pace, and then you get an idea of the argument and of the personages, of the emotions that the movie stirs up, and then it grasps our attention, and seeing it we enjoy at the same time that we note that it enriches us.  In the same way, if in the personal improvement you achieve a faster pace, then you get an idea of what you earn, and of what still you can gain, and you enjoy with it, and that also encourages you to continue ahead in that desire. 

10.  Sense of humor

Jerry was the director of a restaurant in a small city of the U.S.  Always he was in a good mood and he had somewhat positive to say.  He was a natural-born motivator.  For two times, when he changed of work, several of his employees were impelled in continuing with him where he went to work.  If a worker had a bad day, Jerry always was there, making him to see the positive side of the situation. 

The way he was caused curiosity, so a day they asked him:  "I cannot explain it to me.  It is impossible to be positive always, without interruption.  How do you do it?"  Jerry answered:  "Always I tell to me, you have two options, I can elect to be in a good mood or in a bad mood.  And always I elect to be in a good mood.  Each time that something bad occurs, I can elect among the role of victim or the role of learning something of that.  And I try to elect to learn something of that.  Each time that I hear someone complaining, I can elect among adding me to his laments or to set me in the positive side of the life, and always I choose to set me in the positive side of the life". 

"But always it is not so easy", they objected him.  "It is neither so difficult", answered Jerry.  "The life is a constant election.  Each situation is an election.  You choose how to react in front of the situations.  You choose how it is going to affect the people to your humor.  You choose to be of good or of bad mood.  It is your election to decide how you live your own life." 

Time later, Jerry was a victim of a robbery.  He had forgotten to lock the rear door of the restaurant while he did the cash balance of the day, and two armed men entered.  He tried to open the safe box, but with the agitation the combination failed.  The robbers even got more nervous than he, and they lately fired him.  Fortunately, he was carried immediately to the hospital, and after a long operation and several weeks of convalescence, Jerry received the hospital discharge. 

After coming back to home, a neighbor asked him what had come to his mind when the robbery occurred.  "The first thing in which I thought was that I should have closed well the door.  Then, after they shot me, when I was laid out on the ground, I recalled that I had two options: I could elect to live or I could elect to die.  And I chose to live.  The stretcher-bearers were some nice guys.  They encouraged me.  They told me that I was going to recover well.  But, when they put me in the room and I saw the faces of the doctors and nurses, while they explored me, they frightened me really.  In their eyes I read: "He is a dead man".  Then I thought that I had to pass to the action." 

"What did you do?" they asked him.  "Good, there was a nurse that asked me shouting if I was allergic to something.  ¡Yes! I answered her as I was able.  A large silence became.  They expected that I continued.  I caught air again and I continued:  "Yes, I have allergy…  to the bullets!"  After the laughter of all, I told them:  "I want to live.  So, please, do make the possible things that you can as soon as possible". 

Jerry thinks that he lived thanks to the doctors and nurses, but also thanks to his attitude.  You can elect each day if you are going to face the life with desire or you are going to face the life embittered.  The only thing entirely yours, that nobody can control or to assume in your place, is your attitude.  Thus, if you realize this, all the other aspects of the life become much easier. 

The history of Jerry concludes here.  It is perhaps a little simple, but suggests an important idea.  All we know people that, with only their presence, they radiate positive feelings.  Their attitude is optimist, courageous, hopeful.  They possess as a species of magnetic field that orients those that surround them, which perhaps are weaker or more negative.  They are deactivators of agitations and quarrels.  When they face a difficult situation, they use to be serene, conciliatory, coordinators. 

They use to be people that have managed to learn of their own experiences, so much of the refusals as of the positive ones.  They believe in the others.  They do not react disproportionate in front of their defects neither in front of the criticism or the difficulties.  They do not feel satisfied when they discover the errors and weaknesses of the others (and that not because they are ingenuous, but because they also see those errors, but they know that with their attitude they can cause to improve or to reinforce their conduct).  They try not to label neither to prejudge to the people, but to discover the positive values that there are in every person.  They get gratitude and appreciation.  They are not envious.  They are you grateful.  They tend, almost naturally, to forgive and to forget the offenses that they receive.  They look after the way to improve their education.  They read, they listen, they possess eagerness to know things, interests them what interests to whom surround them.  In short all a worthy attitude to be imitated in our life. 

II. Including the others

11.  Personal interdependency
12.  Playing in team
13.  The abyss of the solitude
14.  To allow the others to convince us
15.  The reasons of the others
16.  The forms are important
17.  Way of explaining and brains
18.  Spontaneity, to where? 
19.  Having conversation

11.  Personal interdependency

All we have come to the world as children totally dependent on the others.  We have been directed, educated and supported by others during quite a lot time, and it is clear that if that would not had happened thus, we would not have lived more than some few hours, or at the maximum a few days.  Later, we were becoming increasingly more independent.  It could be able to say that we were taking gradually charge of ourselves. 

A person with a physical dependence (a paralytic or a sick of Alzheimer, for example) needs aid of the others.  A person that would be very dependent emotionally will make his decisions and he will feel very sure of himself in function of the opinion of the others, of what the others think of him.  A person that would be very dependent intellectually, counts on that the others think and decide for him in front of the main problems of his life. 

On the other hand, an independent person looks after himself with his own media, he has his own opinion on the things and his own guidelines for the construction of his life. 

Nevertheless, that personal independence, that is a decisive achievement in the life, should have also his just measure.  Because to be absolutely independent does not seems to be the great paradigm of the existence.  This is due, among others things, because the highest achievements of our nature have always to see with our relation with the others.  The human life is in itself -by calling it of some way- interdependent. 

The sensibility of our epoch has enthroned at times in an exaggerated way the independence, as if it was the largest human goal and a sure guarantee of happiness.  Nevertheless, a badly understood eagerness of independence can, in many cases, finish in a lot more bitter dependences. 

For example, it is seen in those people that abandon their marriage and their children in name of the love and the independence, although at the bottom they do it for some quite easy to suppose egotistical reasons.  Or in that of those that disregard their family or they betray their friends or they renounce to their principles, with regard to an excessive eagerness of personal affirmation in their work, to make more money or to reach greater power.  Or the one that is seen in those that speak to break the chains, to be freed, to live the own life…, and in reality they are with it being held by other chains that suppose a lot more strong dependences, because are dependences that are in their interior: in an egotistical search of pleasure or comfort, in a renunciation to manage the own responsibility, or in blaming the others about all the things that turns out to be difficult in their lives. 

The personal independence makes us to act by ourselves, instead of delivering to others the control of our life, and that is a very important achievement.  But it is not enough as the final goal of a life.  It seems clear that always it is convenient to add to the independence a good dose of sensibleness and of good criterion, in order not to fall in the independent stupidity, that not by independent stops being idiot. 

The life, naturally, is interdependent.  The man cannot seek the happiness putting the independence as central value of its life.  Mainly because any achievement in the emotional life of a person passes necessarily by dependence in a way of his woman, of her husband, of his children, of his friends, of his professional project, and so on.  On the other hand, all we need to depend also of some principles, ideals and wise personal values. 

In short, we can be independent and, at the same time, we can easily understand that the best way to advance consists in working in team, that we need to enrich our thought with that of the other people, that one must be faithful to some sure values or that every man needs to give and to receive affection.  The life should be planned seeking to share it deep and significantly with the others, and this always supposes a counterpoint to an eagerness of independence badly understood. 

12.  Playing in team

If any of us is asked about which have been the most delightful experiences of our life, the ones that we better conserve in the memory and that we recall with greater satisfaction, almost always we will refer to personal experiences inside an assembly of people to whom we appreciate.  Perhaps it is the family, or a team of work, or a group of people inside a determined cultural environment, or of a sport, or the like. 

Knowing how to share, to do team, and to feel united to other people is always gratifying, and also, usually, a good driving force that make us to try hard to improve.  The presence of others inspires us and stimulates us to a level hardly accessible for us going alone.  Of the others we learn many things that enrich us enormously, and by helping times we surprise us doing things that perhaps even we would not do neither by ourselves. 

The others are a decisive element in our personal improvement.  It is certain that the force to change depends to a large extent of us.  But also we know that the people that surround us can help us or can hinder us a lot in this project.  The capacity to change is seen reinforced when we know to live together with the others, when we know to work in team, when we manage to be near to the people that form our environment. 

The one that endeavors inside an environment of confidence and illusion, well integrated among people that he really appreciates, normally tries harder and better.  And that uses to produce a beneficial feedback effect.  The more you give, the more you receive, and better climate of contribution and support achieve, which always reinforces the satisfaction of all. 

It is a matter of knowing how we can get integrated as much as possible in the environments of relation in which we participate.  As Anthony Robbins has written, all we play in various teams: the family, our professional environment, our city, our culture, our country, the entire humanity.  One is able to remain seated in the stool and to look at, or well to get up and play.  And it is much better to play.  This implies sharing our world with others.  The more we give, the more will be given to us.  The more we participate, the more we will give and the more we will receive. 

And also one must know how to elect a team correctly.  As it is recalled by the popular saying, the most universal law is the law of gravity, which tends to carry us downward, and causes us to abandon many challenges that we should consider.  If we know to get surrounded by positive people, with desires to improve, hopefully by managing to yield our talents in service to the others, then we will see us a lot more stimulated.  If we manage to play in a team like thus, that is extremely valuable.  Therefore it is vital to be surrounded by people that carry us to be a better person each day. 

The happiness and the success in the life does not depend on what we have, but more on what we are, of how do we live.  And what we do with what we have determines, in great measure, how we live, even in the most minimum details.  For example, if we are generous with a person that has done well his work, and we treat him as he deserves, that does us better and does to him.  And this is applicable to almost all.  We should do a personal reflection on this.  And if I would make the purpose to thank always with warmth any favor that I receive or any service that others offer to me, however the small it could be?  And if I would dedicate more time to do to whom surround me his life more pleasant?  And if I would call occasionally my friends and family, without need of large motives, although only would be in order to interest me for them?  And if I would make the purpose to do a contribution, although it could be modest, custom-made to my possibilities, when I am informed about an interesting project?  This is a way of life.  It is not a question of having a lot of time neither having a lot of money.  It is question of how I administer, of what I have, be it little or a lot.  To decide with success to what can I dedicate my time and my resources.  Of not let me carry by the routine, but to try to put in my life a little more of inventiveness and of reflection. 

All this can seem little thing, but it is more important than it seems.  Any small detail has a positive effect on us and on the others.  And an assembly of small details can change completely the environment of a family, an office, a place of rest, a group of friends, a courtship engagement or a cultural project.  To propose that challenge hopefully is something that always is worth while. 

13.  The abyss of the solitude

"The couple had two children: two intelligent, awake and experienced boys that had at their fingertips the form to treat to their parents to obtain what they proposed. 

"Often they resorted to seek unilateral complicities when the parents were in disagreement, and there was such the success with which they utilized their tricks that they always result victorious:  "But don't tell it to your father", or well:  "Above all, mother must not be informed".  It was a comfortable form to solve the problems and to accept without accepting.  It was a form to assent betraying.  But neither the husband neither the woman realized that this system did not only spoil the children, but they were getting separated little by little of them.  They were too busy in organizing their life with tight agendas: meetings, trips, premieres, conferences or invitations of the high society, as to digress on the consequences of the trifles of their children. 

"More than being understood, they came to an agreement.  And more than interchange opinions, they exchanged a little quantity of time.  Thus they were being distanced the one of the other.  Little by little they were entering into the destructive arcane of the routine.  That type of routines that never leave a step to the surprise and to the adverse suppositions. 

"Also the children became separated of them.  It is not that they imagined destructive ill wills: simply they had get accustomed to the separation of the ones that were considered united by the simple fact of living together in the same house or by carrying the same surname. 

"Suddenly, she began to suffer sudden attacks of meaningless sadness.  They were flabby weaknesses impregnated of discouragement and as submerged in ice water.  In reality, she did not know with accuracy why she was feeling so discouraged, did not she come to understand the cause.  Did neither she miss than her husband, always so busy, had remained impassive and he didn't try to ascertain what occurred to her to be able to help her.  She had accepted during much time that her husband never had interfered in her private domains, and he considered that the essential thing was to act as he had always acted: with the naturalness required by the people to whom never something truly different nor tiresome occurred. 

"Sometimes they spent hours seated the one in front of the other in the same room without interchanging any word.  Each one closed in his things.  Or perhaps thinking up as how to get loosened of the other so that the silence that was gripping them was not a shared silence, but something eventual.  Thus began that marriage to graze the land of the infidelities.  It was a slow transition.  As it is the fact to grow.  Nobody is found high overnight." 

Thus describes Mercedes Salisachs in one of her novels the life of a "respectable marriage", that at the beginning was happy but that was being abandoned little by little.  A married life that had become juxtaposition of selfishness and of self-made solitudes. 

As Martin Descalzo has written, it is not that all the solitary be egotists and that they have earned all alone the solitude.  There is at times a lot of ingratitude that causes many undeserved solitudes.  But, the most of the times, the most serious problem is to think that the problem is in the other or in the others.  If a person, when is verifying his solitude, would ask to himself:  Who wants me? Probably he will succeed in his solitude leaving him.  To defeat the solitude one must formulate another question:  To whom I want?  It is necessary to put affection in the manners with the others, instead of being distressed demanding to be wanted and valued.  It is the way to reach remedy to the solitude, because if one puts affection, although it seems to him that he is not corresponded, sooner or later finishes being wanted also. 

The insincerity was another of the causes of the solitude in that marriage.  At the beginning, that insincerity was smallness, but then were more serious things.  And, above all, it declared more important things.  When a person has a lack of sincerity, he declares, among others things, a comfortable tendency to the easy and limited to the present time solutions.  It is sought to get out of the travel, to avoid any inconvenience, to satisfy a clumsy desire.  And the worse thing is that, normally, it carries at the end to a dead end, because the lie has a very short validity, and to maintain the lie immediately one is pushed to lie more, and this conducts to the solitude of who constantly is obliged "to act".  Therefore, Jankélévitch said, that one of the hardest punishments of the liar is the loss of his own identity.  The liar is locked in a self-made solitude of which he does not know well how to exit.  It costs him to open his heart, because he thinks that the building of his life is going to fall down, when the certain thing is that the sincerity is the only way to rebuild it. 

14.  To allow the others to convince us

Plato, in one of his "Dialogues", raises an interesting discussion between Socrates and Calicles on the force of the reason.  Calicles rejects the conventional morality and defends another based on the survival of the fittest.  He assures that this law is the one that reigns in the nature and the one that really proceeds of it.  Doing evil -maintains Calicles- can be shameful since the point of view of the social conventionalisms, but those conventionalisms proceed of a sociable morale, established by the weak in order to defend themselves against the strong.  The weak, that are the majority, join to shape and to enslave to the better and stronger of the men and they proclaim as just the most convenient actions for them. 

Through the dialogue, Calicles remains without arguments in front of the objections that Socrates makes to him, but he doesn't stop defending cynically his ideas.  He says that the strong men know well that, if it is not necessary, they can commit an injustice with the others, because that is the justice of the strong.  In a certain moment he begins to give the reason to Socrates, but immediately contradicts himself and assures that he has not any interest to continue speaking, because he is not willing to be persuaded by the reasons of nobody, and he would resort to the force to impose his arguments.  And he continues with affirmations and approaches that today, two thousand five hundred years later, recall us the ones that were collected almost literally by Nietzsche, and put later in practice by the Nazism and other doctrines based on their nihilistic thesis. 

I think that the more tragic in the history of Calicles are not his violent and intolerant ideas.  The worse thing is his total lack of responsiveness in front of any argument.  That is what armors his terrible error and impedes him to leave it. 

And that it is, sadly, the attitude with which at times we armor-plate our defects and our incoherencies in some small details of the daily life.  Perhaps, when we see that our reasons do not have sufficient weight, instead of analyzing them again, or to seek other reasons that reinforce them or that improve them, or to seek counsel in whom can help us to understand them or to explain them better, we tend to stick to one's guns in front of the reasons of the others. 

Be left to be convinced by the reasons of others is, many times -not always, it seems obvious to say it-, a sample of intelligence and of rectitude.  Our intelligence is declared not only when we argue, but also when we accept and we understand the arguments of the others.  Therefore, the education has so much to do with making us receptive to the reasoning of the others.  The reasonable thing is to accept that our reason should be enriched with the reason of the others, with the consideration and acceptance of different points of view, another aims, another objectives, another appraisals. 

In order to develop really our intellectual ability it is necessary to develop our listening capacity.  We should aspire to be persuaded by arguments, not only to persuade to the others with our arguments.  Therefore, if we have very clear our reasons, but we tend to see very little clear the reasons of the others, perhaps it is because a long time ago that we have limited a lot our capacity to learn. 

Perhaps good part of the fault of that phenomenon is that it is bad considered to accept that one has been persuaded by the reasons of another.  As if to have a change of mind implied to use little the reason.  Really, the world is full of people that pride themselves of thinking the same that they thought twenty or thirty years before, and in some cases that can be a demonstration of sensibleness and fidelity to the own principles, but in other many, probably, it shows that they haven't thought too much.  They seem invulnerable to any argumentation, and that is not something of what one could be proud of.

15.  The reasons of the others

Plato, to think and to explain his ideas better, imagined personages whose ideas were opposite to those of him, so much to state present retorts to his affirmations as for require that he could expose their ideas in several ways and thus improve them.  Aristotle maintains to a large extent this system, although of form a little less theatrical, and indicates first the obstacles to his affirmations -He uses to say:  "There is here a difficulty…" -, and then overcomes or refutes patiently those objections.  Tomás de Aquino, in each article of the Summa, employs his famous formula. He first searches which are the opposite conclusions to the thesis that he maintains, and then, after having exposed the solution according to the order of the reasons, returns to the objections that he had done to himself, and answers them.  Also Descartes exchanges arguments to respond to the objections that were launched to him. 

In all the cases, a commendable spirit of responsiveness toward the reasons of the others is notified.  And that way to lodge in the own house to the adversary, and to give him the occasion to contradict our ideas, has been always a proof of bravery and of coherence of the great men.  The thought that has passed through the contradiction is a more mature and contrasted thought.  Therefore I am so much worried by the people that seem to be unwilling to consider the reasons of the others. 

The men that do not admit the reasons from the others, almost never feel themselves guilty of anything, and that is a devastating situation for anybody.  They use to be people that almost always are self-considered as victims.  The culpability is something that only applies to the others.  Thus is their mind and, whatever happens, at the end final they fall in that original vice.  And a moment arrives in which it is no longer a question of bad or good will, but a simple question of ignorance, of a lot of time of not listening to the alien reasons, of too many years to live it all always since the rarefied viewpoint of the selfishness. 

It would be able to say that this way to act is influenced a lot of the education that each one has received, and it is true.  But also it is certain that our character is done by each one of us.  A proof of it is that all we know people that have lived in the same environment, even in the same family, they have been bombarded by the same mass media and influenced by the same routines and customs of the place where they live, and, nevertheless, they are very different people.  Many achieve not to fall in the trap to elude always the reasons and points of view of the others, that subtle trap that always is offered to us, tempting.  Why?  Because they haven't lost their sensibility. They have gone discovering the truth by not thinking always in themselves. 

And that effort is rewarded in which they are observant people, which are interested in an extensive range of questions and they have sense of humor, above all to make a little fun of themselves, not at the cost of the others.  They do not have need to boast about their successes or about their qualities.  In their form to speak they are frank, simple and accessible.  At the moment of judging they tend with more facility to overvalue the others that to overvalue themselves.  Also they have more consciousness of the measure, and they do not undertake the problems in key of all or nothing, neither have they classified the things between white and black, neither the world between good and bad.  They try to discern the bottom of the questions, without letting them being left to carry for hasty impressions or personal conveniences.  They receive with moderation the compliments and gratitude, without being conceited, and also the faults by their errors, that don't carry them to be sunk, but to improve their experiences and to rectify. 

16.  The forms are important

A Sultan dreamed that he had lost all his teeth.  After awaking, he ordered to call to a wise person so that he could interpret his dream.  "What a misfortune, my Lord!" -the wise said- "each one of your fallen teeth represents the loss of a relative of Your Majesty".  "What insolence!"
-shouted the Sultan maddened- "How do you dare to tell me similar thing?  Go out of here!" The Sultan called to his guard and ordered that they gave a hundred lashes to him. 

Subsequently he ordered that the guard brought to another wise and he counted to him again what he had dreamed.  The second wise, after listening with attention to the Sultan, told to him:  "My Lord, great happiness has been reserved you, because the dream signifies that you will survive to all your kin".  The appearance of the Sultan was illuminated and ordered that a hundred coins of gold were delivered to him. 

When this second wise left the palace, one of the courtiers told him admired:  "¡It is curious!  The interpretation that you have done of the dreams of the Sultan is the same as the one that the first wise did, but the Sultan paid to him with a hundred lashes and to you with a hundred coins of gold".  "Remember, my friend -responded the second wise-, that almost all depends on the form in that it is said". 

This old history shows how one of the large challenges of the humanity is to learn to communicate.  Of the communication depends, many times, the happiness or the misfortune, the friendship or the enmity, the harmony or the conflict.  It is certain that the truth should always be said, but the lack of success in the form to express it, or the lack of opportunity in the moment and the circumstances to tell it, causes many times large problems. 

It is certain that there are truths that are hard to say or hard to listen, and that even so, one must tell them, but all we should learn how to speak so that our words would not awake the defensiveness of the speaker, that is to say, that who listens to them perceive not them as hostile or like provocation.  There are many forms to say the same thing, and normally there is not need to do unpleasant the truth.  The truth is like a jewel that can be launched against the face of someone, in order to wound him, or well to be presented and offered in an affable way, with the consideration that he deserves. 

The majority of the persons that presume to walk in the life singing the truths to everyone, what perhaps they do not say or they do not know is that they are moved to do it, not by their real love to the truth, but to their eagerness to impress the others, thing that seems that enchants to them.  Perhaps they believe that they make a good impression, that they have the last word, when the reality is that they usually act ridiculously and, above all, they do not convince to anyone.  To be right with bad manners do not persuade, but it creates madness and irritation.  All we need indulgence, and -as Menéndez y Pelayo said- the one who does not offer it to the others, with difficulty will find it then for him. 

It would be interesting to examine with which kind of care we treat to each one, if we have the sufficient consideration with all, if we speak to all and of all with respect and appreciation, if we act with justice and loyalty.  And perhaps with more reason in his absence: so that, if the interested were present, he remained thanked by the way in which we have spoken of them.
 

17.  Way of explaining and brains

All we have observed how some people possess some qualities that cause them to connect more easily with the others.  I do not refer to the large leaders or to those genial personalities that possess a so singular character that the current people can little learn of them.  I refer, rather, to those persons that live around us and that have a good capacity to get along with the others, they know how to grasp their feelings and they manage to maintain a good habitual relation with almost everyone. 

The capacity that the people have to be understood keeps a deep relation with the emotional education, therefore the people do not express verbally the majority of their ideas or their feelings, but we emit continuous non verbal emotional messages, through signs, expressions of the face or of the hands, the tone of voice, the corporal position or even the silences, so eloquent so many times.  Each person is a continuous transmitter of emotional messages of the most diverse kind (of appreciation, displeasure, cordiality, hostility, etc.) and, at the same time, he is also a continuous receiver of the messages that radiate the others. 

By that reason, many of the problems of communication among the people use to have their origin in a deficient perception of the emotional messages that are received (we would be able to speak of problems of brains) or in a deficient emission of the emotional messages that they want to express (problems of way of explaining). 

It is true that so much the problems of brains as those of the way of explaining can be ours or of the others (in fact at most habitual in practice is that both problems go united), but, normally, we can act a lot more on what is more to our reach, on what are our own defects. 

For example, as suggested Antonio Machado, when we do not manage to teach something, it is because perhaps we do not know it still well, and it is probable that we have to learn it to understand it and to express it better. 

And if we observe that other people use to see determined matter in a different way from us we see it, it would be of little intelligence to disdain systematically the possibility that the others could be right, or at least that they have a part of the truth.  If we tend immediately to consider with completeness that they are wrong, and besides we declare it in such a way that those people perceive that there is displeasure in our attitude, then the most probable is that they raise a barrier in front of us and they consider us as persons in front of whom they should not show any receptivity.  As it is natural, it isn't a matter of doubting constantly of our principles or of our personal way of being, since the insecurity in that sense can become a certainly dangerous defect, but it is precise to learn to grasp better the thoughts of the others and to express better our own thoughts. 

There is a series of essential attitudes to improve the communication with the people.  It is necessary, in the first place, to have an attitude of desire to know the points of view of the others and to be enriched with them.  That supposes to be open to be influenced and to change, which is perfectly compatible with having serious and firm convictions.  Later, it is precise to state explicitly those attitudes always in behaviors.  For example, to listen a lot and with attention; to speak without awaking defensiveness in the other; to try to start from common points of agreement and to advance progressively toward the areas of disagreement; and so on. 

Our understanding -I cite again to Antonio Machado- has a gradual scale: first, to understand the things (or to believe that we understand them); second, to understand them well; third, to understand them better; fourth, to understand that there is not better way to understand them than by improving our brains. 

18.  Spontaneity, ¿to where? 

"Mom is that you don't understand.  The young people say what they think, without hypocrisies."  Thus defended a young adolescent the scarce education and diplomacy of a friend of him to which he had invited to spend a few days with them during the holidays. 

Without doubt, the spontaneity is an emerging value in the society of our days.  Being spontaneous and natural is something that today -fortunately- is valued a lot.  There is a great passion for everything that signifies opening and clarity.  The young have respect towards the conducts that reveal authenticity.  The young people pay respect to the sincerity of life, perhaps as answer to the refusal produced by some unpleasant aftertaste of the Victorian time that they have detected in the previous generation. 

All that, there is no doubt, hides an undeniably positive advance.  And in the range of the education, it is a matter of conquest of the contemporary sensibility that has supposed especially valuable contributions.  To move in a climate of confidence is considered today as a decisive, fundamental educational principle also for the formation of the own character. 

Nevertheless, the reasons that gave that girl show the need of a sensible equilibrium in all that relates to the spontaneity.  It seems evident that is precise to find an equilibrium between the hypocrisy and what we would be able to call excess of spontaneity.  Because, it seems possible to be courteous without falling in the hypocrisy or in the flattery; to be sincere without resorting to the coarseness and to remain faithful to the own principles without need to offend to the others. 

To say the truth that does not turns out to be convenient to reveal, or to whom it is not owed to say, or to say it in an inadequate moment, is -fundamentally- a lack of sensibleness.  It seems clear that it is always convenient to add sensibleness to the sincerity, and thus we will save us -as says H. Cavanna- "the sincere stupidity, that not by sincere stops being stupidity". 

Throwing out the first thing that comes to one's head without barely thinking it, or to let escape the impulses and the more primary feelings indiscriminately, cannot be considered a virtuous act of sincerity.  The sincerity is not a simple verbal unleashing.  One must say what he thinks, but one must think what it is said. 

The one that founds a friend that has just lost his father and says to him that he does not feel sad at all because his father was unpleasant and unbearable is not sincere, although those were really his feelings, but an authentic savage. 

As Juan Bautista Torelló points out, under the excuse of that false sincerity are often hidden: the arrogance, the grossness, an unhealthy tendency to the provocation, exhibitionist tendencies or attraction to wound the others.  Who act thus are sad figures, sad men or women without brakes, that are left to carry by their more archaic impulses and that are too distant to reach a minimum of maturity in their character. 

The equilibrium between the character and the personality requires a careful compensation between an extreme and another.  And as well as thirty years ago could be greater the danger of the stiffness and of the distrust, perhaps now is, rather, that of the excessive lack of inhibition or freedom.  It is verified that the exaltation of the spontaneity and the devaluation of the seriousness produce ambivalent fruits.  They intend to fortify the personality, and to a large extent they achieve it, but also they bring the risk to produce people with a random spontaneity, thanks to which, they do just what they like, everything that comes to their mind.  But the occurrences are always unforeseeable. 

19.  To have conversation

"There were another causes for that solitude -writes Dorothy Parker- that went back very long ago, to when they were bride and groom.  She tried to recall of what they spoke before being married, when they were promised, and seemed to her that they had never much to say each other.  But, before, that didn't had worried her, and even she experienced the satisfaction that their engagement went well as she had always heard to say that the true love is not expressed with words.  Besides, at that time, the kisses and flirtations had them always get busy.  But it happened that the true marriage seemed to be likewise silent, and after seven years of life in common it is not possible to trust in the kisses and in all the like to fill the days and the nights." 

Antonio Vázquez has written that the marriage is, among others things, fifty years of conversation.  That it is precise to cultivate the desire to know and to be known, to exchange impressions, to communicate.  Therefore, who since the engagement center their aspirations in the physical attraction or in the sex, and build on that a relation without any foundation, quickly they find the boredom and the solitude. 

I don't want at all with all this to propose a puritan refusal to the body, but simply to put the attention in the need to have conversation, to form our opinion on the things, to have areas of personal interest, to gain in interior depth.  Who does not cultivate that interior depth, finishes being a frivolous, superficial person, reduced to the first strata of the life, and that passes through it as if he was in a hasty visit.  They are converted little by little in fictitious people, with few illusions of certain importance, guided almost always by the behaviors of their environment; fit themselves meekly in the practices of the fashion. 

It is impressive to verify how the spirit of some men and women gets old prematurely by that superficiality and, on the other hand, others remain young and courageous until the end of their days.  Therefore we should do the possible thing so that any day the clock of our life doesn't stops and so that, if we see some time that it stops, we know how to put it again in motion as soon as possible.  All we have inside many resources that still we have never used, talent that we have not taken advantage of, forces that we have never tested.  Therefore, independently of how much busy or tired we were, we can not stop advancing, to learn and to be receptive to the ideas of the others. 

To have conversation one must learn to listen.  And sometimes we don't do it because we are too busy recalling something that has to do with what the others say to us, and we are preparing a reply.  And perhaps there are animated conversations, in which each one takes the words right out of the mouth of the others. 

The conversation must be sought.  We cannot remain us there, waiting for it to arrive.  One must seek it with intelligence.  And for it, perhaps the first thing is not wanting to presume of being intelligent, and not to have the arrogance of wanting to show it every moment, but to show us open and receptive, so that we expand each day our range of interests. 

We cannot be satisfied with those excessively conventional conversations whose main protagonist is the topic.  We cannot be of those people that, when they find you, they cross two or three phrases of commitment, but immediately they have to say good-bye, alleging a small task, because, in reality, they have so a little conversation that almost nothing interests them, they are bored, and they don't know what to say. 

The good conversations leave always marks on us and, when the conversation has passed, they come again to the memory: the ideas, the arguments exposed by one and another, and also the arguments exposed by oneself, and new ideas come to us, and the illusion to continue that conversation, that encounter, born.

III. Be centered in the others

20.  The exaltation of the ego
21.  Believing in the others
22.  Fear to the interference
23.  Corresponding
24.  The little glass in the eye
25.  People interested in the others
26.  To give energy to the others
27.  The true love
28.  The false compassion

20.  The exaltation of the ego

"The western culture -José Antonio Marina points out- can be related as the history of an "I" that has been growing fat.  It is easy to indicate the main phases.  The protestant reform appealed to the own conscience against the authority.  Descartes established the I-think as final instance.  The Illustration did the same thing with the reason.  The romanticism exacerbated the prominence of the "I".  The German idealism converted it in the origin of all.  And, as last step, we find the growing insistence in the individualism.  All has ended into an excessive affirmation of the ego that doesn't present us any problem.  What at times has been an opportune defense of the personal autonomy has finished becoming an obsessive care on oneself and a disproportionate narcissism". 

This way to see the things, which is inscribed in our culture, is a source of attitudes that promotes in the people a little feverish and tormented psychology.  A fixation on oneself that causes resounds in the interior of us. Our interior is disturbed by a crowd of voices.  Voices that always are there, that arrive at the most intimate of one self.  Voices that require us to be successful, to be famous, to have power.  Voices that question our own value, that go round and round considering the right to be loved and kept in mind.  Styles of thought that carry us to have few moments in the day free of dark feelings as grudge, jealousy, lust, greed, antagonisms or meaningless rivalries.  Ways to undertake the things that carry us to be obsessed for the approval from the others or the consideration with which we are treated.  A wander of the memory and the imagination that causes us to dream awake fantasizing to be inspired, brilliant, admired.  A fear to not like or not to be censured that constantly invites to design new strategies to assure attention and affection. 

That emotional style sifts to the man as a rowboat in the middle of the swell.  A small criticism causes him annoyance.  A small refusal depresses him.  A small success animates him.  He is encouraged with the same facility that he is discouraged.  It thinks that only will be wanted if is good-looking, intelligent, full of health, if he has a good work, friends, and contacts.  He falls in a world that promotes the addictions, that incites to accumulate status that creates false expectations, deceits that carry to useless searches, to constant disillusions. 

All that living centered in oneself gives also power to the envy.  It seems that all things go to the others better, that all they are better than I.  They go around constantly with the idea of how to arrive to where they are.  Then, with the failure, the jealousy and the resentment come; the suspicion and the defensive attitude arrive.  The envious entangles himself in a bundle of desires that, at the end, impedes him to know which his true motivations are.  The victimism and the distrust push to a constant search of arguments, to be always in guard, to divide the world in the ones that are in favor or those that are against me.  All turns dark around.  The heart hardens itself full of sadness. He is in found wrapped in endless dialogues with absent speakers, anticipating questions and preparing answers. 

The worse thing is that many times, despite the evidence of the destructive style of thinking, it is not easy to be removed of it, because that person is found enslaved by his heart, hungry of some desires that carry him through wrong roads.  Surpass it is not easy, but it is very necessary.  It is precise to pledge oneself in order to leave that narrow world of the selfishness and to discover the greatness and the peace of center the own life in the others. 

21.  To Believe in the others

Anthony Robbins relates how in the school he had a professor of oratory that, one day, told him that he wanted to see him after the class.  The boy was asking himself if he would have done somewhat badly. 

Nevertheless, when they spoke, the professor told to him:  "Mister Robbins, I believe that you have conditions to be a good speaker, and I want to invite you to a contest of oratory with other schools". 

Robbins had not thought that he posses any special capacity as lecturer, but his professor told it to him with such a security that he didn't doubt in believing him and he accepted.  That simple intervention of that professor changed the life of that boy that in a few years time came to be one of the most valued talents in communication, with a great international prestige.  That professor did a small thing, but he managed to change the perception that the boy had of himself. 

The image that each one has of oneself is, to a large extent, reflection of what the others think on us.  Or, better said, the image that each one has of oneself is, to a large extent, reflection of what we believe that the others think of us. 

It cannot be forgot that such image is a real component of the own personality, that regulates, quite importantly, the access to the own interior energy or even creates that energy.  It is a phenomenon that can be observed with clarity, for example, in the sports.  The coaches know well that, in such determined psychic situations, their athletes yield less.  When a person suffers a failure or he founds himself in a hostile environment, it is easy that he founds discouraged, lifeless, with lack of energy.  On the other hand, when a team plays in the middle of their fans and this encourages it with heat, the players grow themselves of a surprising form.  Also the long-distance runners experience it or the cyclists: they can be near to the limit of their resistance by the exhaustion of a very long career, but an applause of the public while they are doubling a curve seems to put energy in their feet. 

Our interior energy is not a constant value. It varies a lot of according to what we think on ourselves.  If I do not consider myself capable to do something, it will turn out to be extraordinarily costly to me to do it, if it is done at all.  One must think that the option of the discouragement has also his power of seduction, and that the defeatism and the victimism are presented for many people as something really alluring and tempting. 

And in this, also habits can be acquired.  The optimistic or pessimistic vital tone, the favorable or unfavorable slant with which we see our personal reality, is also something that, to a large extent, is learned, something in which any person can acquire a positive or a negative habit. 

And it isn't a little narcissism to think so much in the own image?  Could it be if the things are not presented well, but it has no reason to be thus.  The narcissist suffers because, in reality, he doesn't love to himself, but, above all, to his image, of which he finishes being an authentic slave.  At the moment to elect between him and between his image, he finishes, in practice, preferring his image, and this is the cause of his anguishes: an exaggerated attention to his figure and, consequently, a lack of identification and consolidation in himself.  Developing the self-esteem, that is to say, a stable estimation of oneself is something very necessary, for what it is precise to have a good perception of oneself.  If someone confuses that with being left to enslave for his image, he mistakes the road; but if he manages to create a positive image of his own capacities, without doubt he will yield a lot more. 

Therefore, to believe in the others has effects that many times are surprisingly positive.  All we respond according to the sincere expectations that others have of us.  If we try during a time to treat someone with greater consideration and affection, to believe him capable to improve his character or his performance; if we endeavor, in final, by seeing him with better eyes -perhaps more intelligent and more capable than now we see him-, it is very probable that the person finish being a lot better than now he is. 

All we have passed sometimes by small crisis, for moments in which we lack of a little amount of faith in ourselves, and perhaps then we find someone that believe in us, that bet on us, and that caused us to grow and to surpass that situation.  Goethe wrote: treat a man just as he is, and he will continue being as what he is; treat him as he is able and should be, and he will become what he is able and should be. 

22.  Fear to the interference

"That episode -thought for herself the protagonist of that novel of Susanna Tamaro- comes often to be presented again in my thoughts because it is the only moment in which I had the possibility to get the things changed".

"She -her daughter- had begun to cry, she had embraced me: in this moment a crack in her protective armor had been opened, a minimum crack by which I could have been able to enter.  Once inside I should have acted as those nails that become opened immediately after they enter the wall: little by little they are widened, gaining slightly more space.  I would have managed to enter a little in her intimacy and converted perhaps in a firm point in her life". 

"To do it, I should have had firm hand.  When she said "It is better than you go", I should have remained.  I should have refused to go without more motives. I should have come to call again to her door each day; to insist until transforming that crack in an open path.  It lacked very little, I felt it". 

"I didn't do it, on the other hand: by cowardice, laziness and false sense of modesty.  I had never liked interfering; I wanted to be different, to respect strictly the liberty of her existence.  But behind the mask of the liberty hides often the negligence, the desire of not to be implied. 

"There is a quite subtle border between a thing and another; to cross it or not to cross it is a matter of an instant, of a decision that is assumed or that is not assumed; and of its importance, sometimes,  you only realize when the instant already has passed.  Only then you regret it, only then you understand that at that time she asked clamorously the intromission, and I told to myself: you were present, you had consciousness, of that conscience should have born the obligation to act". 

"The love doesn't suits with the lazy, and to exist in fullness it requires precise and strong gestures.  I had disguised my cowardice and my indolence with the noble vestments of the liberty". 

This reflection of that tormented woman by her memories can serve us to recall that the true affection needs, at times, of energy and of firmness.  To love truly to someone can require from us to be willing to act with certain violence towards us, to surpass that fear to interfering that feel the majority of the people. 

There are times in which, really, the cowardice and the indolence disguise themselves with the noble vestments of the liberty.  And behind that mask hides the neglection, the desire of not to be implied.  It will not be always easy to distinguish when one must intervene and when one must respect the intimacy and the isolation of the other, it is true.  As that woman said correctly, there is a quite subtle border among the error by an extreme and by the opposite.  It seems as if, in these themes, the path of the success passed dark and deviously among many other roads that conduct it to the failure: some people will have to fight for not falling in the pusillanimity and the loss of nerve; others, on the contrary, will have to put their effort in trying to maintain a little more respectful view of the voluntary isolation from the others. 

The protagonist of our story was one of those people that -according to her own opinion- are left to carry too much by the desire of not resulting authoritarian, of not censuring anything, as if they were repeating constantly:  "We are different and we have to respect our diversity".  She was of that kind of people that think that in order to be beloved they have to elude any trouble, any conflict, and any edge.  There are many times in other situations-in another cases not- in which all that is a lack of identity, a lack of security on almost everything. 

23.  To correspond

"My mother -told me already sometime ago a good father of family- is very absorbent.  And I regret to say that, since we have brought her home, we have begun to have quite a lot of new problems". 

"She is seventy-eight years old and she is quite sick.  And the illness affects her already a little to the head, and she has become quite absorbent, as I told you, not by saying that sometimes -with pardon- she is unbearable". 

"She would like that we were all the day by her side, and she controls us even the hour at which we arrive at home in the afternoon.  She stops never to give her opinion on everything, and the truth is that there are times in which she puts an end to my patience. 

"Some times I think that the best would be that she was in a residence and to leave me free of problems.  But then I get ashamed by recalling everything that she has done for me, before and after I was born.  And I think that I have to correspond to her". 

This is a quite common situation in many homes.  They are circumstances that sometimes become difficult, but we must assume that serenely, as a difficult and at the same time marvelous task, to do happy to our parents in those few years of life that remain to them. 

At times, by their age or by their illnesses, almost already they cannot avoid being like they are.  They want attention, cares and affection.  And at times they act with an invading selfishness that one must know how to manage, with a way to be that perhaps tires us a lot, and then come to our head thoughts that after we see them, we find them incorrect. 

One must think that, when we had six months, or four years, also we were many times boring, unpleasant or capricious.  And sure that more than one time our mother lost a little the nerves and passed through her head the idea that she willingly would have thrown us away.  But, naturally, she didn't do it and here we are. 

You must think that, some years ago, your parents took care of you.  Now the terms have reversed and you have to take care of them.  And do not forget that in not so many years, the terms will reverse again, and will be you of whom someone will have to take care of.  Consider that, taking care of your parents, or of your parents' in-law, aside from complying with a duty of justice and of affection, you are teaching a lot to your children.  Keep preparing you by then and act now as you want that happen with you in the future. 

I have known that, in the days of the beginning or in the days of the end of long weekends or holidays, there is in the hospitals an avalanche of admissions of aged people.  And it is not because those days the grandfathers have some special motive of illness, but because many families want to be get rid of their elderly parents and to pass thus more tranquil the holidays.  I ask me if in those families there will be really tranquility and happiness in the enjoyment of those days of rest, after abandoning thus to whom gave the life to them. 

Those families in which all the brothers ignore, in which to all is absolutely impossible to attend their elderly parents, in which -in the best of the cases- they bear them a few days in each house and with face of displeasure; in those families, is easy that, twenty or thirty years later, the parents expect from their own children a similar treatment during the latest years of life. 

Nevertheless, I have known, by fortune, many other families that have considered a pride to do happy to their already elderly parents, and that have done large efforts to receive them gladly.  That has supposed so many times for them to renounce many exits and to a lot of apparent happiness, but they are happy families and we can predict for them a happy old age, because their children will have seen, like in a practical lesson, how to treat to the own parents when they become old. 

24.  The small crystal in the eye

One of the stories from Andersen begins with the history of a magical mirror built by some evil elves.  The mirror had a curious particularity.  When looking at it, only the unpleasant and bad things were seen, never the good ones.  If it was put in front of the mirror a good person, she was always seen with unpleasant aspect.  And if a good thought passed through the mind of someone, the mirror reflected a sarcastic laughter.  But the worse thing is that the people believed that, thanks to that damned mirror, they could see the things as in reality they were. 

A day, the mirror broke in many pieces, small like particles of invisible dust that were extended upon the entire world.  If one of those small crystals was put in the eye of a person, she began to see all the things under their worst aspect.  And that was what happened to a boy called Kay.  He was a night looking at the window and, suddenly, he rubbed one of his eyelids.  He noted that something had entered into the eyelid.  His friend Gerda, that was with him, tried to clean his eye, but she couldn't see anything. 

Nevertheless, from then, Kay was no longer the same as he used to be.  His character changed drastically.  His games were now different.  They pretended to be very judicious, but his attitude was always critical, acid and distant.  He saw ridiculous all the positive and good things.  He liked to emphasize the bad aspects of all, to underline the defects of all.  And that odious crystal, that so much had changed his way to see the things, went sliding from the eye until arriving at the heart that was chilled as much as his expression, which became a floe of ice.  And then nothing could hurt him any more. 

The boy finished imprisoned in a cold castle, and there he lived, persuaded that it was the best place in the world.  His friend sought for him from a place to another during a year.  She had to surpass many difficulties until, at the end, she founded him.  She saw then how the boy was keep occupied collecting gobbets of ice and composing them with very ingenious designs.  It was the great frozen puzzle of the intelligence. 

Perhaps in the ordinary life something like that has passed to quite a lot of people.  In a determinate moment they change their look.  They began to see all with worse eyes, to put attention always in the negative thing.  They were seduced by a dangerous and murky dialectic that carry them to be lean out to all the abysses.  They think that acting in this way will surpass their previous ingenuousness, and happens with them as to the ones that looked at in that damned mirror: they were sure that now they have a more mature vision, that they see the things just as in reality they are. 

And changing their look, they change also their heart.  They begin to see the people by their defects instead of by their qualities.  They begin to be envious, to think badly and to suffer with the alien successes, to feel themselves victims.  Many of them display that negative vision also on themselves, and that carries them to enlarge their defects, to undervalue and to diminish their qualities. 

After sometime, perhaps they note that this process torments them and consumes them, but it costs a lot to them to control their thoughts.  They know that they would have to manage those ideas that have taken control of their head, but there is something that freezes their memory and their emotions, as happened to Kay during his captivity in the castle. 

To surpass that negative way of looking at the things -that in some measure affects to all of us-, we should understand the wrong thing of that pain, what we have suffered and we have made to suffer vainly, the ungrateful and unjust that we have been with our thoughts.  When we regret truly all that, when we allow the heart to recuperate and we start to see the things with our previous eyes, we will see again the reality just as it is. 

Perhaps the problem is that the heart is already a little cold and barely hurts us, as happened to Kay.  But not for that it doesn't have the need for an arrangement.  This is a difficult but possible change.  In the story, were the tears of Gerda were opening the path to the heart of her friend, that also began to cry, and did it of such a way that the damned crystal left dragged by his tears.  Also to us a friendly hand can help us a lot, a person that surpass the obstacles that are necessary to cause us to understand the sadness of our attitude.  The life is at times hard and difficult, but it is, above all, by that accumulation of prejudices that have entered us through our eyes and that has gone descending to the heart.  And only crying in the soul will cause us to recognize that error and to surpass it. 

25.  People interested in the others

"Thus was my mother -recalled the protagonist of "The Volume of the absence", that great Mercedes Salisachs' novel-.  She declared very infrequently her renunciations sown with affections. 

"Her example was a continuous challenge for my egotistical reactions.  A day, exasperated, I asked her how was it possible that she felt love for the entire world.  Her answer left me puzzled.  She looked at me, amazed, as if I was a being from another planet, and told me:  "My daughter -and she struck with smoothness my front, as if she wanted to awake me-, from where do you take that I always feel that?  The true love is not always felt, it is practiced". 

"She used to tell me:  "To act is the best form to love, daughter.  It is not necessary that you feel love for them -she emphasized-; simply, help them.  You will see how quick you will appreciate them". 

"I contradicted her, and I spoke of people to whom I could not love, and she retorted me:  "When you feel hate towards a person, remember his mother, remember his children or remember any other person that has loved to him as you love to the persons that you appreciate more.  Try to put yourself in his shoes and immediately you will stop hating".  She insisted to me that there is not possibility to love without rejecting the selfishness, without living for the others, and that a life without love towards the others is worse than to live in the darkness." 

The affection to the others, with the generosity and the diligence that always carry implicit, is the main source of peace and of interior satisfaction of any person.  On the other hand, the dynamics of the selfishness or of the laziness conduct always to a dead end of burdens and dissatisfactions.  Therefore, the people with a good level of interior satisfaction use to treat the others with affability. It turns out to be easy for them to understand the limitations and alien weaknesses and rarely are they hard or inclement in their judgments.  But what more characterizes them is that they are people interested in the others.  And this is thus because only in that way the man grows himself and he is enriched truly. 

We must not forget, besides, that even the most material satisfactions need to be shared with others, or at least, they need to be referred to the others.  A person cannot enjoy a pretty house, or a car that has just bought or a new cloth, or his physical beauty, or an academic title, or even a good culture, if he doesn't have around people that look at him with affection, that can be happy and that can enjoy at his side.  If he is not able -or he doesn't want- to share his happiness, sooner or later he will submerge in a deep feeling of sadness and of frustration, because, sooner or later, the face of the selfishness appears with all its ugliness in front of the one that has left it to seize his feelings. 

The man is extolled and fulfilled when he understands his life as a service to the others, like a delivery to noble desires, which have always reference to others.  On the other hand, when he submits to the seduction of the selfishness, it is very easy that the things quick stop to make a sense to him, that they tire him and that they cause him to lose his footing.  The selfishness carries, by its own dynamics, to a childish way to understand the personal happiness that finishes always in the most categorical failure. 

To serve is what more ennobles a man.  To the extent that the moral configuration of a person acquires the fortress and the necessary liberty to offset the natural inertia to the selfishness, that person will manage to endow his life of sense and of interest.  The silencing of the obsession by the own thing, of the tyranny of the hypertrophied desires, of the misery of all the inducements of the selfishness, are ways to eradicate all those small motives of sadness that go around to the sickly self-esteem. 

As Martin Descalzo wrote, who was accustomed to close his soul and his heart to all who surround him, always finishes for having wizened, fossilized and petrified the heart and the soul.  The selfishness has to be paid.  And the one that never loved is condemned to love never and to not to be loved by nobody. 

26.  To give energy to the others

"There are men that fight a day and they are good.  There are others that fight a year and they are better.  There are others that fight many years and they are a lot better.  But there is who fights all the life: those are the indispensable." 

These words of Bertolt Brecht invite us to think about the necessity that all we have of those people  that all we know and that seem never tired, that always are there, that always pull up the ambience in which they are, that are catalysts of all the positive things for those that surround them. 

If we consider it to think, there are quite a lot of people that are thus, that have done natural in their life that emotional stability and that maturity that causes them to be accustomed to pull up the others, passing almost unseen.  They feel occasionally, as all, the temptation to stop doing that discreet and efficient work, they feel at times tired of listen, tired of encouraging, tired of mediate, tired of reconciling…  Nevertheless, who manage to do all that in a natural way and pass to consider that effort as somewhat ordinary, are the people that manage to create and to maintain an environment of work, of optimism, of good understanding among all.  They are those men or women whose influence many times is not valued until the day in which they lack.  And perhaps then it is seen that their role was fundamental, that the positive climate that was around them was fruit of their habit to think about the others, to be not tired of being the consolers of ones and others, to say with affection and loyalty what should be improved, to relax the tension that so many times is created by simple trivialities. 

It recalls me also that old movie of Frank Capra titled "how beautiful is to live", in which the protagonist is desperate and ready to commit suicide, and a nice angel causes him to see the valuable thing that his life has been and how much has it resulted good for a lot people.  To show it to him, he concedes to him the privilege to see what would have happened in the life of some of those people if he hadn't existed and, therefore, he had not been able to help them.  Thanks to that, he recovers the happiness to live and understands everything: that a normal existence can contribute in the life of so many people. 

All we can incorporate to our life that attitude.  Because a kind and conciliator word is easy to pronounce. Nevertheless, sometimes it costs us to pronounce it.  The tiredness stops us, other worries distract us, and a feeling of coldness or of egotistical indifference stops us from doing it.  We pass next to people that we know but barely we look at them to the face and we do not pay attention to those that suffer, and in some cases perhaps they suffer precisely because they feel themselves ignored or little valued by us.  It would suffice a cordial word, an affectionate gesture, and immediately something would awake in them: a sign of attention and of courtesy can be a gust of fresh air in the obscurity of an existence punished just then by the sadness and the discouragement. 

Many times, what impedes that good attitude is our impatience in front of the alien defects.  Perhaps those people that so much exasperate us have objectively those defects that so much annoy to us, but, if we center there too much our attention that will generate in us an anxiety that does not help anything, neither to them neither to us, and can finish in something like an obsession.  Besides, there are so many times in which those defects are not such, but different and legitimate ways to be.  If we are too complaining, perhaps we should gain in inner strength and to strive more in being like those people of which we have already spoken. 

27.  The true love

"He contemplated her youth and her beauty as something that went never to be exhausted".  He didn't understand yet that no love should be supported too much in the beauty.  Why do we refuse to admit that the beauty and the youth are lent fortunes?  Why do we never imagine that what dazzles us today will be able to become the worst of the disaffections in the future? 

"Our wedding was not by love.  It was a wedding by simple infatuation".  Those infatuations that are sensations that cause exchanges of certainties, kisses, hugs and a great quantity of intuitions carry us to the selfishness to believe that we are the owners of the world, with right to imagine you amaze perpetual marvels and a continuous expectation that, when it arrives, leaves us cold.  In that epoch, I didn't know that the infatuation can be simple self-worship, desires to see in the other what we want to see and that, when we imagine what we see all returns to us as attraction, as need to melt our desires to the ones of the person with which we fall in love.  And the fact is that, deep down, what we do is to fall in love with ourselves. 

"We saw that, as an eternity of bucolic novel, with no exemption of nightmares, always sunny, with clear skies, like a flock of little lambs awaiting the wolves, awaiting unexpected changes of humor". 

Thus recall the protagonist of a novel of Mercedes Salisachs the history of the beginning of his marriage.  The history of a deception, of many frustrations and selfishness until coming to understand that most of what attracts to our eyes is only pure appearance, until verifying that the shortcut of the desire leaves almost always a vestige of dissatisfaction, a sad flavor of disillusion.  Eros, that species of Greek little god, messenger of the love, inherited of his parents a contradictory nature that got him rich in desires and poor in results.  That mischievous and playful little god likes to call to our heart through the corporal beauty, and that call seems to us irresistible at times.  Then he gives us concessions that do not give us what they promise, that attract us but that later they fly away. 

To desire another person is not the same as to love her, and the desire, many times, what in reality intends is to utilize, to possess, and to manipulate.  The force of the desire, overloaded in our days by the impulse of the omnipresent erotic messages, does that the imagination, the sensibility, the memory of the today's man be conditioned by an excessive and sickly increase of the power of the desire.  To discover the own wealth of the other person, knowing her and to fall in real love with her, and not simply to desire her, it is needed a not despicable effort.  When the infatuation falls too much in the corporal side, which offers little consistency respect to the future, because the corporal side is the most ephemeral part of the human being, the more inconstant part, the one that more suffers the decline of the passage of the years. 

The true love carries always to an enlargement of the personality, it is happier with the happiness of the other that with his happiness.  It puts to the other as fundamental protagonist of our project of life.  It gets then our liberty compromised, and that always costs, because it signifies the renunciation to many things, because the love acts as a forge where our selfishness and our desires are tempered.  Because there are desires from us that are not compatible with that love, desires that perhaps up till then were good and legitimate but that they now no longer are.  In any love, once the first infatuation has passed, the key of the success is in that painful process of purification of the desires.  It is a matter of hard test, that serves to harden and to mature that relation, that brings out the quality of the material of which we are made, and above all, enlightens the reality of our pledge to improve.  If we cannot pass this test, at the end we will be lovers of ourselves. 

28.  The false compassion

"The dangerous piety" is an interesting novel of Stefan Zweig.  A young Austrian lieutenant is invited to a party.  During the celebration he invites to dance to the daughter of the owner of the mansion, without knowing that the young woman is impeded.  The following day he sends to her some flowers apologizing by the incident and, because of that detail, the girl thinks that the lieutenant has felt in love for her. 

The protagonist of the novel has a noble and good sensibility in front of the alien pain.  He is a man proposed to help to all the people until he can be able.  Any defenselessness demands his interest.  Nevertheless, that good disposition founds suddenly a difficulty.  His desire is to cause not any suffering, of not to disturb, to avoid the alien pain, carries him to prolong the small misunderstanding that had been produced at the party.  In order to avoid that the excited and capricious invalid girl becomes sad, he delays time and again the necessary explanation on his supposed love to her, and he becomes involved little by little in an immense absurd that has increasingly more tragic consequences for him and for those to whom he wanted to avoid any damage. 

All began for a mere and pious not to say the truth, without will or even against his will.  At the beginning, it was not a conscious deceit, but immediately he became entangled, and beginning with a first lie by compassion, he saw that now he had to lie with impenetrable gesture, with convinced voice, as a consummate delinquent that plans each detail of his action and his defense.  For the first time he began to understand that the worse thing of this world doesn't come caused by the wickedness, but almost always by the weakness. 

There are two classes of compassion.  One, the weak one, the sentimental one the one that is not more than the impatience of the heart by being freed as soon as possible of the embarrassing commotion that suffers in front of the alien misfortune; that compassion is not exactly compassion, it is only a setting apart instinctively the alien pain, that cause us our own anxiety.  The other, the true compassion, is determined to resist, to be patient, to suffer and to cause to suffer, if it is necessary, to help truly the people. 

That man had to say something that turned out to be difficult to him, and delayed it time and again.  He prolonged that absurd situation, among others things, because he was flattered by the vanity, and the vanity is one of the strongest impulses in the weak natures, that succumb easily to the temptation of what is seen from outside as admirable or as valiant. 

By false compassion, many times on lie, on deceive, the costly truth is eluded as well as the uncomfortable realities, the responsibilities that bother us.  One may lie to avoid contradiction, to avoid a damage that then returns multiplied; the difficult but urgent truth is eluded to say, although we know that it will not disappear for ignoring it; by false compassion on consent practices or reprehensible situations in the business or in the family, that are not confronted to, in order not damaging to some, even knowing that to tolerate it is a greater damage. 

The false compassion of that young lieutenant converted him in a wretched man that damaged with his weakness, that disturbed and destroyed with his compassion.  As he, all we should do our best analyzing the compassion that in determined moment we feel and to distinguish if it is not concealing, in reality, our selfishness or our weakness.  We should recognize sincerely that to consent and to spoil the children, to spoil to the ones that are under our responsibility, not to require the respect that deserve the rights of the absent (the false compassion use to incline against the ones that do not see us), are occasions in which we sympathize with the others wrongly and we close the eyes to the reality. 

To live responsibly requires, sometimes, disturb to the others.  For example, to educate, to form, supposes always a certain constriction, to contradict, to deny consolations that we would be able to give but that we shouldn't give.  It is certain that we should be flexible, but to give in to the false compassion implies to do damage.  A damage, that perhaps at first sight, doesn't seem such, but that sooner or later returns, with obstinacy, and bigger, more real, less avoidable. 

IV. Liberty, ideals, commitment

29.  The ideals of the youth
30.  To feel interpellated
31.  Question of habits
32.  The impatience of the men
33.  The moral solitude 
34.  Simple solutions
35.  Human models
36.  The shadows and the fears
37.  Religion and moral education
38.  Respect to the sacred

29.  The ideals of the youth

"Here he is indeed, near the forty-two years…  What would think of you the boy that you were at the age of sixteen, if he could judge you?  What he would say of what you have become?  Would he simply have consented to live to be seen transformed thus?  Perhaps was it worth while for him?  Which secret hopes have you not disappointed, of the ones that even you don't remember? 

"It would be extraordinarily interesting, although sad, to be able to face in front of each two beings. The one that promised so much and the other one that accomplished so little.  I imagine a young addressing to the older without indulgence:  "You have deceived me, you have stolen me.  Where are the dreams that I had trusted you?  What have you done with all the wealth that I so crazily have put in your hands?  I responded of you, I had promised for you.  And you have done bankruptcy.  It would have seen worthy to go with everything that I still possessed, and that you also have squandered" 

"And what would say the older to defend himself?  He would speak about acquired experience, of useless ideas thrown overboard, he would show some books, he would speak of his reputation, and he would seek feverishly in his pockets, in the drawers of his table, to be justified.  But he would defend himself badly, and I believe that he would be shamed." 

These paragraphs of the Newspaper of Julien Green are an interesting thinking, so much for the past as for the future of any life.  Because -as it has been written by Martin Descalzo- every life would have to be the crop of the great sowing during one's youth.  To live is to bear fruit.  And it is not simply to advance and to age.  The life is to bet determinedly at the young age, and to maintain and to improve that bet during the adult life. 

And it fits then to be asked: if already it is difficult to maintain that bet of youth when in those years large ideals were sown, what will be when only disillusionments or insubstantiality were sown?  When a young person does not have ideals, or they are small and vulgar, it is very probable that a little encouraging future expects to him.  Therefore, perhaps one of the greater infamies is to push the youths in front of the mediocrity or in front of the desperation. 

It is true that it doesn't suffice with dreaming during the youth, because those dreams can result in ingenuous or false projects.  But who does not dream never, who is limited only to verify the difficulty, who always boasts to be very realistic and considers ingenuous to whom aspire to improve himself, and to improve the world in which he lives, who think that way so jinx, do not realize that the main enemy are not all those that were indicated with so much emphasis, but the worst enemy they have is their interior. 

When the adults tend to abandon the large ideals of the youth, justifying it by saying that the circumstances are contrary to our projects, we are then deceiving us miserably.  It is certain that the projects of those years have the need to be adapted and modified along the life, because the life is long and there are very little things foreseeable, but we know well that many times what we have done with those ideals is, simply, to reduce them, by laziness, by abandonment or by stinginess.  And what we achieve with that is to go deflating our life as a globe, almost without being conscious of it. 

The despair -indicates Josef Pieper- is in the same mental structure of who orients badly his life.  It supposes always a large pain of who refuses to walk along the way toward the fullness that his nature calls him.  But we do not arrive to the despair in a sudden way.  Its principle and its root use to be the laziness, mother of all the vices.  The laziness is synonym of neglect, of disinterest, and that always conducts to a sadness that paralyzes, that disheartens.  And the worse thing is that it carries to a vicious circle of reluctance that reinforces the neglect.  The lazy man is subtracted of the own obligations of the greatness of his mission.  It is like a corrupted humility, own of who does not want to accept his true condition and his talents, because they imply a demand.  As a sick that does not want to be cured so that he is not required the same as a healthy person is required. 

There is a type of hope that arises of the youthful energy but is exhausted with the years, when the life declines.  Nevertheless, the true hope is an unworried and confident courage, that characterizes and distinguishes to the man of young spirit and that makes of him an attractive model to follow.  The hope gives a youth that is inaccessible to the old age and to the disillusionment.  Thus, although day by day we lose a little the natural youth, we are able day by day to renew our youth of spirit.  Instead of giving cult to the youngness of the body, in a forced and external way, and that besides produces despair by seeing how we lose it, we should seek those higher summits, which can improve, rejuvenating day by day his spirit. 

30.  To feel appealed to

Sometime ago I read that the most important decision in the life of a person, the one that more conditions the global result of his existence, the decision that all we finally take, many times, without noticing it so much account, is this: if we center our life in ourselves or we center our life in the others. 

Our entire environment continuously calls us spear to awake our sensibility toward the needs of the others.  There are people that are accustomed to turn a deaf ear to those calls.  Others, on the other hand, know how to grasp them and they reflect on them, and there are people that have eyes to discover the sufferings and the needs of the others.  They think little in their own satisfaction and, curiously, are the ones that then reach greater benchmarks of satisfaction and of happiness.  They know to be attentive and they try to solve, with the goodness of his heart, the lacks of who surround them.  And perhaps it seems that in them that attitude is innate, but the reality is that it is a consequence of the education received and, above all, it is fruit of the effort and the personal availability during the life. 

This idea recalls me the history of a boy having fifteen years of age in a small Spanish city.  It took place during the Christmas holidays of the year 1917.  Since some days ago it was snowing without interruption and the New Year entered with glacial temperatures.  The thermometer had descended to sixteen degrees below zero. 

One of those mornings the boy went out into the street and he founded something that will vary the course of his existence: the tracks in the snow of some barefoot feet.  He stopped to examine them with curiosity and observed that the trace corresponded to the naked footstep of a Carmelite friar.  He was immediately submerged into a deep interior removal.  In his soul entered an anxiety that would never abandon him.  There was in the world people, like that man that did large sacrifices by God and by the others.  And he?  Was he incapable of doing nothing? 

It is probable that quite a lot of persons passed for that same place that morning.  Some of them didn't pay attention to those tracks, intermingled perhaps with the traces of other people, cars or bicycles marked also on the snow.  Others had seen them, and they thought perhaps that was admirable that there were so extraordinary people, but in their interior no thought arose that appealed to them for the rest of their lives. 

Those tracks in the snow caused to see to Josemaría Escrivá -thus that adolescent was named- that God asked him to complicate his life, that he would be compromised in a great task in the service of the others.  During the rest of his life he would recall with emotion that moment. 

All the reality that surrounds us is a constant appeal toward the reflection and toward the commitment.  The world that surrounds us is full of questions that are waiting our personal answers.  But those questions only are as whispers that only are heard when there is a certain degree of personal maturity and of rectitude of life.  The one that lives hoarded and seduced by his own egotistical interests doesn't perceive those questions neither those calls or, at the maximum, he responds saying "and to me what?"  And if he does not perceive the questions, it is difficult that we find the answers that give a clear sense to his life. 

Perhaps in the world there is a lack of more people with an attitude of listening and with sensibility, but, above all, there is a need of generous personal answers.  If one asks not to himself why he is in the world, what is truly worthy in the life, he will never come to perceive neither to formulate a clarifying answer.  If one doesn't ask himself those questions, he will never find any answers.  It is precise to tune up the ear and to ask oneself why we are in this world, what can give true value to our life, what can fill really our heart and to offer us a lasting happiness.  These are questions that, if are responded with success and then one perseveres in the commitment that they suppose, they are the condition to come to be one same, to live the own life and to live it with the liberty. 

31.  Question of habits

José Antonio Marina explains the history of a girl that needed to do exercise and she was proposed to run a while a couple of days during the week.  She didn't like to compete with others, so she began to run alone.  A day, a coach that she knew told to her:  "You should run marathon".  She believed that it was a matter of joke.  Besides, she had always thought that the marathon was exhausting and boring.  But that man insisted to her more and convinced her, and he prepared for her a plan of training with some precise and well calculated objectives, that required an effort each time a little greater, but always accessible. 

"Without realizing it -explained she-, I began to get excited with the idea of bearing a kilometer more.  It is a curious process.  First it makes you restless, then it irks you while you are trying it and, at the end, you feel a star if you obtain it" 

The way to dose the goals converted a tedious task in a stimulating activity.  "The exercise fits me well.  To compromise me in a long task pleases me.  I like to compete a little with myself.  Also I was influenced when I knew that what I was going to obtain was important to someone: to my coach." 

There are many hidden forces in each one that only reach their efficacy when they arise, as to clarify them and to set them, an objective that can summarize and can combine those confused impulses of the desire, until causing them to take the form and the attraction of a goal.  That process, by which a series of dispersed and vague motives configure a new source of energy, is fundamental in order to improve the own talent.  And it is a process that almost always depends on our capacity to reach habits that help us to negotiate well our aspirations, desires and feelings, which many times are confused and even are in conflict.  Because it is frequent that we want to do something but we do not want to do the necessary thing to obtain that something.  It is possible to be thirsty but not to have desire to walk to the fountain.  One can want to give a happiness visiting to a sick friend but one must conquer the laziness to be raised and to go.  If someone doesn't have will, he only manages to do what he wants to do in that moment, but he can not obtain anything out of that narrow enclosure of the short time.  Therefore, the will consists in a good part in acquiring the habit of wanting to do the things, so that appears the paradox that to want is a question of habits. 

When running, that agility, that resolved, rhythmic, long stride, is like a representation of the liberty, above all when one has experienced before the slavery of the breathlessness, distress and exhaustion.  Therefore, the training is a great achievement of the intelligence and of the will.  When one has achieved certain skills thanks to the habits that one has acquired, the spontaneity produces large creations; but if one does not have the skill that is born of the effort by acquiring habits, the spontaneity uses to be disastrous. 

The influence and the subtlety of the mass consumers' publicity promote an accepted and comfortable submission of the spontaneity.  We are requested for the passive fascination to be elements of what we desire, and then we roll meekly by that slope, bewitched by the amphetamine like power of its hot rhetoric.  But we know that, at the end, always we find us again down, again disappointed and frustrated by not having the habits that we really desire.  We bump into, as always, the stubborn reality of the effort, with the need to cultivate intelligent habits and with the evidence that what we want does not always coincide with what we desire. 

32.  The impatience of the men

An old legend from Norway counts the history of an elderly monk named Haakon. He took care of a hermitage in which there was an image of a Christ very venerated and to which use to come many people to pray.  A day, that good monk, prompted by a generous feeling, went down on his knees in front of the cross and said:  "Lord, I want to suffer for you.  Leave me to occupy your position.  I want to replace you in the cross".  And he remained fixed with the stare in front of the image, as expecting an answer.  The Lord opened his lips and spoke.  His words fell of the high with a whispering and reprimanding tone:  "My brother, I agree to your desire, but it should be with a condition".  "¿Which one, my Lord?  I am willing to comply it with your aid."  "Listen: whatever happens and whatever you see, you should keep silent".  Haakon answered:  "¡I promise it to you, my Lord!"  And the change was performed. 

Nobody notified the change.  Nobody recognized to the hermit, hanging with the nails in the cross.  The Lord occupied the position of Haakon.  And the monk complied with the commitment during a long time.  To nobody he said nothing.  But one morning arrived at the hermitage a rich man that, after having been a while very thoughtful, he left there -forgotten- his wallet.  Haakon saw it and kept silence.  Nothing said he when a poor man entered into the hermit one hour later and took for himself the accounts receivable of the rich man.  And neither nothing said him when, a little time after, another boy was prostrated in front of him to ask his protection before undertaking a long trip to the another side of the ocean. 

But suddenly it entered again the rich one in search of his wallet and, as he didn't find it, he thought immediately in the boy and told to him:  "¡You give me right now the wallet that you have stolen me!"  The young, surprised, retorted to him:  "¡I have not stolen anything!"  The rich man rushed furious against him saying: "Do not say lies, return it to me immediately!"  Then a strong voice was heard:  "¡No. Stop!"  The rich looked up and saw that the image spoke to him.  Haakon, from the cross, defended at the young and rebuked to the rich by the false accusation.  The man was frightened and he left the hermitage.  The young also went because he was in a hurry to take his trip. 

When the hermitage remained empty, Christ directed his words to the monk and told to him:  "Go down of the cross.  You haven't served to occupy that position.  You have not known to keep silence".  Haakon replied: "Lord, how was I going to permit that injustice?"  Jesus occupied the cross again and the hermit remained prostrated in front of Him.  In the afternoon, the Lord spoke him again:  "You didn't know that it was convenient for the rich man to lose the wallet, because he carried in it the price of the betrayal to his woman.  The poor man, on the other hand, had need of that money.  In relation to the boy that was going to be struck, his injuries would have him impeded to carry out a trip that for him would turn out to be fatal: some minutes ago his ship has just wrecked and he has lost the life.  You didn't know anything.  I do know.  That's why I keep silent so many times." 

In many occasions we ask us why reason God does not answer to us, why He remains silent, why He does not carry out immediately what for us turns out to be perhaps evident.  Many times we would desire that God could appear stronger, that He acted with more firmness that He defeated immediately to the evil and that He created a better world.  Nevertheless, when we intend to organize the world adopting or judging in the place of God, the result is that we do then an even worse world.  We are able and we should influence in the world in order to improve it, but without forgetting never who the Lord of the history is.  As it has been indicated by Benedict XVI, we perhaps suffer in front of the patience of God.  But all we need of His patience.  The world is saved by the Crucified and not by the ones that crucified Him.  The world is redeemed by the patience of God and destroyed by the impatience of the men. 

33.  The moral solitude

"That boy -related the professor Robert Coles- was fifteen years old. The study went very badly to him, and he used to pass hours and hours in his room listening music with the door closed." 

"A day I asked him for his life and his problems, and he refused to speak of them, with a gesture of disdain.  "Why you reply with that gesture?" I asked him.  "Because nothing", he answered.  "And it will not be perhaps due to you?" I ventured.  By hearing that, he turned, he looked at me with attention, and he waited some seconds before murmuring:  "Why do you say that?"

"I felt then that I had approached to an important problem of him, and that perhaps that boy was quite near of opening his heart and to allow me to help him, but that also he was able suddenly to block the access to him.  I preferred not to respond directly to his question and, with certain inconvenience, after having suffered his boast, but with affection, I told him:  "It seems to me that I understand what you feel, and I know that in those moments it seems that one can count nothing to nobody, because one does not know well what passes to him, neither what to do with oneself neither what to say".  The young remained looking at me, he didn't say anything, but, when he removed their handkerchief, I realized that his eyes had begun to become watery. 

"We spoke several times, and that boy was leaving little by little the abyss of desperation, of his apparent impenetrable solitude.  It turned out to be extraordinarily costly to him to analyze that mixture of feelings, doubts, yearnings and interior injuries and, above all, to express them in words to another person.  Little by little he was beginning to show as a young full of grudges, very reserved, disdainful of any moral guideline and hypercritical.  He was a brilliant observer that detected with great intuition the errors and the falsehoods of the entire world, but he could not remain there and later he directed his attention to himself and he judged himself also with extreme severity. 

"Only after some time, and I needed quite a lot of it, I began to realize that, in the bottom, he was looking for aid to evaluate his life with moral criteria." 

That boy adopted an attitude of vital skepticism, with which he tried to hide that he habitually felt alone, rare, sad and quite irritated.  He lied, despised the others, he lived in the middle of a premature sexuality and of an abuse of the alcohol that had carried him to a persistent solitude.  A solitude that was not only emotional, but also moral.  His life had broken with the moral values learned in his childhood, and he was paying for it a very high price. 

The moral abandonment has very painful consequences, and that is such so much for the ones that go to an elite school as for the ones that live in the alleys of a suburb.  The anxiety that accompanies to the lack of sense, and to which is frequently added the abuse of the alcohol, or the abuse of the sex or of other things that try to hide that anxiety, produce with facility situations as the one that we have described.  And what can be done?  One must understand them, in the first place.  And then one must offer them something in which they can believe, something that help them to control the impulse, the bitterness, the dejection and the sensation of grievous uselessness that hounds to all those that don't include an ethic compass that guide them in the bottom of themselves. 

The moral education is more important than many believe.  It is something of what the young people is hungry and thirsty and that they try bravely to find.  The most persuasive moral education is the one that is transmitted with the testimony of our life, with our form to be with the others, to speak with them and to relate to them.  When?  When we give thanks to the person that serves us in the Coffee House and we try not to treat him with indifference.  Or when we try to utilize more the words "thanks" and "please", and not in a self-sufficient, superficial, and mechanical way, but by an authentic desire to learn to break that affection to our individualism, to direct us more to the others and to treat them with consideration, to be important the ones for the others, to be interested for their things with tact and sensibility and to express them our gratitude by anything, although it could be a small thing.  Or when we lose the fear to recognize that what we do is wrong, and even when it seems that it doesn't cause harm to nobody – at least it causes damages to ourselves-.  Or when we endeavor that doing more space in our interior for the others, and to offer thus a small accommodation for the others, is better than living absorbed by our own importance.  All this creates a way of life; an attitude that facilitates the discovery of the moral truth and that penetrates slowly but effectively in us and in who surround us. 

34.  Simple solutions

It is said that, in an occasion, Christopher Columbus was invited to a banquet where he had been assigned, as it is easy to suppose, a seat of honor. 

One of the guests was a courtier that felt jealousy towards the great discoverer.  As soon as he had the occasion, he directed toward him and asked him in a quite arrogant form:  -if you hadn't   discovered America, perhaps are there other men in Spain that would have been able to do it? 

Columbus preferred not to respond directly to that man.  He proposed to him a game of wit.  He raised, took a fresh egg of hen and invited to all the presents to try to place it so that it could stay standing on one of its ends. 

The occurrence had quite a lot of acceptance.  Almost all the presents entered to the challenge of that game and they tried to do it one after another, with greater or smaller conviction, in front of the attentive sight of the others. 

But the time elapsed and none could manage to find the way by which that damned egg could keep the equilibrium.  Finally, Columbus raised himself again, with solemn air, he approached, he took the egg and he struck him slightly against the surface of the table until the shell was a little sunk by one of the extremes.  Thanks to that small flattering, he was able to maintain perfectly the egg in vertical position.  

-¡Of course, in that way, everybody can do it!  – objected, quite annoyed, the courtier – yes, everybody.  But "everybody" that could have been able to do it.  And he added:  – once I showed the route to the New World, "any" can continue it.  But "someone" before had to have the idea.  And "someone" had later to decide to carry it to the practice. 

This old and famous anecdote has ran through the centuries and has carried to the set-phrase of "the egg of Columbus", to refer to those solutions which are very simple in appearance, yes, but that previously "someone" had to have thought them, and "someone" later had to decide to put in practice them. 

Many important transformations both in the people as well as in the institutions, the scientific knowledge, and the world of the thought or in the society in general, have their origin in simple discoveries to which "someone" has known how to get a profit.  Someone that knew how to get profit of the obvious things, of those truths that all we have access to. 

Something like this happened -we jump forward some centuries- the day in which millions of persons saw Fosbury to jump.  He surprised to all them with a technique of amazing novelty.  The high jumps had always been done by turning the jumper looking to the bar.  Nevertheless, on that occasion, Fosbury jumped from behind.  That was something so extraordinarily efficient that, a little time after, the previous technique disappeared completely.  That revolutionary change was produced thanks to a new discovery, thanks to the development of something that, in spite of seeming so simple and so efficient, it hadn't been done by anybody before. 

In the life of any person, or of any institution, or of any society, it turns out to be decisive to be open to those important discoveries.  To be sensitive in front of the force of the obvious things, in front of the things that perhaps are so simple that they seem to us not important enough to deserve our attention.  Learning how to get more profit from the common sense, to this simple reasoning -not simple neither trivial-, but that cause to glimpse important ideas in a clear and forceful way. 

For example, any purpose of personal improvement should seek to free the tremendous potential that encloses the simple fact to face brave and serenely the truth.  To that liberating and simple truth, so present and clear when we don't resist seeing it.  Because, as it has been written by Lloyd Alexander, "once you have the value to look at the evil face to face, to see it as it really is and to give it its true name, it lacks the power to act on you and you can destroy it".  The largest truths can seem topics or generalities sometimes.  But that uses to happen only when one is limited to only speak of them, not when, additionally he chooses them as basis for his life. 

35.  Human models

The character, like the art to well thinking, is not related so much with rules as with models: close to the rule or to the criterion should go the example; and near to the example, the idea and the way to carry it into the practice. 

Every man experiences, with greater or smaller frequency, a feeling of emulation in front of some human testimony that is presented to him.  Always there are moments in which he remains dazzled by a concrete aspect of a concrete person and, then -in greater or smaller measure-, he desires to be, in that aspect, like that person. 

The man -today perhaps more than in other times- believes more in the live human testimonies that in the teachings. He believes more in the life and in the facts that in the theories.  He is recognized in the human models and he feels attracted by them. 

All we need models.  All we seek them.  There are behaviors that attract us with a fascinating force.  In front of any human model an empathy is produced, a species of contagion that drags.  Only real men decipher what the man is and what he can come to be. 

The problem is that this effect is produced so much for the good as for the evil.  Therefore it has been always said that the great educational challenge is not in the eloquence of the word – being it very important-, but in the eloquence of the speech of the works, in the greatness of soul of whom has to educate.  The things seem less difficult and more attractive, when we see them made life in others. 

Therefore it is also decisive that who is in an early phase of the formation of his character has in front of his eyes some attractive humans models, that facilitate him to acquire quickly the criteria of estimation that after don't result to be a varnish, but they respond to well settled principles.  And this refers so much to the real models that he sees in human beings living near him as to those other, real or fictions, that are presented to him in the literature, in the movies or in the television. 

If a family, an educator, or even a society, presents the evil as something that succeeds, or presents models that many times are models of negative values, would be damaging to all, but, above all, to the youngest, that are the most permeable to those stimuli. 

If we offer negative models as tempting goals, then we wouldn't be able to complain if the young seem to be lost, without beliefs neither moral guidelines.  It is precise to instill these feelings and those values, because, if not, then we complain without reason.  As said C. S. Lewis, sometimes "we eradicate the organ and we require the function.  We grow men without heart and we expect of them virtue and initiative.  We laugh about the honor and we are surprised of seeing traitors among us.  We castrate and we require to the castrated that they have to be fertile". 

36.  The shadows and the fears

It is very interesting the history of Bucéfalo that horse that only Alexander the Great was capable of riding.  All the ones that tried to do it were incapable to be maintained on its rump beyond a few seconds.  The animal pranced, reared and immediately gave on the ground with all its riders.  Alexander knew it. He observed to the horse with attention and immediately he discovered the secret of that untamed steed.  Then he approached to him, got the reins and put him in front of the sun.  He caressed him, freed his cloak and of a leap mounted on him and spurred him with energy.  He controlled the curvets, without leaving him to be set apart of the direction of the sun, until the animal calmed itself and continued his march in a slowly and tranquil pace.  The applauses sounded, and the historians say that, having seeing it Filipo, his father, he predicted that the kingdom of Macedonia that he possessed would remain small for the glory to which was called his son. 

Which was that secret that only Alexander was able to discover?  It was something very simple.  He realized that the horse was frightened of his own shadow.  It sufficed with leave him not to see it, with lining up his eyes toward the sun so that the tormented animal could forgot his fears. 

The world is full of people to which passes perhaps something similar.  They are people apparently normal and confident, but that hide in their interior all a series of fears and complexes that tie them down to the failures and to the bad experiences that they have suffered.  Many of their energies are paralyzed by that negative appraisal that they have of themselves.  They are hostages of their own past, men or women which fears impede them to face their future with determination and they are impeded to come to be what they are called to be. 

I have never liked the candor and the vehemence with which some persons speak about the self-esteem.  But I do agree that this matter is a growing problem in our days.  To educate to oneself is something like to educate to another.  To educate to another one must demand him (if not, we will convert him in an intolerable spoiled person), but also we must treat him with affection, one must look at him with good eyes.  In the same way, to educate oneself also one must require, but at the same time one must self treat with affection, to look at oneself with good eyes.  Nevertheless, there are too much people that mistreat themselves that reproach rough and repeatedly their own errors, that judged to themselves with too much hardness and that consider themselves incapable to surpass their defects. 

It is true that the ones that do not recall their failures of the past are designed to repeat them.  But one must do it with equilibrium and with sensibleness.  Because the failure can have a fruitful value, the same as there can be sterile successes.  A fruitful failure is the one that conducts to new perceptions and ideas that enlarge the experience and the know-how.  It is very famous that anecdote of Thomas Watson, the legendary founder of IBM, that called to his office to an executive of the company that had just lost ten million dollars in a risked operation.  The executive was very frightened and he thought that he was going to be fired in an explosive way.  Nevertheless, Watson told him:  "We have just spent ten million dollars in your formation, I expect that you know now how to take advantage of it". 

One can not live obsessed by the shadows and being frightened by them.  We all have failures, every day.  The evil thing is when one considers that the colt of his life is impossible to dominate, when he throws the towel instead of investigating which are the true causes of his exhaustions and of his inhibitions.  If we examine the things with care, perhaps we conclude that, like Alexander, we should take the reins with decision and to maintain the sight looking toward the ideal that gives lights to our life. 

37.  Religion and moral education

Many parents and educators are worried about the moral education of their children, students, etc.  They see that quite a lot of their present problems have the root in a deficient or insufficient basic formation in the moral convictions, criteria of conduct, ideals of life, values, etc.  But what more calls the attention to me is that many of those parents and educators, even being considered good believers, barely include the faith at the moment of the education, and that seems to me to be an error of serious consequences. 

It is true that one can have a very demanding morale without believing in God.  And it is also true that there are persons of great moral rectitude that are not believers.  And it is true that one can find respectable ethics that exclude the faith.  But I do not see that none of those reasons do advisable that a believing person educate his children as if he didn't have faith, or that he ignore the importance that the religion has in the moral education of any person. 

At first sight, I don't see how can exist an ethics that omit totally God and can be considered rationally well founded, because the ethics is remitted to the nature, and this to its author, that cannot be another that God.  Besides, an ethics without God, without a superior being, based only in the social consensus or in some cultural traditions, offers few guarantees in front of the clear weakness of the man or in front of his capacity to be manipulated.  A reference to God serves -and the history seems impelled in showing it- not only to justify the existence of norms of conduct one must observe, but also for moving the people to observe them.  The believer directs himself to God, not only as legislator, but also as judge.  Because to know the moral law and to observe it are well different things, and therefore, if God is present -and present without intending to accommodate Him to the own whim, is understood-, it will be easier that those moral laws are observed. 

On the other hand, when a man ignores voluntarily to God, it is easy that the man deviate until becoming the unique instance that decides what is good or bad, in function of his own interests.  Why to help to a person that with difficulty will be able to correspond to me?  Why forgive?  Why to be faithful to my husband or to my woman when it is so easy not to be?  Why not accept that small easy profit?  Why take a risk to speak the truth and not to leave that be another who pay the consequences of my error? 

Who doesn't have conscience of sin and doesn't admit that someone is over him that judge his actions, founds a lot more defenseless in front of the temptation to be erected as the judge and as the supreme decissor of the good things and of the bad things.  That doesn't signify that the believer does always right, either that he is not deceived ever; but at least he is not alone.  He is less exposed to deceive himself by saying that it is good what he likes and that it is bad what he doesn't like.  He knows that he has inside a moral voice that, in determined moment, will notify him: stop, you must not continue over there. 

Without religion it is easier to doubt if it is worthy to be faithful to the ethics.  Without religion it is easier not to see clearly why conducts that suppose sacrifices should be maintained.  This happens even more when that laical morale is transmitted from a generation to another without barely any reflection.  As it has been indicated by Julián Marías, the ones that at the beginning maintained those secular principles as elements of an ideological debate, they had at least the enthusiasm and the idealism of a cause that they defended with passion.  But, if that morale is transmitted to the youngest, to the children, and later to the children of these, without any linkage to religious beliefs, it is easy that this idealism remain in some simple ideas without a clear base and, therefore, they lose vigor. 

When it is denied that there is a judgment and a life after the death, it is quite easy that the perspectives of a person become reduced to what can happen in this life.  If the man counts on nothing more because he doesn't believe in the beyond, the sense of last responsibility tends to be diluted, and the moral rectitude deteriorates more easily. 

There are occasions in which the motives of natural convenience to act well prompt us with great force.  But there are other occasions -and they are not few- in which those motives of natural convenience lose weight in our mind, by any reason, and then are the supernatural motives the ones that take a greater prominence and they help us to act as we owe.  To ignore any of them is a moral error and an educational error of great reach.  Therefore, the believing parents that give little importance to the religious formation of their children use to finish realizing their error, but almost always late and with bitterness. 

And what to say to whom, in spite of seeking to God, doesn't have faith?  I would say to him that to seek to God is an important step and that, almost always, supposes to have already something of faith.  If the search is sincere, sooner or later he will find Him.  I would recommend to that person that would thought about his own conduct and in the truth, that he reflected on what is good and what is bad, and that he tried to act according to it, because it is perhaps God exactly who is asking to him, and by acting well he is arranging to discover to Whom is the source of the Goodness. 

38.  Respect to the sacred thing

In the present society -I write glossing ideas of Joseph Ratzinger-, thanks given to God, the one that dishonors the faith of Israel, its image of God, its large figures is fined or punished.  It is fined also who despises the Koran and the profound convictions of the Islam.  Nevertheless, when it is a matter of what is sacred for the Christians, the liberty of opinion appears like a supreme right whose limitation would result in a threat against the tolerance and the liberty. 

The surprising fact that, in the western world, the insults to any religion except to the Christian are punished with severity, contrasts in a notorious way with the evident Christian roots of our society, that have favored along its history an enormous social and moral advance as well as of economic and of scientific development.  The West suffers a strange lack of self-esteem towards its history, towards the roots that have given it its present force.  It is noted in this a species of complex, that only can be qualified as pathological, of a society that tries -and this is worthy of compliment- to be opened full of comprehension towards the external values, but that seems not to value itself; that tends to put its attention always in the sadder and in the darker of its past, but that fails to perceive the profound values that support it. 

Our society needs a new acceptance of itself, a humble and certain critical acceptance, but without falling in the abandonment or in the negation of what is of itself.  The multiculturalism cannot subsist without points of reference.  And it cannot subsist, for example, without respect toward the sacred thing.  It is a matter of a fundamental point for any culture: the respect toward what is sacred for the others and the respect to the sacred thing in general, to God.  And this is perfectly demandable also to who doesn't believe in God.  If that respect is broken, somewhat essential sinks in the society, because the liberty of opinion cannot destroy the honor and the dignity of the others. 

For the other cultures of the world, the absolute profanity that has been forming in the West is something deeply strange.  They are convinced that a world without God doesn't have a future.  Therefore it is still more necessary than the multiculturalism respect and protects also our Christian values, at least with the same force with which it opens to others.  Because the respect to the sacred elements of the other only is possible if the sacred thing -God- is respected.  And the ones that are Christians, certainly we should be able and we should learn of what is sacred for the others, but it is also our job to show in us the face of God, of that God that has compassion of the poor and of the weak, of the widows and of the orphans, of the foreigner; of the God that to such an extent is human being that He has become Himself a man, a man suffering next to us, He gives dignity and hope to the pain. 

The destiny of a society depends always of active minorities that have convictions.  The consequent Christians should see themselves as such creative minorities and to contribute that our society recovers again the best of its inheritance and know how to put it to the service of all the humanity.  Otherwise, the heritage of values of the West, its culture and its faith, that on what is based its identity, will enter in a serious slope, just in this hour in which so necessary is its spiritual vigor to improve the world in which we live. 

V. Character, autonomy and authority

39.  Latent decisions
40.  Authority and authoritarianism
41.  The theory of the germs
42.  An exterior impulse
43.  Learning to say"no"
44.  Independence and education
45.  Closed minds
46.  The judgment of the children
47.  Self-control and coherence
48.  The problem of being a fool
49.  The great men

39.  Latent decisions

Julien Green describes with mastery that intimate, personal process, by which all the people listen in their interior a call to the responsibility, to be better, and that sometimes we listen and sometimes do not.  There is a page of his diary that expresses it very well:  "Such day of your infancy, while you played alone in the room of your mother and the sun shone on your hands, came toward you a certain thought, dressed as a messenger of the king, and you received it with happiness, but later you rejected it.  And that thought should have been maintained.  When you walked under the plane trees of such avenue, and your cousin told to you such words, you understood immediately that those words arrived to you from the part of God, but then you forgot them, because they contradicted in you the flavor of the pleasure.  And such letter, that you broke and threw to the wastepaper basket, would have dissipated those doubts, but you didn't want to change. ..". 

Some of those occasions have a special significance.  They are seconds that seem to decide our destiny.  And they are not somewhat accidental or unexpected, but the fruit of a long series of subtly joined acts.  They are instants that seem imposed by a mysterious impulse, without any interior debate, but that apparent absence of deliberation doesn't imply lack of liberty.  Our interior acts, those thousand of small details that we register in our interior almost without taking notice of them, all the numerous and negative lower-case letters that we leave to pass each day, they weave little by little, in a conscious or in a subconscious level, an interior framework.  And a day, perhaps with occasion of an even indifferent, most minimum event in itself, arises in us an idea or a conviction that seems to have been born, but already that was formed in our mind, like Athene arose of the front of Zeus.  They seem spontaneous acts or thoughts, but, in reality, they express the result of a battle that existed from time behind in a very personal level, in small hidden habits, in small hidden thoughts watched, in interior complicities.  And a moment arrives in which our conscience is partly alienated, entangled in those nettings that we have gone weaving with the time and that they impede the expression of our true liberty. 

In a similar way, our good deeds, our aspirations to the good, even our more insignificant acts of generosity, weave at the same time another deep network, that also appear a day in important personal decisions.  The same as the habit of the many "no" brings a "no" at the moment of the truth; the habit to respond "yes" to the ambassadors of the truth is what straightens our life.  Julien Green counts in his diary another small example.  "The first time that I thought about the death as an event to which I would not escape, was when I was twenty years old.  It was in the garden of my uncle, in Virginia.  Evidently, I knew that I had to die, but, as says Bossuet, I didn't believe it.  That day I made out what could signify the fact to die.  It supposed a species of interior revelation, and that so simple thought -you will also die- I can affirm that changed me inside." 

We live in the middle of a succession of decisions that conform our way to be.  And it is not always easy to succeed.  It would be simplistic to think that, when we close our heart to the call of good, comes immediately a feeling of anguish.  Besides, it is possible even the existence of one initial interior relief, a feeling of liberation, of greater possession of oneself, as of a weight that one has been capable to remove from the top, of a responsibility that has left to weigh on us.  The refusal of good doesn't always go accompanied by remorse, because the man that slides for the slope of evil lives in a species of magic that fascinates him.  Evil can result attractive and good, while we do not taste it, can seem insipid and unreal.  Only in the long run, evil discovers the satiety that it hidden, and then it doesn't always turn out to be easy to leave it.  Therefore it is precise to keep our own heart, to watch for the sensibility of its doors; otherwise, quick we will find us possessed by ideas and feelings that mortgage our life. 

40.  Authority and authoritarianism

There are people that manage to gain a position of great respect through the force or the fear: they tend to utilize a coercive power to achieve what they propose.  Their short-term efficacy uses to be high, but it is not easy to maintain it for a long time, because it produces a tense submission and causes attitudes of resistance that can come to be enormously active and ingenious. 

This type of power is the one that some people exercise-in the work, in the school, in the family, etc. -, with generally deplorable long-term results, due that they enter with facility in a dynamic that encourages the simulation, the suspicion, the lie and the immorality. 

In some extreme cases, when that tension is carried to the limit, it produces more serious personal conflicts, because -as wrote Alexander Solzhenitsyn- " the man only has power on the people while he doesn't press them too much; because, if a person is deprived of what he considers fundamental, he will consider that already he has nothing to lose and he will liberate himself of that subjection at any price". 

The coercive power uses to disappear when disappears the capacity to exercise the threats or the fear, and then arise with facility, as a reaction, feelings of refusal, opposition or revenge. 

There are other styles of authority less despotic, which manage to maintain a position of control in a more utilitarian way, through the way of the consideration and of the equilibrium of powers, and the people obey them and follow them exactly in concrete points, in exchange for some specific advantages.  The relation that is established uses to be of simple functionality, and that equilibrium of forces is maintained while it benefits to both parts, or at least while to continue thus damage them less than to break it.  It is certain that offers a certain sensation of equity and justice, but it is the type of situation of precarious and rarefied relations in the labor or in the family. 

There are, finally, other forms to exercise the authority in a more harmonious way that fits with the dignity of the man.  It is the moral authority that possesses those people in which the people trust and that is respected because the people believe in them and in the task that they are carrying out.  It is not a blind faith neither a blind servitude; neither is it consequence of the dragging of a great personal charisma, but a free and conscious reaction that those people produce in the others thanks to their uprightness, their value and their attitude toward the others. 

All we have known people that have awoke in us those feelings of adhesion.  Perhaps that person surprised us placing a greater confidence in us, he treated us in a different form, he encouraged us in difficult moments, or he offered to us his aid when we didn't expect it.  The case is that he generated in us a special consideration toward him: an attitude of respect, of loyalty, of commitment, of responsiveness. 

This situation can also be produced in front of a personage that the mass media present to us, or in front of figures that we discover in the history, or in front of writers or artists of another epoch, for example.  They can awake in us a current of extraordinary sympathy or, on the contrary, of deep refusal.  To study those figures and to analyze the characteristics that produce those effects will be always a source of interesting ideas for everyone who desire to gain in moral authority.

41.  The theory of the germs

Until it came to be known with sufficient depth the pathogenic action of the microbes, by the second half of the 19th century, there was among the medical investigators an enormous worry in front of the serious problem presented by the frequent infections in the hospitals. 

The septic complications after any surgical intervention were almost inevitable and of very serious consequences.  Also it was frequent that, after small injuries, important suppurations or septicemia were produced, and a high percentage of women dye as a result of infections originated during the delivery.  But nobody understood why all that happened. 

After his important bacteriological discoveries in the field of the fermentation, Louis Pasteur announces in 1859 his idea that the infectious processes are consequence of the action of a germ.  But from where those microorganisms came?  Until then, who had expounded that possibility had thought that they arose for spontaneous generation.  Nevertheless, Pasteur goes finding specific microbes of different illnesses and observes that they are live beings that go passing from a body to another. 

Shortly after, the English surgeon Joseph Lister discovers that, applying energetic antiseptic measures, the infections are reduced drastically: for example, in the case of the open fractures, he manages to reduce the mortality from the 50% to less than 15%, thanks to the employment of phenols as antiseptic product. 

Further on, Pasteur discovers that those germs responsible of the illness can be isolated and cultivated, and that, if they are inactivated and they are inoculated in small dose in healthy bodies -to this finding he nominated vaccine-, they have an immunizing effect. 

As soon as the microbial theory was developed, a new way to understand the hospital attention and, in general, of all the medicine was established.  A small change of focus caused to saw the facts in a very different way and generated powerful transformations.  To understand better what happened made possible an extraordinary advance.  In an analogous way, many people experience a notable change in their thought in determined moments of their life.  They discover a new side of the reality, and this causes a change in the keys with which they were interpreting the reality.  A discovery causes us to substitute old keys by another wiser one. 

It happens, for example, when a person has a serious accident, or when he faces a crisis that threatens to change seriously his life, or he passes for the test of the illness and of the pain, and suddenly he sees his priorities under a different light.  Or when he begins to exercise new responsibilities or he assumes a new role in his life, like that of husband or that of wife, father or mother, and then a change of his way to see the things is produced. 

If in our life we want to carry out small changes, it is possible that it is enough if we try harder to improve our conduct and to fight against our defects.  But, if we aspire to an important change, it is precise to change our way to see the things. 

The life goes charging us day by day of routines, of adhesions that go hindering our path.  At times one must stop and see what is what he wants, not to give for good without more analysis our status quo, not to continue submissively the inertia of everything that we have done up till then, but to think once more the things in depth.  We cannot forget that those values and principles are the plot that gives consistency to the fabric of our life and, therefore, they are our greater treasure (besides, almost the unique thing that we have safe from robberies, fires, bankruptcies or stock exchange slides). 

42.  An exterior impulse

Balzac described in an incomparable way how the example of Napoleon had empowered a complete generation in France.  The dazzling ascent of the small lieutenant Bonaparte to the imperial throne of the world, for Balzac signified not only the triumph of a person, but also the victory of the idea of the youth.  The fact that it was not necessary to have be born prince or noble to reach the power in an early age, of that he could proceed of a modest, when not poor family, and, nevertheless, to come to be general at the age of twenty-four, sovereign of France at the age of thirty and, shortly after of the entire world. That success without equal pulled out to thousands of people of their small positions and of their small villages: the lieutenant Bonaparte awoke to a whole generation of youths, prompted to a higher ambition. 

Provided that a single young reaches something that until then seemed unattainable, be it in whichever field, with that success he encourages to all the youth that surrounds him.  Bonaparte proceeded of the same class that them, his genius had been forged in a house similar to that of them; he attended to an institute as that of them, he had studied the same manuals and he had sat during years in the same desks of wood, showing the same impatience and the same youthful agitation; and, while he moved through those same places, he managed to surpass the narrowness of the space in which others were. 

With independence of the judgment that deserve the path of that man, the example can serve us of reference to think about the enormous force that encloses each person, by simple and current that he could seem to the eyes of all.  Each human being possesses some enormous latent possibilities, frequently hidden even for him, and that need aid to leave to the light.  There has to be an exterior impulse, a model, a reference that causes him to feel capable, that awake his hidden energies. 

And besides those references, models and ideals, it is necessary also a level of personal demand that make possible to pass from the theory to the practice, from the projects to the executions.  This is of vital importance when we spoke of education. Because, as it was said by Corts Grau, the youth is frequently flattered, imitated, seduced, tolerated, but it is not demanded, it is not truly aided, it isn't asked for responsibility.  Perhaps it is because we don't perceive sufficiently its capacity, and this is what they perceive, and they act consequently. 

To love them truly supposes to have the value to demand them, to give them responsibility, because to have responsibility it is necessary before to have received responsibility.  It is precise to promote the fortitude, the capacity to resist in the good, to confront difficulties with serenity and temper.  And all this goes very united to the sobriety, to know how to get rid of the superfluous things, to learn to value more the people that the things. 

In that decisive battle that the man should give against the mediocrity, there are two types of languages.  One is the apocalyptic, devastating and unequivocal, as if he sought a stormy conversion of his emotionality.  It is an attitude that promotes titanic efforts of self-possession and of voluntariness, sterile agitations that tire, that use to result useless and empty of meaning, when not counterproductive. 

The other style is more human.  It is directed to the man that has an extensive experience of his limitation and of his fragility.  To the man that knows well that, to obtain something, it doesn't suffice with desiring it with intensity, but, besides, he has to get a stronger will, to seek for aid, to stock up humility for surpass the low moments and, above all, to put in his life sufficiently high references that would be worthwhile. 

43. Learning to say no

"I love a lot to my small daughter -explained a quite sensible woman in a conversation with other married couples friends-; and I try to declare it to her in a concrete way each day.  But there are times in which really my daughter carries herself badly". 

"I have friends that tell me that, at this age, nobody behave badly, and that they do innocently something that yet they haven't learned that it is bad.  But I don't agree.  Although she is a small girl, I have seen my daughter to behave badly and be conscious of it. 

"It is true that there are small things, which content small maliciousness, to her level, but it is malice, finally.  They are things that seem to us of little importance, but that for her do have importance.  And for her profit and for my profit I have to act with firmness, I have to say her "no", a fully clear "no", so that she understands it and obeys immediately. 

"It has no reason to happen frequently, but, when it happens, one must make her to see that by no means she should do that.  And that there I am, willing to maintain my opinion firmly.  And, if she doesn't like what I do, I don't like it, and she will even start crying and crying, and I will pass also a bad moment, but I will not give up, because I believe that this is bad, and there are times in which one must draw a line in the sand and she should understand that she shouldn't transfer that line.  And thus I will do until she is capable of hearing in her interior the word "no", and not only the reasons that I tell to her." 

"And when the children are already older?" he asked one of the presents.  "It is a little different, but also one must learn to say "no".  What do I do?  I sit down and I speak with him, or with her.  I do not shout to him or to her.  But I tell him or her in what I believe and why, and I don't have hairs in the tongue.  I try to go straight to the point.  And I also listen with attention, because, at times, with their reasons they have done me to have a change of mind.  I have no fear to have a change of mind if they convince me, but I do neither fear to employ the word "good" and the word "bad". 

"But there are difficult themes and difficult ages.  For example, how do you manage so that they listen to you in question of sex?" they asked her again.  All they listened with attention.  She didn't need a lot of time to collect their thoughts and to answer:  "I speak separately with him, or with her, and always they listen to me.  They don't always agree with me, mainly at the beginning, but, at the end, we manage to understand us almost totally.  There are some times in which they don't understand, but at least they know well that I desire that they agree with me, although they don't understand it completely, that is to say, that I want they trust in which I tell them, because I am their mother and I want the best for them.  And I told them thus.  I do it few times, but at times I do it.  I ask them that they obey me in that concrete matter, even although at the beginning they don't understand it completely and although they know that, probably, I will not be able to control them.  I know that this will seem strange to many people, but I tell to my adolescent children that until they marry, they should not have sexual relations in any circumstance, with nobody at all. 

"My theory consists of speaking with each son or daughter, to listen to them, to try to persuade them, but also sometimes -simply- to tell them "no".  And I'm not afraid to employ moral values that in the family we have had always." 

Listening to that conversation, came to my memory, by contrast, some words of the protagonist of that novel of Susanna Tamaro:  "The largest remorse is that of not have had never the valor to face up to her, of having said never:  "My daughter, you are wrong".  To have felt that in her words there were some quite dangerous slogans. I should have removed immediately things, by her benefit, and, nevertheless, I was refrained to intervene.  The matters that we spoke were essential.  What caused to me to act -better said, not to act- was the idea that, to be beloved, I had to elude the collision, to simulate that it was what it wasn't. 

"My daughter was dominant by nature, she had more character than I had, and I feared the open clash, I was afraid to oppose to her.  If I had loved her truly, I would have had to become angry against her, even to treat her sometimes with hardness; I would have had to oblige her to do determined things or to not do them at all.  Perhaps it was exactly what she wanted, what she needed.  To know why the elementary truths are the most difficult to understand!  If in that circumstance I had understood that the first quality of the love is the force, probably the events would have developed otherwise." 

44. Independence and education

There are people that think that to form to others in some values supposes an imposition of those values.  They say that it should be each one who recognize the values, that interest them; that to form to others in some specific values is to force the people, to mold them, to submit them to an influence more or less authoritarian and, in that measure, to destroy the personal originality. 

Nevertheless, it seems clear that all our existence is woven with contributions of the others, and that it would be ridiculous to want to elude in an absolute way their influence.  It suffices to think about the process that continues any person since his birth: the man comes to the world as the most helpless of the living beings, incapacitated for almost all during long years; and as well as his corporal development is not produced without a diet provided by others, something similar occurs with his intelligence, whose potentiality is developed by means of the influence of the others, an influence that during the first years results totally indispensable.  In fact, the scarce known examples of children that were raised in a wild way, far away from the civilization, show clearly that reality. 

The most recent studies about the factors that influence in the development of the intelligence coincide in offering a considerable value -at least statistically speaking- to the cultural medium in which he has lived.  The man barely can progress in his own life, intellectual or moral, without being helped by the collective experience that the passed generations have accumulated and conserved.  It could be able to say that the society hoards the past and that, thanks to it, in the man there is progress and history. 

The pretension that all our actions are carried out in an absolutely autonomous and private way signifies not to know the limitation of the man.  The search of the absolute personal autonomy would carry to an impoverished and exhausting existence, and even irrational in the measure in which it only would admit original solutions, renouncing systematically to all the verified and clear realities that the humanity has gone accumulating along the centuries. 

It is a sad error to think that any thing that we do, in order to be considered truly personal, should be done in a totally alien, solitary and totally original way, alien to every influence or contribution, as if any influence attempted immediately against our personality.  That would suppose to confuse the fact to have personality with adopting an attitude of self-sufficiency and absolutism, that is a blunder of the most frustrating in which we can fall.  It is certain that it is correct to leave an extensive margin to the personal creativity, but without confusing the creativity with that pseudo infantile vanity that causes to someone to think that they are called to introduce genial news in everything that they do and that, besides, they will manage to get it only from themselves, without including alien contributions.  That would cause to confuse the spontaneity with the wisdom. 

The true creativity needs always of an equilibrium: it isn't neither the foolish originality of whom seeks to oppose to all the established things; neither the serialized and gray production of whom is incapable to introduce a personal contribution in nothing of what he does; neither the mimetic originality of that great quantity wave of mediocre men that use to follow to the true creators, imitating ingenuously their style without coming to grasp their substance. 

Nobody from us has given himself the life; neither have we determined the characteristics of our personality.  Nevertheless, it corresponds to us to develop them.  The full execution of our personality is like a progressive self-colonization.  And, to achieve it, there is no reason to consider as an obstacle the fact of being helped by others, that is to say, the fact to receive stimulus, counsel, spirit, and example.  Certainly exists the danger that the counsel finishes into a certain domination on the part of another person, and therefore -as it has been written by José Antonio Ibáñez-Martin- a thing is to receive aid, to make use of that second hand that is offered to us, and another very different one is to convert our life in a second-hand existence.  They are well different things, and from one of them it is not necessary to pass to the other. 

We would be able to compare it to what happens with other human phenomena as, for example, with the language.  The language can seem that limits the liberty because obliges us to use a stereotyped repertoire; nevertheless, there is an enormity of possibilities to express our ideas: suffices to see the difference that there is between a good speaker and who speaks clumsily.  In the same way, to receive from others a good education is very different to be dominated and to be manipulated by them.  It is evident that the man can relinquish of his personality where he should have maintained it, so that the aid stops being a contribution to transform him into a dictatorship, but that would be a perversion -or at least a trivialization- of the straight sense that has the fact of the education. 

Where is the limit among an influence really educational and legitimate and another that was authoritarian and invading?  In order that this influence would be legitimate, it is necessary that it seeks to form an authentic interiority in those to who is directed.  An interiority that can resist, among other things, to the superficial and dispersive tendencies of each epoch.  A solid personal nucleus that don't leave the person under the swaying of the fashion in the world of the thought. 

On the other hand, to have a notable personal autonomy is not incompatible, at all, with showing a convenient responsiveness, that is to say, a broad mindedness that seek a constant personal enrichment thanks to the contributions of the others.  Responsiveness that, as it is natural should be shown only in front of whom deserves that attitude, and that shouldn't be passive but active, so much in the search of the opinions that deserve us authority as in the effort by maintaining later an open attitude in front of them.  To manage it, it is necessary to surpass the pride and the laziness, to maintain the necessary coolness of imagination and to proceed with a total submission to the demands of the truth that we perceive. 

And who assumes the task to form, should try always to cause to think to the others, since to form is not to shape from outside the spirit of the other to our image and resemblance, but to awake in his interior to the latent artist that will carve from inside his work.  A work that, many times, will be unforeseeable for us and perhaps strange to our desires.  By means of the education, we don't try to obtain the execution of some specific acts, neither we seek simply to transmit some criteria for the conduct. It is a matter of seeking in each person the development more fully human of his capacities, so that from there flow with naturalness a way of being and a way of acting harmonious with the education that he has gone assimilating. 

45. Closed minds

"With him you can speak, he doesn't seem an adult".  Thus was explaining, referring himself to one of his professors, a fourteen years old boy in an informal comment with a companion of the school. 

By hearing it, I remained thoughtful.  I asked myself why would think that boy that with the majority of the adult people he couldn't speak.  To disqualify without more reason that self-assured appreciation of that young seemed to me too simple, too comfortable.  Besides, that was a good way to confirm it.  It was precise to undertake that matter with a little more of self-criticism on the part of the adult people.  I have some ideas on this matter and I would try to explain them. 

There are insecure people, which fail to stop their tendency to feed their doubts, which are tormented continuously with perplexities and with hesitancies.  To decide any thing they need support, endorsement, adhesion.  Nevertheless, it is quite common that those people fear to declare their insecurity and, therefore, they try to hide it, at least in front of those with who they don't have a great confidence.  The result is that, at least usually, the insecure people don't use to reveal their insecurity, but they try to show themselves externally as confident and determined.  In many cases, besides, that attitude becomes a hypercompensated insecurity that carries them to speak with great firmness of things that they aren't convinced at all or they want to show themselves as very determined persons when it is clear that they aren't. 

There are other people whose problem is the opposite, although the final result is similar.  They are those that, by nature, have an excess of evidences and of confidence.  They think, they speak and they act without standing on ceremony, shamelessly.  Their ideas use to be clear and flat.  They have little capacity of surprise and little eagerness to learn.  Their mind seems as if it was already almost finished.  They seem to be already in complete possession of the truth.  When they speak, they instruct.  It costs them to take charge of the emotional situation of the others and, therefore, they speak with little opportunity.  With facility they disqualify or they stigmatize to who thinks otherwise.  Their mental outline is so closed that any new data always reinforces their previous ideas.  They think few times if their ideas are wise or if they are the better ones, but all new data is always to their favor, everything that they listen confirms their old line of thinking.  As they use to be simple, they tend to do appreciations of group: good is that which is mine or that which is of ours; bad is what is not mine, or what is not of ours.  They don't judge the ideas, but, above all -or exclusively-, from where do the ideas come, of from who are there.  They are as shielded against the onslaught of any thought of self-criticism. 

They are distinguished easily by seeing them how they behave in a conversation.  So many years living in that attitude have carried them to some manners that do them difficult to listen.  They are always thinking about what are going to tell next.  And if they cannot insert their ideas, they are immediately absent minded, and then perhaps they ask what has been just said.  They think that they have the reason, and with facility they interrupt, they don't leave the others to finish, because they don't listen, because they have already judged and they only think about putting their idea or, at the most, in convincing the person they are speaking to. 

Perhaps I am describing some extreme cases.  We would be able to draw a more moderate profile, in which all of us, in a way or another, should see us appealed to, because to all of us happens us in a greater or in a smaller degree.  It is bad that, when reading this, almost all of we think about distant intractable personages, and we don't realize when passes does exactly to us.  Why they are not recognized – or we don't recognize us- when it is described?  Perhaps because we know us little, because we have fear to change, to present us doubts on ways to be that are shelters that seem comfortable to us and, in reality, they are dark and cold. 

Which is the solution?  The solution is to awake the interest toward the things, to learn to listen.  To instill love towards the serene reflection, explaining the reasons of the things, facilitating the fluent communication among the people.  To do an effort seeking to understand the mind of the others, by asking and by listening until we understand the reasons of the others, and only then exposing the own arguments, if this turns out to be necessary. 

To this there would be added perhaps a certain defense of the perplexity, an effort by not trivialize the complex things, by not to label the things in a simple way, avoiding to reject them after with a weight that turns out to be distressing.  We can't say constantly "this is thus and no more comment", because the reality uses to resist to those judgments and to those so simple diagnoses. 

It is logical that, with the pass of the years, each one of us goes forming an opinion on the things.  This is positive, evidently.  But, if that carries us to have an attitude to close the mind, to consider the things as already finally resolved, this is, in the long run, an error of serious consequences.  Because even our deeper convictions need reflection, they require that we try to improve their foundation that we make an effort to improve in that self explanation of our own principles.  We must know how to express our ideas, to know how to respond to the criticisms that are presented to them, instead of disqualifying those objections without any reasoning.  It is precise to be exercised in a healthy and oxygenated intellectual debate, contrasting our ideas with those of the others.  This is what I think many adults lack, and what causes that, sometimes, the young people see us as saw us that boy of fourteen years. 

46.  The judgment of the children

I read not long ago an interesting comment on the story of Little Red Riding Hood.  It came to say that the children of our days react of different form when they listen to the narration of that old story or when they see it in the puppet theater. 

The children of today think that the family of Little Red Riding Hood was scarcely exemplary.  A mother that has her mother, with so many years, living many leagues away of her house is, at first sight, a woman that loves very little.  A mother that permits that her daughter, in this case, Little Red Riding Hood , enters alone in the forest to carry to the abandoned granny a basket with an assortment of homemade products is an egotistical and little responsible mother.  If she has had slightly more of common sense, she would have had accompanied her daughter in this so long and risky crossing.  The big bad wolf does what he has to do.  He receives the information, he advances to Little Red Riding Hood, he eats the grandmother, that lives alone because her daughter doesn't want her to live at home, he dresses with the nightshirt of the grandmother, he adjusts his hairnet in the head and he goes to the bed waiting to the naïve girl that has given to him all the details.  And Little Red Riding Hood arrives and she doesn't recognize her grandmother, and she believes that the wolf is the granny, what shows how silly the girl was and the few times that she had visited to her granny.  And the wolf eats her because she has deserved it.  Therefore, when the wolf gobbles her down, the children of today applaud wildly, to the point that in many puppet theaters it has been eliminated out of the story the figure of the hunter that saves to both, because it would not result popular. 

It demonstrates that the children of today are not moved by the tenderness or by the moral, and they expect, above all, coherence and sensibleness.  The children of today don't forgive to the shameless mother of Little Red Riding Hood, her bad attitude towards the grandmother, because a mother must not be sick and alone in the forest.  And they neither forgive the forgetfulness of Little Red Riding Hood, incapable to distinguish between a grandmother and a wolf put in the bed with the nightshirt and the hairnet of the granny. 

Every child is, in principle, a little psychologist, that judges to his parents, and, in general, to all the adults.  He studies them and sounds out them unceasingly and soon he determines which the limits of his power and of his liberty are.  He uses to this effect all his small weapons, mainly, the tears or the annoyances.  A creature of six months, for example, knows already how to read in the face of his father or of his mother to discern what he should do or not, his approval or his disapproval.  And, the more is spoiled the child, the more defenseless he or she is left, as did that woman that left her mother in the middle of the forest and send her alone daughter to visit her. 

When the time passes, the children will judge with hardness the abandonment that supposes to have spoiled them.  They will be hurt of that zeal to have saved every sacrifice to them, of to have avoided so many opportunities to strengthen their will.  Therefore it is so important for us not to confuse what is object of our affection with what can be our perdition.  The parents that, by blinded love, by comfort or by ingenuousness, have tried to satisfy always the whims of their children, quick they find that they are not able to deal with the horse that was not tamed when he was a colt.  And the worse thing is that by then the children have already enough age to notice the damage that their parents have caused to them with so much condescendence. 

By fortune, also they know how to value when they that have been educated in the effort and in the personal demand and they thank to their parents as a great treasure that they have bequeathed to them. 

47.  Self control and coherence

Seneca appreciated a lot the self control and regretted about that the people that were left to be enslaved by their own passions.  In his writings he used to cite as an example of this degradation to Alexander the Great:  "Alexander devastated and put to flight to the Persians, to the Hircans, to the Indians and to all the countries that extended for the East to the ocean, but he himself, some times by having a friend killed, other by having lost a friend, he was laying on the darkness, regretting sometimes his crimes, sometimes his solitude, and the winner of so many kingdoms and towns succumbed to the wrath and to the sadness.  Because he had behaved so that he had legal authority on all the things, but not on his own passions.  What a great error made the man that desire to carry his control beyond the seas and he was considered very happy if he obtained fighting many provinces and he added new ones to the old, without knowing which the largest and equal to gods' kingdom is.  The self-domination itself is the major of the empires.  To whom can you admire in greater measure that to whom governs himself, to whom is maintained under his own dominion?  It is easier to govern rebellious and barbaric nations that to contain the own soul and to deliver it to one same". 

Seneca was right when he said that to govern oneself is the most difficult and necessary government.  A government that turns out to be indispensable to be a good person, because it is utopian to want to be generous and worried about the others if there is no eagerness to be in control of the own desires.  Who is left to be dominated by them, perhaps desires of heart the good to the others, but, at the end, almost all the times he will finish priorizing his desires and his interests, and will be not a reliable person. 

A weakened will is incapable to manage well the own life.  To let oneself be carried by the winds of the passion is not liberty, because this doesn't carry to do what oneself wants, what he really wants  but what spontaneous and trivially the desire says.  Therefore it is precise to form oneself to put passion in the good thing and to feel displeasure towards the bad thing: that will be the sign that the liberty goes penetrating and leaving trace in the own body. 

The student that asks when all the others are in silence; or the one that takes a step forward when he is asked about the responsible for a destruction; or the one that is capable of maintaining the opinion or the comment against the usual opinion, or to assume the quota of unpopularity that almost always suppose the difficult decisions; the one that knows to say "no" in a reasoned and constructive form to the chief, to the adolescent son, or to the group, eluding the easy option to please the others when that supposes a surrender; all that, although it is costly, goes writing down a coherence of life and a mature character.  The talent is wasted and lost without exercising the muscle of the will.

This doesn't signify to understand the personal improvement, or the strengthening of the "muscle" of the will, like a species of psychological or spiritual "bodybuilding".  Among others reasons, because the voluntarism or the prepotency uses to function badly.  One must live together always with the conscience of the own weakness, knowing that any person, in determined time of his life, and despite his will and his conscience of the duty, can feel defenseless in front of the power of mysterious forces.  There are moments of great confusion for who have experienced certain enjoyment in being judged stronger, more moral and straighter than the others.  But for all these are moments that help us to understand better to the others, to count more with them and, for the ones that are believers, to count also more with the aid of God. 

48.  The problem to be a fool

"We find us, therefore, with the same difference that eternally exists between the fool and the perspicacious.  The perspicacious always get surprised on the point to be a fool; thus he has to do an effort to escape of the imminent foolishness, and the intelligence consists in that effort. 

"The fool, on the other hand, doesn't suspect his condition: he seems very sensible, and from that the enviable tranquility with which he is installed in his own clumsiness.  As those insects that are impossible to extract out of the orifice in which they inhabit, there is no way to get the foolish out of his foolishness, to carry him to take a walk a while beyond his blindness and to oblige him to contrast his clumsy habitual vision with other more subtle ways to see. 

"The fool is for the entire life and without pores.  Anatole France said that a fool is a lot more ill-fated than a villain, because the villain rests some times; the fool, never." 

These reflections of Ortega y Gasset turn out to be very interesting for all, because all we have something of stupidity and, above all, because only we show to be intelligent when we know how to notice our own stupidity and when we know how to escape from it with normality.  We declare us intelligent exactly when we note that, with our totally foreseeable intuitions, with our bored reiteration of prejudices and stereotypes, with our incapacity to change of point of view on the people or on the matters, or with our ridiculous effort in appear like more documented and intelligent people of what we are, what we show in reality with all this is that we have not noted that we were near to be fools, or that we have noted it but we haven't known how to stop it in time. 

All we incubate stupidity, and perhaps we should follow the advice of Ortega and dare us to take a walk beyond our securities, to endeavor for contrasting our vision of the things with those of other people, to the ones that perhaps up to now we have underestimated without bothering for understanding them. 

To be a fool is not to have greater or smaller Intelligence Quotient.  All we know people with a modest IQ but with an enormous sensibleness.  And supposedly very intelligent but so conceited people that are truly foolish.  The fools have become to be so based on repetitive actions in which they are blinded in front of a foolish vanity, a foolish sensitivity, a stupid sufficiency or a clumsy envy. 

All we have limitations, and we show intelligence when we note them and when we try to accept them and to surpass them little by little.  The fool, on the other hand, doesn't note them, and if he notes them, he tries to conceal them at any cost, and that never turns out well.  Therefore, in order not to be a fool, the first thing is to have the will to recognize the truth of the things.  "I don't know another way to eradicate a defect or a personal vice that to declare it and to put it on the table of the sincerity", wrote Gregorio Marañón.  If we are sincere, we will note that, too often, we impel us in maintaining our opinion although it is obviously capable of improvement, or we intend to pretend a security that we don't have and we do then the most frightening ridiculous, or we are too much pending of our rank and we turn out to be pathetic. 

To be a fool has a lot of relation with the prejudice and with the stereotype, because both are consequence of our retirement of the effort of thinking.  We judge to all in accordance with what seems us well, in accordance to our intuition perhaps a little aged by manias and stubbornnesses.  We let us to carry for intellectual whims that conduct us to the confusion and to the obstinacy.  We permit that the fixed ideas substitute to the free and open thought.  We lose thus the mental freshness and we approach step by step to the problem of being a fool. 

49.  The great men

Stefan Zweig relates in his autobiography an interesting anecdote happened during his stay in Paris, in 1904.  By then, he was not more than a young novice of 23 years, but he had the luck to coincide occasionally with some of the most famous writers and artists of his time.  The relation with some of those great men resulted to him of great profit, but -according to the narration of Zweig- still he hadn't received the decisive lesson, the one that would be of worth for him for the rest of his life. 

It was a gift of the chance.  It arose because of an impassioned conversation in the house of his friend Verhaeren.  They spoke about the value of the painting and the sculpture of the moment, and his friend invited him to go together the following day to the house of Rodin, one of the then more prestigious artists.  In that visit, Zweig was so restrained that he didn't dare to take the word neither a single time.  Curiously, his confusion seemed to please to the old Rodin, that when he was saying good-bye asked to the young writer if he would like to know his study, in Meudon, and he invited him to eat there with him.  He had received the first lesson: the great men are always the kindest. 

The second lesson was that the great men almost always are the ones that live in a simpler form. In the house of that man, whose fame filled the world and whose works were known by all of his contemporaries in detail, as are known the most intimate friends.  In that house the meal was eaten with the same simplicity as in that of the average peasant.  That simplicity instilled spirit to the young writer to speak with ease, as if that old man and his wife were his friends since many years ago. 

The following lesson arose when Rodin conducted him to a pedestal covered with some dampened clothes that hid his last work.  With his heavy and wrinkled hands he withdrew the cloths and went back some steps.  When he showed the image, he noted a small detail to correct.  "Only here, in the shoulder, it is a moment."  He asked excuses, he took a spatula and with a magisterial line smoothed that soft skin that breathed as if it was alive.  Then he went back some steps.  "And here also", murmured he.  And again he highlighted the effect with a petty detail.  He advanced and he went back, he changed it and he corrected it.  He worked with all the force and the passion of his enormous and strong body.  By doing so he elapsed near an hour.  Rodin was so absorbed, so plunged in the work, that he forgot completely that behind him was a silent young, with his heart in his mouth and a lump in his throat, happy to be able to observe in full work to a unique master as Rodin was.  Zweig had seen the revelation of the eternal secret of the magnificent art and, deep down of every human work: the concentration, the collection of all the forces, of all the senses.  He had learned something for all the life. 

This simple event sufficed to that young student to discover how the great men were, the truly large spirits.  Their humility and their capacity of work are something very distant of what we use to see in many people that are considered great but that are only contemptuous of the others, personages covered with a clumsy pride that causes them to be considered inhabitants of sublime solitudes. They are fatuous men that are considered as if only they were chosen and intelligent souls.  That sufficiency of the office worker, in the style of "you don't know who I am", is the opposite of the authentic autonomy of judgment of the great men, that never go accompanied by contempt towards the neighbor, and that when they speak about the human stupidity, they know well that they are neither immune to it, but that some times they will be more intelligent and sometimes more foolish than the one that is at their side. 

VI. To surpass the difficulty

50.  The miracle of the perseverance
51.  The test of the pain
52.  The blows of the life
53.  The interior liberty to elect
54.  Intelligent memory
55.  Successes and failures
56.  Be recovered
57.  The pain of the others
58.  Defending the rights of the others 
59.  The human will

50.  The miracle of the perseverance

A teacher named Anne Sullivan is hired to educate to Helen Keller, a girl of Alabama that suffers a serious disability.  As consequence of some fevers that she had passed in 1882, when she had only 19 months of age, Helen remained deaf, blind and mute, in such a way that she went converting little by little in a stranger and incapable of communicate. 

When the teacher arrived at Helen's house she founded a family living this misfortune in a wrong and traumatic way.  The girl was very badly educated and was spoilt.  They have maintained her always doing what she wanted, thinking that, since she was an unfortunate girl, that at least she could do always everything that she desired.  Moreover, it seemed impossible to communicate with her to try to help her.  Only the mother maintained a light hope, and therefore they hire the teacher. 

Under these conditions, Helen was living in a completely remote world and she didn't know how to break that bubble in which she lived and that carried her to react each time with more rage and frustration.  Her older brother, although by jealousy used to react negatively against her, was the one who saw with more lucidity than the main problem of his sister was the conformism of their parents. 

The teacher was living also a traumatic and dark past.  She had constantly in the memory the death of a small brother. She felt responsible of this situation.  This feeling of guilt moved Anne to treat Helen in a very special way.  This was her first work and Anne desired to be redeemed thus of the feeling of guilty that she had been charging since the death of her brother. 

The first step of Anne was to communicate with Helen conquering her aggressiveness with firmness and patience.  The following step was to teach her the alphabet.  Anne put Helen in contact with the objects and she spelled each word to her by means of signs in the palm of the hand.  Helen began to feel encouraged.  Each thing that she founded, she caught it and she asked to Anne how was it called.  Thus she began to discover new words and new ideas, with which she learned little by little to express herself.  As a consequence of all that effort, Helen began to be more peaceful and happy.  She learned to read and to write in Braille, and to decipher the lips of the people touching them with her fingers and feeling the movement and the vibrations. 

With the arrival of Anne Sullivan, all the family began a parallel change to that of Helen's.  All of them, even the same Anne, began to discover who they were mutually.  The physical isolation that Helen had suffered was similar to the emotional isolation that had suffered the rest of the family.  Little by little they learnt how to surpass it.  The miraculous change observed in Helen became a change extended to all, because with those improvements in the communication, all they managed to see, to hear and to speak in the same language, to discover the world and to see it from the perspective of the others. 

Soon the girl began to attend the school.  Anne acted as the interpreter.  Anne translated in signs on a hand of Helen what the professors said in class.  At the same time, Helen transcribed her communication in Braille.  Thus Helen managed to graduate brilliantly in Radcliffe College in 1904.  She had an extraordinary intelligence and memory and also an extraordinary power of concentration.  In those years she wrote "The history of my life", that had a fast success and, from which, she became a globally famous author and lecturer until her death in 1968. 

At first, the efforts of Anne crashed with the mental storminess of the small blind, deaf and mute, and then they told to the teacher:  "But you had never felt the discouragement?  You had never said that this is impossible?"  To what Anne responded:  "That is the great error, to desist". 

Each day small and large miracles are produced.  Who with too much facility tells that he cannot do something, which this is impossible and the like, will leave his life incomplete.  We are what we want to be.  We can get from us what already we are potentially.  We are unrepeatable, and it is a pity to waste our own virtues and, by the discouragement, to convert our life in a insubstantial existence.

51.  The test of the pain

"I have always been considered in my professional environment -told to me not long ago an old friend- as a very demanding person.  I have always required a lot to myself and I have also always required a lot to the others. 

"It cost me a lot to understand that there was people who couldn't continue my rhythm, and sometimes, I have to recognize it, I mistreated them.  And at home the situation was similar.  I threw the things in face of my woman and of my children with very little consideration. 
"And the illness had to come, and then those serious problems in the work, so that I began to understand that the life was not as simple as I had considered previously. 

"The truth is that I had functioned always as a winner, overflowing with health and with professional success, and, without being conscious of it, I underestimated the others.  I thought that, if they didn't achieve what I achieved, was simply because they didn't want to strive as I did. 

"I thought thus until I began to feel in my body all that suffering, to note in my life the weight of that load.  It was then when I began to pay attention to the fact that the others also suffered, that in the life there is a lot of suffering of many people.  And I understood that to pass without consideration near to that pain is something really unworthy. 

"I had begun to sleep badly, and then I had a lot of time to think.  At the beginning I was annoyed, but soon I realized that with protests you don't solve anything: neither have you slept neither have you solved the worries that you have.  It is curious, but before I was very irascible, and now, on the other hand, I have become quite serene and comprehensive.  I believe that these experiences have created a new phase in my life. 

"To me, the pain has hardened my soul. It has made possible to me to understand a little better to the others.  I barely had had serious problems before and I used to judge to the others with hardness and with coldness.  Now, I see all in a different way.  I don't longer shout to my secretary neither I fight with my woman or with my children." 

Recalling the story of that young and brilliant executive, I was thinking about the different way in which the people receive the pain.  To some it improves them and to others, on the other hand, it despairs them.  And I thought about the lesson that this person obtained: that one must understand better to the people, because who surround us are people that also suffer, and that it is always hard; and that there are people that have a hard time, and perhaps in part by our fault, and that every man should always stop when he detects the suffering of another man and he should do all the possible things to remedy it. 

The pain is a school where the hearts of the men are formed in the mercy.  The pain is a school that gives us the opportunity to cure our selfishness and to incline us a little more toward the others.  It causes us to see the life in a special way; it shows us a deeper profile of the things.  It carries us to reflect, to ask us about the sense that has everything that happens around us.  The man, by receiving the visit of the pain, lives a test inside his life: it is like a pinch that stops the normal course of his life, as a stop that invites him to think.  Therefore it has been said that every philosophy and every deep reflection acquires a special lucidity in the proximity of the pain and of the death. 

The pain, if one knows how to assume it, informs to the man about the error of living in a superficial way. It aids to the man to be near to the others, to be not lounged in his selfishness.  The pain turns us more comprehensive, more tolerant, it cures us of our intransigence, and it perfects us.  It is, besides, a reality that arrives to every man and that, therefore, in certain sense -as has been indicated by Enrique Rojas-, conducts to a kind of universal fraternization, since it equals to all of us by the same standard. 

What makes happy the life of the man is not the absence of the pain, among others things, because this is something impossible.  The life cannot be designed from a childlike philosophy that wants to remain alien to the mystery of the presence of the pain or of the evil in the world.  And to be annoyed or to be scandalized in front of that reality doesn't bring to anywhere.  Learning to live together with the pain, to learn to tolerate the inevitable bad thing, is a fundamental wisdom to live with success. 

52.  The blows of the life

William Shakespeare wrote that there is not another way to the maturity that to learn to bear the blows of the life.  Because the life of any man wanted or not, brings always blows.  We see that there are selfishness, wickedness, lies, ingratitude.  We observe with amazement the mystery of the pain and of the death.  We find defects and limitations in the others, and we verify it likewise each day in ourselves. 

All that painful experience is something that, if we know how to assume it, can go causing the growth of our interior maturity.  One must know how to take advantage of those blows, to know how to remove all the hidden value that encloses the situations that contradicts to us, to achieve our improvement avoiding the things that discourage to the others and sinks them. 

And why the situations that sinks to some persons to others causes maturation and causes growth?  It depends on how those misfortunes are received.  If we do not meditate on them, or we meditate but without undertaking it well, we lose excellent occasions to mature, or even the contrary effect is produced.  The lack of own knowledge, the thoughtlessness, the victimism, the useless defiance, they do those blows more painful, that those blows fill us of bad experiences and of very few lessons. 

The simple course of the years does not always contribute automatically to the person's maturity.  It is certain that the maturity grows in an almost imperceptible way, but the maturity is something that is reached always thanks to a process of education -and of self-education-, that one must know how to focus well. 

The education received in the family, for example, is decisive without any doubt.  The parents cannot be always behind their children, protecting them or advising them every minute.  They should be nearby, this is certain, but the son should learn how to face alone with the reality. He should learn to realize that there are things, like the frustration of an intense desire, the disloyalty of a friend, the sadness in front of the limitations of the own or of the alien defects, that are realities that each one should learn little by little to surpass alone.  Independently of how much someone has helped you, at the end is always one same who should assume the pain that he feels, and to put the necessary effort to surpass that frustration. 

A demonstration of immaturity is the excessive anxiety to be loved.  The person that desires intensely to receive demonstrations of affection, and that does of that vehement eagerness to be loved a permanent and grievous anxiety in his life, establishes some psychological dependence that move him away of the true sense of the affection and of the friendship.  A person like this is so subordinate to who gives to him the affection that he needs, that he finishes by emptying and even to lose the sense of their liberty. 

Knowing how to manage the blows of the life does not signify to be insensitive.  It has more relation with learning to ask to the life not more than it can give, although without falling in the conformism or in the mediocrity; with learning to respect and to reckon the differences of the ohers from us, but maintaining some convictions and some clear principles; with being patients and to know to yield, but without any surrender of rights neither to give up the own personality. 

We should learn to be patient.  To live knowing that all the important things are fruit of continuous effort, that always costs and needs time.  To be patient with ourselves, that is decisive for the own maturity, and to be patient with all (above all with the ones that we have closer). 

And we could spoke about, finally, of another type of patience, not little important: the patience with the obstinacy of the reality that surrounds us.  Because, if we want to improve our environment, we need to arm us of patience, to prepare us to bear misfortunes without fall in the bitterness.  By the patience, the man becomes owner of himself; he learns to strengthen in the middle of the adversities.  The patience offers peace and interior serenity.  It makes the man capable to see the reality with vision of future, without being entangled in the immediateness.  It causes him to look the events with a broad mind, which take thus a new perspective.  These are values that perhaps become more important in our personal horizon to the extent that the life advances, because each time we value more the patience, to know how to suffer the blows of the life, to maintain the hope and the happiness in the middle of the difficulties. 

53.  The interior liberty to elect

"I was working as a nurse and I was attending some months the most unpleasant man than you can imagine.  Nothing of what I did could satisfy him.  He never appreciated it, neither thanked he nothing, neither he showed any recognition.  He complained constantly and he founded defects to everything. 

" The case is that, because of that man, I was during a period of time feeling me of enough bad humor, due that to attend him supposed for me a lot of daily time, and that annoyed me a lot, and those rages left me altered for the rest of the day, and finally were the rest of the patients, my companions and my family who suffered more the consequences of my state of spirit. 

" And it was then when a companion, with which one that I had a lot of confidence, had the audacity to tell me that nobody could wound me without my consent.  She explained to me that, at the bottom of the problem, was I who at every moment elected my own emotional way of life that carried me to the unhappiness. 

" In the beginning, it seemed to me that her counsel was a theoretic and unacceptable.  But I was thinking about it some days, until the moment that I faced to myself with true sincerity and I began to ask me:  Am I really capable to influence in my reaction in front of  the circumstances that appear in my life? 

" When at last I understood that I could do it or that, at least, I could do it quite better, I understood that the fact that I was feeling so unfortunate was, basically, my fault.  And it was then when I knew that I could elect not to be unhappy, that I should free myself of that strange dependence of the way in which that patient was treating me.  That was a discovery that has influenced later a lot in my life, now I see it, several years later.  Since then, I attend to that type of people in a different way. They are no longer odious to me, as before.  It is more; I am convinced that to treat with them does me a lot well." 

The story of this nurse shows us that the circumstances of difficulty, if they are taken judiciously, use to give us rise to changes in the way that we understand the life, new frames of reference are opened to us, through which, the persons see to the world, to the others and to ourselves in a different way, and this allows us to enlarge the perspective, to mature our principles and to reach new values. 

It is true that our life is quite conditioned by many things that happen to us and that we can barely act on them.  But all they can be surpassed if they are assumed adequately.  All we have known, for example, individuals that have passed through very difficult circumstances -a painful illness, a serious physical deficiency, a hard economic or emotional misfortune- and, in spite of it, they maintained an extraordinary fortress of spirit.  Observing those people, to see how they confront the suffering or they surpass the onslaught of a misfortune or a strong obstacle, leaves always impressed to us and we feel a large admiration towards them.  They are attitudes that give life to the values that inspire them.  In that sense, it can be told that the difficulties, to which we are submitted, in a sense, play to our favor.  The difficulties cause to light up our mediocrity and they offer us a splendid occasion to surpass us, to give the best of ourselves. 

And in the same way that in the childhood and in the adolescence the persons become hardened and surpassed to themselves with the effort in front of the difficulty, and, on the contrary, the easy life creates spoiled and weak creatures, of similar way, it could be able to be told that our professional value, our love or our friendship, mature in front of a difficult environment, they become fixed with more force and authenticity in an environment in that not all comes given. 

The history barely knows cases of greatness, of splendor or of true creation, that have had their origin in the comfort or in the easy life.  The talent does not bear fruit but in the forge of the difficulty.  Perhaps therefore said Horacio that in the adverse fortune uses to be discovered the genius, in the prosperity it is hidden. 

54. Intelligent memory

He had a car accident.  He was very seriously ill.  He had multiple fractures and a strong concussion.  After a few days, the gravity and the concussions had passed, but the fractures needed quite a lot more time, as it is logical.  Besides, there was another problem.  The memory failed to him.  It was not a question of recall, because he recalled the things that passed to him before the day of the accident.  The problem was that he didn't retain what passed to him after the accident.  He spoke with normality, but he didn't recall what he had said or he had listened some minutes before.  That is to say, he didn't "record". 

When in the morning they asked to him "¿how about the night?" his answer was invariably: "very well".  Nevertheless, the reality was that he passed some nights very badly, with so many wounds he was incapable to find a position that allow him to rest.  Nevertheless, he always said that he had passed a good night.  He didn't do it for removing importance to those inconveniences, but he was speaking with sincerity: he didn't recall anything of what had happened along the entire night, and he had then the security of having slept well.  By the lack of recall of his pains, for him they had never existed.  It was as if the nature had activated a mysterious mechanism with which it had advanced of to defend him of those sufferings. 

Fortunately, that inconvenience of the memory lasted just the necessary time, and some weeks later he returned to the normality.  All that carried me to think that the pain resides, in great measure, in the memory.  The sensation of suffering is consolidated when the imagination recalls it and revives it; if it was not so, the pain would be ephemeral and passing. 

The majority of the persons suffer more by recycling mentally the already passed pains that by the real damage that in their moment they had produced to us.  We suffer not by what we have suffered -when those failures were produced, exhaustions, insults, contempt, thoughtlessness, etc. -, but for which we suffer reviving them time and again. 

An example.  If a person allows to the critical and negative memories to take possession of his mind, he can be found misinterpreting constantly all the facts and all the words of the others, and that he judges them with an extraordinary severity.  He realizes that his head has become a kind of ring of boxing, where the people with whom he treats are passing, and he fights against them one after another with his devastating criticism.  And he can pass thus the day, every day. 

The pains and physical inconveniences are habitually much less and a lot much smaller that the ones that are produced by our own psychology.  I do not want to say with this that all the sufferings are bad.  The suffering brings always with them a message and a teaching.  There are pains that correspond to errors or events that are not convenient to forget, or at least not to forget completely, because they help us to have experience and to maintain the sensibleness.  And in the same way that the physical pain notifies us that something in the body does not go well, and thanks to that we try to put remedy, the interior pains also notify us of that something does not function, and they press us to remedy it.  But, if those notices are not known to interpret, if  the suffering is not well undertaken, new sufferings are produced, as consequence of their continuous revival in the imagination, and those are used to be rigorously useless and harmful.  And, although perhaps at the beginning they are small, with so much go and return, time and again, they finish leaving a deep furrow in the memory. 

The memory is not like a simple store without rhyme or reason.  The intelligence is shown by knowing how to hoard the information that really interests us and in knowing how to take advantage of it.  It should not only be stored, but to be stored with intelligence.  And, as Jaime Nubiola has written, there are exciting, creative and impassioned imaginations, and other narrower ones that impoverish ourselves, the own possibilities, or the possibilities of the others.  And in most of the circumstances only we can really understand to the ones that surround us if we think well of them.  Therefore, the imagination requires a work of purification. 

55.  Successes and failures

There was once a king that told to the wise men of the court:  "They are doing for me a precious ring with an extraordinary diamond, and I want to keep inside it a very brief message, a thought that could help me in the most difficult moments, and that help my heirs and to the heirs of my heirs, for always". 

Those wise men could be able to have written large treaties on many themes, but to write a message of only two or three words was quite a more complicated thing.  They thought, they sought in their books, but they did not find anything.  The king consulted then with an elderly servant by whom he felt a great respect.  That man told him:  "Many years ago, I was some days serving to a great friend of your father.  When he was going to depart, as a gesture of gratitude, he delivered to me this tiny doubled paper.  He insisted to me that I should not read it before I needed it truly, when all the other things had failed". 

That moment did not delay in arriving.  The country was invaded and the king lost his kingdom.  He was fleeing in his horse to save the life and his enemies pursued him.  He arrived into a place where the road finished.  There was no exit.  A precipice was in front of him.  He could neither return, because the enemy blocked the way to him.  He listened already the horse's jog of his pursuers.  When he was going to yield, he remembered about the ring.  He opened it; he removed the role and read the mysterious message.  It consisted only of four words:  "This will pass also". 

He had then forces to resist a little more.  His enemies should be lost in the forest, because little by little he finished of listen the jog of the horses.  The king recovered the spirit, he met to his armies and he regained the kingdom.  There was a great celebration, with banquet, music and dances.  He felt very proud of his triumph.  The elder man was seated to his side, in a preferential place, and he told to him:  "Now is also a good moment to read the message".  "¿What do you mean?", asked the king.  "That message is not only for when you are the last one; is also for when are the first one". 

The king read it again, and again he felt the same peace, the same silence, in the middle of the crowd that celebrated and danced, but his pride, his arrogance, his egomania had disappeared.  He understood that all passes, that any success or any failures are permanent.  As the day and the night, there are moments of happiness and moments of sadness, and one must accept them as part of the duality of the nature, because they belong to the same essence of the things. 

This old story invites us to think about those moments of depression or of exaltation by which we all pass, at times, in a small space of time.  Then, the positive or the negative thing seems to occupy completely our head.  The memory stands out the failures or the successes, according to the case, and we can feel us called alternatively to the disaster or to the glory.  And probably we have a lack of objectivity in both cases.  Therefore, that message of "this will also pass" is a call and an invitation to raise the look beyond the success or the failure of the present, to think about the long time of the life, in what we do expect of it, in what is what gives sense to it. 

Then, immediately we see that the success is dissipated in a disillusion if has not been reached like an ideal of service.  Only we find sense to a life that has been worn away in favor of the others.  The illusion is maintained only if it is aimed toward high ideals, because, like the poet said, "if you want the furrow to be straight, tie your plow to a star". 

We have to know how to obtain that the large achievements are well assumed and well maintained.  Many times it costs more to maintain that to create.  It costs more to be maintained on a wave that to rise over it, but, in any case, the wave will never be eternal. 

We show intelligence when we know how to learn of the failures and we are not foolishly conceited with the triumphs.  Therefore it has been said that an intelligent man recovers immediately from a failure, but a mediocre man never recovers of a triumph. 

56.  To be redone

Juan Manuel de Prada has described, with his habitual sharpness, the admirable reborn of the city of Dresden, comparable to the revival of the Bird Phoenix.  The night of February 13, 1945, the allied aviation flew over the capital of Saxony, like a band of apocalyptical ugly birds, and she discharged on her an immensity of gunpowder that reduced her to ashes and decimated her inhabitants.  Sixty thousand people were devoured by the homicidal blindness of the bombs, while the palaces and the churches of the city decayed noisily, lighting the pyre of the hate.  There are some photographs conserved that portray the physiognomy of Dresden after that terrifying night, with all her princely splendor reduced to ruins, among that surface, here and there, like burned chrysanthemums, thousands of corpses with the eyes still showing their drowsiness and, nevertheless, open to the epiphany of the cruelty.  The buildings became converted into cliffs of nightmare, between the noise of the smoke and the silence of the death.  That night the Elbe's water paraded with that mortuary slowness of the injured animals, and the herb that grows in its banks was faded, decorated by the mourning and the rain of ash that during days fell on the city. 

But the life is stubborn like a pendulum, and Dresden resurrected of that mortality.  Their inhabitants, guided by that unanimous fervor that extols to the pursued, knew how to be recovered of the successive pillages (first the Nazi, that ransacked her art galleries by considering that they harbored a "degenerate art"; later that of the bombardment of the allied troops; and finally the Soviet, that supplied their museums at the cost of the already so spoiled city), and those unfortunate men knew how to transform the grudge in a land that, without denying the memory, prompted her renaissance.  By means of popular subscription, the churches and palaces were raised again, until the city recovered its original aspect.  Today, the most symbolic buildings of Dresden mix, as in a puzzle, the clean stones of the restoration with the stones previous to the war.

Contemplating that panorama of civic dignity, that really recalls us that formidable mythological bird that was reborn from his own ashes, stands out in front of our eyes the capacity of the man to be redone.  Every person passes through situations of crisis, in which all seems to prompt us to desist, in which to be abandoned to the misfortune seems the more reasonable solution.  They are crisis more or less deep, and in an extensive sense would be able to be told that all we pass each day by several of them.  They are small battles, that go tempering our spirit, in which we learn to take those small decisions that form in us a way of reacting against the things that contradicts us, in which we confront a misfortune or we leave us to carry for his wake of pessimism and demolition. 

It is precise to educate us in what could be able to be called as vitality, in the capacity to redo us.  And thus one must learn how to control those internal psychic functions that feelings of boldness and of magnanimity, of enthusiasm and of constancy.  That is the intelligent solution, because the intelligence is a lot more than doing reasoning or to resolve formal problems.  The intelligence should direct our motivation, to carry cleverly the negotiation with our limitations, and she should also know how to resist when she sees that we yield us before of time.  Because many times we admit too soon that we are not capable of resolving a problem, or that the problem does not have solution, when in reality the true problem is our hasty cancellation of the effort. 

57.  The pain of the others

The biographers of Buddha count that, in certain occasion, a mother came to him carrying in her arms a dead boy.  She was a widow, and that boy was her only son, that constituted all her love and her attention.  The woman was already old, so that she never would be able to have another son.  Hearing her shouts, the people thought that she had gone crazy by the pain and that, therefore, she asked the impossible thing. 

But, on the other hand, Buddha thought that, if he could not resurrect to the boy, he was able at least to mitigate the pain of that mother helping her to understand.  Therefore he told her that, to cure her son, he needed some seeds of mustard, but some very special seeds, some seeds that had been collected in a house in which in the last three years had not passed some great pain or suffered the death of a relative.  The woman, seeing the growth of her hope, ran to the city seeking from house to house those miraculous seeds.  She called to many doors.  And in some it had died a father or a brother; in other, someone had gone crazy; in those of beyond there was an old paralytic or a sick boy.  The night arrived and the poor woman returned with the empty hands but with peace in the heart.  She had discovered that the pain was something that she was sharing with all the humans. 

It is not a matter of that, when the misfortune appears, we resort to the old proverb of "bad of many, consolation of fools", but to accept with simplicity that the man, every man, whichever could be his situation, is as penetrated by the pain.  It is a matter of understanding that he must be able to be happy in spite of that constant presence of the pain: it is impossible to live without it, therefore it is an inheritance that all the men have received without exception. 

What this anecdote teaches to us is that worse than the same pain is the deceit to think that we are the unique that suffer or, at least, of the ones that suffer more.  The worse thing is that the pain convert us in egotistical people, in people that only have eyes to look toward the own sufferings.  Perceiving with more depth the pain of the others permits to us to measure and to situate better ours. 

It is not easy to give answer to the mystery of the pain.  It is true that there are some explanations that cause us to glimpse its sense, although always are for us insufficient in front of the tragedy of evil in the world, in front of the suffering of the innocent, or in front of the triumph -at least apparent- of those who do evil.  This is an important theme for reflection, an enigma in which, to my way to see, only from a Christian perspective one can advance really toward the core of the problem, but this reflection should be for us not a distraction of the daily battle by perceiving and to wipe away the pain of the others, by diminishing it, by trying to do of it something that teach us, that makes us stronger, that cannot destroy us. 

I refer myself to the battle against the despair, against that state of mind that lacerates the souls of so many people that do not find sense to what happens in their lives, that causes them to drag them the feet of the soul, to walk for the life with the frightened fatalism with which a fish travels through the edges of its fishbowl.  The own pain is perhaps the best warning to pay attention to the pain of the others, to declare them our affection and our proximity, and to do thus more human the world in which we live. 

58.  Defending the rights of the others

Abraham Lincoln was elected member of the House of Representatives of the State of Illinois in 1834.  He was always opposed firmly to the slavery, in spite of having been born in Kentucky, a state where was recognized and exercised this practice.  In 1837 he was one of the two members of the Camera that signed an abolitionist proposal.  He was chosen member of the Congress of the United States in 1846.  He quickly formulated a plan of gradual emancipation in the federal district of Columbia. 

When he finished his mandate as federal congressperson, in 1849, he returned to Springfield to continue exercising his profession of lawyer.  But in 1854, due to his amazement in front of the approval of the Law Kansas-Nebraska, favorable to the slavery and promoted by the senator Stephen Arnold Douglas, he decided to return to the politics and he contended against him as the candidate to the Federal Senate, but he was defeated. 

In 1858 he was again candidate against Douglas, and they maintained then a long series of debates about the slavery.  In spite of the fact that finally Lincoln did neither won in those elections. The dialectic confrontation turned out to be memorable and he gained the recognition of a good part of the public opinion of the country. 

In 1860, Lincoln was nominated as presidential candidate in a platform of antislavery and he initiated a hard campaign in which he funded to Douglas as one of his hardest rivals.  This time, Lincoln gained the elections by a very broad majority and he initiated his mandate as President in March of 1861.  Immediately he set in motion an antislavery program that culminated with the Proclamation of the Emancipation of January 1, 1863.  He had to wait until his reelection, in November of 1864, to obtain the necessary supports to consolidate the effects of such measure, and in 1865 an Amendment to the Constitution was incorporated that assured that neither the slavery neither the involuntary servants would exist never in the United States neither in any territory subject to their jurisdiction. 

It has already passed a one an half centuries since all those passionate political and social debates on the legitimacy of the slavery took place.  Lincoln defended that the slavery was unjust in itself, while Douglas said that it was indifferent for him that the country voted favorably or against it, while it was respected what the majority wanted.  "Let leave the country to decide -affirmed Douglas-, so that the citizens of each state determine the proslavery status or not of their territory". 

The phenomenon of the slavery is a sample of how entire countries can remain plunged during centuries in surprising errors, and of how much has it cost to abandon the blindness.  This is a sample of how some truths turn out to be clearer in certain moments, while others, likewise true, contradict very established attitudes and habits, and it costs a lot to recognize them.  And this is also a sample to demonstrate that not always there is a direct relation between the truth and the number of people that support it.  Lincoln was acting in a higher moral territory than the simply legal one of Douglas, and he maintained that the mere majority does not legitimize any decision, because neither the 99 for 100 of the votes justifies that the human rights of the remaining 1 per 100 can be deprived. 

To defend the rights of the defenseless -be them slaves, not born or oppressed people by any motive- will always be a commendable cause for who do not let their conscience dilute in the  comfortable refuge of the mass.  And as, at the end the majorities are who decide, the fact to defend to the weak, to the absent, to whom is pressed by the dictatorship of the majorities, to whom does not have voice neither vote in the decisions that affect to him to defend the rights of the others is something that makes more human to the people and also to the all society. 

59.  The human will

In the first decades of the 19th century, the towns and countries approach with more rapidity than even before in millenniums.  The arrival of the railroad, of steam ships and, shortly after, of the telegraph, supposed a gigantic change in the rhythm and in the measure of the velocity with which move the people or the news. 

To that unstoppable advance is opposed, nevertheless, a great obstacle.  While the words spread instantly from an extreme to another of Europe, and even of Asia, thanks to the porcelain's insulators placed in the telegraphic posts, it was impossible to transmit through the sea.  And although in 1851 it was accomplished the union of England with the rest of Europe by means of an underwater cable, the possibility to do the same thing crossing all the Atlantic seems to all an unrealizable utopia.  Any communication between Europe and America supposed at least two or three weeks of navigation. 

In those first years of the electricity, almost all the factors remain still ignored: nobody had measured the depth of the sea, neither nobody knew the geology of the bottom; nobody knew if a cable at bid depth would manage to bear the tremendous abyssal pressures.  Any capable ships existed capable to transport the load that supposed the almost four thousand kilometers of cable and, besides, nobody assured that an electric signal could be maintained through such a long distance.  All the experts considered the idea as an impossible one. 

But, as it wrote Stefan Zweig relating this memorable episode, in order that a miracle could be carried out, or somewhat miraculous, it has always been precise like first condition that someone have faith in that miracle.  In 1854, a young businessman, 35 years old, called Cyrus W. Field, full of enthusiasm, had the proposal to link the two continents by means of an underwater cable and, with an energy capable of surpassing any obstacle, he got to work. 

Field sought the enormous necessary capital; he conditioned the ships, he put in motion the production of the cable and did a first attempt in August of 1857, which failed due to a fortuitous break of the metallic thread: an insignificant technical error wasted the work of years.  The following summer he tried it again, but this time it was a great storm the one that frustrated the project again, because ten days of tremendous temporal leaved the reels that one of the ships carried in its wine cellars so much damaged, that a month that there was not sufficient cable to cover the required distance.  The third trip was carried out a month later, had to surpass strong pressures of the majority of the investors that considered better to sell the cable that remained and to renounce to a project that was seen each time as more risky.  But the crossing finished with a spectacular success, because he managed to link the cable without misfortunes and Field was received in America in the middle of large feasts and celebrations. 

Nevertheless, after a few days, the telegraph stopped functioning.  The extraordinary enthusiasm, the impassioned wave of joy, was converted suddenly in another of malicious bitterness and accusation against Field that had to be hidden as a criminal in front of who yesterday were his friends and admirers. 

By space of six years, the cable remained forgot in the sea, and the most audacious project of the 19th century turned out to be converted in a legend again.  Nobody thought about resuming the work partially achieved.  It seemed that the terrible rout had paralyzed all the forces and drowned every enthusiasm.  Nevertheless, in 1865, the project was launched again.  Even when the first attempt failed, and two days before arriving to the goal the cable broke and the ocean swallowed again 600.000 sterling pounds. The following summer, the July 27 1866, the project was crowned with the final success. 

This episode is a proof of how the ingenuous value of a man without experience can enclose a great creative impulse, precisely in the occasions in which all the experts hesitate.  The new miraculous force of the epoch, the electricity, was mixed with the strongest dynamic element of the nature: the human will.