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. 

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

60.  The man that planted trees

Jean Giono wrote time ago a magnificent story on a curious personage that he knew in 1913 in an abandoned and deserted corner of the Provenza.  He was a 55 years old shepherd named Elzéard Bouffier.  He lived in a place where all the land appeared sterile and lean.  Around him extended a desolate place where some families under a very rigorous climate were living, in the middle of the poverty and of the conflicts caused by the continuous desire to escape from there. 

That man had been proposed to regenerate that barren land.  And he wanted to do it with an at the same time surprising and simple system: to plant trees, as many as he could.  He had sown already 100.000, of which had already germinated 20.000 more or less.  Of those, he expected to lose the half on account of the rodents and of the bad weather, but even thus they would remain 10.000 oak trees where before had nothing. 

Ten years after that first encounter, those oak trees were higher than a man and they formed a forest of eleven kilometers long for three kilometers of wide.  That persistent and conscientious shepherd had continued his plan with other vegetable species, and thus he planted beech trees, that were founded widespread so far away as the view could reach.  Also he had planted birches in all the valleys where he had founded sufficient humidity.  The transformation had been so gradual, that had come part of the environment without causing greater amazement.  Some hunters that rose to that place had noted it, but they attributed it to some whim of the nature. 

In 1935, the hills were covered with trees of more than seven meters of height.  When that man passed away, in 1947, he had lived 89 years and really those spots had changed a lot.  All was different, even the air.  Instead of the rough and dry winds, blew a smooth breeze loaded with the fragrances of the forest.  The houses had been restored.  There were young couples.  That place had become a place where it was pleasant to live.  In the sides of the mountains there were fields of barley and rye.  At the end of the narrow valley, the meadows began to become green again.  Instead of the ruins, now extended carefully attended fields.  The people of the low lands, where the land was expensive, had been installed there, bringing youngness, movement and spirit of adventure. 

"When I think -concluded the French writer- that a man alone having only his spiritual and physical resources, was capable to cause to create this land of Canaan in the desert, I convinced me that, in spite of all, the humanity is admirable; and when I consider the greatness of spirit and the kind of tenacity that implied to obtain this result, I get full of immense respect toward that old and illiterate peasant, that was capable to carry out a work worthy of God". 

A man plants trees and the whole region changes.  All we know people as this man that pass unnoticed but that, there where they are, the things tend to improve.  His presence instills optimism and desires to work.  They get recovered of misfortunes and of difficulties that discourage to others.  They possess a constructive defiance and their small or large efforts cause to rectify the course of the lives of the men. 

As it has been written by Alejandro Llano, there are things that do not have solution, and it costs us a great effort to accept them.  And there are other things that have solution, but we have convinced ourselves that they do not have.  Therefore, one of the reasons by which it costs us so much to change the things that do not go well is because we believe that we cannot change them.  It is necessary to have faith in which the man can be transformed and can change, so much himself as also to the environment that surrounds him.  Each one has to sow with constancy what he can contribute: his good humor, his patience, his diligence, his capacity to listen and to love.  It could be able to seem little thing, but these are elements that finish for doing fertile the driest lands. 

61. Tenacity

It is said that the white death -the death by freezing- is a sweet death: it comes with a species of drowsiness, full of pleasant sensations in which one feels, even, optimistic… and between two dreams escapes the soul.  That man, Guillaumet, knew it.  It would have cost nothing to him to let him self recline on the iced floor, not to raise again after a fall, to say: that is enough, all is finished! and not to try it again. 

The history is of Antoine of Saint Exupéry, in "Land of men", where he relates the adventure of a pilot whose airplane had crashed in the Andes and, after an incredible crossing, he appeared destroyed but alive, when everyone had lost the hope to find him. 

That man had lots of reasons to stop fighting for the survival.  He did not know the way back.  All the things indicated that almost with security that superhuman effort would be of no avail.  He was alone, lost, broken of blows, of fatigue, of exhaustion.  He was knocked down at every step by the storm, in a zone where it was told that:  "The Andes, in the winter, do not return the men". 

"I have done what I have been able to and I have no longer any hope.  Why to persist in this martyrdom?"  It would have sufficed to him to close the eyes to avoid the rocks, the ice and the snows.  And no longer there would be blows, neither falls, neither torn muscles, neither burning ice, neither that weight of the life that he had to drag so heavy. 

But Guillaumet thought about his woman, his children, his companions.  Who will be able to maintain the family that was waiting for him in some place of France if he decided to stop?  No, he could not fail to them.  They wanted him, they expected him.  What would have happened if they knew that he was still alive?  "If my woman believes that I live, she believes that I walk.  The companions believe that I walk.  All they have confidence in me, and I am a rabble if I don't walk."  When he felt again, he repeated those words.  When the legs refused to advance more; when all the bones of his body moaned numb by the cold and the exhaustion; when after descending he had to rise again, as in a never ending carousel, he repeated again the same refrain:  "If they believe that I live, they believe that I walk, and I am a rabble if I do not continue". 

When they founded him, his first phrase was like a summary of his extraordinary tenacity:  "What I did, I swear it to you, no animal would have done".  Saint Exupéry comments it thus in his work: is the noblest phrase that I know, a phrase that situates the man, which gives honor to him, that re-establishes the true hierarchies. 

When Guillaumet was exhausted and overwhelmed to know that it was almost impossible to find nobody in those mountains, he rejected the voice of the exhaustion that incited him to be thrown on the floor and to renounce.  The animal only bears the exhaustion when he is incited by basic impulses, like the fear; nevertheless, the man has multiplied the motives to be recovered and to endure: the values that influence in his conscience can be felt, as it happens to the animals, but also they can be thought.  When we feel them, only we experience their attraction or their repulsion; when we think them, we can see the valuable thing although almost we do not feel anything. 

What is innovative of the man, as indicates José Antonio Marina, is that he can govern his behavior by "thought" values, and not only by "felt" values.  If we only could accommodate our conduct to what we feel, we would not be able to speak of liberty, because we would not be able to direct freely our feelings.  In spite of the grievous protest of his muscles and that he only felt exhaustion, Guillaumet could think about other values, or to recover of his memory the lived values in other occasions, and to adjust to them his behavior.  Once more, the spiritual thing is introduced in the corporal thing, expands it and enriches it. 

62.  The passiveness

"Christine was amazed about how simple resulted suddenly the conversation with her.  Something trembled under her skin.  Who I am now, what is passing to me?  Why can I do suddenly all this?  With what ease I move, and even when always all they told me that I was stiff and clumsy?  And with what ease I speak, and I suppose that I do not say any ingenuousness, because this important gentleman listens to me with interest.  What happens?  Have the circumstances changed for me today, or is that I carried it all inside, and simply I lacked the value to take the plunge, was I always too much passive and frightened?  My mother told it to me.  Maybe it is not all so difficult, maybe the life is infinitely more tolerable than I believed, only one must have a little more of courage, to feel more secure, and the force comes then from unsuspected places." 

This reflection of the protagonist of a novel of Stefan Zweig recalls me, at the same time, another of Susana Tamaro about the passiveness.  The passiveness -assures the Italian writer- is one of the biggest poisons of our time.  One becomes passive at the moment in which he decides not to grow more, because he thinks that he should not go beyond.  It is as the rotation of an electric switch and, by rotating it, we close ourselves to the wealth that the life continuously is offering to us. 

The passiveness uses to arise of a phrase or of a thought that stops us in front of a new idea to attack.  Certainly, if for twenty years I never incline myself to collect something, when I arrive to the twentieth first year, the back no longer will bend.  Why does it not bend?  Simply, because for a long time we have said to it that it was useless to bend.  But it is the mind who decides that, not an inexorable destiny. 

There are people that arrive at an advanced age with the body and with the mind young, and not simply because they have been lucky with the health, but because they have carried out a prolonged interior work, they have known to feed the force of a spirit that has done them to live young during a long time.  They are people capable to bend their back, but, above all, to bend their thoughts.  Still they are capable of being amazed and of producing amazement.  Instead of judging from the passiveness, they know how to listen and how to put interest in the things.  They have cultivated with respect and attention their mind and their body; they have treated them with the dignity that they deserve. 

I insist on the importance of the diligence and the firmness because the heart of the man is a place in which many times the evil is imposed on the good precisely by passiveness.  The evil is simple, banal, and spontaneous.  It doesn't require effort neither opposition.  The evil is a shortcut.  The good, on the other hand, is a travel.  This travel is presented to us, at times, solitary, rough, difficult, and, from time to time, also no popular and full of falls.  Therefore, to do the good requires rejecting the superficiality of the conformism and the deceits of the prejudice.  The good is an extremely serious thing.  The kindness is a severe road and, in its severity, it needs of the force.  The kindness, like the love, requires force.  It requires values as the boldness, the patience and the wait.  The victory on the evil does not come walking in an idyllic evening by the beach of a sea in calm, but raising the mountains, avoiding brambles and briars, assuming risks.  Evil cannot be fought with evil, but neither with an empty rhetoric on good and the good feelings.  To do good does not suffice to have a good heart, also one must achieve -among others things- to temper the soul and the body in front of the onslaughts of the passiveness. 

63. Expectations of failure

We can imagine a convinced person about his uselessness for some task.  For example, he has been convinced that he is a bad student.  With that expectation of failure, what proportion of his personal resources will he be capable to mobilize? 

It seems obvious that most of his potential will remain inactive.  That person already has said to himself that he does not know that the knowledge to study has not been given to him, that he will never be able to be a brilliant student.  The worse aspect is that the problem is aggravated with its first consequence: if he begins the classes or the hours of study with those perspectives, what attitudes will he take?  Will they be vigorous, firm, positive, sure attitudes?  Will they reflect his true possibilities?  Most probably the answer is: no. 

When a person is convinced that he is going to fail, it is difficult for him to find motives to put a constant and intense effort.  He begins with some convictions that underline what he cannot do, and those convictions reinforce attitudes of passiveness, of staggering, of lack of firmness.  He will mobilize a very small part of his potentialities and personal resources.  What results will be derived from all this: for certain, some mediocre results.  And those mediocre results very possibly will reinforce his initial negative conviction, the bad appraisal that the person has, makes the things to end badly. That was the origin of the problem: I do not serve to study, and this will not change. 

This is a classical example of descending spiral, of vicious circle of wrong appraisal about oneself.  When one falls in this dynamic, the failure calls to failure.  Besides, over the years, by being greater the time that they have been deprived of the good experience of obtaining results, their conviction that they are incapable to reach good results goes enlarging each time more.  This carries them to do little or nothing in order to discover and to promote their own resources.  Rather, they use to seek the way to remain just as they are doing with the minimum possible effort. 

We now imagine now another person (or the same one, but with a different attitude).  He has illusion and hope.  He is convinced that he can cause to yield a lot more his talents.  I do not say that he believes to be what he is not, but that he believes that he can take more profit of what he is in reality.  What proportion of his resources will utilize that person?  It is doubtless that a lot greater.  What class of attitudes will he take?  The most probable is that he will be more courageous, surer, with greater energy.  He will be convinced that he will arrive further, and he will put more pledge to achieve it.  With that effort, he will produce, for certain, better results. 

It is an opposed dynamic to the vicious circle of the one that I explained before.  In this case, the advance calls to the advance (the same as before the failure called to the failure).  When there is faith and there is hope, each step ahead generates more faith and more hope, and encourages us to advance to a still higher step. 

But is that perhaps the people that think thus are not going to fail never?  Is it sufficient with being convinced of being able to reach something to reach it?  Is it not to confuse the illusion with the reality?  It is evident that those people will also fail many times, like everyone.  On the road of the personal improvement, that is the road toward the happiness, if someone thinks about a lineal advance and without any stumble, he knows very little about the human reality.  But not every stumble must be considered negative: it could be adequate to cite here that "who stumbles and does not fall, advances two steps". 

Our life, our personal history, or the history of the humanity, shows us numerous examples of how who maintains some firm and clear convictions enjoys always an interminable source of energy.  When, in each small or great daily battle, he leaves victorious, he is happy and he continues ahead; and when he fails, he removes the experience and continues also ahead putting all his illusion. 

It is clear that there are other cases, well different, of people that in their candor think that they can arrive to where they will never be able to arrive.  They are ingenuous men or women, more or less well-meaning, with better or worse intention, but, in any case, very far away from his personal reality and to the reality that surrounds them.  I am not referring to extreme cases, but to the current and normal people, that understand that the key of their life is not in which they have received or in which they have thought, but, rather, in the interpretation that they give to each day and in what they consequently do. 

64.  To escape to the past or to the future

There are who live chained to a failure or to an injury that, by doing so, would never stop of suppurate.  They are people that are embittered today because twenty years ago their mother didn't want them, or they could not study what they wanted, or their boyfriend betrayed them, or they lost unjustly their work, or whatever it could be.  They have not forgiven that old pain, and there they are, turning over their bitterness, been tortured with their errors and their grudges.  Martin Descalzo said of them: "they seem statues of salt that fail to live the present by so much looking backwards". 

There are others that also live centered in the past, but not by bitterness but by yearning.  I do not refer myself to the ones that are a little nostalgic and that like to take in account for their present decisions our history and our roots, but to those people who do not like the present but they neither have the necessary value to improve it and, therefore, they dedicate their few energies to regret the present situation and to sigh for other, supposedly better, passed times.  They do not realize that the world has got worse in some things but it has also improved in other things, and that it cannot be told that whichever passed time was better, and they should think if perhaps they think thus more by their bad memory that by their good perception of the reality.  Maybe the world has not got worse, but they are the ones that have aged and now there are others that rule the roost.  Besides, the present that we have is in good measure result of the past that they did.  And, if the past is condemned to be increasingly more passed, and the ones that live in it, with it will sink.  The past is useful in the measure that illuminates the present and feeds the future, in the measure in which it leaves to be past and becomes a driving force for the present and not in a sterile yearning. 

The ones that live chained to the past are used to be also intimidated by the future.  It has been more an error of the old age, but frequently it is seen in young people and it is really devastating.  It is a fear that paralyzes and consumes the people, like those spiders that first anesthetize and then immobilize their victims in order to devour them little by little. 

Others live conditioned by the future, because they postpone everything that costs them.  They don't dare to elude it directly and, therefore; they resort almost unconsciously to delay everything that they consider uphill.  They do not feel with spirits and immediately they leave it for another moment, which frequently never arrives.  They do not realize that to be discouraged is to flee the effort, and this is initially very comfortable but eventually causes exhaustion.  Their life is a continuous strategy of withdrawal and postponement.  With the first difficulty, they think about leaving it for this afternoon, or for this night, or for the weekend.  Every small project or aspiration immediately remains without being done until the next month, or for the holidays, or for the next year, with the false excuse that I will have more time and more liberty because I begin the career, or I finish it or I get married, or whatever would be.  Then goes arriving all that and there are new delays, new yielding, and one must expect again, perhaps the children to be older and no longer they need so many cares, or to the retirement, and so on until already they found themselves without energies and finally they understand that to leave the things for further on is almost always an extremely deceitful strategy. 

In a similar way, as how some consume marijuana or cocaine to elude for a time the reality of the life, thus flee to the past or to the future those that do not have the value to take with force the reins of the present.  They do not realize that it is necessary to do today what we have to do today, and that one must seek the happiness in attacking the present with a little of courage. 

65.  Investing in future

A man was lost in the desert.  He seemed condemned to die of thirst.  By luck, he arrived to an old rambling tumbledown cabin, without ceiling either window.  He prowled around a little until he founded a small shadow where he was able to accommodate and to be protected a little from the sun.  Looking in better, he distinguished in the cabin's interior an old bomb of water, quite oxidized.  He dragged to it, got the handle and began to pump, to pump with all his forces, but of there did not leave anything.  He was disappointed, he reclined himself against the wall plunged in a deep sadness.  Then he noted that by his side there was a bottle.  He cleaned the dust that covered it, and could read a message written on her:  "Utilize all the water that contains this bottle to feed the bomb of the well.  Later, please fill it again before going". 

The man unscrewed the cover and he saw that, really, it was full of water.  Full of water!  Suddenly, he was in front of a terrible dilemma: if he drunk the bottle, he would calm his thirst by a small time, but if he utilized it to feed that old and oxidized bomb, perhaps he would obtain fresh water from the fund of the well, and he would be able to take all the water that he wanted, and to fill his now empty bottle, but perhaps not, perhaps the bomb did not function and he would waste foolishly all the content being so much thirsty.  What should he do?  Should he bet on those little reliable instructions, written perhaps so much time ago? 

At the end, he summed up his courage and emptied the entire bottle in the bomb; he got the handle and began to pump.  The old machinery was grinding heavily.  The time passed and our man was increasingly more nervous.  The bomb continued with its dry squeaks.  Suddenly arose a little bit of water, that immediately became greater and, finally, it became a great spurt of crystalline and fresh water.  He drank anxiously, he filled its canteens and, at the end, he filled also the bottle for the next traveling man.  He took the small note and added:  "Believe me. It functions.  You have to throw all the water". 

This simple history recalls us a constantly present reality in the life of every person: any achievement supposes almost always to postpone a possible present gratification and to run the risk that the sacrifice turn out to be unproductive.  And although it is certain that good part of our efforts are unproductive, or at least they seem to be, it is also certain that when we tend to satisfy us with short-term satisfactions and we do not invest in better objectives for a longer period of time, it is easy then that we slide for the slope of the mediocrity or of the conformism.  Each day some opportunities are presented to us that can help us or that can open doors that conduct us to better situations.  And if you do not bet, if you do not invest in the future, it is sure that at the end you will have lost.  Because there are trains that are lost and then they pass again, but others do not. 

All we should sacrifice things of a lower order to achieve other things that are of an upper order.  We cannot get used to avoid those challenges.  There is people to which turns out to be difficult to think about the beyond, that use to leave the things for further on, and that makes his life to be a  disorganized life, of constant surrenders and abuses, a life that is barely controlled and that, at the end, does not carry to the desired port. 

The people that try to attack as soon as possible the costly duty feel psychologically more clearly, and the people that tend to delay it feel more disappointed and more frustrated.  To begin, from among the pending tasks, by the one that costs more, uses to be a way of proceeding that lightens the mind, that enlarges the efficacy of our efforts and that improves our quality of life.  The ones that always find motives to delay what cost them, are people that live tortuous slaveries, however how much they decorate it with appearances of happy spontaneity or of bohemian abandonment. 

66. Voluntarism

The voluntarism is an error in the education of the will.  It is not an excess of willpower, but an illness -among the many possible- of the will.  That illness, besides, affects to all of us in some facet or in some moment of our life.  Because, when we think about the voluntarism, perhaps we imagine a tense and stiff person, and certainly there are, and not few, but the voluntarism is something that, in one way or another, in some circumstance or in other, concerns to all of us. 

The voluntarism wants to resolve the things trusting too much in the effort of the will, speeding up, trying one's best, with a fund of pride more or less veiled, dazzled by a search of self-satisfaction by having done oneself the things for one same, without counting too much with the others. 

The voluntarism disturbs the lucidity, among others things because it carries to listen little, to be little receptive.  It carries to grasp excessively the own vision of the things.  To think that the things are like one sees them, without realizing up to what point the others contribute always with another perspective and they enrich with it our life. 

The voluntarism damages also the spontaneity, the simplicity, the naturalness.  It carries to try to solve the interior problems only by ourselves.  The voluntarist finds difficult to open his heart to the others.  He expects to be the one that, with his determination and his pledge, can leave the trench in which perhaps he has fallen.  The sad thing is that sometimes he does not realize that he has dug already a lot and that he can not leave the trench only by his own forces, or that, at least, he should had consider ridiculous not to have asked for aid. 

The voluntarist uses to be stiff, but insecure.  He tends to rely too much on norms and on criteria that can support his insecurity, applying them in a little stable way.  He considers the authority and the habitual obedience in the professional relations, the family, etc., in a little intelligent, little flexible and intransigent way. 

The voluntarist manages quite badly his own failures.  After them, he uses to take up again his habitual self-sacrificed fight, but also at times he is tired.  It is then when the dangerous fragility of the voluntarist´s motivation is declared.  It is easy for this person to sink and to fall perhaps in a big apathy, or to take refuge in victimism or in a useless defiance, or even he takes some other unexpected registrations and he arrive to extremes that surprise a lot to whom didn't know him truly. 

The voluntarist proposes himself sometimes little realistic goals, in his desire to excel and to arrive longer than he can cover.  He is favorable to the feelings of inferiority, fruit to the comparisons with the others that he makes constantly, in an exaggerated eagerness to stand out against others better gifted than him, which generates him a continuous reference to the frustration. 

The voluntarism, in addition to be an error in the education of the will, is also an error in the education of the feelings.  It could be able to say that the voluntarist is, curiously, quite sentimental.  He is a person whose main emotional motivation is the sense of the duty.  A person that tends too much to make use of the satisfaction or the relief that produce to him to comply with what he understands is his duty, with a rigorism not well integrated in a stable affectivity. 

The self-sacrifice and the eagerness to comply with the own duty are not bad, evidently.  And the voluntarist people use to be admirable in their self-sacrifice, in their domination over their inclinations.  And all these are fundamental elements to carry intelligently the reins of the own life.  Those people lack, and the question is essential, to learn to modulate theirs inclinations, to educate their whims, to form their character.  The sense of the duty is something very necessary.  But a good emotional education should seek as much as possible a synthesis among the self-sacrifice -because there are always things that cost- and the pleasure: what I have to do, I do it not simply to displeasure, because I should do it; but I try to do with pleasure, because I understand that it improves me and it will satisfy me more, although it costs to me. 

Thus, the great achievement of the emotional education is to obtain -as much as possible, I insist- the union between the desire and the duty.  Thus, besides, is reached a greater degree of liberty, because the happiness doesn't consist in doing what one wants, but in wanting what one should do.  Thus, the life will not be a continuous effort to go ahead based on the force of the will.  We will feel tied to the must, but not obliged, neither forced, neither coerced, because we will perceive the duty as an ideal that carries us to the fullness. 

67.  Illnesses of the will

We have spoken of the voluntarism, and now we continue with some other errors in the education of the will.  All they can be given of form more or less intense or permanent in any person without coming to suppose an important pathology. 

The impulsiveness is declared in diverse characteristics: tendency to change too much from an activity to another; tendency to act frequently before thinking; difficulty to organize the pending tasks; excessive need of supervision of what one does; difficulty for keeping the turn in the conversation or in any situation of group; tendency to raise the voice or to lose the control in front of something that contradicts us, etc. 

The tendencies of compulsive style, on the contrary, use to be reflexive and methodical, sometimes even accompanied by a strong interior debate.  For example, a person can feel the need to verify three times that the lights have been put off or that the key of the gas is closed or that the door of the street is not open.  Or he can feel the need to speak to her husband or to his wife several times a warning that he or she knows, because he or she has repeated fully already many times, but that he or she fails to remove out of the head.  Or feels envy, or jealous, or ill will toward something or toward someone for some motives that, when he or she analyze them, he or she understands that they are absurd. 

That person can perceive with plenty of clarity the lack of sense of those facts or attitudes, and even to try to be opposed to them, but at the end he prefers to yield to calm the anxiety of the doubt on if he has closed well the door, he has forgot to say or to do something, or whatever could be.  He sees how the not desired thoughts interfere, and, although he understands that they are inappropriate, the obsessive idea continues present.  They are occurrences that seem to perforate the thought and to be installed in it: some people are absorbed for an excessive critical sense that causes them to see all with bad eyes; other suffer a perfectionism that causes them to lose efficacy and practical sense; other fall in the constant rumination of what they have done or they are going to do, and that carries them to the resentment or to the exhaustion; etc. 

Those thoughts -worries, appetites, self-incriminations, complaints, analytic circles of no way out, etc. – can come to be like a discomfort that is not alleviated with any distraction, an anguish that impregnates all.  Any thing, even being not important, revokes the decision that we took of not consider again that matter and to accept it as it is.  When those pathologies are important they can become serious illnesses, like the ludopathy (compulsive gambling), kleptomania (pathological robbery), pyromania (pathological incendiary eagerness), prodigality (compulsive expense), etc. 

In the impulsive or compulsive tendencies, the will is found without capacity to stop the impulse, sometimes because it is not noted in time, other because it fails to get rid of its untimely occurrences.  On the other hand, there are other occasions in which the problem is exactly the contrary: the incapacity of the will to decide and to pass to the facts.  It is the case of people prisoners of the perplexity that never know what option to take.  Or that fluctuate constantly between an option and another.  Or that they have a lot of difficulties to maintain the already taken decisions, normally for lack of resistance to bear the ordinary frustrations of the life.  As it is natural, those capacities can also be hypertrophied, as it is the case of the obstinacy, in which the capacity to face the difficulty is exaggerated or badly directed. 

Many of those lacks of the will are related to the interior fears of the man.  The answer to those stimuli of the fear -affirms José Antonio Marina- does not arise in a mechanical form, as it is in the case of the animals, but the stimulus slows right down in the interior of the man and can be fought or promoted.  The attention may remain disturbed and can cost a lot of work to think about another thing, because the memory evokes time and again the situation, or other similar passed situations, but always it is impossible to strive in order to educate those interior starts. 

The will of each person is the result of all a long history of creation and of personal decisions.  We cannot come to have a full and direct control on it, but we can afford a certain guidance of it from our intelligence.  All we are tacked continuously by thoughts or spontaneous feelings of the most diverse kind, but one of the functions of our intelligence is precisely to control them. 

68.  To live better with less

Many times we get surprised of how our house goes little by little being filled of a multitude of things which utility is more than doubtful, that we have been buying without barely need them. 

Perhaps in a time they seemed very necessary.  For example, a machine that reduces a little the physical effort turns out to be immediately indispensable.  We take the elevator to rise or to descend one or two flats, or the car to travel through only some hundreds of meters, and, at the same time, frequently we propose to do a little more exercise or to practice all the weeks a while of sport. 

To be comfortable at home, is it necessary to pass to 25 degrees in winter and to 18 degrees in summer?  In how many houses it is almost necessary to be in undershirt in full winter, or to open the windows, because there is a suffocating heat?  And have we not caught a cold sometimes on account of the severities of the air conditioning in a café, an assembly hall or an airplane? 

The idea of consuming with a little more of sensibleness and of head, to carry a way of life a little simpler or, in short, to live better with less, is an idea that by fortune is being popularized in the American culture with the name of downshifting (it would be able to be translated as deceleration or simplification).  Starting from the principle that the money never will be able to fill the emotional needs and of that a well managed life comes given more by the quality of our relation with the others that by the things that we possess or we can possess, this cultural movement does not try only to reduce the consumption, but above all of making us to deepen in our relation with the things, in order to discover better ways to enjoy the life. 

Fed up already with the tyranny of the installment purchases, the mortgages and the anxiety by achieving a greater standard of living, many men and women begin to ask themselves if their quality of life would not improve by renouncing to the fever to gain more and more, and trying, on the other hand, to be centered in spending a little less or, better said, in spending better.  This tendency of the downshifting, which is extending also little by little in Europe, includes also the idea to extend the useful life of the things, to try to recycle them, to seek practical formulae to share the use of some of them with relatives or neighbors, etc.  In any case, there is always a common point: the money does not guarantee the quality of life as easily as it was first thought. 

In search of a new concept of austerity, the developers of this way of life sought the way to renounce to whims and superfluous expenses until they reduced their expenses in a twenty percent.  "The first thing that one must do -uses to affirm Vicki Robin, one of the most qualified representatives- is to ascertain the degree of satisfaction that the things produce to us, to distinguish a passing illusion of the true satisfaction.  With this formula, each one can detect the values that provide him welfare and to discover which ones can be ignored by him, and thus to reach step by step a new more satisfactory vital equilibrium." 

For example, in the education or in the family life, it is frequent that the parents, due to the lack of time for the emotional attention of their children, each time buy them more and more things, motivated at times by a certain feeling of guilt.  Nevertheless, to educate well can cost money -and perhaps the money has to be saved from other less necessary things-, but many times is exactly the badly employed money what damages the education.  Toth said that there are many talents that are lost for the lack of resources, but many more talents are lost in the soft comfort of the abundance.  There are not few number of parents that, by working so much until the extenuation and by reducing the number of children to be able thus to spend more and more money in them, they do that the misused money finishes damaging them. 

It is precise to prevent the risks of the consumerism in the family.  To obtain that the children know what costs to gain the money and they know how to administer it well.  We should avoid that they know the price about all but they do not know the value of anything. 

69. Austerity and temperance

Midas was a king that had more gold than any other man in the world, but it never seemed sufficient to him.  Always he desired to have more.  He spent the hours contemplating his treasures, and he recounted them time and again.  A day appeared an unknown personage, of shining white attire.  Midas became startled, but immediately they began to speak, and the king said to him that he never was satisfied with what he had and that he thought constantly in how to obtain still more.  "I would like that everything I touched were transformed into gold", concluded.  "¿Really do you want that, king Midas?"  "Of course", said him.  "Then, your desire will be fulfilled", the elf said before disappearing. 

The gift was granted to him, but the things did not go as the old monarch had dreamed.  Everything that he touched became gold, even the food and the beverage that he tried to carry to the mouth.  He was frightened, he took in his arms to his small daughter, and at the same moment, she was transformed into a golden statue.  His servants fled from him in order not to have the same destiny. 

Seeing that he became the richest man of the world and, at the same time, the most unfortunate and poor one of all, consumed by the hunger and the thirst, condemned to die bitterly, he understood his stupidity and began to cry.  "Are you happy, king Midas?" a voice was heard.  Turning round, he saw again to the elf and Midas responded:  "I am the most unfortunate man in the world!".  "But if you have what you more wanted", retorted the elf.  "Yes, but I have lost what in reality had more value."  The genius took pity of the poor monarch and he sent him to submerge in the water of a river, to be purified of his curse.  Thus he did and all returned to the normality.  From then, he never was seduced for the greed and the eagerness of wealth. 

The old story of the king Midas has been interpreted always as an instructive invitation to the temperance.  Only the one that lives with a certain austerity, without being enslaved for the desires of possessing and to hoard, is capable of enjoying really the things and to reach a lasting happiness. 

The family is perhaps the best environment to cultivate the sobriety and the temperance.  Educating in those values prompts to the man above the material appetites, does him clearer, more apt to understand other realities.  On the other hand, the intemperance ties the man to his own weakness.  Thus, who educates his children in a clumsy eagerness to satisfy all their desires, causes them a big damage.  It is a condescendence that can be born of the affection, but that also -and perhaps more often- is born of the selfishness, of the desire to be saved of the effort that supposes to educate well.  The dynamics of the consumerism is intrinsically insatiable. The people that fall in that error manage capricious and whimsical ways of life, and introduce them into a spiral of constant search of comfort.  They avoid the normal sufferings of the life, and they are found then weak and badly accustomed, with one of the most painful vital mortgages that can be suffered, because always they will do little, and that little will cost them a lot. 

Therefore I would dare to say that an excessively indulgent education, that facilitates the laziness and the intemperance -they are used to go united-, is one of the saddest forms to ruin the life of a person. 

Therefore I always see with sadness the signs of ostentation and of excess of comfort.  I suffer seeing how they lose the liberty that disappears just as begins the excess of goods.  The eagerness by the luxury carries with it a deprivation, an erroneous bet for the material things that leaves the people without defenses in front of the challenges of the life.  Therefore the tragedy of the king Midas is fully present in the existence of many men today.  When the attention is focused in the material things, one treats with less consideration to the people and falls in a wheel of yearnings and uneasiness that incite to the consumption and that disturbs the equilibrium of the spirit.  The more they have, the more they desire, and instead of being filled, is opened in them the emptiness.  Midas knew how to admit his error and how to abandon it.  In this we can imitate him. 

70.  The mirror of the desires

Who has not escaped from the imagination of thinking to be the protagonist of a spectacular adventure, in which stand out with own light the qualities that we more desire to have? 

It is true that without desires there are not projects and that without projects there are not achievements.  The desires expand our interior world, they transcend it, and they give life to it.  They are important, evidently.  But we should take in account that they don't become hypertrophied and they finish being a mechanism of evasion, because to open the imagination of the desires is for many people an authentic design drug that submerges them in a sad dependence. 

It is well reflected in a dialogue between Harry Potter and the wise magician Dumbledore.  Harry has discovered a surprising mirror, the mirror of Oesed (the word "OESED", put in front a mirror, reads itself "DESIRE").  When Harry looks in that mirror, he sees himself accompanied by his parents, the ones that he never came to know. 

Harry arrives for third consecutive day to the room of the mirror.  Dumbledore explains him about how the mirror shows the deepest and desperate desire from our heart:  "For you, that never you knew your family, to see them surrounding you (…).  Nevertheless, Harry, this mirror will not give us the knowledge or the truth.  There are men that have been consumed in front of this, fascinated for which they have seen.  Or they have driven crazy, by not knowing if what it showed to them is real or even possible". 

Every person lives situations that he desires to prolong or ones that he aspires to abandon as soon as possible.  There are many things that invite us to take refuge in the ideal world of our imagination.  It is true that to be evaded in dreams provides a certain relief, but we know that there are not lasting, and when we run again into the stubborn reality we note immediately that it was not a good solution.  To be enclosed in an imaginary world is an easy task, because any physical legality puts bonds to our imagination, and we feel completely free, but it is a fictitious liberty, an illusion that goes back as we advance, a marvelous sophistry that maintains us during a time in flight but that we do not know where it will let us drop. 

All we have free entrances to that life of fantasy, full of color but unreal.  To escape of it, to flee out of the reality, gives us not knowledge neither gives us truth, but a greater frustration.  Therefore Dumbledore gives a last counsel to Harry:  "And if some time you cross the mirror, you should be prepared.  It is not good to let the dreams to drag neither to forget the real life, you recall it". 

When the people are left to drag for the dreams, their imagination becomes a torrent of desires and ideas with which they try to evade the reality that displeases them.  Occasionally they open the eyes and they see that the effort is interposed on the road toward any achievement, and that annoys them and causes them to return to the hot refuge of their interior world.  They become passive people with asleep will and dispersed look. 

The peace and the dynamism are not spontaneous fruits, but fruits of the effort by conquering the interior disorder, fruit of sorting out our head and our heart, and that is not something that comes after the fight, but more well stems from the fact of being fighting, of taking care habitually in not allow us to be devoured for so many occasions of self fraud that are presented to us each day. 

One must not forget to live the real life.  The world is a succession of opportunities that parade in front of the eyes of tired men.  A life that becomes full of illusion and of sense in the measure that one discovers how much important can he be for the others, how much he can help them, the illusion that we provide to their life, to their real life. 

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

71.  The myth of Sísifo

Sísifo is one of the most interesting personages of the Greek mythology.  Winner of the Death, unconditional lover of the life, Sísifo deceived to the Gods by escaping from hell and because of it he was condemned by Zeus to a cruel punishment lasting the whole eternity: he should raise by hand a great stone to a summit of the underworld.  But each time that the unfortunate arrived to the top, the rock escaped from his hands and rolled down for the slope.  He had not another remedy that to descend and restart his effort, knowing that he would never be crowned by the success. 

This indefinitely restarted fight, in an eternal rotation of nightmare, symbolizes the absurd of a search without hope.  The figure of Sísifo has been evoked always as paradigm of an exhausting and discouraging task.  Albert Camus devoted to him one of his works, in which he imagines the man as a happy Sísifo, that, in the middle of the aridity and the monotony of his everyday life, he glimpses that his existence is not neither more neither less absurd than other, but a quite normal life like any other.  Camus proposed the figure of a cold man that knows such supposed absurd of the life and searches every kind of pleasures that can give something of happiness to his existence.  That figure exercised a notable fascination for the generations that came after World War II, and still today, more than half century after it is an image that beats inside the heart of many that seek with anxiety in the pleasure a little of heat that make the temperature of their lives to rise. 

Frequently, the anxiety of the pleasure has been adorned with a romantic halo, as if it was a gallant that seeks in successive hugs a difficult encounter with the love.  I think that the reality is enough more prosaic.  The anxiety of the pleasure is, rather, a sad man that has understood the sterility of his search, but that he does not want to change of road.  Knowing that he cannot be satisfied for the "quality", devotes him to the "quantity", to a chain of epidermal and fast enjoyments.  They are affections and passions that lack of lyricism, and there are in them a nudist coldness that almost reduces their eagerness to the animal's instinct.  They recall the punishment of Sísifo.  They restart without truce a play that they know vain, destined to a constant failure.  They have intended to deceive the nature, like Sísifo tried with the Gods of the Olympus, and the punishment always arrives.  Who has permitted the anxious search of the pleasure be established in his interior, and permits the deterioration of the ethical demands of the nature, sooner or later finds himself as Sísifo, fighting with bravery in an exhausting task and driven to despair.  What at the beginning he had imagined as a paradise, as a constant happiness based on the free enjoyment of the pleasures, has finished in a painful deception.  The promised festival results a deceit, and appears implacable the stubborn reality, the evil that has been installed, that has become strong inside himself.  He thought himself lover of many things, and he discovers that to satisfy his selfishness has finished being his greater worry. 

The egotist founds himself a day, sooner or later, with the torment of knowing himself not capable to love and not capable to be loved.  The pleasure occupies too much his mind, his interests.  It carries him to act in a way that, then, being alone with him, shames him deeply.  He understands then the deceit that has been slip in his heart, hidden after the shadow of some pleasures that he had wanted to see as inoffensive and even as good.  Some seek then refuge in greater pleasures, or that contribute in some way to bring some novelty respect to the tedium in which they have fallen, but they fail again, because the selfishness is a voracious animal that cannot be left to grow in our heart because then it devours us inside.  Instead of the innocence, of the charming and delicious place that our eyes had seen and desired, a horizon appears like that of Sísifo, with lack of hope, sordid, in which never disappears a voice that says us that we have made a mistake. 

To all of us passes a little the same as to Sísifo, in greater or smaller measure, in some field of our life: with the eagerness to possess, or to figure or to be able; or with the refuge in the laziness, the lust, the alcohol, or whatever it be.  But there is, by fortune, a difference.  Sísifo could not abandon his absurd and inexhaustible repetition.  We, on the other hand, can open the eyes to the reality and decide to change.  Besides, we can ask for aid.  And aid to God, if we are believers. 

72. Inadvertent addictions

Who never has experienced the irresistible eagerness to do zapping during hours and hours, or to be hooked to the videogames during very long sessions, incapable to be subtracted from them, does not know still of the seductions and the sorceries of the screen.  There are always occurring many things, many more than in our own life, and such is the hypnosis that can produce to us that we finish burning us as insects around a light bulb.  It does not liberate of the burden neither of the routine, but at least converts them in a kind of lukewarm men and narcotizes us a little. 

With the multiplicity of television channels, the portable receivers, the pocket consoles and even the amazing services of the mobile telephones, all this can finish being each time more easily a full-day profession.  Its magic retains us, unfolds authentic displays of inventiveness to attract our attention, and it is like a permanent promise of diversion that replaces all the others, that makes all other things useless, troublesome, and annoying. 

When one has expended many hours in front of the screen, the mind floats from an object to another, seduced by thousand of occurrences that grasp it without retaining it, in a delicious inconsistency that transforms us into vagabonds, of a program to another, of a channel to another, of a play to another.  Thus is this pathology: we hook us because we are there with it, so available and attractive, and, once we are hooked, we are capable of swallowing any thing with an indulgence without limits.  And when we awake of that slow hemorrhage of oneself by the eyes, with the head saturated of images, music, special effects and dazzling impressions, one experiences a curious sensation of solitude and devastation, besides a serious difficulty to accept the reality of which we have managed to evade for a time. 

Nevertheless, even the most addicted man knows well that later the real life is waiting him, and that is his great drama.  Therefore, to this consumerism we do not reproach only its naivety or its superficiality, but above all the breach of his promises, to not take care totally of us, to leave us in the lurch in the last moment. 

But even being very erroneous and disappointing so many times, perhaps we return to this hypnosis as to the easiest slope.  In spite of the final distaste, well known of other times, the addict falls again, incapable to be unhooked.  Therefore, for some, the major act of value -at times superhuman- is to put out the screen that absorbs completely his mind. 

Perhaps this is a good example of the disappointing consequences of the excess of comfort or of the eagerness to consume, of the lack of control over oneself.  Perhaps it is that we intend the quadrature of the circle: to be accommodated people, drowsy by the comforts and, at the same time, active people, implied, awake.  There is no doubt that the material relief is a great progress of the history, but it has its evil effects against which it is precise to be alerted.  And it seems that to be prevented against the excess of comfort is like a taboo that very few dare to touch.  The excess of comfort tends to ignore the ideals and to reduce considerably the environment of our worries. 

The danger of the consumerism is not so much the waste as the voracity with which it seizes the individual and reduces him to its will.  Its gluttony tends to devour ideals, beliefs, ethics, culture, story, and even its own criticism: and that is the supreme irony of the consumerism, to cause to believe that it has disappeared when there is not any environment that can resist to its contamination. 

The solution?  To maintain that avidity under control, to protect the spaces that we see that it tries to hoard in our life.  And, in those other in which it has already gained us, to think that our proximity to the abyss of the addiction -be it serious or not- can at least to have helped us to note its risks and thus to understand the need to finish that career. 

73.  The lion and the gazelle

"You can imagine the scene…" said carefully Fred Smith, at the start of a conference in Tennessee (US) some years ago. 

"Place yourselves in the African savannah, on the Victoria's Lake banks, for example. 

"A gazelle awakes in the morning, with the exit of the sun, and thinks:  "Today I have to run more than the fastest of the lions, if I do not want to finish devoured by one of them." 

"Few kilometers from there, a lion awakes also, and initiates his day thinking:  "If I do not want to die of hunger, today I have to run at least a little more than the slowest of the gazelles". 

Smith makes a longer pause, and, addressing himself to the auditory, concludes: 

"I do not know if the role of each one of you in your life is now that of the lion or that of the gazelle.  But, in any case, please, ¡run!" 

Even when at that time Smith was referring to the phenomenon of the competence in the financial markets, we can apply that image to the effort for the personal improvement of the character.  In the life of any person happens something similar.  It can seem to us that the circumstances in which we live are hard, even cruel, as those of the African savannah in which it is necessary always to be running if we want to eat and not to be eaten. 

In front of that situation, as real as the real life, we can devote us to think about the reason of our situation, or in the cause of everything that happens to us, or in other things.  And surely they will be positive reflections.  But what we cannot do, while, is to stop running. 

It is precise to seek synergies, and to surpass the unnecessarily competitive approaches, certainly, but that does not remove the fact that the life supposes a permanent challenge, that demands an effort and a constant demand.  In fact, most of the human failures are caused by a hasty cancellation of the effort; because one admits too soon that he is not capable of resolving a problem or that the problem does not have any solution. 

It is convenient to think with depth on the important things. It is something truly decisive.  But what we cannot do is to dedicate placidly to think about them and to stop running.  We can not stop putting effort in the things.  One must try hard, wake up, run.  We must do this, both if we think to be in the role of the lion (fighting for reaching an objective), as if we see us, rather, in the position of the gazelle (trying to avoid a disaster).  The life is thus, we have to accept it. 

It would neither be exact to say that the life is a simple and exhausting race, since what imports is not, simply, to go faster or to gain more time.  What imports is our capacity to succeed in the target.  But there are moments of long races, in which all the things seems very difficult, and we can become very tired and we can become discouraged.  There are occasions in which we note the wear of a continued effort in determined direction, and the temptation that awaits us is very simple: to stop running.  When this happens, we should think that, like the lion or as the gazelle, it is precise to continue running if we want to survive.  In that, the life is not going to change.  All right, better said: it will change if we stop, because that will be the principle of the end. 

To forge with success the own character is not an easy neither a fast task.  Nevertheless, it is possible and accessible to anyone, and, above all, it is decisive for the result of our existence.  It is precise to center our life in principles and wise values, but later one must cultivate with patience that good seed, without fainting.  One must enter with decision in those dark and comfortable zones of our life, where our errors and weaknesses seek protection, to pull up from there the weeds and to achieve that they do not gain power in our life.  If we attack that task with pledge, constancy and sportsmanship, in little time we will be surprised of the result. 

74. The avoidability of the disaster

George, as almost all the ones that have passed through that torture, began for curiosity, to know what would the drug was, in what consisted, what he was able to feel.  Also because it seemed to him necessary to be affirmed in the group of friends in which he was and because it was fashionable in the environment in which he moved.  He came from a badly structured family, he felt frustrated by many things.  He was longing for new experiences that caused him to feel free, to forget so much pain. 

The case is that George did not have lack of information on the destruction that the drugs cause in a person.  "But how is it possible for you to fall in the drug if you knew that it was going to promote your ruin?" his old friends asked him now.  He had a lot of time to think about it, during those eternal months of rehabilitation, and he explains it with a lot of clarity:  "It is very simple.  With the drug you can evade.  You don't like the society and you want to leave it, or to create a different one that does not be like that or, simply, to escape from it in a fantastic way". 

"The passage through the drugs is, besides, a rite, a mystery, something that allows you to put away the suffering and the pain, to banish momentarily the feelings of failure and of frustration that have sunken you".  

"You know it, you know that it is your ruin, but you close the eyes, you look to another side.  Although in another level, it seems what passes to all those that want to stop smoking and they do not obtain it, or that they are not capable of follow a diet and they fail with it time and again, even when they know that their weakness goes ruining their health". 

"The drug is like an artificial paradise.  When you take drugs, you think: there is nothing that interests me, all is the same to me, and all leaves me indifferent.  In a normal state I see the things just as they are; once doped, I see them as I wanted them to be.  To fall in the drugs is not a question, normally, of lack of information, because the main problem are not properly the drugs, but the environment that introduces you in the drug, the frustration that carries you to take refuge in them.  And it seems that the persons that have the power in the society, who impose the fashions and the ways of life, who control the main mass media, do not have just understood it" 

Fortunately, now George seems already a serene person and without interior deterioration, but inside he passes for some tremendous fights.  It is very hard to see how, inside one same, the drug has become an owner fanatic and devouring, in a dictator that resists losing its control. It resists returning the liberty that it has stolen, it does not want to renounce to the unconditional submission that it had achieved over you.  The impulse to continue consuming is no longer as irresistible as it was before, but still it maintains enough power.  It appears always, seductive, each time those unexpectedly difficult moments, complex situations or adverse events come. 

George is a great conversationalist, and a person to which these years of forging in his exit of the drug have made him someone admirable.  The pity is that the great majority fail to leave from it.  He is a fortunate man, although a great part of that fortune is, as always, daughter of his effort and his tenacity.  George is an example of the avoidability of the disaster, independent of how low one already can be found or can be considered.  If the human decadence were unavoidable, it would not be worthwhile neither to speak of it, but what interests us is precisely to speak about its avoidability, of the possibility to be saved from those imminent threats but that they have not yet been fulfilled. To speak about the self demand, of doing what one should do, although it would be with modest resources.  I have an unlimited faith in the modest people that do everything that they are able to do. 

75. Addictions and love

George is a person to which four years of combat in his purpose to abandon the drug have made someone admirable.  One of those fortunate men that have managed to avoid the disaster that seemed unavoidable.  Now is a reflexive, profound man.  Always, when he is explaining his painful experience, he says how a moment arrives, very quickly, in which the addict to drugs seeks the drug with anxiety, at the same time that he hates it, by the addiction that the drug has created in him. 

George has meditated a lot on the love, on the desire, on the addictions.  He says that from the phenomenon of the drug addiction many useful ideas for the emotional life of the people may be extracted.  It has seemed to me very interesting.  I am going to try to explain it. 

From love can grow up many things: desires, thoughts, and acts.  But all this that is born of the love is not the love itself.  What we love is really what is desired by us, it is true.  But also we desire many things that we do not love, things that really turn out to be indifferent to us.  It is very dangerous to identify desire and love.  To desire a good wine is not to love it.  To desire the drug is not to love it.  To desire sexually a person is not to love her. 

George thinks also in the primary origin of his problem: a broken family.  He asks himself about the reason of the alarming growth of the conjugal breaks, of the large crisis of so many families that, at the same time, they use to produce so much damage in the people that suffer them.  Because the advances of the present society are marvelous, it is certain.  But what kind of contradiction is this, that, after to have reached so a notable standard of living, the man has remained so deprived of resources at the moment of tacking a serene and ordinate life, without bloody breaks in the daily contact.  Why so many situations of failure and so many scars?  What happens in the western world that two of each three marriages fail? 

It is interesting to think on the nature of the love.  If the love were simply a feeling, that goes and comes like it wants, that begins and finishes independently of our liberty, it would be as a simple blind emotion that seizes us and in front of which we can do nothing.  But, according to that criterion, the love would be like a momentary exaltation that simply carries us to satisfy our desires, as a pleasant hobby, centered and governed primarily by the sexual desire and the pleasure, and that sooner or later decays. 

The love, more than a feeling, is also and above all an act of the will, that is the faculty qualified to elect, to reject, to modulate the own activity, to be governed by oneself, to be directed toward something determined, to love with some lasting roots.  The love is commitment, not a simple desire neither a simple natural inclination, although both things are included in the love.  In the wine cellars of our personality, as if it were a matter of a good wine, it uses to take shape that noble feeling of delivery and of donation of oneself that is the love.  But a donation that has to be total, because the union of the love requires sharing the entire project of the life.  The love cannot be a purely epidermal traffic, centered on feelings that, in their root, are rather egotistical.  The key to enter and to persevere in the conjugal love is the pleasant sacrifice towards the beloved person.  When the difficulty arrives, the test, that always appears sooner or later. The love, if it is true and faithful, unites more, aids to surpass those reefs and becomes reinforced.  The fidelity belongs to the real condition of the love.  Without it, the love would be a simple sentimental act, submitted to the wobble of the emotionality and that lasts only until the capacity to support each other is reached. This way to understand it has brought many conjugal failures. 

76.  Love and liberty

"When I knew her, she was 16 years old.  We were presented in a party, by someone that said to be my friend.  It was a love at first sight.  She drove me crazy. 

"Our love arrived to a point in which I couldn't manage to live without her.  But it was a prohibited love.  My parents did not accept her.  I was expelled out of the school and we begin to find us secretly.  But then I was not capable to endure the situation any more. I went crazy.  I wanted her, but I didn't have her.  I could not endure that they set me apart of her.  I loved her: I destroyed the car, I broke all inside my house and almost I killed my sister.  I was mad, I needed her. 

"Today I am 39 years old; I am interned in a hospital, I am useless and I am going to die abandoned by my parents, by my friends and by her. 

"Its name?: cocaine.  To her I owe my love, my life, my destruction and my death." 

This narration, attributed to Freddie Mercury a short time before dying of AIDS, speaks with quickness on the risks of the addiction to the drugs.  And the addictions remit us to the loss of interior liberty, one of the big themes of our time that encloses innumerable paradoxes. 

The desire of liberty that there is inside the heart of the man prompts him to transfer the limits inside which he feels as enclosed.  We want to enlarge our capability to transform the reality.  But that anxiety of liberty does not always find the way to be carried out.  There are occasions in which objective external circumstances are presented that press us, and that we want and we should try to change, but there are other occasions in which we feel deceived and we blame on what surrounds us when the problem (and the solution) are inside us.  It is our heart who is prisoner of its selfishness and its fears, the one that should change, the one that should confront the hardness of the life, the one that should conquer its interior liberty and not to consent to flee the reality and to take refuge in the fantasy or in the victimism. 

One of the paradoxes of the interior liberty is -in expression of Jacques Philippe- that to be free is also to accept what has not been elected.  The man declares the greatness of his liberty when he transforms the reality, but also when he accepts the reality that day after day comes given to him.  To accept the personal limitations, the own fragility, the situations and frustrations that the life imposes to us, are ways of growing our own interior liberty, because in that personal environment we can come to be a lot more owners of our reactions and, therefore, more free. 

The more we depend on being as intelligent or powerful or attractive, as that great genius of the television, or as that fashionable multimillionaire, or like the last top-model of the moment, more difficult will result to us to find the necessary relaxed acceptance of our reality, that should go united to a firm decision of improving it.  The true interior liberty has a lot of relation with surpassing the numerous "limitative beliefs" that could have been installed in our mind (never I will leave this …, I will not be capable of …, always I will be thus …, I am incapable of doing such thing…), that are not acceptance of our limitations but, rather, fruit of our injuries, of our fears and of our lack of confidence in ourselves. 

The drugs are a problem, but they are, before and above all, a bad solution to a prior problem.  And something similar happens with other lighter forms of escapism.  When we hide in virtual refuges to elude the reality that costs us so much to confront, we are deceiving us.  The liberty is unfailingly connected with the truth.  Therefore one must lose the fear to be put face to face set against the truth and to accept its messages and its raises, always perceptible in the heart of the man that desires them and search them. 

IX. Victimism’s risk

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

77. The interior dialogue

Every man is a social being, open to the others.  For any person, the others are an important part of his life.  His full fulfillment as person is unfailingly connected with others, because all we know that the happiness depends in a big part of the quality of our relation with those that compose our social, professional and family environment. 

Nevertheless, it cannot be forgotten that the man does not only relate to the others, but also with himself: he maintains a frequent conversation in his own private inner privacy, a dialogue that is produced of spontaneous form with occasion of the diverse experiences or personal reflections that every man does continuously. 

And that interior dialogue can be sterile or fertile, destructive or constructive, obsessive or serene.  It will depend on how it is stated, of the class of person that one is.  If one has a healthy and well cultivated interior world, that dialogue will be enlightening, because it will provide light to interpret the reality and it will be occasion of very valuable considerations.  If a person, on the contrary, possesses a dark and impoverished interior world, the dialogue that he will establish with himself will be converted, frequently, in an obsessive repetition of problems, referred to small disruptive incidents of the everyday life: in those cases, as Miguel Angel Martí has written, the interior world finishes being a laboratory where the data that arrive at it are integrated, and becomes a rifled disk, that repeats obsessively what with more intensity has scratched ultimately our affectivity. 

The relation with one self improves according to the degree of maturity reached by each person.  The appraisals that a mature person does -so much on his own reality as well as on the alien one- use to be realistic appraisals, because he has learned not to fall easily in those ingenuous idealizations that, when are not complied, produce disillusionment.  The mature man knows not to dramatize in front of the obstacles that he finds carrying out himself in any of the projects that he proposes to do.  His interior dialogue uses to be serene and objective, so that neither himself neither the others use to cause to him surprises that can disconcert him.  He maintains a relation with himself that is at the same time warm and demanding.  Rarely does he create interior conflicts, because he knows to settle his worries looking for the adequate solution.  He has confidence in himself and, if sometimes he makes mistakes, he does not get depressed neither he loses his interior equilibrium. 

In the immature people, on the other hand, that interior dialogue that we speak uses to become a source of problems: by not valuing the things in their just measure -to himself, to the others, to all the reality that surrounds him-, frequently his thoughts create to him false expectations that, when are not complied, cause interior conflicts and difficulties for his relation with the others. 

A mature and stable person tends to look at the own life and that of the others always with affection.  He contemplates all the reality that surrounds him with desire of interior enrichment, because who sees with affection discovers always somewhat good in the object of his vision.  The man that dilates and enriches his interior of that way, expands and enriches his love and his knowledge, becomes more optimistic, happier, more human, more close to the reality, so much to that of the men as to that of the things. 

78. The spiral of the complaint

Often perhaps, we discover us complaining about small refusals, about lacks of consideration or about carelessness of the others.  We observe in our interior that murmur, that moan, that lament that grows and grows even when we do not want it.  And we see that, the more we take refuge in it, the worse we feel; the more we analyze it, more reasons appear that make us to continue complaining; the more deeply we enter those reasons, more complicated they become. 

This is the complaint of a heart that feels that he never receives what corresponds to him.  The aforesaid complaint is expressed through thousand of ways, but that always finishes creating a sensation of bitterness and of deception. 

There is an enormous and dark power in that vehement interior complaint.  Each time that a person lets himself to be seduced by those ideas, he entangles himself a little more in a spiral of endless refusal.  The condemnation to others, and the condemnation to oneself, grows more and more.  He enters into the labyrinth of his own discontent, until that, at the end, he can consider to be the most misunderstood person, rejected and despised of the world. 

Besides, to complain is often counterproductive.  When we regret of something with the hope to inspire grief and thus to receive a satisfaction, the result is, frequently, the opposite of what we try to obtain.  The habitual complaint conducts to more refusal, because it is exhausting to live together with someone that tends to the victimism, or that in all he sees slights and contempt, or that he expects from the others -or from the life in general- what usually cannot be required.  The root of that frustration consists many times in the person perceiving himself self-disappointed, and it is difficult to give an answer to his complaints because, deep down, he rejects to himself. 

Once the complaint becomes strong in someone -in his interior, or in his exterior attitude-, that person loses the spontaneity to the extent that the happiness that he observes in others tends to evoke in him a feeling of sadness and even of grudge.  In front of the happiness of the others, immediately he begins to suspect.  Happiness and resentment cannot coexist: when there is resentment, the happiness, instead of inviting to the happiness, originates a greater refusal. 

That attitude of complaint is still more serious when it goes in association with a constant reference to the own virtue, to the supposed own positive values:  "I do this, and that, and here I am working, worrying me about that, trying that another, and on the other hand he, or she, while, they are unconcerned, they laze about, they go for their own objectives, they are either way". 

As it has been written by Henri J. M. Nouwen, these are complaints and susceptibilities that seem to be mysteriously connected with praiseworthy attitudes in oneself.  All a pathological style of thought that despairs enormously to whom suffers it.  Just when he wants to speak or to act since the more worthy and most altruistic attitude, he founds himself trapped by feelings of wrath or of rancor.  The more disinterested he intends to be, the more is he obsessed by the fact that others don't value what he does.  The more he tries to do as much as possible, the more he asks himself why the others do not do the same things that he does.  The more generous he wants to be, the more he feels envy for the ones that are abandoned in the selfishness. 

When one falls in that spiral of criticism and of reproach, all spontaneity is lost.  The resentment blocks the perception, declares envy, he becomes constantly indignant because it is not given to him what, according to him, he deserves.  All becomes suspicious, calculated, and full of second intentions.  The most minimum movement demands a countermovement.  The most minimum comment must be analyzed; the most insignificant gesture must be evaluated.  The life becomes a strategy of wrongs and demands.  In the bottom of all appears constantly a subject full of resentment and of complaint. 

Which is the solution to this?  Perhaps the best thing to do is to make an effort in giving more capacity to enter into oneself's confidence and into oneself's gratitude.  We know that gratitude and resentment cannot coexist.  The discipline of the gratitude is an explicit effort by receiving with happiness and serenity what happen to us.  The gratitude implies a constant election.  I can elect to be grateful although my emotions and primary feelings were impregnated of pain.  It is surprising the quantity of times in which we can opt for the gratitude instead of by the complaint.  There is a Estonian's saying related to this:  "The one that is not grateful in the little thing, will neither be in the big thing".  The small acts of gratitude make the person to be grateful.  Above all because, little by little, they cause us to see that, if we look at the things with perspective, at the end we realize that all results to be for our profit. 

79. The comfort of the defeat

The victimist uses to be a human model of little vitality, dominated by his fondness to be withdrawn a little of the life.  A mentality that -as it has been indicated by Pascal Bruckner- makes that all the difficulties of the men's life, even the most ordinary, become matter for discussion.  The victimist observes himself with a soft and tolerant indulgence, tends to escape from his true responsibility, and uses to finish paying a high price by representing his role as of being mistreated habitually. 

The victimist spreads with enormous intensity something that would be able to be called as culture of the complaint, a mentality that -in a more or less direct way- tries to convince us that we are some unfortunate that, in our candor, we do not have conscience of up to what point it is pulling our legs. 

The success of the victimist's speech comes from his unverifiable character.  It is not easy to confirm his thesis, but neither to contradict them.  It is an attitude that induces to a morbid eagerness for discovering trivial wrongs, by being felt discriminated or mistreated, by attributing to exterior instances all the bad thing that happens to us or that can happen to us. 

And as this mentality does not always manage to reach the objectives that he desires so much, it conducts, at the same time, with facility to the desperation, to the whimpering, to the vain conformism in front of the misfortune.  And instead of fighting for improving the things, instead of putting enthusiasm, those people compete in the exhibition of their misfortunes, in describing with horror their sufferings. 

The culture of the complaint tends to enlarge the minimum adversity and to transform it into some form of victimism.  A strange passion arises by appearing like the victim, by denouncing as evil the conduct of the others.  For the people that fall in this attitude, everything that is done to them is intolerable, while their own errors or defects are only simple subtleties without importance that would be a lack of touch to indicate. 

There are basically two ways to treat an emotional, familiar, professional failure or whichever other type of failure.  The first one is to assume the own fault and to jump to the conclusions that can carry us to learn of that error.  The second is to be always ready to blame to the others, to seek bravely external responsibilities of our misfortune.  Of the first form we can acquire experience to surpass that failure; of the second, we prepare us to fall again easily in it, blaming again to the others and eluding a healthy exam of our responsibilities. 

When a person tends to think that almost never he is guilty of his failures, he enters in a spiral of difficult exit.  A spiral that annuls the capacity of beating that has always enlarged to the man and that has permitted to fight to domesticate his defects; a vicious circle that submerges him in the conformism of the recurrent complaint, in which he solidly is.  The victimization is the resource of the frightened that prefers to become object of compassion instead of confronting with decision what frightens him.  . 

80.  The rhetoric of the victimism

To try to eliminate the suffering at any cost signifies almost always to aggravate it, because to the extent that we flee out of him, it goes gaining ground.  There is a curious fatalism in that obsessive allergy to the most minimum pain (not very different of the passive and fool resignation in front of the misfortune), because, even when it is logical and sensible to avoid the useless suffering, there is a vital difficulty inherent in our condition of men, a dose of risk and of hardness without which the human existence cannot be developed with fullness. 

I want with this to say that our misfortunes, our small shipwrecks, even our worse enemies, help us to harden, they oblige us to activate in our interior deposits of dynamism, of courage, of unsuspected abilities.  The fortitude of the character of a person, his value, has much relation with the quantity of difficulties that this person is capable to accept without succumbing.  The obstacles and the difficulties invite him to do the things better. They prompt him to elevate above the fear and the pusillanimity. 

A life developed in the middle of difficulties uses to produce richer personalities than the ones that have been formed in the comfort or in the abundance.  It is not that one has to desire the misery or the annoyance, but it is dangerous to carry a life too much commode or to be too much soft in front of the own pains or to be enclosed in the role of victim. 

To say that one suffers a lot when, objectively, he is barely suffering implies to remain disarmed before entering the battle, to become oneself incapable of confronting a true suffering.  The ones that tend to think thus need to leave the error by feeding thoughts that stimulate their interior energy, that generate happiness and enthusiasm.  They have the need to cultivate the liveliness, the dynamism, a serene courage. 

To the victimist's rhetoric, that tends to be exhausted by only explaining itself, one must respond seeking reasonable solutions, feasible alternatives.  And for that one must begin by expressing the difficulties in terms that admit our overcoming.  Because one of the first effects of the tedious insistence on the own problems are that they impede us to distinguish well among what we can change and what is outside of our reach: in the victimist's obsession, all the adversities lived as an unappealable sentence of a dark destiny. 

The man becomes important when he does not remain fortified inside himself, but he is impelled in something that carries him to surpass himself.  When he yields in front of the exhalations of the conformism, he goes down; when he takes refuge in the selfishness, he goes down also.  If he is obsessed for being protected against every minimum opposition, he will be finished finding himself with a vital fragility that drowns him and overwhelms him. 

81.  The temptation of the innocence

We have said that there are, basically, two ways to undertake an emotional, familial, professional or whichever failure.  The first one is to assume the own fault and to jump to conclusions that can carry us to learn valuable things of that misfortune.  The second one is to blame to the others and to seek with despair external heads responsible of our misfortune.  The first form serves to acquire experience to surpass the failure; with the second one it is easy to fall again in the failure and to blame again to other, instead of doing a healthy exam of our responsibilities. 

The victimist's style use to be connected with negative feelings such as the envy, the jealousy and the grudge.  They tend to be legitimized in name of passed misfortunes. They protect themselves with all the present sufferings or with the past sufferings, and with that they assume a kind of immunity patent with which they justify their attitude.  That memory of the passed misfortunes constitutes for them an endless reserve of resentments.  And, if someone reproaches it, maybe they admit that their attitude is not very exemplary, but they assure that their passed sufferings justify that "light incorrectness". 

Another of their characteristic notes is the sensitivity, which causes them to react with agitation in front of any criticism.  In all, they see evil intentions.  The smaller objection immediately is considered as an offense.  Everywhere they see hostility, conspiracies and contempt.  In the most extreme cases, they feel satanized by all the people (curious paradox that of the satanized satanizer) and afflicted with a surprising megalomania. They fall in the syndrome of the conspiracy or of the plot, so much in its aggressive version as in the opposite one, of renunciation and passiveness (why to do nothing if a so powerful force is plotting such things against me or against us). 

It is frequent that they wrap their attacks in a cloak of guilelessness, because they assure that the unique thing that they do is to defend them.  Their ideas are refutable with difficulty, because they turn around whichever argument transforming it into a test of the omnipotence or of the subtlety of the offenders.  And as the revenge induces with facility to similar reactions in the others, they feel also innocent victims of an aggression, the poison of the victimism is inoculated in the others with the fight, and goes being extending more and more when each new step of the resentment rises: how much reason we had in suspecting that he was a scoundrel.  A victimist mimicry is produced, that confers to both parts in conflict the same eternal impression of being unjustly mistreated. 

When passed sufferings are invoked to justify attitudes that, however how much are they adorned, they transmit the stench of the resentment and of the desire of revenge. The most sensible procedure is to distrust those people that seek to be charged of arguments for repeat, as soon as they can, the same actions that they regret to have suffered. 

To have in mind the pains of the past can be enricheful, but that memory can be corrupted if it is allowed to be impregnated of the grudge.  When the memory carries us to reopen injuries of the past, seeking perhaps to legitimize a dark desire of compensation, then the memory becomes slave of the wrong, it becomes a power that revives the tensions, it irritates the animosity and it reconstructs the past and it rewrites it accumulating each time new motives to its favor. 

If the people or the families or the countries dedicate themselves to ruminate into their respective pains, it will be difficult that they live in peace and agreement.  When someone stirs morbidly in the past, always he can find prejudices to allege, reasons to disinter the war-axe of the violence, the contempt or the lack of solidarity.  Always there are motives to not surpass the reciprocal disagreements, but, if we want to live in good tuning with the others, we should draw a line on our ancient dissensions of long ago and to allow that the past bury those failures.  It consists not only to forget simply, but to forgive and to learn to avoid that those errors could be repeated, to be opposed with firmness to them.  The pardon is what leaves free passage to who do not desire to change on their shoulders with the terrible weight of the old resentments. 

82.  The barrier of sound

The pilot Chuck Yeager initiated the era of the supersonic flights in October 14, 1947, when he broke the famous sound barrier, that "invisible wall of bricks" that so puzzled maintained to the scientific community of the time. 

By then, some investigators assured to have sure scientific data by which that barrier should be impenetrable.  Others said that, when the airplane reached the speed Mach 1, it would suffer a tremendous impact in their fuselage and would exploit.  Did neither lack in the middle of that debate who ventured as possible things to happen leaps backwards in the time and other surprising and unpredictable effects. 

The case was that the historic day of 1947, Yeager reached with his airplane Bell Aviation X-1 the speed of 1.126 kilometers per hour (Mach 1.06).  There were diverse doubts and controversies on if he had truly surpassed that speed, but three weeks later he reached Mach 1.35, and six years later he arrived to Mach 2.44, producing that the myth of that impenetrable barrier finally disappeared. 

In his autobiography, Yeager wrote:  "That day of 1947, the faster I went, the smoother the flight was.  When the indicator indicated Mach 0.965, the needle began to vibrate, and shortly after it jumped in the scale above Mach 1.  I believed that I was seeing visions!  I found me flying at a supersonic speed and that went so smoothly that my grandmother had been able to go seated there behind having lemonade". 

"It was then when I understood -continued Yeager- that the true barrier was not in the sound neither in the sky, but in our head, in our way to present the things." 

In our daily life, at times, it can happen to us something similar.  We have put in our head many barriers to our personal improvement, and it seems to us that to surpass them is somewhat impossible, or at least that it would suppose to us a tremendous effort or it would embitter us the existence: something similar to what happened fifty years ago to whom spoke of the mysterious sound barrier. 

Nevertheless, to surpass the barrier of our defects or our limitations is something that, without being easy -as it was not easy to surpass that sound barrier-, is not neither so difficult.  And above all, that, when we achieve it, it is probable that, as happened to Yeager that historic day, we find a new dimension of the life, perhaps stranger for us, and that results a lot more satisfactory and gratifying of what we could imagine. 

The road of the virtue and of the values is a road that remains hidden for many people that see it as somewhat cold, boring or sad, when, in reality, it is a seductive, interesting and happy road.  We put an example.  To work or to do always as minimum as possible, or to show oneself egotist and unsolidary with the companions, is the approach that governs the life of quite enough people.  Some of them perhaps think that to work with pledge and illusion, or thinking about the others, is a utopian approach, an inaccessible dream, an ideal for ingenuous.  Other perhaps say that it is really a very pretty desire, but they see it as somewhat distant and exhausting; or that it would suppose to them such an effort that it does not compensate to them neither to try it; or that they have tried it but they have had a lack of will.  Others will say that they have also tried it, but because of (put here what it proceeds), now they already pass from all.  And, in almost all the cases, they seem to ignore that they same are the main damaged with that attitude. 

That famous debate of over fifty years ago is repeated frequently in the daily life of many people.  Perhaps the best in this case is to abandon the fatalism and to cross that barrier and to see what happens. 

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

83.  Proud I? 

A writer goes walking through the street and he meets a friend.  They greet each other and they begin to chat.  During more than half an hour, the writer speaks his friend about himself, without stopping either an instant.  Suddenly he stops a moment, has a pause and says:  "Good, already we have spoken enough of me.  Now we speak of you:  What do you think about my last novel?" 

This is a funny example of conceited attitude, of a quite simple vanity.  In fact, the majority of the vices are also quite simple.  But, on the other hand, the pride uses to declare under quite more complex forms than those of that fatuous writer.  The pride tends to be presented in a twisted form; it sneaks through the most surprising cracks of the man's life, under extremely diverse appearances.  The pride knows well that, if it shows its face, its aspect is revolting, and therefore one of its more habitual strategies is to hide its face, to be in disguise.  It enters secretly inside another apparently positive attitude, which always remains contaminated. 

Sometimes it disguises of wisdom, of what we would be able to call as an "intellectual pride" that is based on an appearance of severity that is not another thing that arrogant pride. 

Other times it disguises of coherence, and does the people to change their principles instead of daring to change their immoral conduct.  As they do not live like they think, they finish thinking as they live.  The pride impedes them to see that the coherence in the error never can transform the evil into the good. 

Also it can be disguised as a strong eagerness to do justice, when, in the bottom, what moves them is a feeling of spite and of revenge.  The hate has put inside them the hatred inside and, instead of doing an effort in order to forgive; they intend to calm their anxiety with revenge and resentment. 

There are occasions in which the pride is disguised of eagerness to defend the truth, of an arrogant and contracted orthodoxy, which subjugates to the others; or of an eagerness to manifest it all, to judge it all and to want to have firm opinion above all.  All those attitudes use to have their origin in that simple and foolish pride of whom believes to be the exclusive possessor of the truth.  Instead of serving really to the truth, they are served of it -of a shadow of it-, and they finish being puppets of their own vanity, of their eagerness to opposite or to be considered a winner in any discussion. 

At times it disguises itself of an apparent spirit of service, that seems at first sight very self-sacrificing, and that even perhaps it is, but that hides a curious and resentful victimism.  They are those that do the things, but with air of victim ("I am the unique one that does something"), or regretting of what do the others ("see these on the other hand …"). 

It can also be disguised of generosity, of that ostentatious generosity that helps humiliating, looking down one's nose at the others, underestimating.  Or it disguises itself of eagerness to teach or eagerness to advise, typical of people plenty of sufficiency, that are put to itself as an example, that speak in paternalistic tone, with air of superiority.  Or it covers itself of air of dignity, when it is not another thing that susceptibility, to feel offended by foolishnesses, by unreal or by groundless jealousy. 

Is that then that the pride is behind all?  At least we know that it will try to be.  The same as the perfect and total health doesn't exist; we can neither eliminate completely the pride.  But we can detect it and gain advantage. 

And how to detect it, if it hides under so many appearances?  The pride will many times deceive us, and we will not see its face, hidden of diverse ways, but many times we do see it clearly.  If we are capable of being receptive, of listening at the constructive criticism, it will be for us much easier to unmask it. 

The problem is that one has to be humble to accept the criticism.  The pride uses to self armor-plating in a vicious circle of satisfied egocentrism, and it doesn't permits anybody to call it for its true name.  When it becomes strong doing so, the defenselessness is such that the simplest manifestations of the pride go growing: the sickly sensitivity, the continuous speaking about one self, the arrogant and conceited attitudes, the vanity and affectation in the gestures and in the way of speaking, the deep decline when perceiving the own weaknesses, etc. 
One must break that vicious circle.  To gain ground to the pride is of vital importance to have a healthy psychology, for maintaining a cordial relation with the people, to not feel offended by foolishnesses, to not harm the others, for almost everything.  Therefore one must fear about the pride, to fight seriously against it.  It is a fight that takes the impulse from the recognition of the error.  An always difficult knowledge, because the error is disguised of thousands of ways, and even takes forces of its apparent routs, but it is possible the knowledge of it, if there is a pledge by our side and we seek a little aid in the others. 

84. To escape from oneself

 "The Gentleman of the Oxidized Armor" is a surprising best-seller of Robert Fisher that has been sold for millions in the United States and that in Spain has had more than forty editions.  It is a story of adult fantasy, whose protagonist is an exemplary medieval gentleman that, "when he was not fighting in a battle, killing dragons or rescuing damsels, he was busy probing his armor and admiring its shine".  The success of the book consists in that it symbolizes our ascent by the mountain of the life and does certain observations on the human conduct. 

Our gentleman was lover to such an extent of his armor that he began to wear it to have dinner and, often, to sleep.  After a time, he did not longer have the inconvenience to remove it for nothing. 

His woman was each time more fed of being not able to see the face of her husband and to sleep badly because of the metallic noise of the armor. 

The situation came to be so unsustainable for the unhappy family that our gentleman decided finally to remove the armor.  It is then when he discovers that, after so much time locked in it, it is totally blocked and he cannot remove it from him.  He goes then in search of the magician Merlin that shows him a steep and narrow path as the only solution to be freed of that curious confinement.  He decides to take that path immediately, because he realizes that, if he doesn't throw it soon, he may change soon his opinion. 

He has to surpass diverse tests.  In one of them he verifies that he had barely gained the affection of his son, and that causes him to cry bitterly.  The surprise arrives the following morning, when he sees that the armor has become oxidized as a result of the tears and part of it has been disengaged and has fallen.  His crying had begun to free him. 

Further on, with occasion of other tries, he notices that during years he had not wanted to admit the things that he did badly.  He had preferred always to blame to the others.  He had behaved in an ungrateful way with his woman and with his son.  He had been very unjust.  The tears slipped by their cheeks each time with more profusion.  He needed his woman and his son, but he barely had loved them.  In the bottom, he self evaluated very badly and that caused him to behave also badly, with the aim to gain thus the consideration of the others, and therefore he turned out to be proud and arrogant.  He had worn an invisible armor between him and his true way to be, and it was imprisoning him.  An armor that "has been there during so much time -told him Merlin- that at the end had become visible and permanent". 

He remembered all the things of his life when he had blamed his mother, his father, his teachers, his woman, his son and his friends and to all the others.  For the first time in many years, he contemplated his life with clarity, without judging and without excuses.  In that instant, he accepted all his responsibility.  From that moment, he would never blame anymore to nothing neither to nobody about their own errors.  The recognition that he was the cause of his problems, and not the victim, gave him a new sensation of power and control.  He was no longer afraid.  An unknown sensation of calm came unexpectedly to him.  "Almost I die for the tears that I hadn't spill yet", he thought. 

All we use to put barriers in our life, in front of the others, and a day we realize that we are trapped after those barriers and turns out to be difficult for us to abandon them.  Therefore, the wisdom consists, in good measure, in knowing the sufficient about oneself as to know when and how one has been trapped.  Otherwise, the power and the control will be weaker day after day, and the ability to be deceived, will become stronger day by day.  We will seek the fault in the others, feeding a pride that little will be able to help us, and perhaps we will fight against all and everybody in order not to fight against ourselves. 

Our gentleman had to remove the armor to face really the truth on his life.  They had said it to him many times, but he had always rejected that idea as an offense, taking the truth as an insult.  And while he did not recognize his errors and cried for them, he did not manage to get freed of the retreat to which he had been self submitting. 

Finding loopholes when one does not want to look inside is the easiest thing in the world.  There always are exterior blames and it is needed a lot of courage to accept that the responsibility is ours.  But that is the only way to advance, although it is always an uphill travel.  As the protagonist of that Susanna Tamaro's novel said: "each time that, when you grow up, you want to convert the wrong things into true things, you must recall that the first revolution that one must carry out is inside one self, the first one and the most important one.  To fight for an idea without having an idea of oneself is one of the most dangerous things than can be done". 

85.  The spiral of the grudge

Stefan Zweig tells in his biography the sad and fleeting history of Ernst Lissauer, a German writer of the times of the First World War. 

Lissauer was a man of enormous erudition.  Nobody dominated better the German lyric than him.  Also he was a deep expert about the music and possessed a great talent for the art.  When the war exploded, he wanted to be enlisted as volunteer but he was not admitted due to his age and to his lack of health.  In the middle of that patriotic fervor against the countries that now were enemies, he was quickly dragged by the atmosphere of military exaltation favored from the machinery of publicity of the Berlin's Wilhelmstrasse.  The feeling that the English were the main cause of that war was expressed by Lissauer in the famous "Song of hatred to England", a poem in fourteen expressive, concise, and hard verses that elevated the hatred toward that country to the condition of an oath of eternal animosity.  Those verses fell like a bomb in an ammunition dump.  Soon became evident the facility to provoke with the hatred to a whole country.  The poem traveled through Germany being on everyone's lips. The emperor granted Lissauer with the cross of the Red Eagle, all the newspapers published it. It was represented in the theaters, the teachers rode it to the children in the schools, the officials sent the soldiers to form up and they recited it, until everyone finished learning by memory that litany of the hatred.  Overnight, Ernst Lissauer knew the most ardent fame than a poet could obtain in that epoch.  A fame that, certainly, finished for burning him as the robe of Neso, because as soon as the war finished, all they endeavored for being freed of the fault that corresponded in that enmity and they signaled Lissauer as the great developer of that senseless hysteria of hatred that in 1914 all they had shared.  He was exiled, all they returned him the back and he died in the oblivion, as a tragic victim of that wave of injustice that once had supported him, and then had sunk him without remedy. 

This history is a good example of what happens when some cause the drum of the hatred to redouble.  The grudge generates more grudge and, if it is not stopped, quick becomes an unstoppable wave that causes the most impartial ears to resound, and the most stable hearts to tremble.  On that occasion there were a few that had enough forces and sufficient lucidity to escape from that vicious circle of hatred and aggression that seemed was going to absorb all.  They were some few people that were not left to carry for the own credulity of the grudge, that managed to surpass the clumsy and simple idea that the truth and the justice are always of the own side.  And they were few because, unfortunately, to blow in favor of what disconnects, uses to be easier and tempting that the opposite. 

Nietzsche considered the mercy and the pardon as the loophole of the weak.  Nevertheless, more pledge and more fortresses are needed to forgive that to be left to carry for the grudge and the desires of revenge.  One needs more moral size and more intelligence to discover the good things that there are in the others that to be obsessed with what we do not like of them.  It is better and more meritorious to throw out of the good things that there are in each one instead of exasperating them with our arrogance.  The history of the humanity shows in a tragic form the bitter fruits of all those occasions in which the feelings of violence, intolerance, pride and lack of solidarity among the men were promoted and exalted.

The resentment carries the people to feel hurt and not to forget.  Many times, that resentment becomes sickly and becomes a hypersensitivity to feel mistreated, and that conviction is revived time and again by the imagination, like a washing machine, impeding to forget, deforming the reality and conducting to the obsession.  Another times, there are momentary explosions that immediately leave the bitter flavor of the distaste of the own words, as soon as the spirits of the first enthusiasm evaporates. 

There are people that anywhere the conflicts are -are they large or small- tend to be relaxed, and they are at the end surpassed or resolved.  But there are many others that exacerbate them and make them chronic.  In front of the resentment, the solution is the pardon and the effort to surpass the offenses.  To become accustomed to be a conciliatory person requires some stronger psychological power, but this is at the reach of everybody, and it is worthy to make an effort to acquire it. 

86.  The sense of fault

The Danish writer Henrik Stangerup presents in his novel "The man that wanted to be guilty" an interesting reflection about the sense of fault.  The protagonist, Torben, has committed a crime and intends in vain that the responsible for the justice in the society in which he lives recognized it as it was.  Nevertheless, they tell him that his act has not been a murder, but a regrettable accident caused by the circumstances.  They assure him that it has come forced by the society, which is the unique truly guilty.  They treat him as to an unbalanced, victim of an absurd culpability complex.  Immediately they intend to leave him free and they try to cause him to forget every memory about his woman. 

But he knows that he has killed his woman in an access of rage and drunkenness, he feels guilty and he wants to pay for it.  Along the novel, the protagonist will go driving crazy with the truth, overwhelmed by the expropriation that they have done of the bases of his personal responsibility, while he tries without success to probe that he is guilty of that death. 

The message of the book is clear: if in any human collectivity the sense of fault or the notion of evil is lost, it finishes not been able to speak about the good any more.  The true good cannot exist if the existence of evil is not understood.  And the culpability of the person needs to be compensated by the same person properly.  For Torben, the only way to resolve his problem is managing to be forgiven and, as the dead woman no longer can do it, he searches something that can repair his fault: while it doesn't obtain it, he feels annulled as a person. 

In our familial, professional or social life it can happen to us, saving the distances, something similar.  Any person commits errors that produce damage in those that surround him and in him too, and all this uses to bring a sense of fault.  If we intend to ignore the reality of that damage that we have produced, or we tried to project without reason our fault on the others, then we would cause us a new damage, and more serious, to ourselves, because we do not put remedy to that evil, but we ignore it or we hide from it. 

The feeling of fault by something that we have done badly is like a warning, the same as it is, for example, the physical pain, that notifies us that something in our body does not go well.  It is natural and positive to feel guilt for what we did badly.  If we have done erroneously, the logical thing is that on account of it we feel bad, or even very bad.  Then we should not permit that the memory and the imagination revive it continuously, but the solution isn't to ignore it and to pile up soil on top of it.  It is precise to recognize and to understand the error, and to utilize the will to emerge with greater force from the passed experience. 

If one experiences properly the fault, the first reaction is the search of pardon and the intent to pay attention to the possible reparation that the damage caused.  Later, when one has already been forgiven and one has done every reasonable and possible thing to compensate that fault, is when one feels a true relief and is easier to forget. 

The offense is like an injury, and the pardon is the first step on the way of its healing, that can be long.  The pardon is not a shortcut to reach the happiness, but a long path that one must travel through.  Therefore, when some people say they do not regret anything of what they have done and that if they would be born again, they would do everything equally as they did before, they show to be little conscious of the errors that they have accumulated along their life.  If they do not notify them, if they do not feel guilty of all those abuses and they do not seek the way to repair the damage that they have caused, they are immersed in a serious process of self-deception that will have some day a bitter wake-up. 

87. The risk of the self-deception

His biographers say that, before his suicide at Berlin's Chancellery on April the 30th, 1945, Adolf Hitler was suffering a gradual process of escaping the reality, a constant need of self-deception and of receiving favorable news.  Above all from the entrance of the U.S. in the war, Hitler was entering each time more in a world of fiction created by himself.  It is doubtless that he possessed a prodigious intelligence, but he preferred to be deceived, and his deceit carried him to abandon the reality in a surprising way.  In fact, in the middle of that month of April 1945, when the tanks of the soviet marshal Zhukov were already a few kilometers away of Brandenburg's gate, Hitler repeated shouting to his staff inside his subterranean refuge, that the Russians would suffer a bloody rout in front of the doors of Berlin. 

Historians as Hugh Trevor-Roper and Ian Kershaw have analyzed with detail how the process by which he was poisoned by his triumphs, finished abandoning every sign of diplomacy and intelligence.  It does not seem possible that the work of the Nazi publicity had modified in such a way Hitler's data to the extreme to cause him to believe that his routs were victories.  But the indisputable fact is that, five days before his death, surrounded by operating maps increasingly more unreal, he enumerated with great security to his generals the improbable tricks that caused him to expect a final victory. 

The reading of those historic testimonies – more than fifty years have already passed and there are sufficient and well contrasted documents that have done possible to know what happened- offers us an extreme and amazing example of the way in which a man can become enclosed in his own world, until being transferred completely to the kingdom of the imagination.  That sad and tragic episode of the history of the 20th century was born marked by the self-deception to deny the existence of upper moral principles that limited the power and the pursuit of his objectives, and can serve us to stop an instant and to speak of that great danger of the self-deception, that, in diverse measure, is awaiting to all of us in small things of the ordinary life of each day. 

The man, when has been beaten by the adversity, feels frequently the temptation to flee.  Nevertheless, any life is governable if there is not a constant effort by being connected to the reality, if one does not remain in guard against the lie, or in front of the seduction of the fantasy when it is presented as a narcotic to elude the reality that costs us to accept. 

The temptation of the unreal thing is constant, and constant should be for us the fight against it.  Otherwise, at the moment to decide what one must do, we will not confront courageously to the reality of the things to calibrate their true convenience, but we will fall in some kind of escapism, of flight of the reality or of ourselves.  The escapist seeks ways to escape from the problems.  He does not resolve them, he avoids them.  In last term, he has fear of the reality.  And, if the problem does not disappear, it will be he who disappears. 

The self-deception can be presented in many various forms.  There are people, for example, that fall in it because they need continuous demonstrations of compliment and approval.  Their sensibility to the flatter, to the continuous "you have the reason" without having it, causes them to unfold around slave people. At the end, the relation between them may probably cause everybody to get crazy. There are difficult to disillusion people, because they require to the others that they follow the herd, that the others lye to them, and they finish for entangling to the others in their own lies.  They are easy prey of the sycophants that handle them to his own, and, although at times they are conscious and become aware that they are victims of a farce, it does not use to be enough for them to leave. 

The truth, and especially the moral truth, should not be received as an arbitrary limitation to the freedom of the persons, but, on the contrary, like a liberating light that permits to give a good orientation to the own decisions.  To receive the truth carries to the man to his fullest development.  On the other hand, to elude the truth or to refuse to accept it causes a damage to himself and, almost always, also to the others.  The truth is our better and wiser friend, always arranged and desirous to respond in our aid.  It is certain that, at times, the truth is not declared in a clear way, but we should do our best so that the lack of clarity only is given in our thought, because we have not yet made the necessary effort in the search of the truth. 

88. The control of the wrath

When someone receives an offence, or something that seems to him an insult, if he is a person with no capability of self control, it is easy that it seemed increasingly more offensive to him, because his memory and his imagination stimulate inside him a great fire by turning an idea over in his mind over what has happened. 

The passion of the wrath has an enormous destructive force.  The wrath causes many irreparable tragedies.  There are many persons that, by an instant of rage, have ruined a project, a friendship, a family.  Therefore it is convenient that before the fire take shape, we extinguish the embers of the irritation without giving time the fire to spread. 

The wrath is like an impetuous animal that we should have well grasped of the reins.  If each one of us recalls some occasion in which, feeling an impulse of rage, we have restrained us, and another moment in which we have left us to drag for it, comparing both episodes we will be able easily to make interesting conclusions.  It suffices to think about how we have felt after having dominated the wrath and how we have felt if sometimes we have been dominated by it.  When this case happens, we experience immediately sorrow and shame, although nobody directs to us any reproach. 

It suffices to contemplate serenely in others a sudden attack of wrath to grasp a little the clumsiness that it supposes.  A person dominated by the annoyance is as blind and drunken by the fury.  When the wrath revolves and agitates a man, it is difficult that his acts become previously oriented by the reason.  And when that person returns to himself he torments again recalling what he did, the damage that he had produced, the spectacle that he gave.  He thinks about the persons that were present, in those people in whose presence he then perhaps did not repair, but that now causes him a restless sensation to recall.  And even more or less friends, he feels in front of them deeply ashamed. 

The wrath uses to have as cause a frustration caused by the blockade of the desires or of the expectations that are defrauded for the action of another person, whose attitude we perceive as aggressive.  It is certain that we can get irritated for anything, but we feel the true wrath in front of actions in which we appreciate a voluntary hostility from another person. 

As it has been indicated by José Antonio Marina, the emotional and physical state in which we find influences us in this matter in an important form.  It is well known how the alcohol predisposes to the fury, the same as the fatigue or any type of excitement.  Also the strong or continuous noises, the hurry or the very repetitive situations cause similar effects.  In cases of accumulation of diverse addends, one can feel furious and not to know really why. 

And why some people is so sociable and they laugh and they joke, and others are bad-tempered, shy and sad; and some are irritable, violent and irate, while others are indolent, irresolute and timid?  Without doubt there are biological reasons, but they have been completed, enlarged or mitigated by the education and by the personal learning: also the wrath or the calm can be learned. 

Many people maintain an aggressive conduct or attitude because it seems to them to find in it a source of personal pride.  In the aggressive cultures, the individuals use to be proud of their crashes of violence, because they think that these crashes provide them authority and recognition.  Therefore it is a pity that in some environments those aggressive models are so much valued, that confuse the capacity to surpass obstacles with a species of absurd need to mistreat to the others. 

The aggressive conducts are learned, sometimes, by reward.  Sadly, in many cases happens that the aggressive conducts result rewarded.  For example, a boy learns immediately if to cry, to stamp one's feet with rage or to become annoyed are efficient media to obtain what they are proposed to; and, if that is repeated habitually, it is doubtless for that girl or that boy the learning of the control of the wrath will be really difficult, and that, educating him thus, we made to him or to her a big harm. 

89.  The satisfaction of the desires

"He had devoured everything that he had been able to, like a fond of sweets' boy, until the nausea.  But after the satiety came the deception and the apathy.  A day he began to feel an intense resentment, not against me or against the world, but because he had realized that in the life nobody can be abandoned to his desires and to leave unpunished." 

Thus describes Sándor Márai in one of his novels the phenomenon that, to my judgment, is in the root of the majority of the problems of coexistence among the people.  Our selfishness, that always is present, undermining our nature, demands continuously the satisfaction of its desires.  And those desires interfere with the desires of the others.  If we do not keep in mind the differences with those desires of the others, if there is not a firm purpose of respect and of aid, the contact finishes being a fight between the pretensions of the others.  The friendship or the love can cause to coincide initially the desires, but after sometime tends to separate them, and that makes difficult the coexistence if there is not an effort to surpass the selfishness. 

As it has been written by Jacques Philippe, the first thing is to understand that, in the sufferings that we produce to the others, we haven't to see systematically the bad will in them (just as we use to do habitually).  When some problems between two persons arise, it is frequent that both are hurried to do moral appraisals the one of the other, when what are in the bottom of the question are misunderstandings or difficulties of communication. 

The majority of the people have a quite different character of the one that have the people with whom they relate.  We have different ways to see the things, different sensibilities, and also do neither coincide in each moment our state of spirit or our sense of humor.  Some people are very fond of the order, and the smaller maladjustment burdens them, while to others what causes them asphyxiation is the environment too much organized and thoughtful.  The lovers of the order use to feel knocked down by the ones that go out leaving all by any place, while the people of contrary temperament are annoyed when they are required a perfect order.  And immediately the intentions are judged, because all we tend to praise what coincides with our inclinations and our way to be, and to criticize what we don't like.  Therefore, if we don't moderate our own desires and we keep in mind whatever thing that separates us, it is easy to finish converting the human coexistence in a fight between the defenders of the order and the defenders of the liberty, between the followers of the exactness and those of the flexibility, the lovers of the calm and the lovers of the agitation, the early risers and the night owls, the talkative and the taciturn, and so on. 

If we get accustomed to satisfy too much our desires and to try to impose them on the others, the result will be the frustration, so much by the insatiability of the spiral of the own desires as by the conflicts that will be produced with the desires of who surround us.  Therefore, if we feel displeased habitually with the others, we should seek the root in the displeasure with ourselves.  It is a difficult task, that obliges us to relativize a little our intelligence, to know how to renounce to that "pride to be right" that so often impedes us to tune positively with the others.  It is a matter of renunciation that sometimes costs terribly but that helps us to live better together with the others and to leave our narrow-mindedness to open us to the others.  Besides, all we know the happiness that we feel when we conquer our own selfishness and we serve to the others, we provide them happiness or consolation. 

90.  A new key

I remember the case of a student that since the beginning of the course produced to me a quite evil impression.  His attitude was habitually negative, even quite much defiant.  It seemed as if every moment he had to verify to where was disposed the professor to permit his small provocations.  Also he had difficulties with his companions, among which he was quite unpopular. 

His mood and his behavior in class arrived to produce me a bit of irritation.  After a few days of the school year, I decided to vary the order that continued in my interviews with the new students to speak with him as soon as possible.  To the first occasion, I called him.  We sit down and I asked him how founded himself in his new class. 

The first minutes were, in his side, of a complete silence, only interrupted by some stingy monosyllables.  Although I endeavored myself for showing confidence, seeking the motive of his disinterest and his difficulties of relation with his companions, barely I received any answer from him. 

I passed to ask him more personal things, about his parents, about the atmosphere in his house.  Little by little, he was allowing me to note that, in reality, he wanted to speak, but he founded himself inside a barrier.  Finally, and without abandoning that arrogant tone that seemed so proper of him, he answered me:  "That how go the things in my house? Very bad, terrible.  You loose the desire for all.  You see everything very easy, it is evident.  But how would be the case if you see if your mother sick in bed since two years ago and your father returned home drunk the half of the days?  You would be all right, I suppose.  But, I regret it; I'm not able to face it". 

He continued speaking, at the beginning with certain temper, but some few phrases later he came down, his voice was broken and he began to cry.  Once broken the ice, the boy abandoned that false attitude of pride and of distance that he was using as defense, and he opened his heart completely.  Little by little he was relating the family's drama in which he was immersed and that caused him to live in that state of anguish and of agitation.  The illness, the alcohol and the economic difficulties had rarefied the environment in his house to levels difficult to imagine.  Being fourteen years old, he was carrying already on his shoulders an unfortunate load of enormously frustrating personal experiences. 

It is not difficult to imagine what I felt at that time.  My vision of that boy had changed completely in only some seconds.  Suddenly, I saw the things otherwise, I thought of him otherwise, and later on I treated him in another way.  I had to do no effort to make that change, I had not to force minimally my attitude either my conduct: simply, my heart had been invaded by his pain, and without effort flowed feelings of sympathy and affection.  All had changed in a moment. 

I then recalled me of that saying from Graham Greene, that, if we want to be able to know the true motive of all, we would have compassion even of the stars.  And I thought that many of the problems that we have along the life use to be problems of understanding and of relation with the others. They frequently have their root in that: we do not endeavor enough to understand the people. 

When I hear to say that the youths do not have heart, or that they don't have already the respect that they once had, I always think that -as it has been written by Susanna Tamaro- the heart continues being the same as always, only that perhaps now there is a little less of hypocrisy.  The youths are not egotists naturally, in the same way as the old are not naturally wise.  Comprehension and superficiality are not a simple question of years, but of the road that each one of us travels in his life. 

There is an Indian adage that says thus:  "Before judging a person, you have to walk during three moons in his shoes".  Viewed from outside, many lives seem wrong, irrational, crazy.  While we maintain us outside them, it is easy to understand badly to the people.  Only being inside, only walking three moons in their shoes we can understand their motivations, their feelings, what makes that a person acts in a way instead of doing it in another.  The comprehension is born of the humility, not of the pride of the knowledge.