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ON HE  OAD O  TH  RO D 

  MAH NDA VITO  M HIN A V O 
     

I Should a man be scorned, if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? The world outside is not less real because the prisoner cannot see it. The burden is replaced, not only by horizons of hope, but with the glow of a truly better tomorrow. What greater sorrow than to recall happiness in times of misery, what greater joy than to recall misery in times of happiness? Hundreds of things you have tried to chase away the things you won't remember and that you can't even let yourself think about because that's when the birds scream and the worms crawl and somewhere in your mind it's always raining a slow and endless drizzle. You will hear that she has left the country, that there was a gift she wanted you to have, but it is lost before it reaches you. Late one night the telephone will sign, and a voice that might be hers will say something that you cannot interpret before the connection crackles and is broken. Several years later, from a taxi, you will see someone in a doorway that looks like her, but she will be gone by the time you persuade the driver to stop. You will never see her again. Whenever it rains you will think of her. Not even the very wise can see all ends, very hard it will be but the road must be trod. And neither strength nor wisdom will suffice to carry us far upon it. It is for the weak with as much hope as it is for the strong for often it is the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world I tell you. For myself, I become less distrustful of the human nature remembering my own sins and follies; and realize that men's hearts are not often as bad as their acts, and very seldom as bad as their words. For me love thus far is but a sudden and miraculous grace, I just shut my eyes and never count it nor expect it to recur, but I wake with delight every morn, not because I deny the existence of sorrow and failure, like many, at some point in their lives, I woke up in the middle of the night with the feeling that I was all alone in the world, and that I will never have a decent night's sleep again and will spend my life wandering blearily around a loveless landscape, hoping desperately that my circumstances will improve, but suspecting, in their heart of hearts, that they will remain so. But even if it were a fleeting glimpse of Joy, it has taken me beyond the world’s poignant walls of grief.

“Ah, love, let us be true to one another! For the world, which seems to lie before us like a land of dreams, so various, so beautiful, so new is to be held with care” so once was wrote.

II It’s been hours, it’s been days Love taken from me. A prodigal left behind, I go out all night Sleep all day, like a bird without a song. I put my arms around every face at the window, But they all remind me of you. Things are entirely what they appear to be And behind them there is nothing, Nothing stands the pace. A lone boy’s heart to the ground cascades So tell me where this sinful self did stray. I try to have fun, but “he is a fool” All the flowers died when you went away. Living is hard but I will try, With your knives, hollow my lute, Alas a bitter symphony for these lonely tears, It might as well be my fault, Life is made of all am used to, Still clock on the wall is only right twice a day, But God its better than nothing. I can’t help but be scared of it all sometimes, Outside my window the moon doesn’t hung as high, I shall have to sleep when it’s raining this time, Happiness left my doorway. To many corners in my mind, so many shadows in my room Not even the wind could take me my own way. Fountains mingle with the river, the rivers with the Ocean, In one another's being mingle, the winds with the heavens. Why not I with thee? Well to marvel at nothing is just about the one and only thing, That can make one happy and keep him that way I suppose.

III
I’m writing to you today out of sentimental necessity. I have an anguished, painful need to speak to you. It’s easy to see that I have nothing to tell you. Today, at bottom of a bottomless, the absurdity of the sentence speaks for me. I’m having one of those days in which I never had a future. There is only a present, surrounded by a wall, over the other side of the river; that is the intimate reason for all my suffering. Ships sailing to many ports, but not a single one goes where life is not painful; nor is there any port of call where it is possible to forget. All of this Happened a long time ago, but my sadness began even before then. On days of the soul like today, I feel, with all the awareness that I am a sad child abused by life. I was abandoned in a corner where I could hear other children playing. Feeling in my hands the broken toy I was handed by malicious irony. Today my life knows just how much all that is worth. In the garden I can just make out through the silent windows of my cell, someone has thrown all the swings over the branches they hang from; they’re tangled up, high and out of reach, even the idea I have in my imagination of myself running away cannot have swings to play with. And that is, more or less, but without style, the state of my soul at this time. Like the man who waits in Gibran’s tales, my eyes burn from having thought about weeping. Life pains me bit by bit, in sips, through interstices. All this is printed in a small book whose binding is already coming apart. If I weren’t writing to you, I would have to swear to you that this letter is sincere and that the hysterical ties in it spring spontaneously from what I feel. But you must sense that this unstageable tragedy is of a rigorous reality, full of the here and now, and taking place in our souls, you and I, just like the green in the leaves. This is not exactly madness, but madness must bestow a relaxation on the person who suffers it, the astute pleasure of the soul’s bounces, not very different from these. What colour can feeling be? I have found both freedom and safety in my madness; the freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood in this mad world, where only the mad are sane. Thousands of hugs from yours truly, always truly yours.

IV
When you chase a dream, you learn about yourself. You learn your capabilities and limitations, and the value of hard work and persistence. Chase your dreams until you catch them...and then dream, catch, and dream again! I only have one question, scraping the inside of me. I’ve tried to ignore it, but it won't go away. It haunts my dreams, chases me through every single day. So please tell me and I swear I'll never ask again. It's in your power to make it go away, and all you have to do is tell me...The broken are not always gathered together, of course, and not all mysteries of the flesh are solved. We speak of "senseless tragedies" but really: Is there any other kind? Mothers and wives disappear without a trace. Children are killed. Madmen ravage the world, leaving wounds endlessly mourned. Loved ones whose presence once filled us move into the distance; our eyes follow them as long as possible as they recede from view. Maybe we chase them clumsily, across railroad tracks and trafficked streets; Over roads new printed with their footsteps, the dust still whirling in the wake of them; through impossibly big cities people with strangers whose faces and bodies carry fragments of their faces and bodies, whose laughter, steadiness, pluck, stubbornness remind us of the beloved we seek. Maybe we stay put, left behind, and look for them in our dreams. But we never stop looking. We can never stop carrying the heavy weight of this pilgrimage; we can only transfigure what we carry. Like the story told; Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering, we can only shatter it and send it whirling into the world in sparkling dust. Most dreams die a slow death. They're conceived in a moment of passion, with the prospect of endless possibility, but often languish and are not pursued with the same heartfelt intensity as when first born. Slowly, subtly, a dream becomes elusive and ephemeral. People who've lost their own to pessimists turn, pessimists to cynics, time and devotion wasted, but o what a world, indeed full of peril but still there is much that is fair. Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I'll meet you there; carry my answer with if you be kind good sire. Maybe a happy life to find, a quiet mind, an equal friend, no grudge, no strife, wisdom joined with simplicity, a night discharged of all care. Martial are things to attain, when that I think what grief it is again, to live and lack the thing should rid the pain.

V

I have always, essentially, been waiting. Waiting to become something else, waiting to be that person I always thought I was on the verge of becoming, waiting for that life I thought I would have. In my head, I was always one step away. In high school, I was biding my time until I could become the college version of myself, the one my mind could see so clearly. In college, the post-college “adult” person was always looming in front of me, smarter, stronger, and more organized. Then the married person, then the person I’d become when we have kids. For twenty years, literally, some have waited to become the thin version of them, because that’s when life will really begin. And through all that waiting, here I am. My life is passing, day by day, and I am waiting for it to start. I am waiting for that time, that person, that event when my life will finally begin. I love movies about “The Big Moment” – the game or the performance or the wedding day or the record deal, the stories that split time with that key event, and everything is reframed, before it and after it, because it has changed everything. I have always wanted this movie-worthy event, something that will change everything and grab me out of this waiting game into the whirlwind in front of me. I cry and cry at these movies, because I am still waiting for my own big moment. I had visions of life as an adventure, a thing to be celebrated and experienced, but all I was doing was going to work and coming home, and that wasn’t what it looked like in the movies. John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” For me, life is what was happening while I was busy waiting for my big moment. I was ready for it and believed that the rest of my life would fade into the background, and that my big moment would carry me through life like a lifeboat. The Big Moment, unfortunately, is an urban myth. Some people have them, in a sense, when they win the Heisman or become the next American Idol. But even that football player or that singer is living a life made up of more than that one moment. Life is a collection of a million, billion moments, tiny

little moments and choices, like a handful of luminous, glowing pearls. It takes so much time, and so much work, and those beads and moments are so small, and so much less fabulous and dramatic than the movies. But this is what I’m finding, in glimpses and flashes: this is it. This is it, in the best possible way. That thing I’m waiting for, that adventure, that movescore-worthy experience unfolding gracefully. This is it. Normal, daily life ticking by on our streets and sidewalks, in our houses and apartments, in our beds and at our dinner tables, in our dreams and prayers and fights and secrets – this pedestrian life is the most precious thing any of us will ever experience. Believe that this way of living, this focus on the present, the daily, the tangible, this intense concentration not on the news headlines but on the flowers growing in your own garden, the children growing in your own home, this way of living has the potential to open up the heavens, to yield a glittering handful of diamonds where a second ago there was coal. This way of living and noticing and building and crafting can crack through the movie sets and soundtracks that keep us waiting for our own life stories to begin, and set us free to observe the lives we have been creating all along without ever realizing it. I don’t want to wait anymore. I choose to believe that there is nothing more profound than this day. I choose to believe that there may be a thousand big moments embedded in this day, waiting to be discovered like tiny shards of gold. The big moments are the daily, tiny moments of courage and forgiveness and hope that we grab on to and extend to one another. That’s the drama of life, swirling all around us, and generally I don’t even see it, because I’m too busy waiting to become whatever it is I think I am about to become. The big moments are in every hour, every conversation, every meal, every meeting. The Heisman Trophy winner knows this. He knows that his big moment was not when they gave him the trophy. It was the thousand times he went to practice instead of going back to bed. It was the miles run on rainy days, the healthy meals when a burger sounded like heaven. That big moment

represented and rested on a foundation of moments that had come before it. I believe that if we cultivate a true attention, a deep ability to see what has been there all along, we will find worlds within us and between us, dreams and stories and memories spilling over. The nuances and shades and secrets and intimations of love and friendship and marriage an parenting are actionpacked and multicoloured, if you know where to look. Today is your big moment. Moments, really. The life you’ve been waiting for is happening all around you. The scene unfolding right outside your window is worth more than the most beautiful painting, and the crackers and peanut butter that you’re having for lunch on the coffee table are as profound, in their own way, as the Last Supper. This is it. This is life in all its glory, swirling and unfolding around us, disguised as pedantic, pedestrian nonevents. But pull of the mask and you will find your life, waiting to be made, chosen, woven, and crafted. Your life, right now, today, is exploding with energy and power and detail and dimension, better than the best movie you have ever seen. You and your family and your friends and your house and your dinner table and your garage have all the makings of a life of epic proportions, a story for the ages. Because they all are. Every life is. You have stories worth telling, memories worth remembering, dreams worth working toward, a body worth feeding, a soul worth tending, and beyond that, God. I am more than dust and bones. For i have been given today.

VI

When the two people who thus discover that they are on the same secret road, the friendship which arises between them will very easily pass – may pass in the first half hour – into a love. But this, so far from obliterating the distinction between the two loves, puts it in a clearer light. If one who was first, in the deep and full sense a Friend, is then gradually or suddenly revealed as also your lover you will certainly not want to share the Beloved’s love with any third. But you will have no jealousy at all about sharing the Friendship. Nothing so enriches love, any love as the discovery that the Beloved can deeply, truly and spontaneously enter into Friendship with the Friends; to feel that not only are we two united by love but we three or four or five are all travellers on the same quest, with a common vision. But my friend, she leaned down and looked at his lifeless face and kissed her best friend, soft and true. He tasted dusty and sweet. He tasted like regret in the shadows of trees and in the glow of a moon already gone. She kissed him long and soft, and when she pulled herself away, she touched his mouth with her fingers. She did not say goodbye, she was incapable, and after a few more minutes at his side, she was able to tear herself from the ground. It amazed me, the wonders of the human condition, even when streams are flowing down their faces and they stagger on. My friend poured out the contents of my heart, chaff and grain together, with gentle hands took and sifted it, kept what was worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness, blew the rest away. So When I say it's you I like, I nurse a hope that you will understand I'm talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that

allows you to stand for those things without which we cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war and justice that proves more powerful than greed. Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into my life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to my side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart its pages betrayed the rhythm and the music; perhaps . . . perhaps . . . love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a sweet-hearted rose slipped from its sheath. But truly I nothing but loved my friend, as the people in my life, and I do for my friends whatever they need me to do for them, again and again, as many times as is necessary. In your case you oft forgot who you are and how much you're loved. So as a friend I remind you who you are and tell you how much I love you. And think it not burden for me. Alas every time I remind you, I get to remember with you, which is my pleasure. For you knew all about me, I could afford to be stupid, I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve, you understood where I have been, accepted what ‘ad become, and still, gently allowed me to grow in the wilderness of this world. And for what would I ever leave a friend behind? Friends are all we have to get us through, the only things from this world that we could hope to see in the next, for Life is an awful, ugly place to not have one. O my friend, When i honestly ask myself which person in my life mean the most, i often find that it is you who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, chose rather to share the pains and touch the wounds. The friend who can be silent with in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay in an hour

of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face us the reality of our powerlessness, that is one who cares, and There is nothing I would not do for those who really care. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature. My friend, my mirror, you are my best as well as my lover, and I do not know which side of you I enjoy the most. I treasure each side, just as I have treasured our life together. Perhaps someday we shall be fortunate enough to grow old together and grow old apart. She did not think him any less handsome as his lifeless face faded away on her lap. She only wished that she’d been there when the first line on his face had appeared, so that she could have stroked and kissed and cherished it, thus the roads part into a secret gate.

VII

It is not the strength, but the duration, of great sentiments that makes great men, it was said once. We fear passing through this world, we shudder at life's instability, and we grieve to see the flowers wilt again and again, and the leaves fall, and in our hearts we know that we too will soon disappear. Long did we lie in the dust, silent and unaware of the seasons; Alas! Gifts are never lost, save the opportunity to open them. When the painter paints, and thinker formulate thoughts, it is in order to salvage something from that memory, an autumn leaf that murmurs in the wind and then is heard no more, to make something last longer than we do. I like the stars is deluded with permanence, I think. Always flaring up and caving in and going out. But from here, I can pretend. I can pretend that things last, that lives are longer than moments that flicker, flash and fade. Alas! Worlds don't last; and stars are transient, fleeting things that twinkle like fireflies and vanish into cold and dust, but I can pretend. Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough they say. You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it or something like that. A tragedy indeed, that One shall lose a heart's desire, and the other profit of it. If the whole world is evil, then the worst that befell you is justified if that would make it easier for you to accept the loses. Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh. For whoever wants music instead of noise, joy instead of pleasure, soul instead of gold, passion instead of foolery, finds no home in this trivial world of ours. By our own hands we are damned and saved. In whatever you do, put forth your best effort even if all you're doing is chasing a never-ending rainbow. You might never reach the end of it, but along the way you'll meet people who will mean the world to you and make memories that will keep you warm on even the coldest nights. People come, people go – they’ll drift in and out of your life, almost like characters in a favourite book. When you finally close the cover, the characters have told their story and you start up again with another book.

VIII

She can kill with a smile; she can wound with her eyes. And she can ruin your faith with her casual lies. And she only reveals what she wants you to see. She hides like a child, but she's always a woman to me. She can lead you to love; she can take you or leave you. She can ask for the truth but she'll never believe. And she'll take what you'll give her as long as it's free. Yeah, she steals like a thief, but she's always a woman to me. She takes care of herself. She can wait if she wants; she's ahead of her time. And she never gives out, and she never gives in, she just changes her mind. And she'll promise you more than the Garden of Eden. And she'll carelessly cut you and laugh while you're bleeding. But she'll bring out the best and the worst you can be. Blame it all on yourself, because she's always a woman to me. She takes care of herself. She can wait if she wants; she's ahead of her time. And she never gives out, and she never gives in, She just changes her mind. She is frequently kind and she's suddenly cruel. But she can do as she pleases, she's nobody's fool. And she can't be convicted, she's earned her degree. And the most she will do is throw shadows at you, But she's always a woman to me.
(ELLA ES SIEMPRE UNA MUJER PARA MÍ)

IX The new becomes old, kinship quickly vanishes, mighty become disgraced, abundant becomes little, affection dies out and its pleasure does perish. When I was young and discovering myself, my convictions were hills from which i looked at the world, now as I grow older they seem to be turning into caves in which to hide, well beautiful things grow to a certain height and then they fail and fade off, breathing out memories as they decay. And just as any period decays in our minds, the things of that period should decay too. So let your lips, speak words of kindness, your eyes seek out the good in people. People, more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed. And if you ever need a helping hand, you shall find one at the end of each of your arms, and as you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself and the other for helping others. Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss; mine, some I find sweeter when they’re lost, for much has turned to dust in my hands I find. Was I actually in love? I often wonder, I felt a sort of tender curiosity, slipped briskly into an intimacy from which I never recovered, my scars betray me so, as I find myself among strangers drifting here and there trying to forget the sad things that happened to me, alas! Every morning I wake only to find I moved and breathed in the same world as I did.

X

Please forgive me; I'm not shouting "I'm clean living'." I'm whispering "I was lost, and Now am trying to find myself." I don't speak of this with pride. I'm confessing that I stumble and in need of guidance. I'm not trying to be strong. I'm professing that I'm weak and need His strength to carry on. I'm not bragging of success. I'm admitting I have failed and need God to help me clean my mess. I'm not claiming to be perfect; my flaws are far too visible I still feel the sting of pain. I have my share of heartaches so I call upon His name in prostration. I'm not holier than thou; I'm just a simple sinner who received God's good grace, somehow. When I say “I am…” I am not

XI
And one spoke and said: “life has dealt bitterly with our hopes and our desires. Our hearts are troubled, and we do not understand. Comfort us, and open to us the meanings of our sorrows." And his heart was moved with compassion, and he said: “Call me not wise unless you call all men wise. A young fruit am I, still clinging to the branch, and it was only yesterday that I was but a blossom. "And call none among you foolish, for in truth we are neither wise nor foolish. We are green leaves upon the tree of life, and life itself is beyond wisdom, and surely beyond foolishness. The space that lies between you and your near neighbour unfriended is indeed greater than that which lies between you and your beloved who dwells beyond seven lands and seven seas. For in remembrance there are no distances; and only in oblivion is there a gulf that neither your voice nor your eye can abridge. Life is older than all things living; even as beauty was winged ere the beautiful was born on earth, and even as truth was truth ere it was uttered. Life sings in our silences, and dreams in our slumber. Even when we are beaten and low, Life is enthroned and high. And when we weep, Life smiles upon the day, and is free even when we drag our chains. Oftentimes we call Life bitter names, but only when we ourselves are bitter. And we deem her empty and unprofitable, but only when the soul goes wandering in desolate places and the heart is drunk with over mindfulness of self. Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through selfgratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose. This purpose is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, and to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well. Life is deep and high and distant; and though only your vast vision can reach even her feet, yet she is near; and though only the breath of your breath reaches her heart, the shadow of your shadow crosses her face, and the echo of your faintest cry becomes a spring and an autumn in her breast. And Life is veiled and hidden, even as your greater self is hidden and veiled. Yet when Life speaks, all the winds become words; and when she speaks again, the smiles upon your lips and the tears in your eyes turn also into words. When she

sings, the deaf hear and are held; and when she comes walking, the sightless behold her and are amazed and follow her in wonder and astonishment." And he ceased from speaking, and a vast.
(23.06.11)

XII Friendship improves happiness, and abates misery, by doubling our joys, and dividing our grief, so it was said, for life is nothing without it. A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear. So is the man who backbites an absent friend, nay, who does not stand up for him when another blames him, the man who angles for bursts of laughter and for the repute of a wit, who can invent what he never saw, who cannot keep a secret - that man is black at heart: mark and avoid him, Though silence be not necessarily an admission, it is not a denial, either. For nothing stands out so conspicuously, or remains so firmly fixed in the memory, as something blundered, so never injure a friend, even in jest. As for myself, I can only exhort you to look on Friendship as the most valuable of all human possessions, no other being equally suited to the moral nature of man, or so applicable to every state and circumstance, whether of prosperity or adversity, in which he can possibly be placed. But at the same time I lay it down as a fundamental axiom that "true Friendship can only subsist between those who are animated by the strictest principles of honour and virtue." When I say this, I would not be thought to adopt the sentiments of those speculative moralists who pretend that no man can justly be deemed virtuous who is not arrived at that state of absolute perfection which constitutes, according to their ideas, the character of genuine wisdom. This opinion may appear true, perhaps, in theory, but is altogether inapplicable to any useful purpose of society, as it supposes a degree of virtue to which no mortal was ever capable of rising. Let’s live as

brave men; and if fortune is adverse, front its blows with brave hearts, for it is foolish to tear one’s hair in grief, as though sorrow would be made less by baldness, just as with many fleeting pleasures--travel in their company, enjoy them every so often, and then get on with your life, for dearest friend, Men, of course, who have no resources in themselves for securing a good and happy life find every age burdensome. But those who look for all happiness from within can never think anything bad which providence makes inevitable. Hours and days and months and years go by; the past returns no more and what is to be we cannot know; but whatever the time gives us in which we live, we should therefore be content. But men may construe things after their fashion, Clean from the purpose of the things themselves.
MARCUS TULLIUS CICERO

XIII Taste of real life have I none, moments in my dream to live in, for a night, a week, a year. I couldn't have lived better under the skies even for a hundred years. You won't fail me, will you? Only for a moment, and you are happy forever. Yes, happy. Who knows, perhaps we reconcile ourselves with ourselves, resolve all doubt. When I wake The city grows cold, as the leaves start to fall, The streets still lit, the bars at last call, some Looking for love, others looking for when. I hand the postman my final letter to be sent. Some to the ground and some to thin air, we’ve all got to be going somewhere. Freedom, friends, stories in dusty bookends, Stories past cigarette ends, some are born, others remain dead. It seems to me like some snatch of a tune I had heard somewhere before but had forgotten the melody of great sweetness, was coming back to me now. A world of magic is less tragic, You can't hold it in your hand, You can't feel it with your heart, And you won't believe it But if it's true You can see it with your eyes. If and when you fall in love, may you be happy with her. You don't need to wish her anything, for she'll be happy with you. May your sky always be clear, may your dear smile always be bright and happy, and may you be for ever blessed for that moment of bliss and happiness which you gave to another lonely and grateful heart. Isn't such a moment sufficient for the whole of one's life? Just keep your feet on the ground when your head's in the clouds.

MI BAMBINA Be an earth for him and he will be your sky; Be a resting place for him and he will be your pillar; Be his Bondmaid and he will be your slave; Do not make excessive demands for he will then desert you; Do not become too distant from him for he will then forget you; Should he draw near then draw close to him; Should he become distant stay away from him; Shield his nose, his hearing and his eye so he will smell nothing from you But that which is sweet hear nothing but that which is good; And look at nothing but that which is beautiful.