It was pouring, and I hastened my pace. I became cheerful as I turned the corner of the narrow and winding street where the shop of Loureiro, the shoemaker who loves books and wines is located, and saw his vintage bicycle leaning against the light pole. When I entered the store, a variety of scents, the smell of leather and fresh coffee mixed with the smell of flowers. I was happy to see Valentina seated by the counter. She had just arrived. Even though she was also a monastic of the Order, we didn’t often meet at the monastery. The commitment we all have is to spend a month per year there, for studies, discussion and reflections. We hadn’t run into each other for a while. Valentina has poetry as art and engineering as a job. I considered her poetry unique, top-notch for her generation. I was greeted with joy by both of them. Soon, I was seated with a steaming cup before me. I asked Valentina about her next book, and she told me she was finishing a compilation of poems about love. She said she was thinking of dividing the book into two parts; in one, she would address the sorrows love causes, in the other, she would show love’s powerful charm. I said that pain was the rotten part of love. She agreed, but the shoemaker interrupted: “You two know very little about love.”
The poet stated that all love relationships are prone to disappointments and frustrations, not only due to ill-used opportunities, but also for lack of reciprocity of love that was given. She added that this was love’s dramatic face. Loureiro shook his head and said: “To begin with, we should establish the difference between passion and love. There is misunderstanding about these feelings, even though they are quite different, either in the way one deals with them within oneself or in relation to others.” Valentina asked him to further explain, and, as is his way, the shoemaker kindly obliged: “Passion is the springboard of the ego; love moves the soul. Plenitude is revealed when the ego becomes enchanted by love, rather than by passion, the ultimate step towards unification and evolution of the being.”
“Everyone seeks happiness; where and how to find it is what differentiates and defines us as individuals. As ludicrous as it may seem, those who are still at an early stage of evolution, those who kill or steal, to mention just the most basic examples, believe that they can be happy in practicing evil, that the product of their bad deeds will bring them the happiness they long for. Differences aside, something similar occurs between passion and love. When we are infatuated for another person, we are delusional as to the love we feel for the other.” I interrupted him to say that his explanation was confusing.
The sweet cobbler smiled and was didactic: “Passion is the ego’s tool of happiness, as the ego is concerned with its own joy and pleasures. The ego states to the being ‘I am entitled to be happy’. There is no question it does, but because it does not know how to build or develop a state of plenitude within itself, the ego grabs it from the life of the other, thus transferring the responsibility. ‘I will be happy if I have this person by my side’, and this is like a sentence. At this moment, you relinquish the power over your life and gives it to the other, because your joy or misery will depend on the choice the other makes. You become fully dependent, therefore, you suffer. Passion leads us to believe that happiness is a feast thrown by the other, because we do not want to go into the kitchen and prepare a personal recipe, with the ingredients each one has and are available to all. Not to mention the burden of having to make the other happy every day. Just like fireworks, passion emerges, makes noise, shines and vanishes after burning.”
We asked him about love. The cobbler kindly obliged: “Virtues are the tools to make the soul whole. Without plenitude there is no happiness. Love is the most important virtue because it is present in all others. Therefore, it is impossible to be happy and not love.”
“However, one must understand love, or be unable to experience it. If you are suffering, rest assured it is not out of love, but due to lack of it.” At the same time, both Valentina and I voiced our disagreement with him. We said that all people have suffered from love when they are frustrated in their relationships because they love too much. He nodded and said: “That is the point. We want reciprocity according to what we believe we offer or deserve. This is passion, not love. This is the ego demanding what it should not ask for, meddling in the conscience of others; these are your shadows passing on to the world the responsibility for your joy and well-being.” He sipped some coffee before going on: “Love is just the opposite of this equation, it is the overcoming of suffering. Love, by being love, carries in itself essential virtues: wisdom to understand each one is responsible for their own happiness; compassion not to determine the amount of love we wish, as one cannot demand what the other does not have; humility is indispensable, as it is not fair to expect perfection from others once we do not have it to offer; sensibility to accept we cannot impose our wishes onto others, and that we are not the priority in anyone’s life.
“Hence, love overcomes hardships, what we typically call ‘problems’, so common in relationships and mundane facts, because it transcends them. Love leads to a higher stage of perception and allows the person not to be reached by the turmoil of disparate emotions, as it keeps the person floating in the air. Only love makes possible the flourishing of the core that enables transformations. The universe responds delivering everything and more, making the person whole and pulling away the mists of delusion that are deceptive about achieving plenitude and henceforth a state of peace and happiness. This is the power. Love is sacred for eliciting the divine that is dormant within you. Love is the only bridge between the desert and the High Lands. To experience love is to undertake the crossing.”
Valentina had a distant gaze, as if enthralled by an unexpected landscape. I was unhappy with those ideas and stated that lovers are also resentful. The shoemaker disagreed: “There is only resentment between people who are infatuated with one another, but never in a true-love relationship. Love is the perfect cure of resentment. Love brings in itself understanding, patience, tolerance and, if required, the necessary forgiveness.” I rebuked by saying that such feeling was an almost impossible dream. Loureiro furrowed his brow and explained: “It will be difficult if you stick to the old-fashioned way of thinking, which is conditioned to receiving rather than giving, because the love you have is only the love you are able to give.” He made a brief pause for another sip of coffee and added: “What we are not able to give we are not able to experience.”
I argued that oftentimes I had given much of myself with nothing in return. The Shoemaker looked at me as if I were a child and asked: “And what is the problem? Wasn’t it out of love? If you give yourself, you don’t have to ask for anything in return. Where there is love, there is no room for receipts, bills or taxes. We should rejoice for the happiness and enchantment we cause, nothing else. However, if there was an expectation of reciprocity, your intentions were not pure; you were more interested in yourself than in the other; you only gave so that you could receive, therefore it was not love. Love, when it is pure, and only if it is pure, is true; it does not cause resentment, it does not rot, it flourishes under the fiercest storm. However, it does not germinate if the soil is fertilized by interests other than those of the essential virtues.”
I recalled how good it is to feel loved. Loureiro agreed: “No question it is wonderful. The love we receive is cozy and comforting. Bear in mind that only the love that is given transforms and heightens you.”
“In passion, happiness is translated into the affection one receives. In love, plenitude lies when we give the best that dwells within ourselves; happiness comes as consequence.” He furrowed his brow, a signal of seriousness of what he was about to say, and added: “The worst thing of all, which causes much suffering, is to condition happiness to receiving affection and attention. This mindset is addictive in a bad way; and worse, to maintain what we call happiness, we must control the choices of others. Hence, we create absurd, coercive behaviour rules, revealing ancestral, rudimentary conditioning of domination that exists in the collective unconscious and that stems from fear of abandonment, the typical anguish of being incomplete and anxiety for not knowing what is missing; of ignorance for not realizing that in order to be whole, you must awaken the latent virtues within your core, and that each and every one can do it. You are delusional if you think you will find in the other what you cannot find within yourself. We have learned a lot with the others, we feel good next to some people due to energetic affinity, the same ideas and feelings are in synch; we love many or few people; however, believing that someone will make us complete is a huge shadow, the cause of much pain. On the other hand, when we understand that love becomes perfect with the simple action of giving the best of yourself without asking absolutely anything in return, by exercising without reciprocation the virtues already settled, we free ourselves from the terrible jail without bars that is called emotional dependency. That is how wings appear.”
“The universe, in its immeasurable wisdom, gives us the chance of experiencing, with our children and family, among others, unconditional love in its most basic form. Parents who love their offspring are filled with happiness when they see smiles cracking on their children’s faces. They do not expect a smile back, do not measure efforts or sacrifices, they just rejoice with the joy of their children. Isn’t it like that? One must learn how to expand such love to the world and to everyone.”
We remained silent for a while. The shoemaker had gone to make a fresh pot of coffee when I noticed Valentina scribbling some words on a pad, on the counter. I asked her what she was writing. With her hand, she motioned for me to wait a little. When the cobbler returned with the fresh coffee pot and refilled out cups, she read what she had written:
“In the infancy of existence I rejoice
with my ball,
with my doll,
with my bike,
and when my friends are not
on the shelf,
I struggle, struggle, struggle
I suffer and feel pain”.
“In the maturity of life I am completed
with the flowers I have planted,
with the jar of water I have left,
with the smiles I have caused,
with the hugs I have exchanged.
And I go on.
What do I take?
Simply and only
the love I have sown”.
Kindly translated by Carlos André Oighenstein.