When I entered the shop, they were already talking. Loureiro, the shoemaker who loved wines and books, listened to the sorrows of a nephew of his about the difficulties he had with questions of the heart. We were introduced, and the young man, quite politely, said he had no problems if I took part in the conversation. In fact, he said that it would be good, as he would have yet another opinion to consider. The elegant cobbler went to make a fresh pot of coffee while the young man explained to me, in short, that the more he knew a person, the more he was disappointed with them. He stated that masks cannot be sustained in personal relationships, and what is displayed has definitively never pleased him.
Loureiro, who was pouring fresh coffee in our cups on the counter, took the cue and said: “We all want to be loved and admired. This is a latent will of our ego: the limelight and the applause. So, subconsciously we create characters that we believe are real to interpret roles that achieve that end.” The nephew interrupted to say that that was exactly what he did not like in people. He looked for people who were authentic. “But they are, in a way”, corrected the uncle. The young man said the shoemaker was being contradictory. Loureiro began his explanation in Socratic style, with a question: “If you are attracted to a girl, do you normally approach her showing how vain, proud, stubborn or selfish you are?”
Annoyed, the man said he knew he was not perfect; however, he had some personality traits that were quite interesting and should be known. The shoemaker agreed and, then, went further: “Yes, there is no question about that. We all think our virtues are more relevant than our hardships. And indeed they are. In turn, hardships are but the seeds of new virtues seeking a bit of sun in order to sprout.” He sipped his coffee and continued: “We project the ideal person we want to be before we actually are. There is no problem in that; in fact, this is a natural process, as we do understand it, but we do not have the strength to experience it. We must leave behind habits so ingrained in us their roots go deep. However, we must do it, or we will not move forward. It is like a snake that sheds its skin to go on bigger, stronger. It is the same snake, and yet it is a different one.”
“Often, on a first date, before the hardships present themselves, we open an amazing colored crayon pack to embellish our virtues. To a greater or lesser degree, each one of us in their own way, whether more extroverted or subtle, rude or sophisticated, try hard to show how intelligent and sensitive we are. And make no mistake: this goes for everyone.” The nephew was gazing at Loureiro attentively, and became disconcerted when his uncle added: “Do you know which part of you wants to show all its best virtues?” That was a rhetorical question, and the cobbler himself answered: “Your own shadows.”
“Do not forget that the shadows are the ones that seek social approval, praise and commendations. The soul only wants to learn with all that happens around it, transmute the darkness of the dungeons of being into light, share the best that flourish within oneself, not only in discourse but in attitude; then, embrace the endless journey.”
“Whenever we are in the realm of words, we should question ourselves: ‘am I able to experience, in a broad sense’ the excellent theory I know?’ If the answer is yes, it means that you still have a hard time being honest with yourself. Your shadows are still capable of deceiving you. If the answer is no, this is a sign that you are a step away from transformation, as you are able to know yourself better. Do you know why?”
Having silence as an answer, Loureiro explained: “Because the soul knows that power lies in the example of silent actions, not in the beauty of easy speech. Let me point out that actions made for the enjoyment of an audience are similar to scandalous words and get lost in the drain of vanities.”
“Whenever you make a criticism, ask yourself: am I an instance of perfection that I claim the world lacks? This is the important step for the first portal of the Path, humility. You must understand that, even though you may believe yourself a wonderful person, you are far from being perfect. So, how can you demand from others what you do not have to offer? No one, absolutely no one, is but a being in evolution, a spirit going towards Light.”
The young man regretted that some people overplay their parts. The cobbler cracked a sweet smile and said: “Excesses should, as much as possible, be forgiven, as they only evidence the grade of anxiety and need to be accepted and loved. It is no different with anyone. To understand that is to exert valuable virtues: compassion for the other, sincerity in relation to yourself. To comprehend the personae that exist in others is essential not to denude them, but to help transform our persona into reality, merging the virtues that we admire and changing the features we no longer desire for the way we are and live. Once and for all. Only then will we gain force and power. This is pure Light.”
“This is the beauty and importance of relationships. The hardships the other faces help me understand my own shadows. What bothers in personal relations is the precise measure of my learning. The other will always be a good mirror, as the way I react to each tribulation, hindrance or opposition defines who I am already able to be.”
The young man said that for his relationships he looked for people who could make him complete. The good uncle reasoned: “Often we look in the other for something we do not yet possess. We keep looking for someone who we believe will make us complete, with the illusion that happiness will thus manifest itself. This is a mistake, albeit an honest one. We childishly desire happiness to come in an easy way, rather than develop it from learning and transformation. In other words, we want to receive as a gift something we are supposed to achieve with our effort. This is the core of all conflicts, because when you see the difficulties of others, your own are revealed. No one has the power over someone else’s happiness or peace, because this is a personal, non-transferable battle. Then the shadows emerge to convince us that it is better to look for the honey of life elsewhere. We go looking for other people and forget that the treasure map points to our own heart. We stagnate every time we believe the problem lies in others. To deny one’s own difficulties is to refuse to improve.”
He paused briefly and continued: “When the relationship is just occasional, it is easy to be charming because we can often give only the best in us. Are we lying when we do that? Of course not. Difficulties do not always make the virtues invalid, otherwise no one would have any positive feature. In this lies the magic of a more intense, lasting relationship. It is in the steadiness of every day that we are led to show the dark side of us, features we have that are bad. We leave the shallow to dive into the depths of being. This is the chance the shadows have to reveal their existence and size. However, many a time, relationships end, and people become distant, one from the other. Therefore, the chance of one experiencing the blossoming of fine virtues and beautiful transformations is missed.”
“A more intense relationship strips the being. Not only the other, but you as well. The daily routine rips off the masks, shows the vices, uncovers the wounds. Ultimately, it shows the worse in us. Is it bad? Not necessarily. This may fray the relationship or draw minds and hearts with the same perception and will to help closer.” The young man asked if the uncle would advise him to be with whom he did not like. The shoemaker shook his head and said: “Of course not. We are not forced to anything, much less to have a relationship with someone who bothers or upsets us. I just want to remind you that in order to exist, love does not have to be perfect.”
I interrupted him to argue that, sometimes, people’s interests are so different that vibrational frequencies do not allow them to have a relationship, at least not at that moment. The cobbler partially agreed: “Yes, this is true. There is no question some relationships should cease, so different are the values and interests of the parties involved. Each one should follow their true self, in pace with their affinities. This should not be taken lightly. One must pay heed that affinities are also revealed in difficulties they have in common.” After a sip of coffee, he continued: “Another aspect to consider is that not agreeing with the way a person is does not necessarily mean that this person should be eliminated from your life. Of course we end up being close to those who give us comfort and happiness. However, everybody, no exceptions made, is a source of learning. We do not need anyone to be happy, but we do need everybody to be better.”
“Living close to the difficulties, mistakes and flaws of others should not be taken as penance; I believe its concept outdated and cruel. However, as much as possible, this must be faced as a powerful lever for evolution. There is only love and wisdom where patience, respect, humility and compassion have put down roots. It shows the sensitivity of the gaze that is capable of emphasizing the existing virtues and, particularly, perceiving that hardships are virtues still latent, about to emerge. In you and in the other. The achievement is only fulfilled when the two sides win.” He paused briefly and added: “Understanding that is the beauty of life. Love must be imperfect to be handled and improved. Only then there will be a part of ourselves revealed as perfect.”
The young man lowered his head. He thanked the uncle with sincere words and said he had an odd feeling to meet his ex-girlfriend. When he said good-bye, I noticed a nice sparkle in his gaze.
Kindly translated by Carlos André Oighenstein.