I was with Loureiro in a tavern, in a small and ancient city close to the mountain that is home to the monastery. We had just exchanged ideas on suffering and disappointment. The good cobbler had reasoned, flawlessly, that love causes no pain, and therefore has always been taken unfairly – we always listen to our shadows, which are emotions that lack nobility, rather than trying to understand in its entirety the grandness of a feeling capable of changing the world by allowing the best within ourselves to flourish. We had already asked for the check when, all of a sudden, he says: “I don’t think that is all. Whenever we talk about the shadows, we mean those that we know best, like envy, fear, jealousy, vanity and ignorance. We often forget about the lie, perhaps because it is so close to us.” I must confess I was astonished. He realized it, laughed and explained: “Of all the shadows, the lie is perhaps the one most difficult to be freed from, because it is the sneakiest. I am talking about the lie we tell ourselves. It leads us to escape reality by comforting ourselves with the delusion that we are fighting the good fight. This shadow leads us to create and interpret roles far from the truth.” He paused briefly and then continued: “There is more of our essence in the part we hide than in the one we show; there is more stuff hidden in the bottom of the drawer than what is exposed in the store window. This is what we sell; that is what we are. This accounts for much frustration.”
I asked him to make his reasoning more clear. The good cobbler willingly obliged: We create characters filled with virtues we are yet to possess, to represent us in social circles. Everybody wishes to be loved, admired, even worshiped. On the surface, everybody tries to show themselves as good, and go around believing they are what they are yet to be. However, for relationships, a dive into the depths of people is required.” He paused, and added, as a conclusion: “Hence, intimacy will reveal the best within ourselves, and also the worst. It is unavoidable.”
The elegant craftsman has his gaze lost on some page of his story, and spoke as if explaining a distant fact: “Ordinarily, the other is not prepared to see us acting without our social costumes. The ego created the character with the foolish intent of protecting ourselves; however, sooner or later, the actual self will surface to show its real face, the one we want to hide. The self will be naked. No trick is able to sustain that forever. Hence our disappointment, conflict, suffering, in that order.”
“Some people are more abusive of the characters, others less, as they lack the courage to face who they really are. One must face the truth with humility, with no embellishments, as the first step to transform and experience its infinite possibilities. One does not reach the next station without traversing the road. Despite the curves, the bumps and thunderstorms, the hardships strengthen and hone the traveler.”
“Not everyone is willing to face the truths of the soul, with its frustrations and failures. Thus, we hide under the cloak of illusions provided by the ego, deceitfully believing it will comfort and protect us forever. We use the masks it lends us in the ball that pays tribute to lies. Until the Path, in its demand for healing by the truth, takes off the character we have created to perform the stories we like to tell about ourselves. Sooner or later, it forces us to look in the mirror. To face yourself means to look into the eyes of truth and to understand its revolutionary power. It is painful at first, because, for being with no makeup, you will not find the perfection you delusively believed you had. But that is the only way we have to realize what must be changed, what must be left behind. Foremost, we come to understand we are defined not by our discourse, but by our choices.”
I said that there were, probably, some more common types of fantasies, archetypes of the collective unconscious. Loureiro agreed: “Yes, there are many, and I can list some examples for you. A very common character nowadays is the ‘very serious, busy person, who has no time to waste with others’, a clear demonstration of escaping from relationships, from intimacy, for fear of revealing they have little to show, or showing what they wish to conceal. It is the frail mask of being strong, the short-lived fantasy of power. In fact, we hide what we do not have the courage to face. We build walls so that no one discovers our weaknesses when, in reality, we need bridges to cross these abysses. Only when we admit our difficulties are we able to overcome them. In order for one to be great, one must travel on the path of the small. This is called humility. This virtue will make you accept the condition of being an apprentice, that no one is born ready. Hence, with a lot of toil, little by little the grandness that exists in your heart will be revealed.”
“There is also the ‘fake happy’ character, the one who always must be surrounded by people and, preferably, noise. Let’s be clear that fun, friendship, joy, movement are wonderful things. But there is a time for everything, and one must make good use of this finite treasure. Why should one be afraid of being alone? Of listening to the music of silence? Of talking to one’s heart? Loneliness has been cursed for being ill understood. Loneliness does not mean abandonment, but the trip the ego makes to the gardens of the soul. The necessary retreat for us to realize the masks that hamper, through ineffectiveness, the achievement of fulfillment; the fantasies that became old without being able to sustain happiness; the makeup that is smudged by so many tears shed from the realization that peace is not found on the shelves of illusion, but must be built from the truth of knowing yourself as a whole, and then transforming yourself. To be happy is a conscious choice that requires determination and courage to be with yourself and to listen to the voice that comes from your heart.”
“Of all the fantasies, the saddest is the one of ‘victim’. These are those who assert they are good and generous, but claim they are deceived or sabotaged by everyone all the time. They wear the mask of drama to blame others for their suffering, hiding from themselves the attribution of working towards their own evolution. It is as if they wanted a ride to the next station so they do not have to face the difficulties of the Path. They forget that the problems the follow us are no more than the lessons we must learn, the transformations we must forge in our core. They ignore that the final battle is fought within each one of us.”
Loureiro sipped the last drop of wine, and warned: “It is important that one reinvent oneself every day, this is part of the distinguished process of transformation. However, the foundations of truth must blend with the rocks of humility, joy and courage, away from the swamps of illusions, lies and fear that bogged down evolution.”
“One must take off the veil of fantasy that blurs the necessary changes required by the naked soul. It is a difficult process, as much of the apparent comfort of the character will be replaced by hard efforts in the development of the true self. Self-knowledge is essential for healing; healing of imperfections, trauma, and suffering through the medicine of truth, by cutting the shells that cover you until sheer light is reflected. To sow and cultivate the essence within ourselves, in the beauty of being unique and, at the same time, part of a whole.”
He paused briefly and added, before standing up: “Each one is the ship crossing the storms of one’s own illusions, learning how to sail with the winds of truth, navigating under the light of refined wisdom. Life is the sea, the encounters are the ports, and love is the destination.”
Once he was standing, about to leave, he gave me a roguish smile and provoked me: “Yoskhaz, what is your mask?” We laughed.
Kindly translated by Carlos André Oighenstein.