Loureiro, the shoemaker who sewed leather as trade and ideas as art was walking by my side on the narrow cobblestone streets of the charming village located at the foot of the mountain that houses the monastery. We were looking for a restaurant to have lunch. He picked a quiet one, so that we could chat without being disturbed. As soon as we walked in, he met a long-time friend, an artist who had become famous for her paintings. Even though she had to travel extensively, due to invitations and exhibits, whenever she could she would come back to the small village where her roots were, in order not to forget the core essence that propelled her to move on. ‘Knowing my village grants me power over the world’, she repeated this well-known quote when the shoemaker asked her what she was doing there, rather than being in New York, London or Paris. She immediately invited us to sit at her table. I had known her from pictures, and was impressed with her elegance and, particularly, her personal magnetism; it seemed both features were innate, as apparently she made no effort to present them. She was about Loureiro’s age, and had grayish, short hair, like his. She had decided not to have them dyed any longer, and she wore almost no makeup. She claimed ‘it is too troublesome, and there is already too much paint in my life’. We laughed. I asked myself if her elegance lay in her sophisticated simplicity. When she asked what was new, she said she would have to go to Madrid in a few days, as one of her paintings had been selected for an exhibition at the Prado Museum about ‘hidden feelings’. She took out from her purse a picture of the painting to show us. It was a gorgeous painting of a huge size, one of those that take an entire wall, in which she portrayed a young woman alone in a ballroom. She said she had named the painting “The Biggest Lie”. I asked her why. She said that once she had completed the painting, she found the smile of the portrayed woman sad. She confessed she felt bothered by the painting, but, she emphasized, she did not know nor tried to understand the reason for that interpretation; she painted with her subconscious mind.
Lunch was very pleasant, with art and travel being the topics of conversation. When desert arrived, she started to talk about her former husband. What he was doing, about his work, where he had gone on vacation, whom he was dating. Finally, she regretted the poor relationship he had with their daughter, of how distant he was from her and, worse, how much they argued whenever they met. She added it had always been like that. It seemed that all the conversation we just had was just a preamble for the life of this man. The painter seemed oddly excited when speaking about the former spouse. Clearly, he was her main subject, even though they had been separated for almost thirty years. I asked her if she still loved him. She immediately said no. I said, inadvertently, that I was surprised to see how she followed the life of her ex-husband. At this point, the tone of the conversation changed, and her voice showed signs of distress. She claimed she spoke about him out of concern for the daughter. After all, he was the father, and the other half of the family. Loureiro, who had remained silent for almost the entire lunch, placed his glass of wine on the table and highlighted: “The father is part of your daughter’s family, not yours.” The friend opened her eyes, as if caught by surprise, and said that all that related to her daughter related to her. She had been the one who raised the daughter, took her to the doctor, to school, wiped her tears, stayed awake during feverish nights. In short, she loved and had cared for her daughter since she was born, she wished her the best and, therefore, she thought it normal to have an interest in the life of her ex-husband and that she worked hard for them, father and daughter, to have a good relationship. The cobbler pondered, softly: “Of course you should facilitate their relationship, always. However, you must realize what is behind this interest of yours in his life. Your daughter is almost thirty, a mature woman, capable of developing a relationship with her father, with its ups and downs, by herself.” With his chin he pointed to the picture of the painting, still on the table, and added: “The biggest lie is the one we tell ourselves. Can’t you see this is the message your subconscious mind sends to your conscious mind?”
The painter said she did not understand what Loureiro’s point was. He explained: “Just like the woman you portrayed on canvas, you feel abandoned in a big ballroom. The ball of life. I can see in your face the liveliness of a wonderful person, who has achieved well-deserved professional success. You are acknowledged worldwide for your talent and work. It seems you lack nothing. However, I do not see in your eyes the necessary peace, what I see is a superficial joy in your expressions. You lack everything.”
She said it was a common error to mistake the author for his or her work. Furthermore, things were not so simple. The divorce had taken place when the daughter was still a toddler and that, since then, she has tried hard for father and daughter to be good friends. However, whenever they meet, they end up quarreling and the daughter becomes very sad. I asked why they quarreled so much. The woman answered that the daughter resented the father for not being present since he left home. She missed a male figure in her life, and criticized him about that whenever they met. The cobbler ran his fingers through his hair, a movement he would do when he knew he was entering a minefield, and asked: “Who has actually felt his absence, you or her? Your daughter was raised with the father away from home, so it would be normal for her to be adjusted to the situation. I do recall that at the time you suffered a lot with the separation, it seemed you could not stand it. I don’t think you were involved in a relationship afterwards, were you?” The friend said that her relationships afterwards had been sporadic, superficial, because it is difficult to re-start a love life with a daughter in tow.
Loureiro shook his head and said: “This is not really true. There are many cases of women who overcame this initial stage and were able to develop loving relationships more mature and healthier than the previous one.” He made a brief pause and commented: “Oftentimes, what we are silent about speaks more than what we actually say.” The friend said she had not understood what he meant. The cobbler was didactic: “Almost thirty years have passed, and you haven’t got over the divorce.” Nervous, she repeated she no longer loved the ex-husband. Loureiro agreed: “I don’t think you do. But what we have talked about has nothing to do with love. It is a classic case of pride and vanity. To date you have yet to admit he does not desire you any longer, he does not love you any longer, that he left and destroyed what you believed was a dream. Disheartened by what you mistakenly believe a loss or failure, you need him to come back, to mend your shattered ego. When you realized you would no longer get him to reconsider his decision, subconsciously you passed on this responsibility to your daughter, instilling in her the feeling of absence of a father who was, in fact, present, not according to the wishes of an abandoned wife, but to his possibilities. Without realizing, the daughter became the messenger of the mother’s frustration. This is why they fight so much.”
A rebellious tear found its way down the face of the painter. The shoemaker said, in an affectionate way: “In order to regain the joy you have let go in one of life’s corners, you must heal the wound that is still open. Truth is the medicine. The lie we tell ourselves is one of the meanest shadows that manipulate us and prevent plenitude. To accept that relationships are eternal only when there is affinity between consciences and hearts is a wise way to deal with life. Whenever we try to control someone, we condemn ourselves to live in an absurd domination-over-others wish cell.” He sipped some wine and continued: “While the couple appreciate the same music, they will dance together at the ball. When the steps no longer match, it is time to say goodbye, wish the other good luck and move on to a new beginning. There is no shame in that. Just the opposite, this is an act of love in itself, for the other and for life. It is the end of a cycle and, inevitably, will be the beginning of a new one. This is one of the laws that make the unwritten code that regulates all in the universe. To insist in what is no longer sustainable is typical of stagnation. It is stubbornly nourishing the ego in the shadows of lies and the senseless desire of controlling the will of others. It is denying love, mistakenly using love as an excuse; it is denying evolution by being stuck to a past that no longer exists. This causes distress and sadness; puts peace and happiness aside. By overestimating the needs of your daughter or worse, by creating unnecessities for her, you have woven the lie of how the presence of your ex-husband is important, because it relates to the intensity of your wish, not of her needs. Of course, the relationship between father and daughter is essential, but according to their pace, not yours. Only if we accept a story is over are we able to begin a new one.” He paused briefly and concluded: “Love, in essence, teaches us that we do not need anyone in terms of affection, because all that we need lies dormant within us, waiting to be elicited; only then can it be shared with someone else and with the world.”
We remained a time I cannot gauge without uttering a word. The painter emptied her glass of wine, thanked us for lunch and left. We decided to order some coffee, and I asked Loureiro if his friend would change after that conversation. The shoemaker shrugged his shoulders and said, naturally: “No, at least for now. Some lies are so ancient they have created deep roots in the ego, and are difficult to be revealed. Illuminating old shadows is always more difficult, as we end up believing they are indispensable. The biggest lie is the one you tell yourself. The ego, under the illusion of protection, develops a false justification to attribute to others the responsibility for the frustration that is so bothersome. The soul saddens. Frustration can either be a brake or a stepping stone for evolution. It depends only on the eyes with which one sees, of the choices one makes. No one needs permission from others to be happy. No one needs anything exterior to oneself to be whole. While you believe you depend on someone to move on, you will be imprisoned in a terrible dungeon without bars, in which the ego, disguised as warrior, is, in fact, the mean jailkeeper of the soul, the threshold guardian that prevents you from starting on the Path. Truth is the key to freedom.”
Kindly translated by Carlos André Oighenstein.