One more day of work came to an end in the small and ancient village close to the mountain that harbors the monastery of the Order. I hastened my steps in the hope of finding Loureiro’s shop still open. Not that I had anything that needed to be fixed, I just wanted to chat with that dear friend of mine. From afar, I could see his bike leaning against the light pole, an indication that I was lucky. The shoemaker, elegant as always in the way he dressed and acted, was very happy to see me. To my surprise, he was with Sarah, morena mia, as he affectionately called his daughter, a young and beautiful woman with long, dark hair that explained the nickname. She was now living in the capital, where she studied for a doctoral degree at a prestigious university, and had come to spend some days with her father. Very sweet and polite, she said she would leave us alone to chat, and would wait for the father later at home. Loureiro showed me the new philosophy books the daughter had brought him as a gift. Philosophy was one of his passions. He invited me for a glass of wine in a quiet tavern close by. We walked over, and even before arriving, I asked him about the experience of bringing up a daughter by himself. “We know more than what we are. We all have knowledge that we are not able to put into practice. Hence, life, in its infinite intelligence, forces upon us conflicts and hardships so that, by experiencing them, we understand its beauty. It is up to us to enjoy the precious lessons with joyful resignation”, he said, showing the line of reasoning he would further develop.
Seated at the table with our two glasses of wine, we resumed our talk. “We are not what we think or what we talk about, but what we do. Our choices define us”. He paused briefly and continued: “When Sarah’s mother went away, to pursue her dream of becoming an actress, she left me the responsibility of caring for and bringing up a little girl, still a toddler. Initially, I felt out of my mind, as I felt betrayed and abandoned with my little daughter. The funny thing is that, at that time, I already had in my mind the idea of respecting the freedom of others”. I interrupted him, and argued that any freedom brings, in its wake, a precise measure of responsibility, and it was also the mother’s duty to look after Sarah. “No question”, said the dashing shoemaker. “However, we cannot be sorrowful, annoyed, bound or dependent on the choices of others. I was already responsible for raising my daughter even before her mother left, wasn’t’ I? So, it was only a matter of changing the way I looked at things, of adapting, of learning how to suit myself to a different situation, of forcing myself to close a cycle already surpassed and allow a new one to begin”. I refuted by saying that sharing a task makes it lighter. “But not as strong and wise”, he retorted, and explained: “There are always gains, you can bet on that. I learned as much, or even more, than from philosophy books. In fact, I had to put into practice all the knowledge I acquired in thousands of pages. Only then that made sense, and I allowed knowledge to turn into wisdom. This was, perhaps, the best knowledge of all”.
I asked him to elaborate on that. Loureiro took a sip of wine and obliged: “To provide guidance to a child on the value of good virtues is extremely important; to lead by example is mandatory. In social relations, when discourse is divorced from practice, the good word loses its power, just like pure water when spilled on the floor becomes muddy”. He remained silent for a few moments, looked me in the eyes, and continued: “What is the good of having an entire theory about freedom of choice and the choice of others if my daughter could see my sorrow with her mother’s decision to leave?” The shoemaker was visibly moved, perhaps from the memories of an entire life. I thought about changing the subject, but his voice was again composed, as usual. He continued, with his soft demeanor: “I came to understand that to evolve is but shedding light on one’s own shadows. The sorrow of the abandonment had to be transmuted out of respect for the dream of Sarah’s mother in deciding her own life, even though I totally disagreed with that. My daughter could be raised in a home where she would hear her mother was crazy and irresponsible, or in a harmonious place where she would understand that her mother gave up important things to search for her dreams, and she would respect her mother for that. There were two ways to look into this: what would feed the shadows or what would lighten the morrow for the three of us. Can you realize there is always a choice for us to make? Hence, it was possible for my daughter to understand the actual importance and respect for the freedom of choice the others have, and grow up with no resentments or blames. Thanks to that, I have learned how sacred life is, by propelling us to exercise the purest love and the clearest wisdom through trails that, oftentimes, we will only understand much later. Those were valuable lessons on common sense, tolerance and patience, sweet fruits from hard sowing, as life has a time of its own for everything to ripe. Our relationships and social relations are the fertilizer of the garden, allowing us to put into practice what we already know but are yet to act on, much like the seed that needs the pressure of the sand to burst and germinate. This is how Sarah became a beautiful, precious flower”.
I did agree with him about the importance of our good attitudes to support our good words, or else we have a society that does not believe in human virtues, those that elevate and give existence its meaning. He watched me in silence. When I finished, it was his turn: “Yes, but let’s consider things. Every tribe is known according to the behavior of their members. That shows the stage it is in, now, and teaches that evolution will occur according to the inner transformations of each citizen. There is no other way to change the reality of a people”. He drank the last drop of wine, and we decided to order one more glass each. Then, he continued: “As I told you, we know more than what we are”, and went on to conclude the premise of the beginning of our conversation: “I think this is a natural process, but it must be a conscious one. In theory, we are all good; in practice, not so much. And that goes for me and you. The mind takes on the values we must learn, and, little by little, it insists on the heart experiencing them. Gradually, we abandon some ingrained behaviors, understanding they are far from doing good; we start practicing good deeds according to our awareness, prompted by our reasoning. Little by little we change out attitudes, as we set ourselves according to new vibration standards that have been shifted by our new, enlightened way of acting. The virtues, then, become gradually embedded into our new being, indissociable from it and becoming a definite component of the soul. Their practice of good is no longer related to ‘thinking’, but to ‘feeling’. Wisdom has turned into love and moved from the mind to the heart”.
The waiter brought our glasses of wine. Loureiro proposed a toast: “To all the transformations made possible by the generous lessons of the Path!” With teary eyes, he added, almost in a whisper as if telling a secret to himself: “Hardships are the tools that force and teach us to build bridges over the voids of existence. Only then are we able to continue our journey”.
We continued to talk about the magic of life and its fantastic revelations for I don’t know how long, until we were kindly invited to leave. They needed to close the tavern.
Kindly translated by Carlos André Oighenstein.