21 Sep Zaratrusta de fiesta
I should have written this years ago. Or at least have published it.
* * *
Her level of peacefulness was 9.5 out of 10. The friend was 9. Or that is what they said. The last time I saw them, she had just lighted up her sixth cigarette. Numbers don’t lie. I wanted to wait until her ninth, but my peace was gone.
“What are you going to do now? Going to sleep?”, the friend asked.
“Not, your friend told it already. She knows me better than anyone here. I am gonna search for my peace because I lost it.”
“Has it been my fault?”, the all-knower asked with a hint of irony.
“No. It has been my fault completely.” One thing I have learned is to take full responsibility for the situation and the conditions of my life. If my peace is gone, it is my whole fault. Unlike in my case, her peacefulness has been gone because of my presence. Or that is what she said.
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.
* * *
Morality is an individual choice. Morality is about reducing suffering. May someone out there finds themselves reducing their suffering while reading this. At least getting closer to it. You cannot reduce something whose existence you ignore.
* * *
I wish I could have 9, or even 8.5 of peace in my life. But my two friends of tonight were nothing less than 9 and 9.5. Who would like it…? Who could? [“¿Quién quisiera? ¿Quién pudiera?”], as Fernando Costa says. (Inspiration is everywhere.)
“How would you define Spaniards with three words?”, I wanted to know.
“Open, joyful, and worriless” Happy-go-lucky.
For me, it could have been difficult to answer objectively since I was thinking about dirty, ambitionless, ignorant, prepotent, bigmouth, and another more adjectives that were coming up to the top of my mind. Indeed, I had lost my peace. At least, I kept silence.
“Do you know, I woke up this morning and I spent one hour meditating, and another hour of rehabilitation?”, I expected to generate some curiosity by mentioning “rehabilitation”, a movement practiced based on oiling your joints and muscles in the early morning.
“How much would you pay for not spending one hour of your life sitting alone without doing anything?”, I was on fire.
“Nothing. I would do it, and that’s all”.
“Aham. So, now it is almost 23. If I tell you to stay from eleven to twelve locked in a room, without doing anything, would you do it?”, I clarified with a hint of disbelief.
“Well, not really…”
“I don’t know. For sure, I wouldn’t like it. I don’t like to not do anything.”
“That’s interesting. Why don’t you like to not do anything?”
“Because when I am not doing anything, swampy things appear.”
“Swampy things…”, wisdom is inside. Socrates was very much onto something.
“Yes. Anyways, I am always busy, that is why I am never doing anything.” She was making clear how cool and trendy is to be always busy. Although there are people that say that that is already old-fashioned. Trends change so fast nowadays, that is practically impossible to catch the last wave. Actually, real hipsters are full-time social media researchers.
“Swampy things… Do you know that the happiest people on this planet when placed in a scanner to measure their happiness they score three times more than anyone in this square? And it is not a 9 that you can tell me, it is the machine that measure it. It is objective. So, 9 out of 10 is good, but what about three times nine? What about 27? They take your nine, and they smoke it. I mean, you can smoke and feel 9, but fucking 27 sounds better. And they are this happy because they are able to sit and do nothing, and of course, they find swampy things, lots of swampy things. But they are not afraid of them. They just find them, and stay with them.”
This piece of information comes from a comment heard at some point, but for more trustful references about meditation and happiness, better check a meta-analysis with not so conclusive results or the good news from Psychology Today. Also, it is worthwhile noticing that I mentioned “happiest”, because happiness is the value that is trendy nowadays because I could confidently say peaceableness, which may be a way more adaptive and updated characteristic for our current times.
“Well, but I am happy now. I am okay. Some people are happy smoking, some people are happy drinking. People are different.” Counterarguing objective measures with relativism is indeed a courageous strategy…
I had mentioned before, back on the times of the second cigarette.
“Do you know…? I used to feel anger and disgust when I saw people smoking. Something like “What the fuck are they doing smoking? Don’t they know is bad for their health?” I thought smoker were simply stupid. However, nowadays, I feel compassion. I feel sorry for them.” Exactly today coming back with the train, I saw a young girl, maybe one year older than 18, maybe one year younger, that light up a cigarette at the train station. Compassion, my friend. Compassion. People are not able to know why they do what they do. But they keep on doing it.
The conversation diverged.
“So, what do you want the money for?”. Insatiable curiosity, or annoying meddling?
“To buy things”
“I don’t know. Yesterday, for example, I had to travel on a very cheap plane. I had to buy my own tickets and the tickets for the bus. The timing was horrible, and everything was bad. However, today in the morning, I was having breakfast at the first class of the plane, and then there was a taxi waiting for me, then I had a meeting, and when the meeting was over the taxi was there waiting. It took me back to the airport. I took another plane, first class, and dinner. And you can bet I felt so good.”
I am not sure whether she was trying to impress me, or just summing up her day in a way that was worthwhile the time spent traveling, probably looking at the screen of her smartphone, according to her “a shitty iPhone S”, because the good one had been recently stolen.
“So, you lost your other phone… How was your time without it?”
“The worst of my life.”
“Nooooo. Don’t tell me that, please.” Sincere deception. Moments for leaving. But, I didn’t leave.
“Coming back to the plane. What you say sounds very good. But all these planes and the taxi, I guess that the company has paid for them. So, what do you want the money for?” Insisting in questioning fundamental values.
“Well, to have money, to pay myself for all that, to buy things.”
“I don’t know. To have a familiy and then children. And have a stable job, and earn money.” Wow, money to have money…
Observing with a bit of perspective the level of incoherence and mumbling I was hearing, I should have leave way earlier the conversation. It was purposeless to be there, shouting in a village of deaf people. Zaratrustra, my friend. I start to understand you when I embody you.
I even remember that day when I talked with a crying student that wasn’t unable to say why she was studying what she was studying, of course, something that she didn’t like.
“To earn money”
“And the money, what do you want it for?”
“To buy things.” The similarity is deeply scaring. Studying or working, it doesn’t matter.
“And the things, what do you want them for?”
“To have things, and to be happy.” Materialism and happiness, great values. Maybe in a future post I argue why minimalism and peacefulness work as better guidance.
“Do the things you have make you happy? Does shopping make you happy?”
“Yes, the best moment of my week is when I buy things.” That’s terribly sad, but a trully believer doesn’t accept lies as answers.
“Really? What did you buy this week?”
“And, when you were buying them, you feel the happiest moment of your week? Really?”
“Well, maybe not, maybe when I was with my friend yesterday. We had a very nice talk together.”
“Ahhhh. That’s different.” A trully believer doesn’t accept lies as answers.
Coming back to the party, when someone answers 9 and 9.5 out of then, you better ask:
“What does peace means for you?”
“To have a job, to have food, to sleep at ease…”
“Very good, do you sleep at peace?”
“Yes, always.” A trully believer recognizes lies…
“Well, not always. Sometimes not.”
“Sometimes not. That’s the 0.5 to get to 10, I guess…”
“Yes! That’s it! The 0.5”
I am myself Spaniard, but it is probably my huge ignorance and prepotence what makes me think that from the peoples that I like, one that I identify the less with is Spaniards. As one old friend used to tell me:
“I know so many people that hasn’t gone out of their village and they feel they are the kings of the world because they are known in their stupid village of thousand people. But they don’t know anything. They don’t know shit. But, yes! Stay there and think that you are the best. Very good, my friend. To your feet. You are the best.”
He wasn’t at peace either, and considering that my friend was one of the strongest influences of my young adulthood and my late adolescence, I wasn’t very at peace either. To be found, you have to recognize yourself as lost. To reduce your suffering, you have to understand it as suffering.
So, my smoker and drinker friend of 9 out of 10 couldn’t even close her eyes and breathe for 5 seconds, because she was scared. Scared of what? Noise, silence, darkness, light, people, loneliness, others, herself, death, life? Scared of what? Probably a bit of everything.
“I teach yoga. As well, I bring peace to people. I have been paid for that.”
“If you were really working on your life, and you would have your boss telling “Do this, and this, and this, and you are late with this”, then you wouldn’t say that things of peacefulness so easily.” I should learn to recognize suffering and develop compassion earlier in the conversation.
“So, your job and your boss are making you lose your peace.”
“That’s not my peace, that’s stress.” Stress, such a trendy word.
“Whatever you want. I don’t care how you call it.”
“How much would you pay for your peace?”
“Nothing. I am already at peace.” 10 minutes later, I got 20 cents from her.
“So, you wouldn’t pay for your peace, but you are making money for losing it. That’s interesting.”
“No, I am making money for working.”
Obviously, in our way of deconstructing the conversation, one of the first questions that arose was the classic:
“What do you do?”
“I bring peace to people.” As I had to repeat her.
“Okay, so what do you do for a living.”
“I take care of a dog.”
“What? I mean, do you walk dogs for leaving?”
“Yes, I do.” Yes, I do.
“But, if your job is simply giving peace to people during your whole life, then you will be always depending on your parents.”
“Not if people pay me for that.”
I shouldn’t feel so prepotent, and developing my gratitude, humility, and compassion towards a multitude of lost souls would be a good beginning. Most of the people I talked that night with were Spaniards with a grant of 3 months in a small company. They can’t and I cannot say anything about their future, but I would like to know what are the statistics about the previous ones, and whether they got the residence card or not. About the current ones, I wil have to come back in January to figure it out.
For one reason or another, the youngsters of my age that I encounter today are as lost as I was no long ago. If I would have written the book I had to write, and I still have to write, I wouldn’t feel so belligerant, and I could bring peace not only to myself, but also to some of them. We are all commuting in this life, and for some of us, luckier than the others, sometimes it looks like we have actually arrived somewhere, that the stop where we are is going to be a establish one. On the other hand, many others stay on the bus, on the train, on the car, still commuting from one place to another without knowing where exactly they are going.
Am I going home, or working? Is it early morning, or late evening already? Is the day fresh and new, or is it finishing? Should I be hopeful and cheerful for the new opportunity, or worn out and tired for the unfruitful efforts?
The times that are coming are predicted by the great minds of our times as more of the same, if not worse. A scholarship of 2+2 years is a job of an envious stability, something like those of 3 months grants seen as an eternity. Mine is just 16 times more stability, and then more of the same. More commuting. We better envy the buddhist monks of the unknown study with the 3 times more of whatever the value on trend is. My current strategy is learning to meditate during the commuting, so I am embodying my faith before I am able to explain it.
Anyway, I should read Zaratrusta again, now that I felt it in my flesh. I should read again those practical books about how to apply positive psychology in a way that makes people feel better about themselves, not worse. However, as a legitimate psychologist that I want to become, recognizing the suffering of our current lives serves as the best motivation of change. Healing without diagnosis is taking antibiotics and immunodepressants waiting for getting vaccinated at the radiotherapy session.
So, I tried to diagnose:
“Wouldn’t you eat less sugar?”
“No, if I am going to feel guilty about something that I eat, then I don’t eat it. So, if I eat it, I don’t feel guilty.” I don’t know much about logic, but I felt a couple of principles violated. Fallacies that we tell to ourselves.
“And you, don’t you drink? Don’t you smoke? Don’t you eat?” I love when people start looking for my inconsistencies. They surely could if they knew what to ask.
“Well, I don’t eat meat.” Sometimes I add “since 4 years ago”, which falls under the category of half-truths.
“Don’t you eat meat? What are you saying? Eating meat is something that bring me peace.” That was 9 out of 10 speaking.
“Well, to me, eating meat breaks my peace, and probably the peace of the animal that is killed to be eaten.”
“Come on. There are animals that are made to be eaten.”
There was an hindu fella listening to the conversation. His peace was starting to get lost.
“Yes, like cows”, I grinned. A small comment for a European, a huge offense for a culture.
“Yes, pigs are done to be eaten.” 9 out of 10 level of Spanishness.
“Yes, and cows”, I insisted while nodding my head.
The Indian didn’t know whether to try to refute her friend or try to handle my disrespect for his ancient beliefs. He opted the seconds. He took a breath to harangue me. Bad choice, I talked first.
“Don’t tell me anything because I respect more animals than you. I have even been expelled from a kitchen in Delhi for having eaten meat. I can guess what you feel. Speak to your friend, she is saying that animals are done to be eaten.”
Ironically, she was righter than I would like her to be. Lambs, the symbol of Christianity, most probably, her religion, are indeed done to be eaten. Lambs and calves. Painful truths. Thanks, Harari for the lessons.
I cannot deny I am a bit amazed for my quick-minded answers, but somehow I feel strange, something that in the past could have been hurt, or offended, of not having been recognized and praised by these three people (the 9/10, the 9.5/10, and the aggravated Indian). I am fully aware that the previous sentence doesn’t sound humble, but past experiences have shown me that not everyone speaks or thinks as fast as I do, (which by no means implies that is something good). Maybe that’s why my scholarship is 16 times longer than theirs. Or maybe, it is that they are just happy while I struggle to be peaceful. Or maybe that, while they are dancing Shakira, I am here after one hour of writing, trying to finish the text.
Since I have learned to take full responsibility for the bad things in my life, I have to learn to credit myself for the good ones. That may be the lesson of tonight.
I left my clothes on the washing machine before going out to hang out with random people. May I find the peace hanging them out.
By the way: If you feel lonely, you haven’t found the right people, yet. Keep on searching.