A friend of mine, who’s lost for coffee and can’t even smell it, asks for “a bastard” when he goes to the corner bar. He’s referring to the miserable “decaf” which, for him, is neither tasty nor funny.

Nowadays, to avoid excess calories or to follow fashion, many people prefer “light”, washed-down, skimmed, decaffeinated and devitalised products. We have nothing against that.

The worst thing is when we look around us and see men and women who are lazy, soft, incapable of an energetic act of will, running away from any difficulty or sacrifice. It seems that an immense vampire is sucking our soul and stealing our energies. The world is lost through “unmeasuring” and “avitaminosis” – Jorge Bernanos said with regret. I myself sometimes doubt whether blood or chilra runs in my veins, so allergic am I to the practice of strong virtues, to “will is power”, to heroic action, to unshakeable decision.

A study colleague of mine, a sociology professor, writes that “many young people report a ‘vital laxity’, an inner weakness or even an inability to face difficult situations and to make radical and demanding choices. They give signs that they want to, but cannot.

Such laxity does not apply only to them. Resistance to lasting commitments, the tendency to follow the law of minimum effort or to give up before fighting, the running away from everything that demands austerity and renunciation, the gluttony of immediate pleasure, are widespread and diffuse attitudes that young people learn from the behaviour of adults. Only these attitudes, in them, become more acute, volcanic and sharp, extremist.

I fear that we are creating a generation of whimsical children who want to eat, play, have everything (“I want all the toys on the television”, wrote a boy to Father Christmas). They want everything now and now; and if they cannot satisfy their hunger immediately, they paw, scream, shout, threaten, until they get it. Some people speak of the “yoghurt generation” or the “pudding generation”, being inconsistent like them.

We spoil our children, “so that they don’t go through what we went through and have everything we couldn’t enjoy”; we cultivate them like glass, not imposing anything they don’t like, “to avoid complexes and repression”. We give them fish and bubbles of happiness instead of putting a rod in their hand and teaching them how to fish. Then we are surprised that few young people postpone sexual intercourse until after marriage, or that they think that money falls from the sky or comes from a hole in the ground; or that many abandon their studies “because they are in a hurry to make a living”, that is, to find money to spend as they please. We do not prune trees in good time and want them to bear good and generous fruit. We spread winds, we reap storms.

The young revolutionaries of May 1968 were telling the adults: “You have filled our bellies but you have not given us reasons to live”.

In fact, if we say, with Alberto Moravia, that “the two keys to our age are pleasure and money, and the rest is just songs”, what do we expect if not selfish spirits, eager to suck all the juice out of life, incapable of leaving for tomorrow what they can enjoy today?

We lack reasons, compasses to guide us in life. Only a person who has horizons, goals, is capable of taking the right course. He knows how to sacrifice what is immediate and provisional in order to achieve what is decisive and lasting. Athletes undergo hard training and deprive themselves of many things in order to stand on the podium or to win a gold medal. Misses, to keep in line and win competitions, put up with terrible diets and the most painful plastic surgery.

When there is a project, expectations, a dream, you work with ardour and passion, you suffer to get there. What you can’t do is to want perfume without cultivating the garden, to recover your health by rejecting remedies, sometimes bitter ones, to win the marathon and not sweat the shirt.

An Estonian proverb says: “Calluses adorn hands more than rings”.

So, I feel sorry for the men and women who have a decaffeinated, gelatinous, anaemic, sickly soul. They lead a “wretched” existence, that is to say, without aroma, without nerve, without any grace.


Abílio Pina Ribeiro, cmf

(PHOTO: Nathan Dumlao)



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