In ancient meditations on Hell, a terrible sentence was applied to Plato and Aristotle: “Woe to you if you are praised where you are not and tormented where you are”. The famous philosophers were applauded in the Universities and suffered in Hell.
Besides the foolishness of condemning the two incomparable Masters to perdition – there were also those who raised them to the pinnacles of heaven – the maxim translates well the comedy of daily life. A governor, an architect, a public manager, an ecclesiastic, an educator, in the place where they are, in the function they exercise, are rarely recognised as values and even less praised. It is true that sometimes they are showered with incense and roses, but as soon as they see them far away, they are riddled with bullets. The tributes paid to the deceased do not compensate for the rotten eggs and slanders thrown at them during their lives.
I am amused by this mania, or simply bad taste, that humans have to close their eyes to the beauty and virtue spread throughout the world in order to open them to half a dozen disgusting things. One notices more two weeds lurking in the middle of the garden than the prodigious wonder of the flowers. If after an 80-minute trial the referee commits a slip, here d’el rei who is a thief and son of such a mother. A citizen is killed serving his country and giving himself up for his neighbour, and this heroism remains hidden, while all eyes are focused on the result of a small carelessness.
Miguel de Unamuno was right. On the façade of the University of Salamanca chapel, the sculptor placed a small frog high up, almost unnoticed among the stone lacework. One day while the guide was busy showing it to a group of tourists, Unamuno passes by and comments: “It’s bad not to see the frog. It is worse, however, to see only the frog”.
In fact, elegance and charity dictate that we should look at the masterpiece as a whole and not just look at the frog, the whim, the insignificant detail.
It is even more inelegant to look at one’s neighbour from the wrong angle. Human beings, like stained-glass windows, when looked at in the right way, make up a beautiful, colourful, passionate image; but they are nothing more than a collection of disconnected, greyish streaks when looked at upside down.
In the midst of darkness – someone said – stars always twinkle for those who have eyes to see the firmament; in a devastated field a flower will always sprout for those who know how to look.
The world would be very happy if the words “envy” and “compete” were crossed out and replaced by “appreciate”, “applaud”, “exalt”. Feeling a favourable opinion helps us to continue climbing, multiplies our energies and considerably increases the probabilities of success.
How many inventions have been set in motion by the sympathy of those who have known how to discover, in the imperfect sketch or embryo, the work of art or the germ of a daring creation!
As a good friend of mine observes, one does not pick up a sick person by the wounded part of the body; nor does one rebuild a building from a crumbling wall, but by starting with hode there is firm footing, stability, security.
The same good friend says that we must imitate mothers: with a slap they correct their son, washing him of his guilt; but then comes the kiss, which heals and revives.
We only gain by this magnanimous attitude towards our fellow human beings. For whoever turns on a light is the first to benefit from its brightness. And the light that shines on one, shines on a hundred or a thousand.
Abílio Pina Ribeiro, cmf
(PHOTO: El viajero fisgón)