Here and now

Loureiro, the shoemaker who loves books and wines, filled our cups with fresh coffee for us to begin our idle conversation when we were surprised by the arrival of Zinedine, a captivating artist, skilled in carving bronze to make his pieces. Even though he was talented and sensitive, most of his pieces were left unfinished. Either because another came up when he was carving a piece, which was abandoned, or because he did not consider that the piece he was working on was turning out good enough. Time seemed to be flying and was exhausting the inheritance his family had left him. It was urgent that his art come to be a trade and a source for his support, that was making him distressed. He said he had recently arrived from a trip. While it had been pleasant, he said that at some point he started to miss home. Notwithstanding, after a few days back he was already yearning for a new trip. Loureiro gave him a cup of coffee and said: “Travelling may have an effect like renewing the wardrobe of the soul, because we have contact with other cultures, different ways of seeing life and being in the world. This expands possibilities and points to courses never imagined before, which is wonderful. Because we yearn only for what is good, we try to include in our daily life habits that are pleasant and joyful. If, after some time away from home you don’t miss it or your routine activities, there is something wrong with your choices, or you neither know where your home is, nor have understood the routine activities you should create for yourself. A trip can show us the way home.” He made a brief pause and added: “In all senses.”

Zinedine said he was restless by nature. When he was here, he wanted to be there and vice-versa. He admitted he was never fully comfortable in one place. When he was home working, he recalled how good travelling was, discovering a new city and the habits of its people; when he was away on a trip, he felt like coming back to include in his work the wonders of the world and life that had been unveiled to him. Loureiro remarked: “The movement is gratifying when driven by the conscious need of the search for oneself; when disoriented, the person moves in the opposite direction, towards distractions and escapes that postpone the most important meeting of their life, the one that, sooner or later, they will have with themselves. Often, they become an impatient person. Thus, it is time for introspection and quietness, a movement we make inwards; a journey to our core that is capable of revealing different, unmatched wonders we will find nowhere else in the world.”

“There are people who feel good putting down roots as millennial trees. Others are more comfortable gliding with the wind, carrying scents of other seasons and dimensions. There are those who run like waters, taking people in their current and fertilizing the ground where they pass. Some behave like fire to destroy the old forms and cast the steel of a new reality.” He sipped some coffee and added: “Don’t be surprised with yourself if you act in a way at times and at other times you act differently. The important thing is to understand that each one is unique; in it lies the beauty of life.”

“When the movement is from the inside out, the choices are easy, joyful to make, aiming at personal improvement, the flourishing of virtues and the achievement of freedom, peace and plenitude, as they reflect the evolution of the self in the beautification of the planet. But if you let yourself be taken by the opposing movement, the conditioning imposed by the current stage of humankind will propel the shadows of pride and vanity to drive personal choices. Lack of depth makes all situations and people fleeting, and creates in the person the need for more frequent refills of glitter and applause, to disguise an existence based on the paints of the vibrant shell, with no understanding of the value of the seed that is dormant in the core. The perpetual motion of this frenzied, ravenous hunger will initially foster anxiety, that will give place to distress and depression if expanded to its maximum.”

“The lack of understanding of your own essence leads to dissatisfaction about all that surrounds you, makes a mess in your heart, blocks the mind and hides the road back home by postponing the proper alignment between self and soul, making the battle of the split self even more difficult. For those with split self, the world will never be a good place to live, as lavish as the brick and mortar castle they live in may be.”

An intelligent man, the artist asked if the cobbler used that speech as a way to explain why he, Zindane, was never happy in the places he was, or left unfinished the piece he was working on when he started to work on a new one. Loureiro furrowed his brow and said: “If you don’t know what to say, no word will make sense or provide the necessary clarity; if you don’t know where you want to be, no house will be home.” The artist said that his mind was filled with ideas, and he did not know which was the best. The shoemaker tried to explain: “All ideas are good, it all depends on how they will be worked on. All subjects may touch the heart of people, but they must be properly presented.”

“When you start something, carry on. Undo, begin again, insist. Learn from the hardships. Redo, trim, chisel, polish. Travel, come back, travel once again. Nothing is ready, there is everything to do, and it must be done until it is finished.”

“The important thing is to be whole wherever you are, with full intensity and all the magic of that moment. When I make a shoe, sometimes this is all it is, a shoe. Other times, I seize the opportunity to transform leather into art, an art that circulates on the feet of people. What differentiates one from the other is how much of my heart goes into my work.” He sipped some more coffee and added: “A piece of paper can be used to wrap bread, write a poem, make an origami piece, or be just that, a piece of paper. Your mind can take you to the next corner or to wonderful places, it all depends on how much you put into each gaze and gesture.”

“Regardless of the situation, when we look and act with love, the universe manifests itself as light.”

 

“The same applies when you don’t want to be where you are, but elsewhere. While I don’t understand who I am, I will not know where I am. Without references for my personal direction, I will not understand the way of the Path. If I think about a London cab when I am in the Tokyo subway; if I long for a restaurant in New York while having lunch at a market in Istanbul, I end up wasting the treasure of existence.” The artist asked about the wealth the shoemaker mentioned. Loureiro said: “It is a valuable lesson taught by Buddah, so ancient that many believe it is obsolete.” He arched his lips in a discrete smile and added: “The best place in the world is here, and now.”

 

“Regardless of where you are, here are your lessons and the honey of life. Now it is time to give your best, to do differently and be happy. There is no other place or time.”

 

“To wait not always means to be patient. Movement is not always translated into transformation. We yearn for a safe harbor so much that we forget that life happens on the seas that we cross. We don’t appreciate the bus line, the crowded supermarket, the crying child, the starving man who asks for bread, the problematic friend, the troublesome relatives, the hard and yet beautiful struggle for survival, seeds of all lessons. After all, when we wish for a paradise where none of these inconveniences exist, we waste life waiting for the ideal time and the perfect place. Light is a gift latent in the self; we want it, but not always realize it is right before our eyes hidden by a veil. Because we yearn for the completed work, we forget the tools that are available, our responsibility as creatures and joy for taking part in the creation.”

 

“The right time and the proper place are always where your heart is. And it can be only here, and now.”

 

We remained for a long while without uttering a word. Zinedine broke the silence by asking if the shoemaker advised him to keep an idea or to be in a certain place even if he were no longer happy with that. Loureiro shook his head: “Absolutely not. Dissatisfaction is the first sign that change is necessary. No one has to do anything. Choices are, and must always be, free, so that they translate us and lead us through the Path. Freedom is a necessary tool for mutations. Regardless of whether you go or stay, keep or trade, the only thing we should not do is to behave shallowly and fecklessly. Remember that there are lessons hidden in the problems. What matters is to take advantage of the situation that is experienced here and now as intensely as possible and to do it wholly, so that that moment can be expanded to its limit, and then turn into a previously unimagined possibility.” He lowered his head and whispered, as if he was telling a secret: “Then, the light comes.” He finished drinking his coffee and completed: “Out of the here and now there is no life, only a shadow of life.”

 

Zinedine closed his eyes and smiled, thankful.

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