A Blind Man Helped Me See

“The cold wind brings me back to the terrace, and somewhere I can hear singing, like the lady at the restaurant earlier that sang the saddest sounding amore’ I have ever heard in my life. That was the only word I understood, and that was enough. In a way, that describes very well what this trip has been for me. Come to think of it, it describes life very well. Despite not understanding, or misunderstanding, the little we do know is many times all we need”
– From Last Night in Lisbon

Life is full of wonderful evenings. Moonlit strolls, with a sketchbook in hand, a stack of books to get lost in, accompanied by a bowl of muesli and a bar of very dark chocolate, times of prayer and reflection, beautiful company, and moments of inspiration on the piano have filled my nights. I have so much to be grateful for.

And then there are times like tonight, when concerns threaten the peace of my heart and restlessness weighs my soul. These evenings seem darker than others and sometimes, I have to admit even lonely, as I bear the cup allotted to me.

But there is wonderful consolation in the darkness. Here we appreciate whatever glow there is, and are reminded to allow even the smallest hope to illuminate our way.

I remember a blind man, led by a boy, who knocked on my window, as I drove to dinner one Sunday evening. I don’t normally like giving money to beggars because I know it encourages all the wrong values, but there was something about this man’s face, his hollow sockets seemed to smile with his lips. There was no pity, or bitterness, or worry, or despair. It was genuinely expectant. It was genuinely hopeful. I found myself questioning God, “Father. How could you deprive him of sight? How could you give someone such a life?” Then I felt a gentle impression – “Renew your mind, David. Renew your mind.”

Then I had a thought: Maybe the man’s blindness, a conventional handicap, was his ticket to an unconventional life. That maybe in the darkness he sees something else, maybe something simpler, maybe something deeper. He will never see what I see. But neither will I see what he does. Though he may never appreciate the tense emotions of Millais’ A Huguenot On St. Bartholomew’s Day, or the vast blue sky from an airplane, or any sky for that matter, maybe, in the absence of the distractions of physical sight, he sees clearer than us all, because maybe he has a better view into the heart.

Renew your mind.

Renew your mind so you can trust. Renew your mind and find purpose in all things, and hope in every situation. Renew your mind so that you will remember that the one who sees a part will never understand as completely as the one who sees all.

So tonight, I am grateful for the darkness. Hoping that in my darkness, I may help someone understand, just as the blind man in his, helped me see.

Last Night in Lisbon

bairroalto

On my last night in Europe, I look out from the roof terrace of the Barrio Alto Hotel in Lisboa, Portugal. In front of me are buildings more than a hundred year old sloping down to meet the coast of what was once the most important port in the world. The yellow glow of the lamps, which still hold their gas predecessor’s form, bounces across stone walls and floors of the narrow alleys. Sometimes shadows break the light, a man old enough to be hunched but strong enough to hike, the conjoined shadows of lovers returning from a date, or those of a family, walking side by side, that remind you of the paper-cut figures from preschool linked at the hands and feet. I wonder why they’re all still out. It’s late.

I look back at the sea, and I remember a conversation I had earlier with a man, full of experience and at least thrice my age, as we walked along the bay, he with his tie loose and his coat flung across his back, and I still in business mode. He said, “Many times, I have come to the sea to get my life back together.” I told him that was one of God’s gifts. He nodded towards a lady who smiled while passing us, “THAT is God’s gift! And you seem to be a gifted man. Stay away from them. They’re trouble.” I answered with a smirk. He then started to talk about his third wife, “We were beautiful once. We are no longer. I look at her in the morning, and I say, ‘Who is this fat cow with skin like marble???’ But I love her. I loved her then and I still do. Because she is the only woman I know who wakes up laughing. Can you imagine? A laughing cow with melting skin??? She is lucky to have a man like me! She seduced me, that temptress, she did!” I asked him how a cow sedduced him. He gave me a look that said, “Don’t be a wiseguy.” I decided to change the subject and asked if he regretted his other wives, he said, “I’ve had expensive losses, but I’ve also had expensive profits. I have no regrets.” Looking back it wasn’t the best subject to change to. Unlike him, I can’t say the same. I do have regrets.

The cold wind brings me back to the terrace, and somewhere I can hear singing, like the lady at the restaurant earlier that sang the saddest sounding amore’ I have ever heard in my life. That was the only word I understood, and that was enough. In a way, that describes very well what this trip has been for me. Come to think of it, it describes life very well. Despite not understanding, or misunderstanding, the little we do know is many times all we need.

In places where everything is foreign to you, and you’re foreign to everything, you learn to feel with your heart and you learn to comprehend with your soul. You find that the world is no longer just brown, black, or white, but also reds, and pinks, and ochre, with cerulean, and light. And in the complexities of what’s happening in today’s world, it’s nice to be able to step back and be reminded that somewhere the accordion still rocks, and the sea still speaks, that sons still dance with their gypsy mothers, and that people say I love you in a million different ways.

Change Ourselves Or Content Ourselves

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

– Edmund Burke

 

 

There was a rally yesterday. It clogged the streets, made a lot of noise, and hopefully it got the message across. I think it’s a good thing that people rally. It’s important that people exercise their rights. 

I just don’t think it’s enough.

Let’s say we get what we want, Arroyo leaves, and someone else takes over. What can we expect? Well, to be frank, a new set of crooks. (Not exactly, since many of them are old crooks back in this game of political musical chairs.)

 

 

A lot of the conversations now seem to lead to people bickering and complaining at how bad the government is, how bad things are, and how everything that’s happening is someone’s fault – someone else’s fault. Yes, it’s true that many of our problems are inherited, but that doesn’t change the fact that these problems are for the living to solve, and the fruits of overcoming, for the living to enjoy.

 

 

A lot of my present businesses were failing companies we took over with the hope of turning things around. These companies came with baggage that made things more difficult, but it also came with assets, if used properly, should allow our success. Now if one of them failed, I can’t say, “It’s not my fault. I didn’t create the problems.” IT IS MY FAULT. It’s my fault because, whether or not the problems originated from me, the company is my responsibility. It doesn’t matter if it was someone else’s mess. It’s my mess now.  I believe it’s the same thing with the other areas of our life. We can blame our limitations and failures on others or we can take responsibility. Taking responsibility is the first step to solving the problems.

By taking responsibility, I mean putting ourselves in a state that’s accountable for things that are going on. Obviously not everyone is in a position to be accountable for national decisions, that’s exactly why there’s a government. But we can, and should be accountable for our lives. In our own small way, do we make our families, communities, and nation better because of our existence? This is a question I pose to myself regularly, “Does my existence make things better? Does it make other people better? Do I litter? (No) Do I follow traffic rules? (Sometimes) Do I talk on my mobilephone while driving? (Yes, even if I shouldn’t) Do I charge people correctly?(Yes) Do I pay my employees well? (I could probably pay them better) Do I waste electricity, water, and gas (Yes…) Do I consider others more highly than myself? (This is getting tough)

 

I remember one particular conversation i had recently, where this one person complaining non-stop. Fed up, I told him, “Then you do something! Give us a good alternative. If not, shut-up.” Because the truth is, if we don’t change ourselves and take responsibility, nothing is going to change. We might as well learn to be content being cheated. That’s better than living frustrated at our impotence.