Vanity.

I thought I was free from it. Or, at the very least, I thought I fought hard against succumbing to it. But I’m not so sure about that anymore. It’s like acid burning through armor. It’s like horse blinders that keep me infatuated with one thing: my own fortune.

And what a miserable fortune it is!

It stares back at me with a sly grin, knowing its effects on me. It feeds on itself every single time I look down at the phone to check for the signal — for that validation in zeros and ones. It taunts me, knowing I revile it, yet beg it to stay close by.

It destroys what it loves most, just so that I can call on it some more. It loves pain. But it doesn’t feel it; it just lives it. Completely unbeknownst to its host. But it’s there: Feeding on the last few memories that come across the cables of information and life.

And it’s there because it knows we tried to escape. Because we grew our wings before they were given to us. So now it attacks us at every moment it gets, and it tries to drown us whenever we try to forget.

What’s left to do….but fight The Beast.

Though I know while I do, I’ll feed it, too.

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Socialism (and hope?) Reaches the U.S.: Kshama Sawant

I remember thinking at some point in time, while I wrote or said something in the same way I’m doing it now — off the cuff and improvising most of it — that the political state of things  was changing in real and tangible ways. Whomever I was with at the moment reminded me that I was delusional, or perhaps even drunk, to actually think that the Occupy movement could mean anything significant for the political landscape of the world – least of all in the U.S. of A. I didn’t budge, but I did see his point: the ‘alternatives’ that people, including the ones at Occupy, demanded were never really articulated in a determinant way, that’s at least what we could gather from the news; we always got a version where they were always danced around, and flowered with terms like “social reform,” “bridging the gap between the rich and the poor,” and other pretty but substantially empty phrases.

And while some of the protesters and occasional journalist, did admire the style of the late Bolivarian leader, Hugo Chavez, and  of other of the new-century Revolutionaries spreading through South America like wild-fire (some would say), they did so from a distance, never really wanting to drink the Kool-Aid themselves, but wanting to see what it did to the brave-ish-foolish ones that did. But today I found out that some — at least one — seems to have taken a step further, however brave or foolish it may be.

sawant2

Kshama Sawant, an economics teacher, former Occupy activist and self-denominated Socialist, according to Democracy Now, was elected to the Seattle City Council on Monday, January 6. Some articles on the net are estimating that this is the first Socialist elected to office in over 100 years. Wikipedia — for whatever it may be worth — says Anna Louise Strong, a radical progressive, was the last far-left person to be elected to office in Seattle in 1916 (School Board). I expect I’ll find out a little more when I get a chance to sit down and actually dig into it, because it’s early and I didn’t expect to get into any of this heavy stuff at this time, without at least preparing my nerves or even a morning coffee.

But so be it. It’s very clear to me that whatever this could actually mean in the future, it certainly got the Washington-crowd out of bed with a jolt this morning, like a cattle-prod to the testicles when you least expect it. And I don’t mean just the politicians — because if it is just another smoke-screen after all, as I suspect some others may be suspecting, then that type of human-machine-dog hybrid that inundates Capitol Hill certainly knew about it — but just the good ol’ civilians; the unsuspecting ones (that sounds like a good movie title). And if rednecks keep up with news, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were already up in arms, planning to ‘take back their country from the reds’ — though I would be surprised if they read the news. In any event, the point is that Kshama Sawant, the Seattle City Council wearing “the badge of Socialist with honour,” has certainly raised some eyebrows.

Now, the thing about it being a smoke-screen is not that farfetched, at least to jaded, or perhaps enlightened, or even unstable (depends where you look at it from) people like me. I wouldn’t put it that far past anyone in that state, or even remotely embroiled in politics, to concoct some bizarre plan to distract from the myriad other issues crumbling on top of them like a house of cards made of heavy and jagged marble (high unemployment rates, Guantanamo, drones, scandals, the overall stalemate in Congress, debt in the trillions, etc.). But it’s way too early to seriously assume that. And if I did, I’d be no better than that individual that was telling me Occupy and other such movements didn’t really mean anything.

I’ve met many people like that — hell, most people I meet are like that. At most, they sympathize with some ideas and call them well-intentioned and idealistic, but unrealistic at their core. These, I think, may very well be the same people that equate “conviction” with “stubbornness,” and “neutrality” or “objectivity” or “open mindedness” with being a fart in the wind, carrying the stench of an expulsed gas to whatever corner the stronger winds may carry them. I recall Thompson’s phrase in Fear and Loathing: “All energy flows to the whim of the Great Magnet…” I guess even a fart is energy, and the Great Magnet certainly doesn’t have to be benevolent, and often, as with most Gods in the religious/mystical history of the world, certainly not free of Greed, Insecurity and an ironically misplaced sense of Self-Importance.

In any case, I’ve always refused to be that person, and it’s always taken a bit more than wind to move me, even when it’s towards the warmth it’s moving me. Now it’s time to see what this Kshama Sawant can really do. She ran on a ticket to raise minimum wage to $15/hour, and Democracy Now reports that Seattle Mayor, Ed Murray, is planning to raise city employees’ wages to just that. “Meanwhile, voters in the nearby community of SeaTac recently increased the minimum wage for many local workers to $15,” the article continues. “The vote suffered a setback when a judge ruled last month that the raise does not apply to workers at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the area’s largest employer. That ruling has been appealed. Murray and Sawant are being sworn in today with record crowds expected at City Hall.”

In this excerpt from a transcript of the interview with Democracy Now, Sawant captures what I think is the bigger significance of all this to the average person, whatever the emerging truth may be down the road:

Today’s inauguration really is an absolutely historic moment for working-class politics, and to understand—to really feel the moment that this is a turning point in the history of the United States…. this is all an indication that the people in this country are extremely frustrated and angry and outraged at the status quo…the fact that we have been victorious in this grassroots campaign is really an indication that people are ready to start moving forward, moving into struggle. And so, the real question is: How are we, on the left—how are we going to take up this responsibility of organizing the vast numbers of people, especially young people, for whom there is no future? And how are we going to present those alternatives? (emphasis added).

[Democracy Now Interview]

And there it is. Like the old ‘proverb’ says — or perhaps just a dumb saying we say all the time — now we just have to wait. Of course, we won’t do it with our arms crossed or thumbs up whatever orifice we can first find. Hopefully, we will be ‘waiting’ while really we are moving forward with it all: Writing more about it in the mainstream news; exploring what makes the difference between one or another state, or country; supporting and growing grassroots movements; having real discussions, even (and particularly) in newsrooms, about sincerely exploring what results similar domestic and international movements have done and could do, etc. This is no time for being a fart in the wind, but a Bastion of Change!

THE BEAST GETS CLOSER…IT GROWS BIGGER

Originally written on Sunday, May 5, 2013

4:43 p.m.

A Much Needed Change of Pace

I’ve just returned from a small, personal excursion to the London Museum of Archeology and the Medway Valley Heritage Forest, IMG_20130503_205244 which seems to surround the former. Despite the Museum’s small size (it was just a bit bigger than my apartment, minus the separate/divided rooms) it held a few interesting artifacts and facts about the First Nations that settled in and around Canada. These included the tribes that settled at the Lawson Site, which apparently bordered the edge of what now is the Museum; at the back, past the parking lot, a re-creation of that village had been propped up, displaying a Longhouse (and a smaller Longhouse), Tents and a few other landmarks that created a vague, though palpable resemblance of what those pre-modern times of hunting and gathering must’ve looked like. But more inviting that the Museum itself, at least to me, were both the forest behind the recreated Lawson Village and the Heritage Forest, the latter of which I traversed until I found a nice, quiet place by a stream that seemed to flow with crystal-clear water, and where I sat alone with my thoughts as I tried to return to those simpler times, traveling inside a cloud of smoke that seemed to linger in the air for just a few moments before entirely vanishing, just like those figures in my mind…Yes, it was among all that nature that I felt the most free.

The path was long and sinuous, resembling a snake that stood still. The sun was beaming with full force, though its strength diminished a bit since it had to poke through the foliage that rested so very high above my head, at the very tips of awesomely huge trees which seemed to, indeed, scrape the sky. At my sides, through the intricate web of trees and branches that separated the darkness and bowels of the forest from my apparently forsaken path, an orchestra formed and carried me along with its tune: a marvelous melody of birds’ songs that repeated their beautiful pattern with clock-like precision every four seconds or so, and then the response from their aviary comrades which would come shortly thereafter, extending and fulfilling a melody that uttered a love story. The shrubs shrouded from time to time, and twigs snapped as little but lightning-fast feet scurried around the floral-maze…It almost felt like eyes were peering at me from behind the bushes, but they were kind eyes – at least they felt as such – which made the path no longer feel deserted and forsaken, but rather like a live, breathing organism that accompanied me. The Snake, it seemed, had regained its life…And perhaps, I felt, it was my presence that had had something to do with it.

As I continued walking, enjoying that serenade emanating from within the very Soul of the Forest, the peculiarity of being alone in a new place – though not really alone – became apparent to me again, just as it had on those now long-gone days when I had traveled the Venezuelan streets alone, armed with nothing but my recorder, my pen and enough money to refuel on ice-cold beers. Yes, the magnificently impactful experience of being alone in a new city, or country, or forest, or house, will never leave me…I’m not sure if that is an experience that most travelers share; I have met so many experienced travelers from all over the world and with so many IMG_20130505_142025different personalities, goals, vices and stories, that a really focused conversation or analysis of their feelings at being alone once again has never materialized. But, as in many things in life, and without at all descending into that banal “individualism,” which really is egoism (and, sometimes, border-line anti-social tendencies), that plagues most of the world, if not all of it, I must admit that in this case, the feelings of other travelers on the matter is really of no concern to me, at least in regards to my purposes, which focus on deep and critical self-analyzing and on the creation/implementation of a revolutionary process for self-evolution.

Into the Grinder

What I mean by all of that, is that I’ve realized that it is when I’m thrown head-first into the Grinder that I feel most alive, most free, most useful. I wither with routine; I find myself rotting, both from the inside and the outside, whenever I have (or choose) to do the exact same thing every day…and that includes the things that my eyes see, that my ears hear and which, thus, create the images and ideas that my brain propels. It is the excitement and panic that I feel – the Fear and Loathing, in the words of the Good Doctor – that seem so wild and pleasing at the same time. It is knowing that things have changed, that the walls have morphed, that the ground has gained life. It is knowing that at any given time, I may find the Stairs that Lead Straight Up, just as likely as I may find the Elevator that Plunges Downwards. It is knowing that happiness and utter despair are both new friends and foes that wait for and lurk behind me, and that I may come out all the better at the other side precisely because of them. It is knowing that I am taking steps nearing either the Head or the Tail of Snake…but that I am, indeed, taking them.

As a matter of fact, I will never forget the steps I already had the pleasure of taking in Mexico, or Cuba, or Venezuela.

Particularly in the latter – in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela – I experienced some of the most amazing things in my life, including, in its own way, a desolation of the soul that blinded me from any reason and which nearly destroyed my sanity and my health…Yes, for some odd reason – and certainly without being a masochist, for I abhor unnecessary pain (and likewise, cherish the opposite) – even those depressing experiences taught me something; they made my brain and my thoughts react a certain way which, sooner or later, would come to form some of the most powerful convictions in me. Of course, in retrospect, if I could choose to do things differently – to have taken a different path among the Long Snake that was that trip – I certainly would do so; but, for that, I’d need to think like I do now, which is physically/metaphysically/mentally and any other kind of degree of impossible, given that it was precisely those experiences from which I learned and eventually evolved into the Beast that I am today…Indeed, as a Wise Fool once said, He who makes a Beast of Himself, gets rid of the Pain of Being a Man….And pain, there is!

And it is in this way that my experiences here in London thus far, and those to come over the course of the next year, are surely to teach me something…For much more than just becoming a Journalist – a profession which I admire with all the Integrity in me, and which I’ve devoted myself to entirely – my time here will be used more like narcotics for an addled brain: uppers, downers, herbs, medicines, whatever you want to call it, the experiences will all cause new chemical reactions, feelings, thoughts and behaviours to go along with it. And all of this will accumulate to a Refined Me; to an individual that, much like the Snake, has Shed its Old Skin. The essence remains – the soul is intact – but the Ideas Grow.

The Individual who Propels the Great Wheel

I remember thinking at some point today – as I rode the bus through what I could only describe as one of the quaintest towns/cities wherein I’ve had the pleasure of residing, however briefly – that while it is very true that Ideas Never Die – a maxim not only true and widely known, but which has regained its fervour after the unfortunate death of Commander Hugo Chavez – they are insufficient to really Propel the Great Wheel forward. As important and powerful as they are, it’d be a sin (to put a religious twist in there) to allow the Idea to remain static and to eventually become sedentary, if not regressive, within the context of the ever-changing societies and conditions around the world. I had in mind, at that moment, the aforementioned events of Chavez’s death, and the subsequent battle between the two opposing (political) sides.

Though it is very true, again, that the Movement and Revolutionary Fervour that he revived in Latin America will continue – for, as we’ve agreed, Ideas Never Die – the Greatness and the Supremacy (not in terms of class or any other such exclusionary terms, but rather in a sense of greater preparedness, both physically and ideologically), of the Individual (now in the true sense of the word) is vital…Nay, Unforgivably Necessary!

Indeed, to conclude with the Venezuelan example and the political implications for the Latin American continent, if we allow the ideas that Chavez left as his legacy – what we could, to use his own term, call 21st Century Socialism – to stagnate, to become an unchanging model, then it only becomes dogmatic; worst, it becomes antagonistic to the context of the society. My faith resides fully with President Maduro, for he’s proven himself capable – at least thus far, in his short terms as both interim- and elected-president – to not only continue Chavez’s legacy, but to nourish it and allow it to Grow and Evolve. Nevertheless, new Individuals must be born and moulded with the Revolutionary Ideas that are overtaking the Continent, so that they may lead said Ideas towards their Ideal – so that they may continue to nourish them and perfect them.

And it was with that thought, as I rode the bus, that I regained the consciousness of being, once again, alone in a new place…and with all the tools that are therefore necessary and available  to Mould a New Man out of myself…To pry deeper into my Real Self; into all my “Wild Dogs,” as Nietzsche would say. For my ideas and convictions, as ingrained and solid as I know they are, hunger for Change and Evolution and Progress

Alas, I am getting Closer to the Head of the Beast!!IMG_20130503_202245

******

Hasta la Victoria Siempre!

Patria, Socialismo o Muerte!

Todo lo que quería saber sobre Venezuela

ARTÍCULO ORIGINAL: Todo lo que quería saber sobre Venezuela.

Todo lo que quería saber sobre Venezuela

¿Qué son más interesantes, las conferencias o las preguntas que se plantean después de ellas? Reproduzco algunas que me formularon durante una gira por Europa, con las respuestas.

En todas partes me inquieren: -¿Y la salud del Presidente?

-Lo veo en plena posesión de sus facultades físicas y mentales.

Cuando indagan sobre el sistema electoral venezolano, les leo la declaración donde el ex presidente Carter afirma que es uno de los más perfectos del mundo, mientras que el de Estados Unidos es uno de los menos perfectos del planeta.

En Frankfurt, capital financiera de Europa, camino por calles donde se suceden los comercios en quiebra. En la Casa Sindical DGB Haus un sindicalista inquiere: -¿Ha hecho algo Venezuela para romper la dependencia hacia los hidrocarburos?

-Culminó una campaña nacional para sustituir bombillos fotovoltaicos por fluorescentes. Tenemos dos represas hidroeléctricas gigantescas, la del Guri y la de Caroachi, y desde 2002 estamos construyendo la Manuel Piar, que ahorrará unos 25 millones de barriles de petróleo por año. Como en el resto del mundo, apenas empezamos la sustitución por energías renovables, pero empezamos bien.

En el aeropuerto de Estocolmo un retrato mural glorifica a Ingmar Bergman, a quien las autoridades suecas persiguieron, humillaron públicamente y escarnecieron por una insignificante deuda de impuestos. En el II Seminario Nórdico de Medios de Comunicación y América Latina en el ABF-Huset, me inquieren sobre las medidas para frenar la agresión de los monopolios mediáticos contra las democracias.

-Legislación, para obligar a informar en forma veraz, imparcial y oportuna, limitar la emisión de publicidad, evitar la incitación al racismo y la discriminación racial y establecer la responsabilidad de los comunicadores. Emisoras alternativas, de servicio público o comunitarias, para equilibrar el abrumador predominio numérico de los medios privados. Educación del público, para enseñarle a descifrar los códigos mediáticos y advertir sus engaños.

En el Centrum fur Marxistica Samballstudien un provocador con acento antillano me pregunta si estoy de acuerdo con implantar un sistema tipo cubano en Estocolmo.

-Estoy de acuerdo en que haya un sistema tipo cubano en Cuba.

En Belgrado recorro avenidas donde todavía edificios públicos bombardeados permanecen como amasijos de cabillas y cascote incinerado, hasta la Academia Megatrends, donde un estudiante se queja: -Nos cobran matrículas educativas altísimas.

-En Venezuela mucho más del 80% de los educandos cursan en institutos públicos, gratuitos en todos los niveles, salvo en algunos postgrados. Dedicamos mucho más del 6% del Producto Interno Bruto a la Educación; entre 2009 y 2011 la inversión educativa creció 1.800%. En la última década el gobierno ha creado 20 casas de educación universitaria, cuatro institutos universitarios de tecnología, 6 universidades politécnicas y 10 nuevas universidades; la matrícula en educación superior se duplicó de 894.418 educandos en 2000 a 2.109.331 en 2009. Estudian 9.329.703 personas: uno de cada tres venezolanos.

También en Belgrado me preguntan: -¿Algunos movimientos derechistas que operaron en Serbia exportan sus tácticas a Venezuela?

-Nuestra derecha importa tanto su ideología como sus símbolos. Algunos estudiantes acomodados usaron disfraces de manitas blancas, lucieron camisetas con el puño de Otpor, se bajaron los pantalones para enseñar el trasero. Pero el hábito no hace al gobernante.

En el Foro convocado por nuestra Misión en La Haya un diplomático inquiere:-¿Recibe la oposición financiamientos externos?

-La investigadora Eva Golinger ha demostrado que fondos de la USAID, del National Endowment for Democracy y de ONG foráneas mantienen a la oposición. En Wikileaks consta que varios opositores fueron a pedir dinero a la embajada de Estados Unidos, y como no les contestaron de inmediato, repitieron la petición en inglés.

Alguien se preocupa por el retiro de Venezuela de la Comisión y la Corte Interamericana de los Derechos Humanos de la Organización de Estados Americanos.

-La OEA ha legitimado todas las intervenciones armadas de Estados Unidos contra América Latina y el Caribe; su Comisión de Derechos Humanos reconoció de facto la dictadura surgida del golpe de Estado del 2012 en Venezuela y no tomó medidas a favor del presidente legítimo, que se encontraba secuestrado. Ni Estados Unidos ni Canadá se han sometido nunca a esos organismos. Tampoco tenemos que someternos nosotros, sobre todo cuando intentan suplantar a nuestros tribunales y sentenciar en cuestiones que afectan el orden constitucional interno.

Largo rato tardo en convencer a una periodista de que no, el Consejo de Estado no decidirá la sucesión presidencial, de que el orden de suceder está en la Constitución Bolivariana, sancionada en referendo por la abrumadora mayoría de la población.

En Hamburgo, durante un siglo destino de nuestras exportaciones de café y cacao, paso horas embriagadoras en el Museo Naval fotografiando modelos de carabelas, navíos de línea, acorazados: todas las flotas con las cuales Europa irrumpió al asalto del mundo. En el Spanisches Kulturinstitut Cervantes una dama se inquieta por la inseguridad.

-Hasta 2008 el Instituto Nacional de Estadística registraba unos mil homicidios por año. El año inmediato el INE hace una Encuesta sobre Percepción Ciudadana de Inseguridad entre 5.000 personas, las cuales opinan que en Venezuela habrá unos 19.000 homicidios anuales. Pero una opinión no es un homicidio. Por el contrario, la suma total de delitos bajó de 155.080 en 2009, a 143,774 en 2010 y 129.210 en 2012. Todos los que hoy delinquen se formaron cuando mandaba la oposición. En ese entonces se podía enviar a un ciudadano a cumplir trabajos forzados durante años mediante un simple memorando que lo acusara de no tener oficio o profesión conocida. También, se detenía ilegalmente a barrios completos, y se los liberaba a capricho. Las mayores tasas delictivas se registran en estados donde la oposición gobierna: Zulia, Táchira, Carabobo, Miranda. El proceso bolivariano ha creado una Policía Nacional, una Universidad Experimental de la Seguridad y un Ministerio de Asuntos Penitenciarios.

Un obrero se refiere al generalizado desempleo, falta de habitaciones e irrespeto a los derechos del trabajador en Europa, que entre otras formas se manifiesta por la tercerización laboral.

-En Venezuela está en marcha un ambicioso plan para construir dos millones de viviendas para los trabajadores. El año 2011 las lluvias dejaron cien mil compatriotas sin hogar: se los ha alojado en ministerios, en edificios públicos, hasta en hoteles de lujo mientras se los provee de techo. A mediados de los noventa, un acuerdo entre el gremio patronal, la cúpula sindical y el gobierno privó a los trabajadores de sus prestaciones sociales, que la nueva Ley del Trabajo les ha restituido. Esta norma también prohíbe categóricamente la tercerización, vale decir, la contratación de los trabajadores a través de entes ficticios para negarles el reclamo de sus derechos. La tasa de desempleo en Venezuela es de 6%, en contraste con la desocupación de 25% en España.

En la Universidad Friedrich Schiller de Jena un estudiante me pregunta: -¿De verdad sienten los latinoamericanos la necesidad de unirse?

-Alemania fue hasta el siglo XIX una diversidad de principados antagónicos ¿Sintieron los alemanes la necesidad de unirse como una sola nación? Alemania fue hasta finales del siglo XX dos Alemanias ¿Será que sintieron los alemanes la necesidad de unificarse? ¿Y por qué los latinoamericanos no?

¿Sobre cuántas cosas más no me preguntan en todas partes? Acerca de las repercusiones de la decisión electoral en Venezuela en los procesos de integración latinoamericana, que serían significativas. Con respecto al Socialismo del Siglo XXI. Sobre las compras de armamentos, explicables cuando Estados Unidos eleva a 47 sus bases en la región y un país vecino tiene medio millón de hombres en su presupuesto militar. Acerca de una supuesta masacre de indígenas por mineros ilegales, que recorre los medios del mundo a pesar de que por ninguna parte aparece ni una sola prueba de que haya ocurrido, ni un solo desmentido ante la falta de pruebas. Acerca de las semejanzas y diferencias entre los movimientos sociales de Venezuela y América Latina y los de Europa. Los latinoamericanos también preguntamos muchísimo antes de comprender que sólo nosotros podíamos darnos nuestras propias respuestas.

Salto a Weimar, eludo la casa del cortesano Goethe y doy una larga caminata hasta el archivo del recalcitrante Nietzsche. Su marmórea mascarilla mortuoria me interroga si el Reino de la Libertad no será el paso necesario para la transmutación de todos los valores.

En el helado crepúsculo de Frankfurt, entre edificios que parecen frascos de perfume las grúas terminan el rascacielos del Banco Europeo mientras el euro se derrumba. Una señora me pregunta si es verdad que los bolivarianos preparan una ley para prohibir la minifalda.

-Sí, pero sólo a las damas suficientemente ingenuas para creerlo.

brittoluis@gmail.com

SECOND SUN

There is a second sun emerging, bright and shimmering. A force unrecognizable by our weak eyes and unknown by our feeble minds. Years of complacency have turned us skeptical to the possibility that things could ever be otherwise; skeptical to the thought that chance can come in strange packages. But in strangeness the seed of progress has been planted, and the water that feeds it is the rarity of lucidty.

So with a Third Eye to the heavens I look, searching and prying for that secret force. An eclipse is visible in the distance as the New Sun overpowers THE OLD. And darkness Rains down as arrows from above. The Tide Ebbs and Flows in anticipation – it dances violently to the drumming in the sky, for lightning has created a show to which thunder resonates- echoing that powerful song of a Mighty Attack.

The Moon Trembles with fear, afraid of its future course, not knowing whether it will survive this new source. We´ve never been exposed to such a change, and the Moon, like us, has become stale. For she resigned herself to the fact that her light was not her own, and like us, it only reflected the light of the Sun. But now, in the face of a new source, it is unsure of its own life.

I spoke to her at night, when she peeked through darkened clouds. I asked her why she felt like she did…why was she not aroused by something that could easily be great as it could easily kills us all..

She answered, desperate and bitter, that her time was not up, for she still had a job.

“But today it could all change,” I insisted. “Today you could be your own…”

“As easily as i could perish,”  she replied, tears running down her face. “And let the skies rain darkness at night…”

But this irrational fear of the end did not convince me, for i found it superfluous and morose to believe that you´d know or decide the time to simply be no more.

“Rather than fear, rejoice!” I ordered, now gaining prowess in my voice.  “For if you perish all that we will have is a chance to start again!”

Then i abandoned her sight and left her to suffer alone. And i roamed the night pondering what the meaning of all this was. Why the Second Sun had decided to only now show its face…what were the conditions that had prompted its birth?

Suddenly the darkness left and the deafening drumming in the skies stopped. The show in the heavens ceased entirely, leaving the Earth reverberating with memories and begging for more. The water, which on my back fell like heavy stones, had washed away my Fear of being all alone; and now, damp and under the quiet stillness of the Earth, the shower had almost seemed all in vein.

Then you could see the blue sky once more in all its glory, sharing the space with two huge fireballs burning side by side.

My eyes met the Rings of Fire with fearless optimism, for it seemed as if we had always been blind before…

ANIMAL STORY

A long time ago, in a corner of the earth that existed far away from the savage wrath of man, every grassy knoll, forest and jungle was overrun by all types of animals. Everything from monkeys to sheep to roosters to cows to lions to elephants – absolutely anywhere the sun shone, there were animals freely roaming the place.

Now, at the beginning, before any of them understood the intrinsic dilemma of their situation, there was a long time when many of them starved to death. You see, with no humans around, the natural tendency of the strongest and carnivorous animals to prey on the weak ones and the herbivores went unchallenged, and after a short while of this unfettered pattern, scarcity became a number one issue. Every carnivore began starving because there were very few herbivores due to the fact that not much hay or grass was being cultivated since the carnivores went around eating their prey whenever they wanted. So because there weren’t many herbivores around, the land could not get ploughed and eventually it starting drying up. The fact that they were going through the worst drought in decades did not help either. So this vicious cycle went on for a while, until all the animals realized that until they started working together, they would continue to starve to death until eventually there wouldn’t be anyone left, and the rich forests and jungles would then wither away in neglect. This was too serious to ignore simply because some of them wanted more meat more often. So they decided to do something about it.

One day, the leader of the reigning pride of lions roared an announcement targeted at every animal that could hear him and that could then go on to pass the message to further lands. To amplify his already monstrous roars, the lion used empty conches from the withered slugs and snails that had perished in the absence of fresh grass and leaves. Clutching it between his clumsy paws, he began his tirade:

“Listen here, comrades!” roared the head lion, a beast of about 300 pounds of pure muscle, with a golden-brown mane and fangs as thick as nine-inch-nails. “It is no secret the horrible famine that all of us are going through.” At this, many of the animals, who were often victims of the abuse of the lions and who could hear the message but could not be seen from their hiding spots, murmured and grunted in irony. “But things cannot go on this way! Call it selfish if you want – call it self-interest, even! – but the fact of the matter is that because of the insatiable and greedy hunger of the strongest in these jungles, who’ve abused their natural strengths – a group which includes us, the Lions, of course – all of us are now threatened with the looming certainty of extinction!”

Every animal was whimpering and trembling because they knew the veracity of the Lion’s words. The treetops shook along with the bands of monkeys and apes that rested on them, peering at the lions through the safety of leaves and branches. The earth rumbled from its entrails as the few worms and snails convulsed their way through the dirt. Even debris began falling from mountaintops, as the sheep and mountain-goats ran amok in fear and disdain. Overall, the entire jungle was gripped by a worried low, vibrating roar that emanated from the deepest parts of the souls of all the animals that could hear their very possible demise being recited.

But then the majestic lion, who like Simba was giving his great speech from the top of a cliff that oversaw the entire forest and which was only a silhouette against a gloomy, orange-purple Sun that was now looking to rest, came back with words that filled every animal with a glimmer of hope.

“But it is still not too late!” Every animal was looking up eagerly, attentively. “We must work together if we want to make it through this….Every animal that lives off of the land shall work it to the best of their abilities, and those that prey on the herbivores must stick to only feeding for hunger and not for sport. Every worm and every snail shall again get back to work on purifying the earth. The stronger ones will help the weaker ones where it is needed, and the more agile ones, like the apes, will be in charge of supervising the work in every single forest and jungle and farm, as well as providing all their abilities with tools and construction. In the coming weeks, we will all meet and decide what type of work we will each be best at.”

By this time the animals were openly cheering and waving in joy.

“From hereon in,” concluded the Lion after more details of the work that was to be done, “every animal will be part of the largest and most loyal Tribe: The Animal Tribe.”

With the ending of his message the entire jungle reverberated in celebration. Every ape and every animal that could muster the strength to run, swing or fly, shot out of the forest like furry bullets and headed to adjacent ones to spread the word. After a few hours, animals from all over were traveling towards the Green-Zone, as they dubbed it, the jungle where the message had been first announced. Even later on the night, the jungle was bursting at the seams, swollen five times its size with a stampede of wild, partying animals!

Gorillas assaulted congo drums made of turtle backs as elephants trumpeted a jazzy intro in the background. Birds of all types adorned and sung in the sky, which had turned dark as the sun finished hiding, but an orchestra of fireflies had lit the night-sky like a giant candle. Those that could not produce music simply danced and cheered until neither their hind nor their front legs could stay up anymore. The animals were once again alive with hope and life.

The party went on for three entire days.

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Not surprisingly, the project was successfully implemented and running smoothly within a couple of months, albeit with a few minor setbacks at the beginning.

For the most part, the problems had to do with lazy animals that preferred to swing on the trees or sleep on them rather than work. This was a major problem with the sloths and turtles and snails, who would use their mind-numbing lethargy as an excuse to slack-off. At first, the apes that patrolled the trees and forests to make sure no animal was slacking off during work time, simply told them to get back to work, advice which they would then heed until the apes were out of sight.  Left with only the food they could pick for themselves, however, the slackers quickly realized that unless they helped with some work, there just wasn’t going to be enough food for them after all the faster and hungrier animals devoured it.  So they agreed to work to the best of their ability as long as the stronger, quicker and hungrier animals agreed to save a share big enough for them. Everyone agreed, and the work continued.

Though there were other small obstacles like this one, for the most part all animals were happy with the new system and happy that everyone was working together, and this caused everyone to have much more time for leisure now that food for everyone was being produced easily and continually. Everyone lived well, and there was almost nothing that made them unhappy….

…Except for one self-imposed rule that no one had ever thought of challenging, and which caused a silent discomfort and uneasiness in each of them. Despite all their collaboration and team-work, every animal knew better than to mess with another one from a different species. Especially when they belonged to opposing groups, such as herbivores and carnivores, or herbivores and omnivores for that matter.

This went unchallenged for a long time as well, and though no one appeared to have a major problem with it, the crisp and cool air in the atmosphere was always sullied with a faint hint of a thick and morose sadness. Especially young pups and cubs of all species felt this denseness in their chest, and if you listened carefully, the cheerfulness in their actions was sporadically interrupted by a low and stifled sigh.

But this could obviously not go on forever.  And sure enough, one day as the forest snoozed calmly – among tiny whimpers that sounded like wings fluttering from the excitedly-dreaming animals — and a Giant Full Moon that rained light down like golden spears, a beautiful sleeping cow caught the eye of the brutish gorilla that swung through the vines that night, guarding the precious comrades of the greatest Tribe of all: the Animal Tribe.

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He was a beastly 500 pound gorilla with a shiny black coat of thick fur that, under the sun-light, looked silver. He always carried a stern look on his leathery face: his eyes were a dark-orange that looked like the sunset caught inside two half moons as they were always only half-opened, eyebrows frowned; his lips curved downwards, which gave him a distinct sad yet determined look of melancholy.  In his face, he carried a lonesome and troubled history, being the only survivor of a large family of gorillas that had fallen victim to the greatest predator of all: Man.

He was just a pup when he miraculously escaped the poachers that were viciously pursuing his band, his family.  But it was a bittersweet escape, because as he frantically climbed the treetops and swung from vines, screeching alarmingly for his life, he could hear the gun-shots thundering behind him, accompanied by the chilling silence of his fallen mother, father and brother.  He had hidden in one of the tallest trees for about a week and a half, terrified and dying of hunger. Without the strength to hold himself up there anymore, he climbed down, resigned to die in land, beside his family. But when he got to the bottom, the image he saw froze his bones and all his hunger.

The flames were gripping and consuming everything in sight: Trees crackled and crumbled, and black smoke filled the entire jungle. But the howls and screams of the other animals that were burning, unable to escape the hell they had been entrapped in, would remain with him for the rest of his life. At that moment something in him gained strength, and rather than waiting to die like the others, he pulled strength out of every feeble bone in his body and climbed back up the tree. Then he started jumping to the nearest branch or vine or whatever surface he could get his hands on. He swallowed a lot of smoke and much of his body was charred, but nothing for him ever felt as great as that moment did, when he walked away from an image he refused to turn around to look at one more time. Behind him, he knew, he was leaving the hell that those evil creatures on two legs and with thunder in their hands and fire in their mouths had created, and he couldn’t spare a single effort to see it again. Instead, he walked for months until he found a vast green land again that he made his home and saw grow isolated from human touch into what today was the Green Zone. Yes, for him nothing ever felt like the ecstasy and freedom he felt the night he left an emblazoned hell behind….At least until he saw that sleeping-beauty, that tender cow that was sequestered by sleep as he guarded her dreams.

In the following days, he would go out of his way to trade his guarding routes so he could see that precious creature. Though he didn’t really follow her, he was always sure to have to swing by those vines, above the humble farm ran by her family, and which fed a large portion of all the animals. From time to time, when she caught sight of him as she grazed the land, she would shoot him an amicable “mooooo,” and he would return the greeting by thumping on his chest and giving her a quick snort-like roar, then swing away rapidly and into the thick green forest, away from her sight. Better analyzed, one could have sworn that he was trying to smile at her, but his constant piercing and unyielding look made it so difficult to ascertain. However, it became very clear that he had fallen under a spell when he kept returning to her farm, thumping his chest and dropping off wild exotic flowers that looked like psychedelic church bells attached to a translucent-green stem; or bunches of bananas wrapped in bamboo sheets. During the nights,  when in other times he would have been atop some trees with the other gorillas sipping on fermented coconut milk, he was now sitting on top of a rocky cliff, far above the tallest trees, but in a place where the giant moon bounced directly on top of her as she slept, making her look like a glowing angel with black and white spots.

After a while, his buddies began to catch on to his being missing so much. They began to question him, but he never said anything, and none of them pushed him because of the severity in his look. So one day they decided to follow him, and that’s when they realized where he was always going. They confronted him in a very friendly way, not accusing him of anything but rather asking if he is sure that this would be a good idea, should it be pursued. And they constantly warned him, that if anyone found out, it would be very probable that they’d be in some deep trouble, though no one knew what because it had never happened before. Cows only went for bulls, and gorillas for their own counterparts. But our dear friend didn’t care…Plus, he thought, he wasn’t doing much to pursue it; he was just admiring her beauty from afar.

But one day, as he was patrolling his route, he saw her going somewhere he’d never seen her go to before. He climbed the tallest tree and observed for a few seconds. Then he realized that she was heading inside the History Class, a cave where information was stored regarding the History and past of the Green Zone, and material warning of a two-legged beast that one day had the entire Animal Tribe subjugated. Everything was drawn on the walls by the very clumsy claws of the older animals who knew their past. There were also always elders there, of every species, who spoke to anyone who wanted to listen about their History.  When she came out of the History Class she saw him sleeping atop the tree, so she playfully hit the bottom of the tree with her horns to shake him awake.

“Hi!” she yelled cheerfully. “Isn’t it uncomfortable sleeping on top of a tree? I prefer hay myself!”

He let out a big groan and again thumped his chest. Then he climbed down the tree, and mesmerized by her beauty from up-close, he stumbled on his remark.

“Ah….It is, but not always…depends…” Though his face didn’t budge, it was clear that his brain had been blinded by the light she emanated. But she was more than beautiful. She was nice.

“I didn’t know you like history,” she asked him.

“I’ve been part of history,” he answered drily. “Didn’t have much to like. But I think I may have to brush up on some facts.”

“Great!” she answered, unaware of the seriousness in his answer. “We can come to class together next time! It’ll be fun! I love history!”

He didn’t know it yet, but for very obvious reasons, he would soon come to love History Class as well.

  **********************************

At first he was intimated by her, especially by the fact that she did not mind being seen with him. Despite stern warnings from his and her friends to not become involved with each other, particularly because no one knew what could happen in such an unnatural mixture, the two of them kept attending History Class together. After a while, he told her of his own history, and she listened intently to his every word. For the first time in a long time, our lonesome, brutish friend had found companionship in an animal he never thought he could be a friend of. As he spoke to her, he analyzed her beautiful face and the life and purity that hung in every one of her breaths. He noticed her cute black ears sticking out at the sides like little bike handles; he fell in love with her beautiful snout, which ran like a ramp until her lips, which always curved upwards, forming a smile in her face that could sooth the strongest storm. She loved life, and this was evident every time she mooed excitedly about something he said. Yes, the seed of love had been planted in our great, brutish friend, and she was the Sun and the Water and Oxygen needed for it to live and grow. And for that matter, she too had become fertilized by the same power, and in his dark, deep eyes and menacing past, she only saw love: a companion with whom to graze the world.

After hanging out together in the History Class for many, many months, they became the first couple of Green Zone to be of different species. Though most people frowned at this at the beginning, eventually everyone rejoiced in their freedom and lived vicariously through it. Of course, the new generations, free of the irrational prejudices of the older ones, made it their custom to fall in love with whomever the winds of fate may bring; and the older ones learned to accept the new progress.

After many, many years together — too many to recount — the couple died a pain-free death of old age.  They were found together, atop the tallest tree, where he had taken her to die, as her dying wishes.

“I’ve never seen the forest from the top of the trees,” she had said to him. “Before I die, please help me do so, love.”  All he did was grunt and nod at her request. But that night, as both of them enjoyed each other’s company under the full moon above, their gentle sighs in each other’s arms told them the time had come. He carried her on one arm and with his three other extremities began climbing the tree. When they got atop, she kissed him and let out a gentle moo.

“I always pictured it would be like this, honey,” she said weakly. “The sky is so beautiful from up here. The Moon looks like a goddess, and look!…the stars are dancing around her!” In the distance, the ocean could be heard roaring, waves crashing upon rocks. The air was crisp and howling like a coyote at the moon, swaying the palm trees rhythmically to the beat of the ocean’s waves. “Thank you, my love. I’ll see you on the other side of the river.”

In the morning, when they were found, every animal from every forest came to the Green Zone and howled in sadness. Everyone wept, because they were both the symbol of Freedom and of Love. His integrity and severity were only matched by her purity and her warmth.

Today, every animal roams around free and in love. And from the top of the trees, at night, under a bright full moon, birds still sing and dance in ode to the Loveliest Two Beasts in Earth.