Brazilian author Paul Coehlo shares his wisdom on the topic of innocence in his monthly column for Ode.
Three gentlemen, all immaculately dressed, appeared in my hotel in Tokyo.
‘Yesterday you gave a lecture at the Dentsu Gallery,’ said one of the men. ‘I just happened to go to it and I arrived at the moment when you were saying that no meeting occurs by chance. Perhaps we should introduce ourselves.’
I didn’t ask how they had found out where I was staying, I didn’t ask anything; people who are capable of overcoming such difficulties deserve our respect. One of the men handed me some books written in Japanese calligraphy. My interpreter became very excited: the gentleman was Kazuhito Aida, the son of a great Japanese poet of whom I had never heard.
And it was precisely the mystery of synchronicity that allowed me to know, read and to be able to share with the readers of this column a little of the magnificent work of Mitsuo Aida (1924-1998), poet and calligrapher, whose poems remind us of the importance of innocence.
Because it has lived its life intensely
the parched grass still attracts the gaze of passers-by.
The flowers merely flower,
and they do this as well as they can.
The white lily, blooming unseen in the valley,
Does not need to explain itself to anyone;
It lives merely for beauty.
Men, however, cannot accept that ‘merely’.
If tomatoes wanted to be melons,
they would look completely ridiculous.
I am always amazed
that so many people are concerned
with wanting to be what they are not;
what’s the point of making yourself look ridiculous?
You don’t always have to pretend to be strong,
there’s no need to prove all the time that everything is going well,
you shouldn’t be concerned about what other people are thinking,
cry if you need to,
it’s good to cry out all your tears
(because only then will you be able to smile again).
Sometimes, on TV, I see tunnels and bridges being inaugurated. Usually, a lot of celebrities and local politicians stand in a line, in the centre of which is the minister or local governor. Then a ribbon is cut, and when the people in charge of the project return to their desks, they find lots of letters expressing recognition and admiration.
The people who sweated and worked on the project, who wielded pickaxes and spades, who laboured all through the summer heat or endured the winter cold in order to finish the job, they are never seen; those who did not work by the sweat of their brow always seem to come off best.
I want to be someone capable of seeing the unseen faces, of seeing those who do not seek fame or glory, who silently fulfil the role life has given them.
I want to be able to do this because the most important things, those that shape our existence, are precisely the ones that never show their faces.
Translated from Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa.