(Tales of Power)
“I am going to disclose to you a warrior’s secret. Perhaps you can call it a warrior’s predilection.”
He addressed me in particular and said that once I had told him that the life of a warrior was cold and lonely and devoid of feelings. He even added that at that precise moment I was convinced that it was so.
“The life of a warrior cannot possibly be cold and lonely and without feelings,” he said, “because it is based on his affection, his devotion, his dedication to his beloved. And who, you may ask, is his beloved? I will show you now.”
Don Genaro stood up and walked slowly to a perfectly flat area right in front of us, ten or twelve feet away. He made a strange gesture there. He moved his hands as if he were sweeping dust from his chest and his stomach. Then an odd thing happened. A flash of an almost imperceptible light went through him; it came from the ground and seemed to kindle his entire body. He did a sort of backward pirouette, a backward dive more properly speaking, and landed on his chest and arms. His movement had been executed with such precision and skill that he seemed to be a weightless being, a wormlike creature that had turned on itself. When he was on the ground he performed a series of unearthly movements. He glided just a few inches above the ground, or rolled on it as if he were lying on ball bearings; or he swam on it describing circles and turning with the swiftness and agility of an eel swimming in the ocean.
My eyes began to cross at one moment and then without any transition I was watching a ball of luminosity sliding back and forth on something that appeared to be the floor of an ice-skating rink with a thousand lights shining on it.
The sight was sublime. Then the ball of fire came to rest and stayed motionless. A voice shook me and dispelled my attention. It was don Juan talking. I could not understand at first what he was saying. I looked again at the ball of fire; I could distinguish only don Genaro lying on the ground with his arms and legs spread out.
Don Juan’s voice was very clear. It seemed to trigger something in me and I began to write. “Genaro’s love is the world,” he said. “He was just now embracing this enormous earth but since he’s so little all he can do is swim in it. But the earth knows that Genaro loves it and it bestows on him its care. That’s why Genaro’s life is filled to the brim and his state, wherever he’ll be, will be plentiful. Genaro roams on the paths of his love and, wherever he is, he is complete.”
Don Juan squatted in front of us. He caressed the ground gently.
“This is the predilection of two warriors,” he said. “This earth, this world. For a warrior there can be no greater love.”
Don Genaro stood up and squatted next to don Juan for a moment while both of them peered fixedly at us, then they sat in unison, cross-legged.
“Only if one loves this earth with unbending passion can one release one’s sadness,” don Juan said. “A warrior is always joyful because his love is unalterable and his beloved, the earth, embraces him and bestows upon him inconceivable gifts. The sadness belongs only to those who hate the very thing that gives shelter to their beings.”
Don Juan again caressed the ground with tenderness.
“This lovely being, which is alive to its last recesses and understands every feeling, soothed me, it cured me of my pains, and finally when I had fully understood my love for it, it taught me freedom.”
He paused. The silence around us was frightening. The wind hissed softly and then I heard the distant barking of a lone dog.
“Listen to that barking,” don Juan went on. “That is the way my beloved earth is helping me now to bring this last point to you. That barking is the saddest thing one can hear.”
We were quiet for a moment. The barking of that lone dog was so sad and the stillness around us so intense that I experienced a numbing anguish. It made me think of my own life, my sadness, my not knowing where to go, what to do.
“That dog’s barking is the nocturnal voice of a man,” don Juan said. “It comes from a house in that valley towards the south. A man is shouting through his dog, since they are companion slaves for life, his sadness, his boredom. He’s begging his death to come and release him from the dull and dreary chains of his life.”
Don Juan’s words had caught a most disturbing line in me. I felt he was speaking directly to me.
“That barking, and the loneliness it creates, speaks of the feelings of men,” he went on. “Men for whom an entire life was like one Sunday afternoon, an afternoon which was not altogether miserable, but rather hot and dull and uncomfortable. They sweated and fussed a great deal. They didn’t know where to go, or what to do. That afternoon left them only with the memory of petty annoyances and tedium, and then suddenly it was over; it was already night.”
He recounted a story I had once told him about a seventy-two-year-old man who complained that his life had been so short that it seemed to him that it was only the day before that he was a boy. The man had said to me, “I remember the pajamas I used to wear when I was ten years old. It seems that only one day has passed. Where did the time go?”
“The antidote that kills that poison is here,” don Juan said, caressing the ground. “The sorcerers’ explanation cannot at all liberate the spirit. Look at you two. You have gotten to the sorcerers’ explanation, but it doesn’t make any difference that you know it. You’re more alone than ever, because without an unwavering love for the being that gives you shelter, aloneness is loneliness.
“Only the love for this splendorous being can give freedom to a warrior’s spirit; and freedom is joy, efficiency, and abandon in the face of any odds. That is the last lesson. It is always left for the very last moment, for the moment of ultimate solitude when a man faces his death and his aloneness. Only then does it make sense.”