They can burn books, destroy libraries, forbid languages, ban beliefs, delete past times,
draw new present times, order future actions, torture and execute people...
But they still don´t know how to kill the intangible and bright
bodies of ideas, dreams and hopes.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

To throw in the towel

To throw in the towel

By Sara Plaza

A few days ago I came across the brilliant answer that the Cuban writer Leonardo Padora offered in an interview conducted by the journalist Mauricio Vicent for "El País" newspaper: "If one throws in the towel, s/he can only throw it over his/her head, and that is not an option." I liked it so much that I was putting the idea the right side out and turning it back in my head for a while, since I had always thought that if at any moment I decided to throw in the towel, I would do it over somebody else's head, never over mine. So, I spent some time thinking in Padura's answer and started to understand that maybe the Cuban author was right and, sure enough, when someone throws in the towel, the only thing s/he does is to cover his/her face with it. And of course, this is not an option. How is it going to be an option to hidden? Because, what else would we be doing by covering our face with a towel but stop to see? What else would we hope but try to get others could not see us?

The problem –there is always one– is that we are the worst judge of ourselves and we cannot deceive ourselves (neither am I sure whether others are so easily fooled, although some attempts have been more than successful through history). I do not know whether you remember your parents, or to your grandparents, telling you something like "a lie has very short legs" or maybe like "you will catch earlier a liar than a lame person", when you were children. I heard my parents saying both of them many times and, little by little, I saw for myself how certain they were. However, since in life nothing is what seems to be and almost everything looks like something else, I also learned that lies have subtle ways of stretching their legs, and that liars can move quickly in this reality that so many times invites us to throw in the towel.

But no, a lie is neither an option, nor is it deception; forgetfulness was never an option either and silence won't be. They are no options because following their footprints we will find nothing but our own defeat. And nobody likes to lose, especially when our life is at stake. I am not saying that to walk those paths is right or wrong, I am only stating that they take you to nowhere. I believe that most of the people choose to tread one of those paths at a certain moment in our life. Human beings are never satisfied with others' experiences; we want to walk the way, to come up against our own problems a thousand times if necessary, and overcome them as many. That's why, when we realize that we are going nowhere, that we are stuck (something that is not simple and does not happen so quickly), we go round and round looking for the way out.

We can cover our faces and pretend that there is no exit, but we would be finding one already: to give up. Or we can cool it down with fresh water, blink a few times and look further. The last one seems to me an option and, no doubt, the best way out: to keep on moving. What for? Which reasons? Which proposes? Perhaps we cannot find them at the beginning, but it is convenient to think that there are some valuable ones, that they are there though we cannot see them, and that they are certainly worth the effort. Above all, it is advisable to seek them in the very simple things, in what we most love, what is important for us, what we like, what we can do, what we can manage to learn and, in case we are still in doubt, we can always remember what we don't love, what is not important for us, what we don't like, what we don't know and what we don't want to learn either. It is not easy, but neither is it too difficult. Love can't cope with everything, but don't be mistaken: money does not talk either.

I prefer commitment, willingness, and determination. I certainly go for joy. All of them are good tools in order to try it once more, to not throw in the towel. I am addressing to all those men and women who work to stop reality being as it is, to change what does not work, to redress a number of imbalances, to make distance smaller, to stop different divides getting bigger and bigger; all those men and women who hope to get everybody can find their own place in the world, can say their own words and listen to other's. I only hope to give you a gently prod with these lines, for every one continues doing their best in such direction. Any time we feel tired, and we are going to be exhausted on many occasions (to swing against the tide is really tiring, however, it does not mean we are wrong), is advisable to sit down for a while, to get our breath back and to keep on working for what we believe is worthy, for whatever we defend. And it is recommended to do so alongside those who believe and defend something similar, though they do not think exactly the same, though on many occasions we do not agree. There is not a single way of doing anything, neither is it clear that a particular manner will be always better than other: let's allow us not to be true at certain times and to listen to others; let's give us permission for being wrong and for finding out how others did it right...

It is a great success to have tried it, but it "tastes" much better to continue doing it. And, of course, from time to time, it is important to achieve what we had previously set out. So, if we agree that to throw in the towel is not an option, the best thing to do next, is to use the towel for drying our face after cooling it down, and keep on moving, managing to keep our spirits up, let's say at the same height we should always place our heart...

"We have to keep our heart up for it never sinks, for it never goes away, and in order not to go to pieces oneself."

María Zambrano