Thursday, October 8, 2009

"Nothing Human is Alien to Me"

Terence answered to his neighbor, who told him to mind his own business: Homo sum: humani nihil a me alienum puto. - I am a man, nothing human is alien to me. Immigration is always a very curious issue to me. Especially in the Americas. As I write, I keep thinking that I´d simply not exist, as I know myself, had my ancestors been detained at customs. Those were other times,though. At that time, Europe was "exporting" its unwanted or extra people. On my mother´s side, they were new christians ( or, if you wish, forcibily baptised old jews) who had to leave Portugal around the end of the 18th century, and settled in Northeastern Brazil. On my father´s side, my great grandparents, after escaping an arson attack on their house, and having seen everything they built burned down to ashes, decided to come to this promising land in the Southern hemisphere, and were able to make a living here. My great grand father, Jean-Baptiste Lhullier, became the town photographer and even changed his name to Baptista, because he felt Brazilian. Most immigrants leave their homeland because they want to live better, or live. It´s as simple as that. All in all, it can be a matter of perspective whether you spend money and energy on building walls and fences, so people won´t come to ruin your beautiful garden(we know, as members of the human race, where misanthropy can lead us to), or on helping communities, so people don´t need to leave them, and are able to grow their own gardens. Just some thoughts on where I stand in this world...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Universe Within

Here´s another one, fellow blogger Vincent :-)

Poem Da Minha Aldeia (From My Village) by Fernando Pessoa under his heteronomy Alberto Caieiro., from the collection of poems O Guardador de Rebanhos (The herd keeper).

From my village I see the universe.
That´s why my village is as big as any other one
Because I am the size of what I see
And not the size of my height.

In the cities life is smaller
than it is here in my house on the hill.
In the city big houses block our view
hide the horizon, push our eyes away from the sky,
make us small, because they take away from us what our eyes can give us
and impoverish us, because our only wealth is what we see.

From my village I see the universe
That´s why my village is as big as any other one
Because I am the size of what I see
And not the size of my height.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Existing in a Foreign Language

Algerian author and filmmaker Abdelwahab Hammoudi ( that learning a language can be a powerful tool for more understanding and less violence in the world. I totally agree.
Languages are ways of existence. Speaking a language is a way of "being" in the world, and learning a second, third language is a way of experiencing other ways of existing in the same world. Like when in Portuguese we use "to have" to talk about age and in English it is "to be". So, in Portuguese I´d say : I have 38 years . As if I could own time...
I´m Brazilian, so my first language is Portuguese. I´ve never learned Spanish formally. I can read and understand it perfectly, but if I want to communicate with someone who´s a native speaker of Spanish, I speak Portuñol (or Portunhol), which is a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish spoken in places close to the Uruguayan and Argentinian borders. And I can´t write it at all. French is an acquired language, a family thing, but not much formal study there, too. Just the basics for communication.
I started studying English as a kid, 9, 10 years old. And that was a totally new world to me. I love music, so I could sing and understand the lyrics, and pronouncing the words was fun. English is not a Romance, or Neolatin, language like Portuguese, French and Spanish, so there were not many analogies that could be made. I was literally stepping in someone else´s shoes, and loving it. I still do.
Would my life have been different had I not learned foreign languages? No doubt about it. I wouldn´t be writing this, in the first place. I wouldn´t be able to read the interesting things people write in their blogs, I wouldn´t be able to see their points and reflect on their perspectives, I would have to depend on translations when I travel, or when I read certain authors, just to think of some examples.
It´s never too late to start. Japanese, here I come!

Princes all of them

It´s been a tough week. I´ll just share my humble and imperfect, thus free, translation of Poema em Linha Reta by Álvaro de Campos (Fernando Pessoa):

Poem in a Straight Line

I´ve never met anyone who´d been beaten up.
All my acquaintances have been champions in everything.
And I, so often crude, so often filthy, so often vile,
I, so often inarguably parasite,
Unforgivably dirty.
I, who so often haven´t taken the time to take a bath,
I, who have so often been ridiculous, absurd,
Who have publicly stumbled my feet in the rugs of etiquette,
Who have been grotesque, despicable, submissive and arrogant,
Who have been humiliated and remained quiet,
And was ridiculed when did not remain quiet;
I, who have been the laughing stock of the chambermaids,
I, who have noticed the eye winks of the delivery boys,
I, who have caused financial embarrassments, borrowing without paying,
I, who, instead of taking a punch, have crouched
Away from the possibility of the punch;
I, who have been anxious over ridiculous, small things,
I see I have no peer in this world.
Everybody I know and talks to me
Has never had a ridiculous moment, has never been scolded,
Has never been but a prince - princes all of them - in life...
I wish I could hear human voices
That would not confess sins, but flaws;
That would not report their violent actions, but their coward reactions!
No, they are all the Ideal, as they tell me.
Is there anyone in this immense world that would confess having been vile once?
Oh princes, my brothers and sisters
Damn it, I am fed up with these demigods!
Where are the real people in this world?
Is it only me that is vile and wrong in this land?
Their husbands and wives may have not loved them,
They may have been betrayed - but never ridiculous!
And I, who have been ridiculous without having been betrayed,
How can I address my superiors without hesitating?
I, who have been vile, literally vile,
Vile in the despicable and infamous sense of vileness.