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Saturday Afternoon

Is it time to leave, my lady
yes it is I know
round about and everywhere sunshine instead of snow
times can't change that what I say is true.
JA, ABAB

Didactical Dwarf and I were having lots of fun reading subtitles in a stereotypical Indian accent, just in front of an Indian gift store near a Hare Krishna restaurant which happened to have a TV on display. It showed some traditional Hindu story in the form of a soap opera. As I intoned my Apu-like gibberish Vitor had me notice a sanyasin of sorts standing nearby. "This we doing might be a bit offensive", I nervously said just as we entered a twilight zone of deep embarrassment and obliquity, which included nonsensical comments about how happy that side of the street looked with that multicolored bench—while the other side DIDN'T ("the church sure is beautiful, yet doesn't seem happy")—and weird dance-like moves along the sidewalk. As we perceived we were still making bozos out of ourselves, we had to run away and get the Communist Hippie, who by that time was still eating away a vegetarian hamburger at Lord Krishna's place.

This sure would be a story good enough to tell in detail in its own, yet something happened a few minutes later that, in perspective, made the whole fiasco a small footnote for the day.

Please understand I will also restrain from minute descriptions of several irrelevancies, including a discussion on the Gaucho ethos and less-than-400-years-old-so-called-traditions, and a dog named Harry who only understood English (we speak Brazilian Portuguese around here), howled with chords of harmonics and had a cute brown nose. Furthermore I won't tell of the girls we noticed, and the acquaintances we met and sort of ignored, of computer prices and discussion of cost-benefit of specific hardware parts. Yes, I won't tell you about my private opinions about each meaningless phenomenon I had the karma to meet with today, and I will completely forget any great discovery about the nature of games, humor and existence that I also may have had, even though they are my favorite subjects; for I will focus on the story of a man with a Big Nose.

Yep, that's right. As we rested after our meals sitting bellow Santos Dummond statue in front of the Arc de Triomphe wannabe in Redemption Park, Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, South America, Third World, this very earth, we happen to meet a World War II veteran—and he happened to have a wide, all-around huge, lavishly decorated with craters and a wart to top it all, state-of-the-art nose.

He was a stout old fellow, with a hat decorated with the red snake smoking (mark of the FEB (Brazilian Expeditionary Force), for people used to think Brazil making expeditions to help other countries was as believable as a snake blowing a pipe), a very worn-out belt and truly shaggy, blue, watery eighty-seven years old small eyes.

Maybe he needed company, old age means solitude for most, and maybe he found our small group of three young adults for some reason inviting some conversation, since he just asked us, without any proper or informal introduction, if we happen to know what was the biggest area of constructed land in Rio Grande do Sul.

Of course we didn't, but we thought of shopping-malls. He said, maybe an anachronism, that it was the Military School right in front of us. He discussed it a bit with Vitor and Adriano, but I kept silent—at first I thought he was just a boring old man getting in the way of me and my thoughts. Boy was I wrong!

We soon discovered he had fought WWII, having arrived in Italy in 1944. On a defensive tone he said he didn't go there to kill Germans, but to fight Nazism—and that Germans were actually good hard-working intelligent people etc. And then he had some war stories for us. How could we imagine having that on such a bright, mundane, post-modern, Saturday afternoon?

He told us of the time he and 10 others had to stop a caravan with grenades. One of the trucks filled ammunitions and provisions, the other with 60 young German soldiers. They had an agreement between the 11 of not blowing out the truck carrying the soldiers. "But if somebody squealed on you?" I asked, "Oh, that would sure lead us to the Court-Martial. We would be punished for sure... but how to face the killing of sixty 16 year old boys at the end of war?" That is something an American would rarely be proud of, I thought to myself, but it is such a great merit to respect life during war. Vitor later told me he had shed a few tears during this bit.

Then he told us of the day he had to take with him, if necessary by force, a member of the Hitler Youth who was renitent to come. At first he asked for reinforcements, but his superior said he didn't have anyone to spare. So he went, disarmed, not able to speak a word of German, to make a perhaps disarmed man in a destroyed house to come with him. He then managed to obtain some gasoline and throw it at the guy's back—threatened by a lighter, the guy surrendered. "This is the sort of on-the-run skill we need in times of war". And, it seems, in the whole of samsara, mate.

On another occasion he had to blip off (yeah, that was sort of the hardboiled slang I could find to translate the Portuguese he used) a German fellow who he found out lying in a bed with an Italian chick as he opened the door of a cabin. "He heard the trinket on the door—if he had his gun loaded, I was gone. Oh, how that woman ran." Then I started praying, for me it is so uncommon to talk with somebody who has killed a man, no matter how long ago. I believe I had never faced such a confession from anybody yet—I'm just a baby.

I got curious if he had scored some sophialorenesque chicks while in Italy, but I decided first to ask if he was married when he went to war. "Oh, that's a sad story", he said.

"There was this pretty 16 years old whom I thought I could help. Since she only had her mother in her life and they were very poor, if we got married and I died in war, she would at least have some money. Since army regulations forbid someone to get married so close to deployment, we got married in secret.

"The day after the marriage my superior called me. I don't know how he found out. I thought I was going to jail, but he actually gave me a license of eight days, which was our honeymoon. Just after those eight days they put me into a ship, and from then on I didn't receive any news from her.

"When I returned, a couple of years later, I found out she had gotten pregnant and died in labor. She and her mother had tried to contact me, but the mail was surely censored. My daughter survives till this day."

Well, then it wouldn't be nice to ask about some Italian ho, eh? Particularly not with an Indian accent?! Ok, I got it. Maybe my Asperger's not so bad lately.

...

Unsatisfactory endings arise from expectations. Our need for closure manufactures a well-rounded resolution that is what maybe Freud called "death wish". Our dreams never have a proper ending, they always finish when something else is being construed—even if there is, in fact, a climax. This non-expectative unresolvedness is none else than the deathless state itself. We are forever unsettled by mental fabrications that have build-ups and conclusions, but there's a pool wherein all this small waves surface. This is our sole refuge, the Lama's mind.

I have stayed up late to write this, as I had a little difficulty with Corporal Freitas closure for our conversation. He just went away, back into the dharmakaya, although maybe like one of the eleven war-criminal-bodhisattvas he accidentally met 50 years later, we may find each other as sad animals on a zoo somewhere someday, or something like that. After such a eventful day, while I came again to the end of Wild Strawberries, and wondered why this particular Bergman had this cozy feeling about it even while it didn't really settle anything—greatness knows how to play with our expectations while never distancing from deathlessness which is the source., I decided to put some words about the deathless state. Yes, it seems we always die mid-something, as we wake from dreams. That is, unless we cut-through closure and leap at once in the pool—(day)dreaming whatever, never wrong.

September, 2006




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