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An intelligent sexagenarian (# 193)


So, in the morning, you have to draw the curtains, lift the blinds, open the windows and look at the sky. If the sleeping mode in the morning does not allow for great reflections, at least see if it will rain and wear a suitable outfit to face the day and life.

It's true: I turned 60, and I'm a sixty-year-old. Sympathetically they tell me that I am fine, good health and looking young. I know I don't have a chaquetic air, but I'm also not interested in being young, strong and beautiful for life. I appreciate the sympathy, but in fact, I do not have these pretensions. Someone asked me what it is like to be 60 years old and other people challenged me to talk about it, like a good movie buff who presents a movie to be seen. You can't talk about it offhand, because the matter is serious and deserves a thorough reflection.

Perhaps due to the positioning of the planets at the time of my birth, say the astrologers, I like to be looking to the future and I hate to always be thinking about the past and it irritates me when someone says it was good in the past. To paraphrase a well-known comedian, in the past my situation was not very good. Despite having a bed and laundry, 60 years ago I was unemployed and peed in the diaper. Therefore, my “old days” are not a great reference for life.

The other day I had a problem that made me think of two or three things. It just so happened that I got up later than planned, got ready to go out, ate in a hurry and didn't even lift the window shutters and

I went out into the street wearing sandals, shorts and a t-shirt. When I set foot on the street, it was raining and it was cold. As I was late I went anyway and got a wet and cold to make COVID jealous.

Nothing like a wet and cold to make us think about life. Those weekend interviews, made in a hurry with half a dozen quick questions to public figures, came to my mind. One of the mandatory questions is always “who are the most important figures in your life”. Faced with such a question, it is well to mention names like Churchill, Leonardo DaVinci, Barack Obama or D. Afonso Henriques.

If I were famous, I would not hesitate to reply that the great figures of reference in my life are not historical characters.

I would say before that the great inspirations of my life come above all from three entities: Eschericia coli, Chico and the plane.

Eschericia coli is a bacterium that lives in our intestines with 2 microns in length which means that in a millimeter we can put 500 bacteria in single file. Technically this bacterium lives in shit and yet makes its life, absorbing everything around it, namely the nutrients it needs to build its own body, growing calmly and serenely, in the warmth of our future feces. In good condition, every 20 minutes, in a gesture of profound humility, Coli, as she is known among friends, divides into two, in a gesture that has the beautiful name of cissiparity. Where there was a bacterium, there are two, to the point that, after a few hours, a pleasant colony can form, where it is imagined that the Coli caress each other while growing. In addition to being humble, they are generous and produce good doses of vitamin K, very useful for any animal that has them inside. As they have a relatively simple genetic code, the Koreans managed to convince these bacteria to produce gasoline, changing their DNA, in a curious maneuver of biotechnology. What better reference can you have for life?

Then there's Chico. A rhesus monkey lived in a cage at Jardim António Borges in the North of the city where I was born. With his black face, small but perceptive eyes, gray hair, visiting Chico was the icing on the cake for those who visited the mysterious António Borges Garden. Mysterious, because it had winding paths, stone caves, a cistern that threatened the echo of empty spaces, in addition to a lush vegetation brought from all over the world by the 17th century micaelist aristocrats. XIX.

In fact, I met 3 or 4 rhesus monkeys, brought from the colonies, or rather, from the overseas provinces and who were pets of some people in the city. Strangely, everyone was called Chico, much to the offense of someone whose name was Francisco.

Chico do Jardim António Borges alternated a posture of a distant gaze from those contemplating the infinite and reflects on the secrets of the essence of life, with a deep and meticulous attention to everything that surrounded him, absorbing every gesture of the basques, followed each of their gestures. He peeled the peanuts that came to his hands with his nimble little fingers, or anxiously unrolled the candy paper, discovering a colorful and sweet flavor. It was said that sometimes, when unwrapping the paper from a candy, I discovered that a stone had been placed inside. Enraged, he threw the stone at the funny man who had tried to deceive him. So many times they found Chico a companion that everyone called Chica. It is said that this is where the old joke came about: would the relationship between Chico and Chica be of love or interest? It must have been love because they apparently didn't seem very interested in each other. If so, love paid off and a little monkey was born who, obviously, was called Chiquinho. When there were no peanuts or sweets, it was heartwarming to see the three of them, sitting, looking at each other and nibbling on the alleged fleas, as if it were a good snack.

So, these two figures marked my way of being in life and it is worth remembering that, now that I arrive at the club of sixties.

First of all, we have to be extremely attentive to everything around us, just like Chico did. Each gesture, each event, each piece of information is precious in order not to lose the North.

Secondly, it is necessary to absorb what surrounds us, be it the appropriate nutrients, be it small or large information or the most diverse knowledge, always knowing how to reject the stones that come disguised as sweets.

Third, we have to process and articulate all this, nutrients and knowledge in order to integrate them into ourselves, making our bodies manage their little lives, but also ensuring that our minds and emotions are balanced.

But there is an amazing lesson that Coli leaves us with. Living it in shit and taking advantage of what surrounds it, we realize two things: even in the middle of what someone rejected, something is possible to enjoy. Second, what we can consider “the shit” is nothing more than a transitory phase, a transition to another phase of reuse of feces, which will allow the fertilization of fields and the development of plants that will bring food, shade and some oxygen. Even flies think that waste is the ideal place to place their young.

Then there is the illusion of leaving a legacy. I particularly like the images of the bacteria, apparently losing their identity giving rise to another future, through the duplication of their DNA, which legacy is left to those who come next, in the new generations.

I remembered the image of the bacteria growing at a good pace, rubbing up on any caresses with the cologne companions, which is a social gesture, of great importance for our mental and emotional health. This is what monkeys do when they hunt, because more than a gesture of body hygiene, it is rather a moment of conviviality and the establishment of bonds between elements of a community.

But the great lesson that Chico left me is that from time to time he would run away from the cage. When the gardeners were desperate, Chico, with the depletion that is usual in these creatures, returned to the cage as if he had never left there. It is therefore necessary to know how to get out of the cages in which we were born, even if many people always end up returning, not because they accept the enclosure, but rather as a gesture of full freedom.

Paying attention to what surrounds us, absorbing what seems useful to us and knowing how to integrate in us what is around us, is a first principle to be maintained by any intelligent sexagenarian.

Knowing how to interact with others, whether in a typical swab of bacteria, or picking us up in small and large gatherings, rebalancing our emotions and enriching our experiences, will be another great principle.

But it is the plane that can take us to one of the most profound discoveries.

For many, the plane represents the eternal dream of flying. Nothing more misleading.

It all started with a Greek named Icarus, who, when nobody knew what aluminum was, decided to build a pair of wax wings with many feathers. As he was ambitious, he wanted to climb higher and higher, getting too close to the sun. Result: the wings melted and Icarus crashed to the ground, becoming the first victim of a civil aviation accident. Then came Bartolomeu de Gusmão's barcarola, the balloon that inspired Jules Verne so much, the airship that burned in Paris and finally the cloth and wood planes that were gradually built in aluminum, titanium and carbon fiber.

The plane is a typical example of the constant desire for modernity and innovation, in an exponential way to fly higher and higher, with greater speed, with more and more passengers. With the Concorde we reach a speed of 2000 km / hour, almost twice the speed of sound. It is a case to say that when we hear Concorde it is actually far away.

It was an airplane that flew higher, 18,000 meters, faster, but it used much more fuel and each trip was the most expensive. And does it really matter?

With the accident on July 25, 2000, people started to wonder if this contraption was really safe.

After all, flying in such a modern and technologically advanced way, for what?

With the awareness of global warming we ask if it makes sense that a machine, like the Boing 787, uses 4 tons of fuel per hour. If it is to cross the Atlantic, what a remedy. But if it is to go from Paris to Berlin it will make more sense to go by train.

Looking at the websites that follow the thousands of flights that happen on the planet every hour, we realize that all those people are not inside the planes to fly, but rather to “go from one side to the other”. In other words, the essence of the mechanical bird is not to give wings to fly, but to allow us to move, either to escape from the cage, or in the exercise of our profession or to better observe the world around us.

The question that the intelligent sixties asks is "what is the essence of life". To be young and beautiful forever? Eat and drink until you drop? Fartazana sex?

The wetness I picked serves as a starting point: what is essential in the man-bug and the reason why Homo sapiens managed to get away with it anywhere in the world is the particularity of, looking around like Chico, absorbing everything as a bacterium, to quickly anticipate what might fall on top of it. So, in the morning, you have to draw the curtains, lift the blinds, open the windows and look at the sky. If the soundtrack in the morning does not allow for great reflections, at least see if it is going to rain and put on a suitable outfit to face the day and life.

Anticipating and adapting are good principles for any smart sixties.

And whenever possible, escape from the cage, preferably in good company.

© Eduardo Rui Alves

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