It is only fitting that today is the 4th of July. Freedom is ringing as students from all over the world indulge themselves in the permissiveness of being abroad. True, as some of my classmates confessed to me earlier today, why party like a fool here when you can do that at home? Haha. It seems the novelty of getting shitfaced every night this week is starting to look quite dull against the exquisite history that is Salamanca. And more than a few are starting to seek a less alcoholic means of stimulation now that they realize, hell, we only have three more weeks!
But, the beauty of being away from home is also possessing the freedom to reject the norms we must contend with at home. Here, through the prism of another country and in the context of a university experience, we can see ourselves in an unfiltered light. Freedom. Beauty. Peace. I’m experiencing the poetry that comes with shedding all the “What If’s?” and the “What Will People Say’s?” that clutter our field of vision and inner peace. This is an ideal worth fighting for in an age where people confuse living an authentic life with just scheduling fewer things in a day.
“La siesta es sagrado,” said the girls at the Camper store just off the Plaza Mayor. I opted to deny myself the afternoon nap and chose to walk over six miles this afternoon, right after el almuerzo de mediodía. (Alright, I also took the liberty to purchase a pair of shoes. Resistance is futile when signs are blaring “Rebajas” are everywhere. Y como dice mi profesora de conversación, “¡Mejor que su dinero se queda en Salamanca y no en Madrid!”I’m just doing the city a favor, dammit!)
After days of being the home school kid, not going out to sample the Salamanca nightlife this first week of class, I was ready for my own adventure. It was time to take a personal look at the city. So, the pictures placed throughout this post are from that trek by special request. I had a lot to ponder, given profesora Maria José Boyer’s lecture today. She’s become a true inspiration to me. The journey is the thing and every lecture is a road so extraordinary.
What I found refreshing was Maria José’s admittance that she sometimes goes home knowing she probably missed a few things that should be taught and lectured. But she also said that every class is different, opting never to follow a script for every group of students in her midst. What Maria José offered today, and every class session, was special to us based on the dynamic we represent. Her enthusiasm never wanes, which is what makes her class such a revelation. I am crushing hard on her. Can you tell? Each door she opens reveals something I can´t wait to get home and write about. I worry that if I wait too long, it´ll just melt away in the fog like some literary ¨Brigadoon.¨ And today was no different. I met El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha for the first time.
¨El que lee mucho y anda mucho, ve mucho y sabe mucho.¨ — Cervantes
As I embarked on my own trek around Salamanca this afternoon, I realized in many ways my attitude towards our contemporary culture is on par with the man who battled windmills and other impossible dreams. I didn’t expect to find such a connection with the reasons as to why Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra invented Don Quijote. But I, too, believe we should owe so much to fiction than reality.
Why are we allowing ourselves to be told to “Thrive” by people whose own political leanings change with the wind or are influenced by the guest list of their charity parties. We should refuse to “lean in” when pushing through indifference, complacency and fear mongering is so much more effective. And don’t get me started on #banbossy. What? We all have to be underlings to have an even playing field? I’m tired of all this magazinespeak, a ridiculous compendium of buzz words that feel like light bulbs all missing a strand of filament.
We’ve made quite an industry out exploiting our insecurities. Diets. Miracle cures. Cleanses. Runyon Canyon hikes. The Santa Monica Steps. Spinning. Gwyneth’s Goop, the cult of Oprah and other celebrities with hired help telling us how WE can live better. No. Cervantes got there first and with a cost effective manifesto that makes such perfect sense. Quijote may be a testament to blind folly, but without dreams, how can we live?
Fiction can stand with reality. We need both. If you don’t like the life you’re leading, go invent the one you want to live! It’s so fucking liberating to understand that living for living’s sake is stupidity. And so many of us tow this heavy line because we just don’t have the strength or conviction to change. I was turning into Eeyore because it’s easy. Easy is not living. No, we should create a life that is the ultimate work of art, something timeless and beautiful and completely of our own design.
You want to talk about liberty tonight? Let’s free ourselves from the tyranny of a false world order created by those determined to make us feel shitty about ourselves so they can make a buck off our beautiful weaknesses. You want an Independence Day? Create an independent and empowered life of informed thoughts. Shun the shrieking punditry that is allowing conjecture to pass as fact.
And above all, while you all let freedom ring, allow for love to toll, too. That’s an ideal worth fighting for no matter who you are in this world, wherever you are in this life tonight.
“El amor nunca hizo ningún cobarde.” — Cervantes
Friday, July 4 @ Manoli’s house in Salamanca, Spain.