Defending the Soul

Material goods are not the only things we lack, nor the most important. Photo: Elio Delgado

By Irina Echarry

Of course, not everyone understands those words, or their intention, in the same way. To understand what I mean, you have to have lived on the island; you have to have lost your best friends when they leave the country looking for new experiences, sights, and situations.

You have to have felt the loss (physical) of your first and only love, helping him pack his things so that he could breathe better because the air embroiled with politics and scarcity was suffocating him.

You have to have suffered the estrangement of those who remain, each one consumed with their own problems, not caring that we are an island and that an island has to remain united in order to stay afloat. If it fractures into pieces, it will slowly sink.

In that diary post I talked about the Cuban people’s resistance, their capacity to stoically withstand whatever comes along, just to keep us from falling. Falling to where, I wonder? Aren’t we already lying, curled up on the ground comfortably and quietly grumbling, letting others run our lives?

Material goods are not the only things we lack, nor the most important. And the longing for change has nothing to do with the United States or the capitalist society. I have never experienced another system, and in this one I have come to know other emotions.

But sensitivity has also emigrated. Right now I am reading a poem by Raul Ortega (my poet who emigrated to breathe different air) that makes me think about what he said in The Journey:

“We will never again meet: not you, not me, not this, or that. It’s possible that we will encounter each other stuck in some corner of the Earth, but to be together like before, to say that it was round and I circled it, don’t even dream it. Now we will be entertained by the most precise way to utilize hatred.”

Few poets remain on this island, only those who write verses and boast about it. There are hardly any sensitive people here; most of them have left the country as if fleeing from lost innocence.

Little by little the naivety of children, poets, and the crazies has been squashed by what I feel is a kind of crushing abandonment. In addition to making me seem old when I say it to others, it’s really sad.

Perhaps that’s why we haven’t improved in anything, because poetry is vital for survival. We just resist and resist, tired of so much resistance and such little progress in terms of emotions or sensitivity. People bury themselves in day to day life like machines. They talk of defending the country, but never mention anything about defending the purity of one’s soul.

Millions of Cubans travel all over the world to heal the bodies of the infirm, however, on the island there are unwell people who go unattended, people who have never heard the murmur of the sea at sunset, the secrets of the clouds above a mountain, or the desires of the rainbow, even though they see them every day.

I think that we would feel better if we quit being so accustomed to ignoring our spiritual needs. Things could improve if we gave a bit of love to the Other while not forgetting to love ourselves. The problem is that there is already little communication with the Other and I don’t know if it wants to be loved. We have it find out.