07 December 2007

The hell with it!

Today 7 December, there are three celebrations in my motherland: The day of the sportsperson, the day of the journalist (Happy Day LD!), and "La Quema del Diablo", that is the celebration of when Guatemalans "burn the devil". This last one is a ritual that precedes the day of the Immaculate Conception, which is tomorrow, 8 December. I have decided to translate a column written by my dearest friend, with whom I have carried a conversation across milennia, Ronald Flores entitled originally "Al diablo con eso" and that he reproduced on his blog a year ago. Re-reading it and translating it made me realize how it fits me like a glove and therefore gives me a "green" way of burning the devil in Toronto. Thus, with permission from the author, and knowing that this is a clumsy attempt on translating a brilliant piece of reflexion here I present you: "The hell with it!".

The hell with it!
Original in Spanish at: http://www.ronaldflores.com/2006/12/06/quema-del-diablo/

I am aware that, with very good reason, several environmentalist groups are requesting today, 7 of December, day of “La Quema del Diablo”, the cessation of the traditional bonfires that we Guatemalans light at sundown. However, there are things I would like to say before this public opinion fight translates into a law that ban this tradition, which, for me as a child, kick-started the Christmas season.

I don't know who came up with the parochial idea of taking the old mattresses out to the street, the piles of papers that were gathering dust and mold, and burn them as night falls. I've been told that it has been said that the devil hides in the corners of the houses, among old things, within the garbage that we accumulate throughout the year without knowing why we do.

I've been told that burning that pile of trinkets and useless printed material made the devil burn on his very own inferno, and that this custom was necessary to begin the Christmas season with a clean home. Within that context, I confess that I have practiced more than once this interesting purification ritual. I have thrown to the flames notebooks from subjects I detested during the year, letters from unsuccessful loves and reproaches that I have received or that I have written without sending, pictures where I didn't come up as I wanted, manuscripts of novels that I will never touch again.

I have enjoyed, on the cold of December, putting my hands and face close to the flames, and tear apart the pages from notebooks, observe how paper was consumed and the writing that popped out from the white paper vanished under the growing black ink of the ashes. Today I plan to do something similar, though different. I am going out onto the streets at the end of the day. I am going to take all the resentments, those that I have accumulated throughout the past year, all the envies, all the pains and I am going to make them burn in the bonfire of vanities that I keep carrying around uselessly.

Pain, envy, bile, resentment, sadness, bitterness that I have kept in the corners of my heart, in the trace of the tears that I have cried for the people that have hurt me (even though it was not their intention or because it was precisely their intention), in the silences that were caused by confused moments, in face of the thefts that I was victim of, of the deaths of loved ones that I experienced throughout this year, in face of the inevitable farewells from people I love and with whom I simply cannot be with anymore.

Indeed, like everyone else, I am not lacking times when someone has told me or done something to cause me pain, when someone has made me decide keeping this pain until it evolves into resentment, sometimes even into hostile and persistent hatred, or into a deep sadness, a subtle bitterness or a die-hard pain. I am amazed of realizing how much I stick to this garbage, how much energy I have to waste to keep it going, as if it was important.

In the personal moments I have kept, because I believe these moments are what constitute my own history, I confirm that I prefer to remember sad things, conflictive situations, small and large dramas. It seems as if they are all that had happened to me, and that is not the case. There are as many or more happy moments, but I don't know why I don't pay as much attention to these moments as to the tragic ones. Sometimes, when someone asks me about my life and I start telling it, I realize how much it is like the history of my country: A sequence of sterile confrontations that made no sense at all.

It is not because it was that way and that's it. It is, rather, what I chose to tell and how I tell it. There are memories to which I hold on to, regardless of how much they hurt at the moment, and how much they keep hurting even though I would like to kid myself saying that they don't matter anymore. Today I am going to throw them away with the devil, let them burn in the flames. It's over. The hell with it. The puck stops here.

I am lacking space in my small spiritual house to give them shelter. The elders are right: Among them hides the devil. I'll take advantage of the bonfires being lit today to purify me, to be ready and celebrate as it must be celebrated the humble hope that is born on a manger.


1 comment:

CarmenDeBizet said...

Thanks for translating this post!
This post has made me think of a personal inventory of things to burn. Thank your friend for me.
I agree that one must make a fresh start, clean one's home or space (even why not? our spirit/soul/essence), do away with what weigh us down, break away with chains that we've been dragging [sometimes all year long].
There is the literal celebration...when I was very small I used to know Christmas was coming when the flames lined up my block. On either side you would see small, medium, and large bundles of stuff on fire. Flames would light up the street. I used to like to look at the flames, the dances I would see in the different shades of each fire interested me, and then there was an effigy hanging from somewhere and with no protocol, someone would light it up and I would be told "Estamos quemando al diablo mamita." I would hold my sisters' hands or cling to my mom's skirt. The flames would continue into the night. That's what I remember.
As far as the symbolical...in light of the ongoing demand to be more conscientious with the environment I will probably get a paper and write all the things that have made me question myself in a negative way this year, the sour moments, those things that serve as obstacles, the ones that make you want to be friends with resentment and its friend bitterness. Who knows, I might get inspired and write an essay instead of a list!
However, given my neighbors and the current California weather, I will grab the paper and not go outside. Instead, I will take it over to the sink and light the sucker up in the sink. I hope no smoke alarms are alerted in the process though.