This hell where we live
By Viggo Mortensen and Fabián Casas - translated by Ollie, Rio and Zoe
15 March 2013
Dear Viggo: we already talked last week about how difficult it was going to be against Tigre to maintain CASLA´s overwhelming level against River. That happened to Independiente who won the clásico with Racing with authority but couldn´t maintain the level. Perhaps what people call fate is an old newspaper headline. That is to say, we are speaking now already knowing the result, an adverse and mean result for us.
Cetto and Botta.
I don´t think what Cetto did was a penalty but also, let´s be honest, we didn´t deserve to win. That is to say, if we win, I`d like to win the way we did against River. And although I have to confess I don´t at all like to lose playing badly, the huge triumph over River continues fueling my days. The team gave the impression of one of those guys who, in the neighbourhood, we called thin rain, which means it screws you thoroughly but it doesn´t soak you. We missed Buffa and we missed Piatti playing, who I consider an ace, something he hasn´t done in CASLA yet. Anyway, for me, the defeat did in Sunday evening, lethal evenings for me since when I was in school and on Sunday evening, while my family was watching Tato Bores on TV, I´d see my starched smock waiting for me to go out very early on the field, in Martina Silva de Gurruchaga, the Boedo school. When San Lorenzo wins, Sunday evening is an endless possibility; I believe in humankind and the future and all those things. When they lose, I drop to the B [division] without stopping.
The Martina Silva.
I remember Schopenhauer said that the greatest virtue a person could have was to have good spirits, something I need to strengthen as a bodybuilder strengthens his muscles in the gym.
I never had much talent for being happy. That´s why I so enjoy books that, somehow, tell you about this perspective on life. I was reading an extraordinary book, whose author is Karl Ove Knausgård, and I thought while I was reading it - and I still read it, to me reading is like a good night-time whisky - that you´d like it very much because of the family descriptions he does about his brother and parents and his life in Norway. In Spanish the book is titled La Muerte del padre; in Norwegian it's called Mi lucha [English title: My Struggle], parodying the title of Hitler's book, and it caused a scandal. It's an autobiography written to the utmost, and it seems to me that if a movie were made of it, you'd have to play the protagonist. Google him - the author's face is wonderful. One of the things the book left me thinking about is whether you love your parents because they are your parents, because they fill that role, or because they give you love throughout your life. Because the novel begins with descriptions of family life where the father plays a central role but shows his son almost no love in everyday actions. In fact, the oldest son almost hates him. Nonetheless, when the father dies and they both have to take care of his body and his funeral, both of them are there. Steadfast, bearing the lethal farewell of what it is to cease having a father. When a father dies, one comes face to face with one's own death. The father was a wall that stood between him [and death].
Karl Ove Knausgård.
But let´s stop talking about death; let´s talk about resurrection. That´s what Barça did (the headline in Olé, habemus Barça, was great [tr. note: a play on the words for the announcement of a new Pope: Habemus papam.]) through Messi and company. Barça plays almost without a coach, which proves that each one of its players is imbued with a basic idea of how to play, as if they had embedded a computing system in their hard drive. Viggo, we are seeing the best team of all time; this sets Messi apart from Maradona. Maradona was a soloist; Messi is a collective force. Big hug, Cuervo.
Hello Fabián: I understand you. It´s not easy to be happy. And on the other hand, it should be the easiest thing in the world. Neither money nor time are necessary for it. You only need to be alive. And - of course - forgive and forgive oneself. That´s not easy either.
They made Bergoglio Pope, as every Cuervo already knows. On the one hand, he is a man who seems much nicer and more "humane" than the last pope, Ratzinger. He travels on the subway, eats alone, drinks mate on the street, washes people´s feet, and he probably does the dishes and laundry himself whenever he can. When he came out on the balcony to be officially introduced, I shouted "The Pope is a Cuervo!" I had been cooking because some friends were coming for dinner. I had on the t-shirt that says Me verás volver [You´ll see me return] (without the slightest idea of what was going to happen in the Vatican,) and I was pleased I hadn´t stained it with food or grease. I had turned the TV on to listen to the news, and I was half watching the live broadcast from Rome while I was turning over some chicken breasts in garlic and lemon sauce. After a long wait during which the TV images seemed to show a certain commotion in the room that opened onto the balcony - with very agitated priests shouting instructions - Bergoglio came out in view of everybody, dressed in white, and spoke with an easy and natural smile. I left the work in the kitchen to listen and watch the extraordinary scene closely. "Why, it´s the Cuervo! The Pope is a Cuervo!" "Don´t be silly," said my girlfriend, who was watching TV with me. "Don´t exaggerate. The fact that he is Argentinian doesn´t mean he´s a San Lorenzo supporter." "But it´s true, I swear to you; he is for El Ciclón! I can´t believe it!"
There on the balcony, in front of thousands of emotional people in St. Peter´s Square, the new pope, taking the name of Francis I, seemed a little nervous. But he looked humble, with a tone of voice and a very down-to-earth way of expressing himself which, initially, brought to mind the way Messi talks when he gives interviews. And I remembered the photos of Bergoglio with the banners and the CASLA jersey in the Lorenzo Massa chapel. I haven´t met him personally, but I know he came to bless the Lorenzo Massa chapel in CASLA´s Ciudad Deportiva after we had inaugurated it as an ecumenical meditation space of brotherhood for all, believers or not.
In the chapel.
"He's a Cuervo," I kept shouting. "The Pope is a Supercuervo!" The friends arrived for dinner and I couldn't stop talking about the subject. While we were eating, I told them everything I knew about Massa, the Jesuit founder of the new Pope's club, about his selfless and generous character, of his humble labor on behalf of the most disadvantaged. I moved my plate of food and opened the laptop to show them videos and historic images of Boedo, of Lorenzo Massa, of the supporters, of the extraordinary Iberian tour of 1947 and the outstanding players, explaining the virtues of our club. I'm sure I drank too much wine and that didn't help calm me at all. I was a complete bore all night. I received lots of computer messages from all parts of the world. People who had seen the incredible photo of Bergoglio in the chapel with the CASLA banner, published thousands of times already in newspaper and web pages, congratulated me for having a San Lorenzo Pope. Incredible. I also received loads from gallinas y bosteros [tr.note: reference to rival team supporters] ("They are going to have change the liturgy, since the Pope is not going to have any Cups for the wine" and things like that).When the guests left and silence fell, I thought about other things, about the complicated and changing relationship that Bergoglio had with the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo*, about the images that supposedly show Bergoglio with Videla** (the ones that have been published everywhere in these last few days are not him; they are another priest), Verbitsky's statements*** and the testimony that's been gathered and published in Página 12...and all that lowered my enthusiasm a little for the phenomenon of the great news from St. Peter's Square.
[*tr. note: human rights organization of women whose children were abducted by the military dictatorship in Argentina
** tr. note: military leader who came to power in the coup d'etat and was later jailed for life
*** tr. note: Left-wing journalist who wrote a controversial book about Pope Francis' alleged involvement with two priests who were tortured during the Dirty War. Others have denied the claim.]
They are not him.
A friend who isn't a Cuervo wrote me today about the photos with Videla and the accusations that some are making about Francis I. He made the comparison with the famous photos of Borges and Sábato, with Videla too, that people tried to use as proof of his support for the dictatorship. He wrote me that it seemed to him "...fair and necessary to go back over the past of a new Pope, but also it has to be done very seriously - and I'm afraid that today the question is too muddy politically to hope for that. In the end, the truth will out - eventually." The photos of Videla with Borges and Sábato, taken shortly after the military coup, also include the priest Castellani. At least we know that that priest used the occasion to discreetly ask Videla to show clemency to the writer under arrest, Haroldo Conti, who was later mercilessly murdered. As for Borges, there's no doubt that on that occasion he praised Videla and was grateful for the coup that, in his opinion, "saved the country from disgrace."
Videla with Borges, Sábato and the priest ….
What's certain is that the tribunal that investigated the matter in 2010 never charged Bergoglio. It also has to be taken into account that there are reliable people who have met him - and who were harmed by the dictatorship - who completely back Bergoglio. For example, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Prize [winner] in 1980, stated that "There were bishops who were complicit with the dictatorship, but not Bergoglio," that "there is no link" that associates it with him. The lawyer Alicia Oliveira, who was a judge in 1973 and was fired and persecuted, has also defended him unconditionally.
I'm sure that many more things will come out, as my friend says - credible and disinterested statements as well as unfounded attacks and attempts at exoneration. Whatever happens, I believe that we have to sincerely try to forgive or at least understand others as well as ourselves. Without that, we can't make progress.
Of course we cannot nor should we forget any of the inexplicable decisions of our parents, the crimes of the past, the suffering and anguish of so many people during and after the barbarities of resolutely anti-democratic regimes in Argentina and elsewhere. Returning to the possible character of the new pope, I quote David Trueba, who wrote this about Bergoglio:
"...to be sure that if the restoration of the values of Francis of Assisi is true, the peculiar film of master, Roberto Rossellini's, Francis, God's Minstrel [tr. note: English title, The Flowers of St. Francis] stands out as a perfect style manual."
The good thing is that with the unforeseen promotion that Francis I has given CASLA, I'll no longer have to explain so much about San Lorenzo on my travels.
The game against Tigre depressed me too. Knowing that neither Buffarini or Ruiz would be on the field, I was afraid that San Lorenzo was not going to be able to duplicate the convincing team play that they showed against River. It seems to me that the referee was really bad and hurt us a little, but I don't like to look for excuses.This isn't [behavior that's characteristic] of a great team, as I've said before. The team was sloppy. It's over and done with. Now it's Colon's turn. We're going to get back on the right path. Habemus Corvum* yes, but what's most important is that we have a team that's well-managed and that has a lot of potential.
*[tr. note: [in Latin] literally, 'We have a Cuervo', but also a play on the words for the announcement of a new Pope: Habemus papam]
I only know Knausgård's first novel, Ute av verden [Out of the World]. He writes well. I know that the autobiographical series of books you refer to has sold very well, and that they've stirred up a great deal of controversy in Norway, a lot of debate. That was as much because of the correspondence to the title of Hitler's book, as you say, as with the disclosure of intimate details about the life of the author's family included in his accounts. Knausgård himself has said (I don't know whether in jest or not) that it's possible that he signed a kind of Faustian pact (with the Devil) to achieve literary fame with that material.
P.S. As for the winning lottery number, which matched the one on Bergoglio's [San Lorenzo] membership card, it seems like an astonishing and totally inexplicable occurrence to me.
Man, what you were cooking made me really hungry. When you come, you'll have to make those [chicken] breasts at my house. Yesterday, journalists from Chile, Peru and Mexico called me to ask me about the CASLA Pope. It caught my attention that they were focusing on that and not on [the fact] that he was a Pope from Argentina, a Latin American. I responded to them with this: "I am a fan of CASLA, not of the Catholic Church." But I grew up with the fable of Jesus, and the Nazarene, as a spiritual politician (things that are, in my opinion, inseparable), was a magnificent man. So that I'm always waiting for that moment when scripture and flesh become one, that is to say, that the Pope will come who will drive the pharisees [sic] from the temple, as Jesus did. That he'll give a red card to pedophiles, to those who are in the Vatican to do business, to prosper, without any kind of faith being important to them. Today Pérez Esquivel, who, for me, has a much higher moral standing than Verbitsky, said that the Pope should seat himself on a fisherman's seat, not on an opulent throne. The opulence of the Vatican runs counter to the teachings of Jesus; there's no way around that. On the other hand, it's conspicuous that those who criticize the Vatican's money don't do the same with the fortune the Kirchners have accumulated, something that, to me, is immoral whatever way you look at it. Verbitsky, for example, never criticized himself for being a Montonero [tr. note: Argentinian leftist guerrilla/terrorist group of the 1960's and 70's], nor Juan Gelman either. It's time they did. What happens is that ideologies contribute to your stupidity. For the sake of convenience. And one has to always be in a state of uncertainty, of questioning. Father Carlos Mugica, a blond James Dean look-alike priest who worked in the poor neighbourhoods and was murdered by the Right, said something wonderful: It doesn´t matter whether heaven exists or not; what matters is what we do with this hell where we live.
This reminds me of the end of [Italo] Calvino´s Invisible Cities, where it says that we have to discover what is not hell in each person, and try to make it grow and expand. Anyway, as Buddha said, life is pure impermanence. We mustn´t forget.
"...what matters is what we do with the hell where we live." Yes, that´s it. It´s difficult not to get distracted from the simple things, to go on seeing every neighbor without exception as a brother when you realize the enormous constructions of negative maneuvers that never stop being erected, the manipulations by governments and their allies among the public information media that affect the daily life of whole nations. In the speculations of the most conservative newspapers and blogs, I already see a certain opportunism in the reporting about the election of Francis I. "This new pope being Latin American," they seem to say, "as well as a Jesuit - a man Of The People," as much as God, right? - it's possible that the atheistic/anarchic contamination of his region can be curbed once and for all. Let´s see if we can finally bury socialism, communism and any love without borders, so we can get rich and bring our domains under control without so much hassle and waste of energy and money. People have to be calmed with a degree of fantasy, but actually kept submissive to our instructions." That's what the pharisees and the heartless ones who take advantage of people, as you say, are like. The Church, acting in a way totally contrary to the ideals of compassion, equality, and fraternity that are found in the Christian scriptures (and in those of other beliefs as well), has always been in the habit of serving the oppressors and exploiters of humanity and nature. Because of that, institutionalized religions - whether they be Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, etc. - all, including to a certain degree, unfortunately, certain branches of Buddhism - have come to be, sooner or later, tools of oppression and exploitation. I agree with Dostoyevsky, who Bergoglio seems to have thought highly of in his early lectures, when he said, "I don't know if God created Man or if Man created God."
For me, God is in your face, and in the fragile oak tree clinging to the rocky cliff face that I just saw for half a second from the window of the high-speed train I'm traveling on this morning. Sooner or later you will die, like that little tree, but today they're alive and are everything for me. I need nothing more. It's important to know what you live for and not simply exist without reasoning - to appreciate the play of the moment, coexist with the emotions produced by the simple act of paying attention. Life is worth the trouble, but you have to realize it and want to realize it.
I was in St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. Surely you were as well when you went to Italy. As with so many other opulent churches, I'm always saddened by what filling those buildings with jewels, gold, and so much marble has meant: slavery and genocide, the misery of so many people. And the "men of God" (I hope that someday the women who want to can be cardinals and popes and whatever they desire, but I'm afraid that's not going to happen very soon, not even with Bergoglio), as humble as they may be when they enter those golden temples, lose their way and become rotten. As Dostoyevsky also said, "We acquire habits of luxury easily, and it's hard to do without them later, when they've become a necessity."
Let's see if Pope Paco, as some are starting to call Francis I, behaves in a different manner than all his predecessors and does not completely fall into temptation.
Hold on, Ciclón!
Last edited: 7 April 2013 12:59:55
© Viggo Mortensen and Fabian Casas.