Category Archives: Later, on things to do

¿Has Visto La Ballena Blanca?

The English version of this post—Hast Seen the White Whale?—was posted here on August 21, 2015. This Spanish translation is my own and may contain errors. I invite native speakers of the language to comment on my errors and to suggest corrections. Aquí está una traducción en español de Hast Seen the White Whale? Por favor, hispanohablantes quienes leen mis traducciones me permitan saber mis errores y sugieran enmiendas.

Gasté la mayor parte del mes de Julio 2015 a bordo del Pequod en compañia de Queequeg, Starbuck y un tipo que quería se llame Ismael, juntos con un mezcla de otros toscos individuos. Ahab fue capitán del ballenero, y no hubo dudo sobre eso porque él tenía la expectación que todas personas obedecerían su voluntad—y todas hacían eso. Él estaba obsesionado con una ballena particular, pero creo que él perseguía no tan mucho la ballena como un pez pero en vez de eso la idea de la ballena o la significación de la ballena o los irracionales y inextinguibles instintos viscerales hacia esa ballena.

Ismael supo un montón sobre ballenas y barcos de ballenero. Él compartió conmigo todo lo que él supo sobre la anatomía de ballenas y cómo carnear una ballena usando sencillo herramientas manuales. Él pareció saber lo que cualquiera de nota habían dicho o creido de imagenes de ballenas (creyó que la mayoría fueron enormemente inexacta). No le consiga comenzado—Ismael hablaría sin parar sobre el sujeto de ballenas, y yo casi perdí la paciencia con él, pero allá yo estaba, atascado con él abordo. Lectores agudos habrán visto mi referencia a la ballena como “un pez” y preguntado si una ballena es describido correctamente como un pez. Por supuesto, Ismael tuvo ese cubierto también: “Tomo la buena anticuada posición que la ballena es un pez, y llamo a Jonas el santo para respaldarme.” Una ballena, dijo, es “un pez con espiráculo y una cola horizontal,” y para él, ese resolvió el asunto. No pude disentir.

¿Entonces, qué fue con Ahab y la ballena blanca, Moby Dick? Teorías abundan, y no hay ningún consenso. Quizás fue simplemente venganza, porque Ahab había perdido una pierna anteriormente en un encuentro con el pez. Pero si usted considera Moby Dick metafóricamente, vuelve más complicado. A algunos, la ballena representó la indiferencia absoluta de la naturaleza. A los otros, la ballena representó el mal. Algunos vieron la ballena blanca como un emisaria de un oscuro mundo de espiritus. Aún otros se sintieron que fue la obsesión de Ahab que dio la ballena significancia y convertió a Ahab a un rabioso dictator o megalómano. Incluso mi amigo Ismael con su discurso disperso podría referirse con frecuencia al capitán como un monomaníaco. Si la majoría a bordo creyeron que el capitán con una pata de palo fue inestable, nadie se atrevieron decirlo. Tal vez siempre fiel Starbuck le conoció mejor, pero incluso él no pudo disuadir a Ahab de su enfocado persecución de Moby Dick.

En fin, yo no podía culpar a Ahab. Por supuesto, fue un poco loco, pero quién no es? ¿Y quién es culpar a Ahab para quedando fiel a sí mismo y para queriendo ser el amo de su destino y capitán de su alma? ¿No fue correcto para el capitán arder y delirar en cierre de jornada, rabiar contra la agonía de la luz y no entrar dócil en esa dulce noche? Con respecto a la ballena, creo que Ismael tuvo una buena idea sobre eso. Moby Dick fue el definitivo suelto-pez. Como Ismael explicó, los pescadores americanos tienen un código: Un fijo-pez pertenece a la parte que es fijado a él; un suelto-pez es un blanco para cualquiera quien lo puede atrapar más pronto. En este código, él dijo, puede encontrarse los fundamentos de toda jurisprudencia humana:

“¿Qué son los Derechos de Humanidad y las Libertades del Mundo pero sueltos-peces? ¿Qué todas mentes y opiniones de la gente pero sueltos-peces? ¿Qué es el principio de religiosa convicción en ellos pero un suelto-pez? ¿Qué a los ostentosos contrabandos verbalistas son los pensamientos de pensadores pero sueltos-peces? ¿Qué es el gran globo sí mismo pero un suelto-pez?”

¿Qué fue Suelto-Pez Moby Dick? El blanco. La ballena no fue el mal y no fue la muerte, pero más bien la limitación inmutable de vida. Eso es lo que Ahab no podía ayudar pero perseguir y arriesgar todo para derrotar.

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    The English version of this post is Immigration Part 1: How Did We Get Here?, posted here on August 4, 2014. This Spanish translation is my own and may contain errors. I invite native speakers of the language to comment on my errors and to suggest corrections. Aquí está una…
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Becoming Neil

This month, I have had the privilege of playing Neil in a community theater production of The Quality of Life, a beautifully-written, award-winning play by Jane Anderson. Neil and his wife Jeanette are living in a yurt on their property in the Berkeley Hills in Northern California after losing their house in a wild fire. Neil has cancer, and his options for treatment have run out. “Rather than suffer the kind of prolonged, humiliating and painful death that is common with this disease, he has chosen to take the more humane and dignified path of self-release.” As he says, he is “checking out before the machine starts to crash.”

The play looks at how we perceive death, grief and faith. At its heart, the play is about finding comfort and hope in the face of great loss. It is a story told with humor, compassion, pain and, above all, love. In the process of becoming Neil, I have seen that the quality of life includes grief and that grief is what makes life dear. I put myself in the shoes of a dying man, which is, of course, where I had been all along.

What is Neil’s ethical will? The concept has Biblical roots, but an ethical will may generally be described as an expression of values to be passed down from one generation to the next. Scattered through The Quality of Life, like the treasures they found in the ashes of their home, are clues that reveal Neil’s set of values and that shape his ethical will.

Neil and Jeanette are spiritual, but they are “not part of any organized religion.” Their moral guidance comes not from the Ten Commandments but from “common decency.”

Neil understands the validity of religious beliefs, but he does not believe in damnation. He does not need faith-based rules or dogma to show him what’s right and what’s wrong. It is enough for Neil to know his own heart and to know what is true.

Common decency makes kindness a virtue. Neil believes that it is important to be kind and to be thankful for the kindness of others. He believes that he has a responsibility to try to set things right whenever he finds that he has wronged another with an unkind word.

Though there is pain, there is also beauty in life. Neil delights in that beauty and expresses his joy in the gift that beauty brings. I have imagined Neil’s last words:

Your eyes are kind and your heart is generous. You have been through an unspeakable horror in your life, yet still you see the beauty of a circling hawk and the promise contained in an avocado seed. I celebrate that joy with you, for there is beauty and hopefulness in life. You only have to look for it. People move on, and I wish I knew how to take away the ache. Take care of yourself.

Neil is interested in other points of view. Though he may disagree, he is respectful of the beliefs of others. He pays attention to how his words and actions may affect other people. He is always seeking to find common truth.

We havent always seen eye-to-eye, but I like hearing from the other side! I admire your strong faith and your strong heart. I know that you are not made of stone. In the end, you and I are not so different. Everywhere you look, there is heartbreak, and people move on. But you build things. You hammer in the nails, and you fill the bird feeder. You reach out your hand. I have faith that you will work it out. Life is too precious.

Neal and Jeanette.
[Photo credit: R.S]
Neil and Jeanette toast to having “no fear” of death. His approaching death is not awful, Neil says. “We all have to die. Presidents do it, garbage men do it, lawyers and poets and certified public accountants do it.” He has chosen to end his journey, and he is thankful that he gets to design his own end and that he will die gently with his beloved Jeanette by his side. He wants to “cherish his very last breath” and sees this as “nothing but a privilege and a gift.” He says that he is not afraid of death, and yet he recognizes in himself the “terror and rage that normal people feel.” Life does not let you cheat grief.

Still, Neil loves life, and he refuses to let death make him morbid or morose. He allows himself to be playful, and at times, his personality merges with the archetypal trickster.

In the face of the loss of his own life, leaving everyone and everything he has ever known, Neil finds comfort in Jeanette with every beat of her heart. It is the love between them that he values more than anything else.

I have loved you from that moment when, standing on a boulder in Mexico, I looked down at you and I saw your smile and our eyes met. Your spirit of wild unbounded joy has kept me going through all the years. And now, I dont want to leave you, but people move on. Though my heart breaks as we share our last goodbye, my mind finds peace in a heartbeat. Please know that this less than perfect man loved you. No fear!

Unlike Neil, I do not have cancer. I am not confronted by a terminal disease with no hope of cure. I have not been put in the position of having to make decisions about the end of my journey, but I know that there will be an end. There is wisdom in Neil’s ethical will that resonates in me like a wind chime and that merges in my soul, in my “star stuff,” because I have become Neil.

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  • 85
    Convirtiendo en NeilThe English version of this post—Becoming Neil—was posted here on March 29, 2016. This Spanish translation is my own and may contain errors. I invite native speakers of the language to comment on my errors and to suggest corrections. Aquí está una traducción en español de Becoming Neil. Me gustaría…
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