Writing yesterday’s post on feminism and envy reminded me of a story I read in Mestre Acordeon’s Capoeira: A Brazilian Art Form, which was possibly my favourite part of the book. The story is too long to be all typed out here (it takes up an entire chapter), but I thought I’d excerpt the relevant part for you guys. It still makes a great and inspiring read, but be sure to read the entire story if you ever get the chance!
The near-full moon was spreading a silver mantle and once more the compulsion to hold my berimbau possessed me. Its smooth wood was like a silk bow sliding into my hands. The steel ring was taut and alert like a horse lined up for a race. The gourd was shining in my hands as if its soul needed a human touch to materialize. I felt the texture of its carefully painted surface. One drawing was a roda with many people. Another depicted Mestre Bimba holding his berimbau. The last one was an image of myself sitting on an old tire on a beach playing for the stars. I looked around me and the scenery was identical to the painting on my gourd. The gourd had become the real world and myself a part of the berimbau.
The berimbau’s chant spread to the four corners of the earth like a thick veil keeping all creatures warm and peaceful. The shapes around began to change, the earth was breathing. The land was moving in waves, rippling out from the epicentre of the sound to the limits of my understanding. The whole universe was contracting and expanding in a constant pulse to the cadence of the musical bow. Everything was following a perfect sense of proportion. For a moment I stopped playing and this universal harmony was shattered.
Something moved in the bushes behind me. Everybody felt it, startled out of their dreams. Mestre Pastinha gently placed his finger to his lips requesting silence. The bushes rustled again and I felt goosebumps on my flesh. The contorted demons from the dragon/volcano were about to snatch my soul. They were the blood-sucking capoeiristas, the materialization of the misunderstanding and mistrust among ourselves, the expression of my own fears in all its forms, and they were creatures of the madness of this confused world. Confronting this evil frightened me. I was almost fainting when the student who was my son brandished his berimbau like a sword, clearing the area of the demons with its cutting sound. It was a fierce fight. The demons did not give up easily. For each assault my son defended by playing a richer rhythmical variation. I was useless, completely dead with fatigue. My son was fighting Capoeira for the life of his master and for his own life too. He was sweating, totally concentrated on playing. Daylight came at last and dispersed the devilish creatures. Peace settled on the battlefield.
One of the faceless students cried frantically at my son. “I hate you, I hate you!” Mestre Pastinha asked him, “Why hate your brother? He was brave enough to protect his master against evil.” He answered, “Because I wanted the glory of fighting the demons and he took my place instead.” With these words, his face assumed its real guise and I recognized him as the one nicknamed “Envy.” He could not learn Capoeira well because he would not free himself of the craving to be recognized, always insecure and jealous.
Mestre Pastinha handed me the last day’s drink. Its sweet contents reminded me of the brew mulher barbada. We walked towards the mountains through beautiful forests and meadows with colourful flowers and birds. The scents and beauty of the place kept me going even though I never was so tired in my entire life. I frequently lost sight of the surroundings because I was envisioning another dimension of Capoeira, a spiritual side of the art that broadened my perception. My journey into this realm lasted hundreds of years, through lifetimes of many masters.