There is a small minority, for example, that believes that bad weather comes from bad thoughts. This is a rather mystical approach to the question, for it implies that thoughts can be translated directly into events in the physical world. According to them, when you think a dark or pessimistic thought, it produces a cloud in the sky. If enough people are thinking gloomy thoughts at once, then rain will begin to fall. That is the reason for all the startling shifts in the weather, they claim, and the reason why no one has been able to give a scientific explanation of our bizarre climate. Their solution is to maintain a steadfast cheerfulness, no matter how dismal the conditions around them. No frowns, no deep sighs, no tears. These people are known as the Smilers, and no sect in the city is more innocent or childlike. If a majority of the population could be converted to their beliefs, they are convinced the weather would at last begin to stabilize and that life would then improve. They are therefore always proselytizing, continually looking for new adherents, but the mildness of the manner they have imposed on themselves makes them feeble persuaders. They rarely succeed in winning anyone over, and consequently their ideas have never been put to the test-for without a great number of believers, there will not be enough good thoughts to make a difference. But this lack of proof only makes them more stubborn in their faith. (…)

By contrast, there is another group called the Crawlers. These people believe that conditions will go on worsening until we demonstrate-in a utterly persuasive manner-how ashamed we are of how we lived in the past. their solution is to prostrate themselves on the ground and refuse to stand up until some sign is given to them that their penance has been deemed sufficient. what this sign is supposed to be is the subject of long theoretical debates. Some say a month of rain, others say a month of fair weather, and still others say they will not know until it is revealed to them in their hearts. There are two principal factions in this sect-the Dogs and the Snakes. The first contend that crawling on hands and knees shows adequate contrition, whereas the second hold that nothing short of moving on one’s belly is good enough. Bloody fights often break out between the two groups-each vying for control of the other-but neither faction has gained much of a following, and by now I believe the sect is on the verge of dying out. (…)

If you happen to get wet in the rain, you’re unlucky, and that’s all there is to it. If you happen to stay dry, then so much the better. But it has nothing to do with your attitudes or your beliefs. The rain make no distinctions. At one time or another, it falls on everyone, and when it falls, everyone is equal to everyone else- no one better, no one worse, everyone equal and the same.

Paul Auster, “In the Country of Last Things.”

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