Through a series of happy coincidences, I was introduced recently to the Argentine singer, songwriter, philosopher named Facundo Cabral. You can learn more about him by clicking here. Among the many treasures he left behind (Cabral was fatally shot in 2011 after a concert in Guatemala) is an hour long essay entitled, “You are not depressed, you are distracted”. He reads in Spanish, and the few English translations I’ve found on Internet are heavily abridged.
I have decided to attempt a complete English translation and post it in segments here. It won’t be a quick task, as I have to listen to the recording many times to catch his nuances—but it’s already proving to be a joyful one. What follows is about seven minutes of his full essay. I hope you enjoy it.
You’re not depressed, you are distracted
The Wisdom of Facundo Cabral
You are not depressed, you are distracted, distracted by the life that populates you. You have a heart, a mind, soul and spirit, so how can you believe yourself to be poor and miserable? You’re distracted by the life that surrounds you: dolphins, forests, seas, mountains, rivers . . .
Don’t fall into what befell your brother who suffers at being human when there are in the world five billion, six hundred million souls. And it’s not so bad to live alone; in solitude, I do okay deciding in every instant what I want to do, and thanks to solitude, I am learning fundamentals about living.
Don’t fall into what befell your father who believes himself old because he’s seventy, forgetting that Moses led the Exodus at eighty, and Rubinstein interpreted Chopin like no one else at ninety, to cite only two well-known examples.
You are not depressed, you are distracted, and that’s why you feel like you lost something, which is impossible because everything has been given to you. You didn’t make a single hair on your head, therefore you cannot be the owner of anything.
In addition, life doesn’t take things from you; it frees you from things. It alleviates you so that you can fly higher, increase your abundance. From cradle to grave is a school: so, what you call problems are lessons, and life is dynamic.
For this reason, you are in constant movement. For this reason, you should attend only to the now. For this reason, my mother used to say, I only look after the present; the future is God’s issue. For this reason, Jesus said, tomorrow doesn’t interest me. It will bring new experiences, while sufficient to each day are its own admirers.
You haven’t lost anyone; the one who died simply advanced because all of us are headed that way. And the best part of him, the love, remains in your heart. Who can say with certainty that Jesus is dead?
There is no death; there is movement, and on the other side marvelous people await you: Gandhi, Michelangelo, Whitman, Saint Augustine, Mother Teresa, your grandmother and my mother, who believed that poverty is closest to love because money distracts us with too many things and things create distance because they make us suspicious.
You don’t find happiness; that would be too easy. You can only listen to your heart before your head intervenes—the head that is conditioned by memories, that complicates everything with old stuff, orders of the past with prejudices that sicken, that enchain; the head that divides, which is to say, impoverishes; the head that doesn’t accept that life is what it is, not how it ought to be.
Do only what you love, and you will be happy. He who does what he loves is blessedly condemned to success, which will arrive when it’s supposed to arrive. Because what must be, will be. And it will arrive naturally.
Don’t do anything out of obligation or compromise, only for love. Then you will have abundance, and in that abundance everything is possible. Do things without force because the natural forces of life will move you, that’s what lifted me when the plane crashed with my wife and daughter; what kept me alive when the doctors gave me three or four months to live.
God put a human being in charge of you, and that being is you. You alone can make yourself happy and free, only then can you share true life with others. Remember what Jesus said: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Reconcile with yourself; put yourself in front of the mirror and reflect that the creature you are seeing is a work of God; and decide in that instant to be happy because happiness is an acquisition. There is no need to look outside yourself.
Also, happiness is not a right but an obligation; because if you are not happy, you are embittering everyone who loves you. One single man who lacked the talent and valour to live ordered the execution of six million Jewish brothers.
There are so many things to enjoy and our passage through life is so short, that to suffer is a waste of time. We must enjoy the snow in winter and the flowers in spring, the chocolate of Perugia, the French baguette, Mexican tacos, Chilean wine, the oceans and rivers, Brazilian football,the cigars of Chez Davidoff, A Thousand and One Nights, The Divine Comedy, el Quijote, el Pedro Páramo, the boleros of Manzanero and the poetry of Whitman; Mahler, Brahms, Ravel, Debussy, Mozart, Chopin, Beethoven, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Velasquez, Cezanne, Picasso and Tamay amongst so many marvels.
And if you have cancer or AIDS, two things can happen and they are both good: if it beats you, you’ll be liberated from the body that is such a bother: I’m hungry, I’m cold, I’m tired, I desire, I’m right, I doubt . . . and if you win, you will be humbler, more appreciative, and therefore more easily happy.
Free yourself from the tremendous weight of blame, culpability, and vanity; dispose yourself to live every moment as profoundly as possible.
You aren’t depressed, you’re worried. Help the child who needs you, that child will one day be your son’s associate. Assist the elderly, and the young will aid you when you are old. To be of service is sure happiness, like the love of nature and taking care of what comes to you. Give without half measures, and you will be given fully.
© Facundo Cabral, 2011
Translated from the Spanish by Elaine Stirling, 2012