Every day, he sat on a street corner in São Paulo, Brazil, writing, while the world passed by. Few noticed him; they were conditioned not to see him. And if they did happen to look at him, they were conditioned to avert their eyes, for he had a long, ragged gray beard and matted hair, and sun-bronzed skin, and clothes so torn they were barely identifiable as clothes. “Homeless Man.” That’s who they were conditioned to see, and that’s what they saw, in that moment before averting their eyes.
Every day he sat there, writing. Every day for 35 years. A homeless person can write a lot, in 35 years, when most everyone averts their eyes rather than make a connection. Perhaps this man, too, had become conditioned. Conditioned to being invisible. Conditioned to write and dream of being published, without anyone ever seeing what he wrote.
And then in April 2011 Shalla Monteiro came along. The young woman did not avert her eyes. She came close, close enough to smell his poor hygiene. She spoke. She wanted to know who he was, and what he was doing.
Who he was! That was a good question. Probably no one in 35 years had asked it. But he remembered: Raimundo Arruda Sobrinho. He told Shalla he was a poet. He showed her one of his poems, and she was touched by this man of words who had no one to share them with. She learned that Raimundo had moved from rural Brazil to São Paulo in 1961, when he was 23 years old. He worked as a gardener and a book seller, fitting occupations for a budding poet. But a military dictatorship took over the country three years later, and times grew hard. Sometime in the late 1970s he lost everything and wound up on the street. Over the next three decades he grew conditioned to the street life, and to the hidden life of a nameless poet.
Shalla was determined to help him get published, if she could. In the end, she did more than that. Much more. Watch this beautiful four-minute documentary to see what happened. It is a story about hope in the face of adversity, and how an open heart can break the barriers of our conditioning.
In what ways might you be conditioned? Are there ways of thinking and seeing that make it easy for you to miss something valuable, beautiful and true? Seeing the undocumented poor at our border as “illegals,” for example? Or looking at a forest and seeing “resources”? The singing wilderness way is the way of hope, and hope is dependent on an open heart, because only an open heart perceives truth.
This post is about hope, love, hurt and healing, and so connects with the gold, brown and cream portions of the singing wilderness spiritual map.