The right not to

Renunciation is liberation. Not wanting is power.
Fernando Pessoa

Today I decided not to take part in a music competition that promises a huge amount of money as the main prize. You see, I did not say that I gave up participating, but that I made a conscious decision, after informing myself and reflecting on the matter. In fact, I spent a lot of time on this process, enough to remind me of a college story.

M. was one of the colleagues with whom I shared student housing. She had built a solid reputation as a heartbreaker and one day, for reasons I no longer remember, she tried to convince me (or, more likely, tried to convince herself) that her last disastrous relationship had, after all, been worth it, for as the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa would say:

“Everything is worth it
If the soul is not small”

Pessoa is a very intriguing author and I am also a fan of these famous verses that praise the courageous character of human experiences. Perhaps inspired precisely by the taste for labyrinths so typical of the author, I replied: if all experiences are acts of courage, so is to refuse to have an experience.

Saving yourself from a bad time or company would also be a worth living experience. In other words: it is also ok to say “no” sometimes.

I still remember the expression on her face. M. was shocked by the new angle I was presenting. Months later she would tell me that those words had indeed had a big impact on her, which I took as a huge compliment.

One of the most famous poems in the vast oeuvre of Fernando Pessoa, Navergar é Preciso (“Sailing is Necessary”) refers to an ancient Latin expression credited to the Roman general Pompeu (1st century BC), who used it to encourage his sailors: “Navigare necesse, vivere non est necesse” (“Sailing is necessary, living is not necessary”):

“Ancient navigators had a glorious phrase:
‘Sailing is necessary; living is not necessary’
I want for myself the spirit of this sentence
transformed the shape, to match who I am:
Living is not necessary; what is needed is to create”

The beautiful sentence that inspired Pessoa is also found in the song Os Argonautas, by Caetano Veloso, released in 1969. I wonder how many times the topic will come to light, whether in the arts or in daily conversations that will one day become memories.

Living, sailing, creating: if the soul is not small, what to fear after all?

Be seeing you!

G.F.

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