The afternoon is flickering out in the heat of the night. Shadows come down from the great Ceiba, the mother tree and sustenance of the world, picking any spot in which to put their mysteries to bed. Along with the afternoon, March is also going out, and not this one which surprises us today, going about with the many. I am speaking of another afternoon, in another time and in another land, ours. Old Antonio had returned from hoeing the field, and he sat down in the doorway of his hut. Inside, Dona Juanita was preparing tortillas and words. And, as she did so, she was passing them to Old Antonio, putting some in and taking others out, Old Antonio was muttering, while he smoked his rolled cigarette...
"Our most ancient wise men recount that the very first gods, those who birthed the world, had created almost all things, and they did not make everything, because they were aware that a goodly number should be created by men and women. That is why the gods who birthed the world, the most first, went away when the world was not yet complete. They did not go away without finishing it out of laziness, but because they knew that it was up to a few to begin, but finishing is the work of everyone. The most ancient of our most old also recount that the most first gods, those who birthed the world, had a knapsack where they had been keeping all the undone things they were leaving in their work. Not in order to do them later, but in order to have memory of what must come when men and women have finished the world which had been born incomplete.
And the gods who birthed the world, the most first, went away then. They left like the afternoon, as if putting themselves out, as if covering themselves in shadows, as if they were not there even though they were there. Then the rabbit, who was angry with the gods because they had not made him big even though he had carried out the tasks they had assigned him (monkeys, tigers, lizards), went and nibbled at the gods' knapsack, but he was noisy and the gods noticed and they pursued him in order to punish him for the crime he had committed. The rabbit ran quickly. That is why rabbits do indeed eat as if they had committed a crime and run away quickly if anyone sees them. The fact is that, even though he was unable to entirely rip open the knapsack of the most first gods, the rabbit always does manage to make a hole. Then, when the gods who had birthed the world went away, all the undone things fell out of the hole in the knapsack. And the most first gods did not even realize it, and then one came whom they called wind and it took to blowing and blowing, and the undone things went in one direction and the other, and, since it was night, no one knew where they had gone so they could stop those undone things which were the things which had to be created in order for the world to be complete.
When the gods became aware of the mess, they made a huge racket and they became very sad and they say that some even wept. That is why they say that, when it is going to rain, first the sky makes much noise and then the water comes. The men and women of maize, the true ones, heard the bawling, because when the gods cry it can indeed be heard far away. The men and women of maize then went to see why the most first gods were crying, those who birthed the world, and then, between sobs, the gods recounted to them what had happened. And then the men and women of maize said: "Do not cry anymore. We are going to look for the undone things which were lost, because we already know that there are things undone, and that the world will not be complete until everything is made and fixed up." And the men and women of maize went on to say: "Then let us ask you, most first gods, those who birthed the world, whether you remember a bit of the undone things which were lost, so that we may then know if what we find are undone things, or if they are something new which are already being birthed."
The most first gods did not reply then, because their bawling was preventing them even from speaking. And then, later, while they were rubbing their eyes in order to clean away their tears, they said: "An undone thing is each person finding themselves."
That is why our most ancient say that when we are born, we are born lost, and then, as we grow up, we go about seeking ourselves, and that living is seeking, looking for ourselves.
And, more calmed down now, the gods who birthed the world, the most first, went on to say: "All those things yet to be born in the world have to do with this, which we are telling you, with each person finding himself. That is how you will know if what you find is something yet to be born in the world, if it helps you find yourselves."
"That is good," said the true men and women, and they set about seeking everywhere the undone things which must be created in the world and which would help them find themselves."
Old Antonio finished the tortillas, the cigarette and the words. He remained still for a while, looking at a corner of the night. After a few minutes, he said: "Since then, we go about seeking, seeking ourselves. We seek when we are working, when we are resting, when we are eating and when we are sleeping, when we are loving and when we are dreaming. When we live seeking ourselves and seeking ourselves seeking when we have already died. In order to find ourselves we seek ourselves, in order to find ourselves we live and we die."
"And how does one go about finding oneself?" I asked.
Old Antonio kept looking at me, and he said to me, while rolling another cigarette:
"An old wise Zapotec told me how. I am going to tell you, but in Spanish, because only those who have found themselves can speak the Zapoteca tongue well, which is the flower of the word, and my word is barely seed, and there are others which are stem and leaves and fruit, and the one who is complete finds that. The father Zapotec said:
'First you shall walk all the paths of all the peoples of the earth, before finding yourself.'
("Niru zazalu' guira'xixe neza guidxilayu' ti ganda guidxelu' lii")
I took note of what Old Antonio told me that afternoon in which March and the afternoon were putting themselves out. Since then, I have walked many paths, but not all, and I am still seeking the face which will be seed, stem, leaf, flower and fruit of the word. I seek myself with everything and in everything in order to be complete.
A light was smiling in the night above, as if she would find herself in the shadow below.
March is going. But hope is arriving.
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.
Mexico, March 31, 2001.
Originally published in Spanish by the EZLN ______________________ Translated by irlandesa