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Bike Stories: Life

Hi, I’m Brunella, a young international girl living in Groningen and curious to know the everyday nature of the inhabitants of this city. One thing connects all human beings, regardless of gender, color, class, or sexuality, and that is the need to question everything and seek comfortable answers–as irrational as it might be. So, that’s how this series called Bike Stories began: where I ride my bike, find strangers, and interview different people with a question essentially related to what makes them ordinary humans.

This week’s theme: Life. This is quite a general statement, but this week I’ll be digging into the reasons that make us love life. Regardless of what we might believe, the fact that we have this life at this precise moment is certain. Yet, how do we manage this certainty? Humans cannot love every instance of their life, and the future of said life cannot always be assured. I wondered how these two factors correlate and I realized that life feels the best when one finds things to love. The factor of loving something or being loved makes the inconveniences and shortness of life fade away for a minute, creating an eternal moment that gives people a sense of meaning and fulfillment. 

Because of this week’s question, I wanted to interview people I don’t usually approach, people who I felt might have something to teach me. So I grabbed a coffee with two such people: one whom I sensed had some wisdom to share with me, and one who found me with a message waiting to be told. I asked them the following question: What do you love most about life? Here I present their answers:

Person 1:

– I would have to start by saying that I love my children and grandchildren very much. Naturally, they are the first thing I think of when hearing life and love in the same question. However, apart from the obvious answer, I think that what I love about life the most is nature.

What is it that makes you love nature so much?

– Well you know, I used to live in a house in a street, and the view from my window was always blocked by the other houses. It was quite sad because I love watching sunsets, it feels like bathing my eyes in the sugar of all the colors. The oranges, yellows, and pinks. I think it is just all so beautiful. Now that I live in this apartment, I am able to enjoy the sunsets again and that brings me a lot of joy. I sit here and watch how the sun sinks into the edges of the world every afternoon. I am reminded of the seasons by looking at them through my window. I don’t need to check the date or temperature, I know autumn has arrived when he waves at me from the falling leaves in the park. I like sharing nature with people. The change of seasons encourages me to go outside and get in touch with all of it again: the seasons, the changes, the people. 

I remember many years ago when I used to live in Canada, I would fall in love with every season as it came. All of them were so defined and handsome in their own manner. Back when I was younger and much more able, I would love to go into nature and be part of the beauty, but now I am old and watch it from my window. I still think of the colors, the scents, and the music, and I still reminisce a lot about nature. I think it’s such an essential part of my love.

I feel like nowadays we change moods very quickly, but you know that’s the beauty of nature, it takes its time to change the mood. So, you are forced to feel every feeling as it arrives: the nostalgia of autumn, the shivers of winter, the rebirth of spring, the deluge of summer. You can’t really skip them, you must feel and see them all in their fullest expression. When I was younger, I didn’t understand it as much as I do now. It all comes through us with such a subtle strength, it’s astounding to me.

Do you think that nature streams as an expression of a greater power?

– I am not particularly sure. I am not a religious woman but I do believe in God. In fact, I have met God many years ago. Once when I went to America, I was invited by some friends to visit a farm on the outskirts of where we were staying. The farmers who ran the settlement took us through all the acres of land that they controlled, explaining to us what types of food they grew. I remember my sight reached into a field as immense as the sea. The lengths of land extended miraculously into, what seemed to be, the other side of the world. Looking at the kilometric crop rows on the soil I realized that this was too big to be human. Too immense to have been built up by hands like my own. I understood then that those lines on the floor were made by God himself, as he caressed the Earth he himself created.

I am not sure if I would attribute all of nature’s magic to God, but I must admit that I believe in something greater than us. It does make sense, if not, you know, where would all this beauty come from if not from a greater being? Where would all this magic be stored? Where would all the power come from? Nature is a majestic being in itself, and I cannot commit myself to the idea that its creation can be attributed to a greater being. Yet, I do believe that it is part of a greater thing, like a gigantic ecosystem that gives eminent meaning to everything that exists and will exist.

Do you believe that there is a power to nature?

– Yes indeed, I do believe that there is a power to nature. Some time ago, they built a walkway in front of my house, so me and my friends started going on walks through there in the afternoon. One time, I saw this minuscule blue flower in the middle of the street. She had fought to grow through the asphalt and was standing there strong and lonely. I decided to delicately grab this tiny flower–being careful not to break apart her petals–and plant her in my backyard. When spring arrived the following year, the flower had not only blossomed delightfully, but it was also no longer lonely, there were many little small flowers just like her by her sides. All dancing to the winds of change, all smiling in the most winsome blue I have ever seen.

That’s the thing with nature, it has power of its own. To die and be reborn perpetually, to appear even when you fight her back, to be so gentle and brute, to stand so loyally to her essence. Nature is powerful without us having to attribute any power to her, she has predeceased us and hopefully will live on after us. She is irresistibly beautiful without attempting to be, and this simplicity to her makes her even more admirable. 

So, in a nutshell, what do you love most about life?

– The thing that I love most about life is nature. When you reach a certain age–when you begin to lose people that you love, to lose memories, to lose that thirst to control your life–nature becomes your greatest companion. By her side, I’ve realized that life is not cruel, we are born and we die and there is no value in this beyond the one we give it. Nature can be destructive but never cruel, in nature we find the most horrendous wars and at the same time the most exquisite peace. It is difficult to build such an intense connection to something you cannot control, to something so unethical and unreasonable. However, learning to love nature the way I do has brought me the utmost joy. Every time I watch a sunset through my window and feel the waves of colors washing over my face, I feel my heart beating with love and a smile gets drawn on my face.

Person 2:

– First of all, I must say that this is a beautiful question, darling. I don’t think I’ve ever been asked this question before. What do I love most about life? Well, I think I just love being able to do what I want. Freedom. Learning to be myself has been the best gift I have been given. It’s my freedom to live my life the way I want to live it, and I love that no one can take that away from me.

How did you realize you are able to be this free?

– I think this is something you are either born with or not. Obviously, certain environments, families, or societies allow you to express this freedom more ‘freely’. To discover it, experiment, and exploit it while you are still young and fresh of worry. But this freedom must be within your essence to manifest itself later. Ever since I can remember, I have been free of judgment. It’s not like I wasn’t affected by it, I am obviously human and grew up with the same experiences as everyone else. However, I was never able to internalize this judgment. There was always a roaring freedom inside of me that kept my hair untamed, and my will to shine unsatisfied.

By being a free soul and a free spirit, I never locked myself out of any opportunities. I traveled the world back and forth, walking the steps that led me to no direction, to no end. I have fallen in love countless times, with different souls and minds. I have slept with some of the names from the radio and TV, and I have also slept with some unspeakable ones. I have been truthful and lied to the mirror, I have been cruel and unkind, I have been many things, and yet none are truly mine. I am free to constantly evolve and change, nothing holds me back.

The high sensitivity that I hold allows me to connect with people deeply, to observe and forgive, and to be ironically free of judgment. I have a hobby of meeting people and most of the closest people to me I have met randomly, at one of the many coincidences of life. I can sense their spirits and trust that they were sent to me for a reason: to learn, to teach, to feel, to be. I believe I am attracted to the energy that I put out into the universe. I believe in karma. And I have learned to be free with my energy so the doors of freedom keep themselves open to me forever.

Why do you think other people lack this freedom?

– You know darling, someone very smart once told me: people are likely to change their religion, but not their traditions. We have too many worries but too weak of a will to change them. We are cowards. That’s why we are so easily reproducible, duplicatable, and recreatable. We are educated against our intrinsic uniqueness, and in weak characters, the training always wins. 

But some people, those with a vibrant essence and a strong character, those people are born to overflow the cup. Look at me darling, do you think I can fit into a mold? I am too much to be shrunk into a glass vial. My body is not even the problem, those old things can be shaped and molded in a matter of months. It is my spirit that does not fit. Sensitive people like myself can understand this, we try to repress it but we are unsuccessful every time. Our energies just overflow the cup of our bodies and we end up either shining like stars or crashing into a majestic explosion. When we lack freedom, we cannot dwell in the cruelty of our chains, we run, somewhere towards something. I love my freedom because regardless of the explosion, I somehow always shine.

Do you think compromise takes the freedom away from love?

– I think that if love is pure, compromise is not asked or reached, it just happens. For example, let me tell you about the time I met this American guy in a club in Amsterdam. He was visiting with his girlfriend, a gorgeous girl, all the boys were looking at her. I approached the boyfriend and started having a conversation. At one point in the night, I asked him, “Do you love your girlfriend?” He said, “Yes, of course, she is everything to me. I would kill for her, I love her.” I looked at him inquisitively. I rested my question on my tongue for a second and then asked him, “So, what would you do if she went with another man tonight?” He looked back at me with disdain. “She would never do that,” he exclaimed, “I would be so angry. If she did, I would kill her.”

So, you love this girl so much you would kill for her, but if her love is not reciprocated you would kill her? What kind of love is this? Possession does not equate to love, there must be freedom present. Freedom to choose, freedom to love, freedom to be. Compromise can come organically through this freedom, but not in the way we know it to be. We must learn to love with the heart, not just the body. We must learn to love freely and purely. That’s what gives life meaning, that’s what makes me love being who I am.

So, in a nutshell, what do you love most about life?

– My freedom, to be what I want, when I want, and how I want. Oh, darling, I am an old gay man who feels like he has not left the happiness of his 20s behind. That’s what freedom does to you. It is liberating to be myself unapologetically. Of course, at times your freedom can be restricted by outside circumstances, I experienced this a lot in my travels to other countries and cultures. But your emotional freedom, your freedom to think and feel whatever you want, that’s yours. No one on this earth can deny you of this liberation, you just have to be brave enough to go get it.

Life is like a journey we all have to take to discover the things that make us enjoy it. I know it’s a bit confusing, but that’s just because it is. The reasons that we find to love our lives vary a lot, but it is essential for each one of us – as different as we might be – to find the things that make our hearts beat faster. In the end, this is all we have, and what a waste if we didn’t love the journey we make along the way.