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Flies and the Sacred

Cristina Febrer Nafría, student of Degree in Philosophy, Política y Economics, of the School of Philosophy y Letras, offers us a poetic look through the eyes of Antonio Machado.


The other day I was talking to a friend about what we would ask God when we get to heaven. Her curiosity was killing her to know who assassinated President Kennedy. My question, somewhat simpler, perhaps trivial, was to know why flies exist (I have never understood what role they have apart from being a nuisance). 

What an irony of life that the day after that conversation I randomly opened Antonio Machado's Poesías Completas and came across his poem Las Moscas (The Flies). It begins like this: Vosotras, las familiares, / inevitables golosas, / vosotras, moscas vulgares, / me evocáis todas las cosas.

As I read the poem I wondered what difference there is between the flies I see and the ones Machado sees. I had seen these insects many times but I would never have given them the role of muses or of evoking memories. I think that perhaps the flies were the same and the difference between Machado and me is that he knew how to look slowly, as Eloy Sánchez Rosillo points out in his poem Cuando miras despacio:

If you stare long and hard at
anything in the world
and let it enter you,
empty you of your darkness
and in your being find shelter and be,
you will see and feel that when you look
you are the world too,
that in you life intertwines and sings,
and that everything is sacred.

Machado knew how to look at flies, so ignored, for a long time, and he knew how to be their worthy singer. Machado's gaze is the gaze of an artist, of a poet; a gaze that we humans often lack. According to Pablo d'Ors this is so because we lack contemplation. I heard him say this on one occasion, and he added that, unlike Saint-Exupéry, he did not believe that what is essential is invisible to the eye, but that we are blind. 

We are blind to the reality that is presented to us and we lack the gaze of the poet who contemplates and - in the words of d'Ors - witnesses the miracle of God's creation. I dare to say that Machado overcame blindness and that is why he was able to compose a poem to the flies, vulgar and familiar to many, but muses for him, who knew how to look. And with his poet's gaze, by contemplating, he discovered that all things can be loved and that this is where their beauty lies; with his poet's gaze he discovered that everything is sacred.

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