Risk / Riesgo

Irene Vallejo

(Translated into English by Marilén Loyola)

Risk

Upon hearing the news of a sudden tragedy suffered by someone else, still stunned by the shock, we search for differentiating traits. We say that it occurred in another country, that it happened to a far more imprudent person, or more fragile, or more alone than I am. We placate ourselves, believing we could never find ourselves in such unfortunate circumstances. Occasionally, however, we identify unexpectedly with misfortune and that sense of security begins to teeter, as the poet Homer recounts in the Odyssey.  

After years of absence, the hero Ulysses returns to Ithaca, the island he rules. There he discovers that a group of nobles is disputing his right to the crown and he decides to disguise himself as a beggar, hoping to pass unnoticed while he plots his vengeance. Not recognizing Ulysses as his king, a humble swineherd named Eumaeus, who tends to the palace’s pigsty, offers Ulysses shelter. Inside his hut, warmed by the fire, the two men share food and conversation. It is here that Ulysses learns about his quiet and faithful servant Eumaeus, whom Ulysses had never noticed. Eumaeus was the son of the king of a small island, but his high standing had not protected him; as a boy, he had been kidnapped by his nursemaid, given over to pirates, and sold as a slave in Ithaca. Upon hearing this, Ulysses realizes that a man of royal lineage like him, his equal, was in charge of pig herds and had no family, no fortune, and no freedom. To understand, as Ulysses did, that the greatest vicissitudes can befall any life, that adversity can invade a stable and secure home, and that we all depend on the goodness of others, would help us to be, in the face of others’ misfortunes, less passive and more compassionate.

Riesgo

Al recibir la noticia de una súbita desgracia ajena, todavía impresionados por el sobresalto, buscamos rasgos diferenciadores. Decimos: ocurrió en otro país, le sucedió a una persona más imprudente, o más frágil, o más sola que yo. Se trata en el fondo de serenarnos pensando que nunca podríamos vernos en esas desgraciadas circunstancias. Pero a veces surge una identificación inesperada y la seguridad se tambalea, como cuenta el poeta Homero en la Odisea.

Tras largos años de ausencia, el héroe Ulises regresa a Ítaca, la isla donde reina. Allí descubre que un grupo de nobles le disputan el trono y decide disfrazarse de mendigo buscando pasar desapercibido mientras urde su venganza. Sin reconocer a su rey, le da hospitalidad un humilde porquero llamado Eumeo, que atiende las pocilgas de palacio. En la choza, al amor de la hoguera, los dos hombres comparten alimentos y charlan. Así, Ulises se entera de la historia de Eumeo, callado y fiel servidor suyo en el que nunca se fijó. Eumeo era hijo del rey de una pequeña isla, pero su alta cuna no lo protegió; siendo niño fue raptado por su nodriza, entregado a unos piratas y vendido como esclavo en Ítaca. Escuchándolo, Ulises se da cuenta de que un hombre de sangre real como él, su igual, cuida de las piaras de cerdos, sin familia ni fortuna ni libertad. Comprender, como Ulises, que los mayores vaivenes de la suerte caben en cualquier vida, que la adversidad puede irrumpir en un hogar seguro y que todos dependemos de la bondad ajena, nos ayudaría a ser, ante las desgracias de los demás, menos pasivos y más compasivos.


Marc Chagall. Ulysses and Eumaeus (1975)

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