The Big Ideas of 2012

The Beggar

Permit me to introduce myself.
The Beggar: Permit me to introduce myself

Steven W.

Audio version read by George Atherton – Right-click to download

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My name is Manuel Jesús Maria Cordoba y Herrera. I was born in this beautiful city of Zacatecas in 1919. I have not always been as you see me. When I was a young man, I was strong and handsome and thinner than now. I wore this hat you see in my hands. I had a woman whose beauty reminded me of the stars. But all that has passed now. Now, there is only this corner, the feet of the people passing, and my hat.

Before, with Ana Rosa, it was different.

We married in April 1941. She was 18; I was 22. Her father gave us a rooster and six hens as a wedding present. We lived in an apartment in a green house on a callejón near the mine in those days. We spent many happy years there, Ana Rosa and I. It was not perfect, but we had one another and we were content.

A couple years after we married, no baby had come. Not that year nor the next or the next. At first, I thought nothing about it, because I was so happy with Ana Rosa; we loved each other, and if the Lord did not send us children, we at least had one another.

In those days, I worked in the mine. Ana Rosa raised chickens and flowers and took care of the house. Her flowers were like her: beautiful and colorful and full of joy and life. She sold eggs and flowers in the market each day. One day, I came home from work and found her crying. She told me that she wanted a baby, but God had not permitted it. I took her to the same basilica where we had married years before, and we prayed. The following year, I took her to a doctor, who told us that she would never have a baby.

After dinner that night, Ana Rosa told me that she was finished crying. "Even though God has not blessed us with a child, I will be happy anyway," she told me. And she was as good as her word. I never came home to find her crying again.

We had many happy years together. I cared little whether we had children or not, as long as I had my beautiful flower, Ana Rosa. Over the years, we lost our parents one by one until finally it was just the two of us, alone in the world.

One day in 1990, the boss at the mine called me to his office and told me that I was too old to work as a miner. I had never done anything else. I had spent 50 years bringing silver out of the earth and giving it to the jefe. I was without a way to live. Now I would begin spending my days with Ana Rosa, the hens and the flowers. That was when she gave me this hat.

For 50 years, I never saw the day; I worked in the earth, digging silver. Now I was to spend my days with my Ana Rosa in the garden. At first the light blinded me then, little by little, my eyes adjusted. All that mattered was that I was with my flower.

Each morning, she got up early and passed through the streets to the basilica to pray. After mass, she returned home to make tortillas of fine corn for me. We ate breakfast together, then she gathered the eggs and flowers and we carried them to market. In the evening, we came home together.

She took care of the hens and the flowers and me. I helped her sometimes with her work, but a man who spends his life robbing the earth has no idea how to coax life out of it, how to grow flowers or make chickens thrive. My precious Ana Rosa never scolded me for my clumsiness. She only ever showed me how much she loved me. And we spent years together this way, in happiness.

Last year, or perhaps two years ago, I don't remember, my Ana Rosa, the flower of my life, passed away. She is with God now, but I am alone. I will never have enough tears to express my grief, my loss. Each day I miss her. Each day I weep.

The hens died. I did not know how to take care of them, and dogs carried them off in the night. The flowers died as well, for I could not look at them without thinking of her. So today, like all days until the Lord takes me home to see her, I wake up early and walk through the streets. I do not go to mass, for God and I are not speaking. I go to the market and buy a cake that tastes like dust to me, and then I come here to this corner. I take off my hat, I look at the people's feet passing by, and I beg.

Ann Weaver Hart lives and writes in Bryan, Texas. She and her husband Howard enjoy their two dogs and three (mostly) grown children.

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Happiness for a human being is in simple things. A true, everlasting happiness, is found in love between simple spirits. All complications and elaborations make it harder to appreciate simple things and thus harder to find happiness. The pursuit of material things and artificial needs are part of such complications. To find happiness doesn't necessarily mean throwing away what you have though, but rather to stop to look around and start appreciating the few things you have, for they are, if you are reading this, more than enough to find happiness and love.

You don't need to pursue more and better things to achieve happiness, the joy deriving from it is transitory and never satisfying for long.

"A man's true happiness is in the happiness of those he loves, his tears are only shed for those he loves."


I'm glad Manuel Jesús Maria Cordoba y Herrera did not ask Rev. Pat Robertson's advice - otherwise, Pat would have told him to get rid of his baren wife and start a new life.

In September, when asked what a man should do whose wife has Alzheimer’s, an increasingly decrepit Pat Robertson says, “I know it sounds cruel but if he’s going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over.” Watch the video below.


1. The NDAA allows the defense industrial complex to secretly kill/assassinate American Citizens with impunity. The loss of habeus corpus under the Patriot act also means that it is much easier to simply break into people's homes and plant evidence or take property and effectively gag witnesses on fear of also being disappeared.

2. A rider in the NDAA bill means the defense industrial complex will now tax us to censor our votes and by law this must go on in the dark- it will be a crime to disclose the amount of money involved in this censorship and denial of our voting rights.

3. The continuing absence of a stock act means that members of congress are still able to benefit from insider trading with impunity so they do things that directly profit from selling out.

4. It came out through an open verbal argument in parliament between the leader of another country and his defense minister that the leader believes that his countrymen control the US and is relying upon this control. This was reinforced by the new obstructionist members Congress going in en mass to that country during their break.

5. This coup by the military and apparently by another country goes on because the US public is kept in the dark. FOIA wasn't enough to begin because it meant only corporations in the consolidated media block could have access to information- it has to be a member of corporate media that makes the request. Naturally these firms won't act against their sponsors and flow of campaign money. When a civilian foreign citizen like Julian Assange tries to inform the US public (among other people) the US seeks extradition and the death penalty for a civilian who isn't even subject to US laws. The same for military whistle blowers like Bradly Manning- he was exposing corruption and wrong doing for the benefit of people everywhere- like the US using its gunships to assassinate European journalists attempting to do their job.

It appears that the US government has undergone a coup by the US military and an infiltration and usurpation by a foreign government. It seems the state we fund and are subject to has become a legal red light zone that operates in the dark. But this isn't just passive corruption, it blows up buildings and lies us into wars and is apparently constantly trying to manipulate us with fear and miss information.

Why not just push for the elimination of legal protection for all state secrets and all classified information.
We could push for something like constitutional amendments that eliminated the right of the government to any kind of secrecy and even stripped it of its ability to enforce non-disclosure agreement or enforcement of private commercial secrets- we don't want the US state in the business of protecting secrets. What would remain and be enhanced by this would be individual privacy- witness protection, account numbers etc., can be protected under privacy. This is a recognition that secrecy is antithetical to privacy- and privacy is possibly the soundest basis for the assertion of any rights per Justice Brandeis. We want the government out of the business of trying to control information. This may impede defense and war planning but the unchecked power of the US state has likely become the greatest threat to the US people and the people of the world.

There are practical limits here but there should be no after-the-fact legal protection for state secrets even if it makes for culture shock and a steep learning curve for administration. All the arguments about ticking time bombs or even claims regarding the Manhattan project don't stand up to the need for transparency. What we are talking about here seems worse than the declaration of martial law, it seems to be the secret declaration of the same but with ability to secretly disappear people and with the evaporation of all real rights and freedoms coupled with what is probably intended to be the permanent handing of power to an unaccountable unidentified entity.


People who say, that this is a sad story.... I don't know, what to say to them. Read more books. Feel more. Learn to see beauty. Life is simple. Should be simple. I remember a beggar in Ostia, near Rome, in 1990. He was all in white. Very clean. He was a wise man. I am putting this on my list to translate to German. Because Germans too, they need to learn about what drives us in life.


I was disappointed that this wasn't a first person account but it still has a lot of truth in it. As people age, society discards them. The workplace, which should express its gratitude for years of service helping to enrich the owners, seems to feel no such sense of responsibility and gets rid of older workers to boost the bottom line. Meanwhile, the CEOs retire in luxury, a small part of which would pay for the comfortable retirement of workers.

As we get older we find that any happiness that depends on others doesn't last, since those people, pets, even places change or leave us. The only happiness that is enduring is the kind each of us is able to find within ourselves, and maybe, like Jesus in this story, is the kind that can be found by living in the moment without too many wants or expectations.

Still -- we can do better by our elders, much much better.


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