ST. FRANCIS, ABBE FARIA, and the power of
wild shrubbery . . .
 
by by Dom Martin
 

  If miracles come from God, then wild shrubbery must come from the devil's greenhouse! Else, it is hard to fathom how acreages of any civilization's heritage are reduced to ruins at the hands of wild shrubbery!

What precisely is the message, the mystery, or the incorrigible metaphor? Is it astral-psychosis? Or plainly: the muscular superiority of a power yet unknown to us? An angry green god, manifesting its omnipotence through the fibers of vegetation?
 
It generally begins with nature. Shrubbery against shrubbery and the wildest surviving the battle. And then men arrive, to convert the heritage of wild shrubbery into a citadel of culture reflecting their intellect, might and pride. And then it's men against men, the wildest-from surviving the battle of greed, nonchalance and apathy. And then men depart.
 
Time moves in. Through it: decadence! Cracks and crevices. BULBOUS roots -- Thanks to the birds! Soon, a civilization of rubble. Subsequently, the testimony of a once civilized-shrubbery now buried under the might and myth of wild shrubbery.
 
Humanity is no valid exception. Its complex metabolism makes it a fertile laboratory for wild and salubrious shrubbery. Customs, traditions, dialogues . . . these are plentiful gardens within the weeds of leftist and other extremist ideologies. And hedonistic morals! And then, one-stupid-enough a weed rises above the rest, overshadowing all else that was rationally sane and secure.
 
Society feels hurt, and pays the price for drawing water from the wells of ignorance. Tension mounts to tyranny, war and destruction. One individual in the guise of a weed altering humanity's horoscope, just as much as one puny bird can threaten a monumental edifice with its fertilized dropping! What's the equation? God versus shrubbery, or God versus gods?!
 
St. Francis Xavier
 
Saints come. Saints go! Some make it all the way to the altar, and remain there quite unpopular. Others become a living phenomenon. An astounding catalyst. The pulse of life itself. St. Francis Xavier is one such phenomenon. He came as Fr. Francis, and parted to become the pulse of Goa and Goans.
 
On the civic front, we have men of caliber. Some end up as breath-taking bores. Some make it to the pedestal, and are looked upon with pride and esteem. Others also successfully make it to the pedestal, only to have their greatness acknowledged by passing birds! And humanity is full of such heroes and pedestals. And as the truth goes, each day a pedestrian is either elevated to pedestal-level, or a pedestal-laureate reduced to the status of a pedestrian. Obviously, therefore, yesterday's pedestal-laureates are today's pedestrians!
 
Thus became the fate of the epic Portuguese poet, Luis de Camoes, whose statue once majestically adorned the well-manicured lawns in Old Goa. St. Francis did not envy his presence. Nor did the crows! But the custodians of our heritage did. Four years ago, they launched a revolt against Camoes.
 
In the first Indo-Camoes boom-bang, Camoes escaped with minor bruises. At the second Indo-Camoes boom-bang, Camoes was still on his feet, despite a sizeable hole in his chest! The situation, I guess, was clinically embarrassing enough to warrant instant surgery. The infamous move left Camoes gravely dismembered. Finally dead!
 
With Camoes now wholly dissected, securely embalmed and entombed, what are we left with? Just a congregation of ill-looking croton pots, warning naive-looking visitors to mind their tongues. Precisely, since their predecessor was bombarded out of history for having once insulted his host, the Goans!
 
Similarly, a 100-years from today, somebody might mash-up the croton pots on the grounds that they usurped their predecessor's throne. All this, a stern lesson for would-be pedestal-laureates. Talk your hearts and guts out, but do not perpetuate your intestinal sentiments. Chances are, rather than your insides becoming collectible externals, they might well develop into IRA artifacts. And then nothing can be redeemable, because when God takes the day off, bombs explode! Statues fall! Wars are declared, and unsolicited marriages take place!
 
The war having now been won and all else boom-banged out, what's next on the agenda? I shudder! However, I am sure glad that God does not directly communicate with men, write letters or issue press notes. Suffice, He is doing pretty well inside churches, temples and mosques. And so, while God is preoccupied with more pressing issues, what are the custodians of our heritage or the custodians of other vested interests up to?
 
Every loss is ultimately irreparable. I understand. Fully atonable. I understand that as well! But let not such losses be irrelevantly atoned. Politicians -- like poets -- are also noted for sounding their most loyal sentiments, which may very well turn injurious in the course of time. And nobody deserves another gunpowder event in the sacred precincts of Old Goa.
 
Therefore, before any idea [re instituting a replacement for Camoes' statue in Old Goa] is imported, compounded or impounded, let rational sanctions prevail. If not the statue of St. Francis Xavier -- the kind (see picture) which so meaningfully dominated the 1974 Exposition Fair at Campal -- then, let it be anyone or anything else on fours!
 
 
Abbe Faria
 
Jose Custodio da Faria is well known as a Goan. Or world renowned as Abbe Faria, the father of hypnotism, whom Alexander Dumas immortalized in his legendary masterpiece: The Count of Monte Cristo. It is all in history, and history is a biography of facts and figures. Or in other words, time's greatest repository. To become part of history is to be humanity's sculptor in time's studio. Abbe Faria was one such man. Sculptors like him come once in humanity.

 

Hypnotism on its part, has gone a long way since the time Abbe Faria conducted his hands. Today, man-made objects are hypnotizing - if not threatening - humanity from the platforms of space. All this points out to the fact that man has taken humanity to the point of no conclusion. If progress progresses, it is only in acknowledgement of the extraordinary men and women who have contributed to its progression. Else, man would never have expanded beyond the cult and frontiers of the cave.
 
Abbe Faria came from no cave, and lived in no cave. The only autobiography he left in Goa is his ancestral home, situated in Candolim, where he was born. This house ought to have been declared a national edifice, or at least, converted into a seat of culture, or that of learning. Instead, it is one of Provedoria's outfit, housing orphans.
 
In a letter to the Navhind Times, (24/10/78), I had voiced my distress and dismay about it, at which time, the house was a reformatory home for abandoned and morally-deviated girls. In said letter, I had also expressed that "reformation" (in the present instance 'an orphanage') has nothing to do with the science of hypnotism in which Abbe Faria emerged as a father and a scientist. The house, if anything at all, should have been converted into a place or seat of culture, where scholars - national and international - could meet, hold lectures and conferences on arts and sciences.
 
In time's library, there will be countless other Goan sons and daughters who will excel - locally and globally - in the filed of music, art, literature, science, medicine and even politics. But to mankind, to world history and civilization, there is only one Abbe Faria. What to do with Abbe Faria is not the issue that's significantly crucial, or appalling, as it is with what we have done to him and to his personal effects in Goa. Just that!
 
Wild Shrubbery
 
Resultantly, humanity is not all that refined, as the forces that undo monuments are akin to those that destruct man and mankind. Or humankind. Obviously meaning, there is more to wild shrubbery than what meets and does not meet the eye. On the other hand, if sanctity's hypnosis is as effective as hypnosis itself, then, we would have had a world of relative good, - not of correlative evil and destruction! A world, where good and evil live in the same household, plough the same field, and drink out of the same well.
 
Thus, until such time that sanctity overpowers the forces of wild shrubbery with a vegetation of goodness, man will continue to shuffle pedestals, pawn heads, and bombard truth into truths!
 
 This article appeared in the issue of O Herald, dated April 21, 1985
All photos are by author.