Friday, February 20, 2009

Uncle Tirso and Me

By Luis K. Feliz

Poised on the edge, my legs wiggle. 20 seconds. 10 seconds. 5 seconds. Go! I dive. “Nadie nace sabiendo,” my uncle, Tirso, tells me as I spring up from the bottom of the pool. “No one is born knowing.” This has become my mantra. Yet, it took me many years to know the meaning of those words, to frame them accurately, to render them honestly. In many ways, quoted words are elusive: they cannot capture the full meaning their speakers intended. Trying to capture what my uncle was thinking that day, I have attempted to immerse myself in his world to understand his pain: a fisherman who wrote poetry and dreamed of becoming his town’s mayor. From his struggles, I have learned about the vitality of persistence and the joys of creativity.

My uncle didn’t write poetry because it came easily to him. In fact, he was not formally educated, and never won recognition for the poems he crafted. He didn’t fish because it was easy either. Actually, he almost drowned once. He did these things because he believed that the point of being a fuller human being was seeking challenges in hopes of overcoming weakness through deliberate practice.

I hated writing. It was neither easy nor fun. I had to wriggle my right hand in order to make myself hold a pen. The loneliness of a blank page was unbearable. The reckless devotion I now have for writing was forced upon me. My English teachers chided me: You have a responsibility to take possession of language— to grapple with the idiosyncrasies of writing to discover who you are. To make seemingly disjointed parts assemble themselves in an orderly symphonic alignment is a meticulous, often painful, process.

Consequently, my relationship with writing is contentious. I write sentences that are tangled up lumps of incomplete ideas or a disordered sprawl devoid of clarity. But through patient rewriting, I have learned to cart off clutter and to see the beauty in a polished piece of writing. The magical aura sets in. You have set down something suffused with meaning for someone else. To me, this is the greatest gift one human being can give to another. Cadence and the leanness of words gliding on the page require a passion for understanding the elasticity of language— the freedom to create.

I hope to become a prose stylist who makes words bolt and amble at once. The pleasure of style—mastering technique—will be a lifelong dedication to a demanding craft. Dogged. Fierce. Patient. The writer must be all of these. More importantly, as my uncle knew so well, these characteristics extend far beyond writing to the realization of any goal.

Then, a naïve ten-year-old, I overlooked the power of my uncle’s simple words, his effort to spin struggle into wisdom, his desire to share his most profound perceptions. The feeling in “nadie nace sabiendo,” I now savor. My words only skim the surface of emotions, but I heed his advice to dive ever deeper in pursuit of my dreams.


  1. You have not captured the beauty of the English Language, but you have given it a heart. More now than ever, people need a message to uplift and inspire them. I believe that as long as you continue to sharpen your craft and speak from your heart, you will make a difference in somebody's life.

  2. Beautifully written.


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