We pass a church in Asturianos, on our way to Puebla de Sanabria.
This hike involves walking through a series of very small villages connected by small roads which pass through the countryside.
I read Chapter 76 in the Tao te Ching:
“Men are born soft and supple;
dead, they are stiff and hard.”
“Plants are born tender and pliant;
dead, they are brittle and dry.”
The images above the door of the church are of Saint Peter (who holds the key to the kingdom) and Saint John (who wrote one of the books of the Gospels, which he holds, and who holds a blade of faith, which can kill the snake of sin).
Another image seemed mysterious to us. The shell stands for the pilgrimage to Santiago — the praying ones seem in flames.
In Otero de Sanabria, we walk through a flock of sheep.
“Thus whoever is stiff and inflexible
is a disciple of death.”
We catch our first glimpse of the old city of Puebla de Sanabria.
“Whoever is soft and yielding
is a disciple of life.”
We continue walking.
“The hard and stiff will be broken.
The soft and supple will prevail.”
We see the Castle of the Puebla de Sanabria, a town that was a setting for scenes in Cervantes’ classic book Don Quixote.
We walk across a bridge and pass below the castle.
We enter the town and walk past the castle.
Lao tsu’s poem describes the soft, connected to life, as overcoming the hard, connected to death. In the material world, the castle symbolized more than military defense. It symbolized the power of those in authority over those required to pay taxes.
In the material word, the hard rules the soft. In the Inner World, the doing of nothing is the path to understanding. The “hard” are merely thoughts which pass away. The “soft” Tao overcomes everything.
The abandoned villages are memories.
Moss grows on the rocks.
The buildings become ruins.
In Puebla de Sanabria, the church beside the castle is open only on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. People say that it is very dark inside. Young people say that they do not believe.
Ideas, that seemed eternal during the Middle Ages, now seem quaint.
We look at souvenir items that are for sale.
Those who are flexible prevail.