Unlike so many other denizens of the dense winter forest, he merely glances at the panorama widening before his eyes.
He does not need hands to ply or to bend. He does not need arms to lift or to grasp. Hence, he stands on his two legs, gazing towards the expanse of natural quietness.
Light peers through the foliage, knitting in patches of shadow all over the ground. There is a line of footprints behind him that leads from further into the forest, but he has seemingly already gone beyond that path.
If a deer or a bear cross his gaze, they may slow down for a moment, sniff the air and then continue – they know this creature does not represent a threat. In return, they do not represent a threat to him.
This creature, the brown-furred observer, is known as Gondola.
They have become somewhat less common in the last few years, but it can still happen to cross path with one of them. If you do happen to meet one, such an encounter will bring you no luck.
Nor any misfortune, in case you are wondering about that.
Gondola is known to just stay there and enjoy the sight. Sometimes he wears clothing that’s appropriate for the occasion. This one does have a cute red and white beret perched atop his head, and I have personally spotted a couple wearing jeans.
But clothing is something that’s transient.
So it might not be really important. What matters is that Gondola feels comfortable enough to wear whatever he wants, and to lay wherever he wants.
I have seen one laying atop the red roof of a house, enjoying the sun in complete tranquillity. That’s what has always stricken me as exceptional in a Gondola: his ability to just appreciate the situation he’s in.
I have never seen one of him talk, or even speak or lament, vocalize anything. You can perceive he is content most of the time: a smile spreading on his face as he just looks up at the clouds or gazes at the movement of waves.
I used to think Gondola of little consequence. He never stays much in one place, and maybe in the occasions when we see more than one it’s actually the same Gondola shifting through different times and places.
When you notice you have been spotted by a Gondola you always feel validated. He has been gazing with you, not by you. And that’s a chance to try and understand where he was gazing – maybe there’s an interesting sight just beyond the treelike, or maybe it’s hidden behind that mass of buildings.
Most of the times I manage to find something. There is no assurance is the same thing Gondola was looking at. I don’t think it matters. We are doing the same thing they do and for a few glorious moments we can pretend to live in their own world.
Ours is different. We have arms, and not just legs. We have upper limbs to carry burdens and we have hands to shape them. We can act upon the world, we have responsibility and we have potential.
Gondola reminds us that we could always take the choice to draw back from the world. It does not mean to let the world decide for us: Gondola is free and he walks free, after all.
He can also put on clothes.
But he does not let the world define him.
He is one with the flow.
There was this one time.
I was laying down on the ground – on the slope of a hill. Tall beeches surrounded me and the slow bonfire that is autumn was just starting to brighten the very tips of their upper branches. In the absolute silence you could hear the crack and pop of the leaves as they fell one after another, like a patient fire that does not burn but does warm things up.
I turned to my left and there it was: a Gondola laying next to me. He was also looking up at the sky, enjoying the moment.
I came back to my original position, feeling like a great burden had been lifted off my shoulders. With the Gondola next to me, I kept looking up at the leaves, until the pattern of clouds had changed greatly above me.
When I turned to check, he was gone.
I couldn’t say how long that moment lasted. Probably half an hour? But that would be squeezing it into a shape, so I prefer to just say it did happen.
And that’s all that mattered.
If you ever meet a Gondola, either in the wild or in your home, in a mall or down a busy street, please remember to take a moment for him. If you can, please slow down and take a deep breath.
Trying to observe with him might reserve some nice surprises.
I have a feeling like Gondola has started to make himself a little scarcer these past few years. Maybe we are squeezing the world a little too tight for his tastes.
But whenever the time comes, please remember that there might be a Gondola right besides you.
Again, I want to stress this: there is no correct or incorrect way to interact with Gondola, mostly because Gondola does not really interact. With things and his surroundings he seldom does, but with people?
So you could just accept that he’s there. Living most likely in a world of his own, perceiving time like we do, or maybe in a completely different manner, but he’s enjoying the moment, and you can spot the content smile etched on his features. You can say he’s doing great because he’s wearing a very nice wool shirt. And he’s just been having a great time.
And maybe, when the world gives you too much of a burden, or even when it does give you too little; when things go awry; when things are great; when tears are falling either our of sorrow or joy, or maybe both; you could remind yourself that a Gondola might have been there too.
Author’s Notes: this was a quick philosophical piece inspired by my favorite meme. Beginning as a mutation of Spurdo Sparde, Gondola has grown to represent a calm and wise approach to life, far from the ironic and post-ironic assaults to our current reality and its admittedly lacking state. Gondola represents the flowing state of the one in all and all in one.
I think it is something to cherish. A truly precious meme.
Thanks for reading.