Terrance Rafferty opined that ‘Losers are inherently sexier than winners, because winners are more self-protective; material success makes people cowardly, or at least unattractively cautious. (They may be full of bravado, but that’s not the same thing.)’

I am re-reading Bernard Cornwell’s splendid Sharpe series. These are 22 novels that are centered around a fictional character named Richard Sharpe, a soldier fighting for Her Majesty’s forces first beginning with the Siege of Seringapatam in 1799 and ending more or less at Waterloo in 1815.

Richard Sharpe by his own admission is a rogue, a former thief, the son of a whore who abandoned him to grow up in a wretched foundling home. He gets tricked into joining the army and there begins his story, first as a private then after an act of heroism, made sergeant by Wellesley himself. All the stories center on this one man who just can’t seem to get a break. His life is incredibly hard. He suffers, perseveres, and in some cases triumphs. He does the impossible but never receives any real credit nor gets the advancement that is his due. Cromwell brings the opening period of the 19th century to life using the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars as seen through the eyes of this bitter and beautiful loser.

If you believe that vast majorities of the poor down here in Mexico believe in God because of their ignorance then you are sadly mistaken. The poor have taken up their faith knowing as they do the realities of their existence. Their faith in Divine Providence gives strength to them in times of failure, poverty, and need. Sometimes it is only after one has been brought to their knees in failure and found their own resources bankrupt can the quiet voice of the Almighty penetrate.

Cesar Vallejo died impoverished and unknown in Paris in 1938 at the age of 46. In his immortal poem ‘Black Stone on Top of a White Stone’ he closed with:

César Vallejo is dead. They struck him,
All of them, though he did nothing to them,
They hit him hard with a stick and hard also
With the end of a rope. Witnesses are: the Thursdays,
The shoulder bones, the loneliness, the rain, and the roads…

Sad as it may be, some people just seem born to lose. And it seems to me in the end that it always comes down to what you believe in. For example, do you believe enough in your art to sacrifice your life on the altar of poverty as did Cesar Vallejo?

The ancient Japanese way of Bushido defined courage merely as ‘doing that which is right’, regardless of the outcome. Poverty and failure were always accepted without shame as possible consequences.

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