I loved my tata mare (grandpa). He used to have a certain playfulness about him, which always made us, kids, look for his company. Then, he seemed to have all the time in the world. If we ever wanted to go outside and play or wander on the hills around Brasov (Romania), he was there with us, always smiling and always in a good disposition. He used to love eating hot peppers. Hot peppers with anything, really. I remember how he always ate the entire pepper, in one bite, and then he was chewing it slowly. We were fascinated with his calm, which was in sharp contrast with the drops of sweat that used to form on his bald head.
But I also remember something else about tata mare: the way he used to eat an apple. It always drove me crazy. He liked to eat it with his mouth open, making lots of sounds that seemed to be dancing with a vengeance on my brain. It was especially painful when we were in the same room and I was reading a book. Every bite was accompanied by sucking the juice and chewing noisily. I wanted to throw away all the apples on the earth, to forbid the selling of apples, or to ask God to recreate the world without this fruit. And the person who was eating the apple was my beloved tata mare…
My tata mare died many years ago, without being aware of the misery that he had brought upon my “sensitive” brain. If he knew it, he would have never eaten another apple just because he loved us so much. He may have also wept if he remained alone in the room, just because his grandson, for whom he would have done anything in the world, could not stand his innocent chewing of an apple. I do not think he would have seen himself as being guilty of it, but he would have probably acknowledged the diseased state in which we all are: we just eat an apple, minding our business, and we may still harm someone else, having no intention to do so. As I called it in another text, it is our daily involuntary participation in ugliness.
Perhaps I should think that I was guilty because, for during those two-three minutes while my tata-mare was eating an apple, I could not perceive anything else than the irritating sound of his mouth. Still, I could not do much against this reaction–the sound still irritates me today, regardless of who produces it. But here I am–someone contributing involuntarily to ugliness because I could not embrace the chewing of an apple. Perhaps I should state it even more strongly: I am contributing to ugliness because I see, because I perceive the sound of chewing an apple. Would I have heard anything if my heart was burning with love?
It is hard for me to imagine that anything I was doing when I was a child could have irritated my tata-mare. He was just glad to be in our presence, regardless of what we were doing. For him, we, the kids, were his kingdom. We were the persons without whom he would have refused to join the Kingdom of God, for there could not be a Kingdom without us. I know, however, that some of the things over which I do not have much power get on some other people’s nerves: perhaps the way I walk, perhaps the gestures I use when I talk… And I know that I cannot reproach them their lack of love. They are annoyed by certain things just as I am annoyed by the sound of chewing of an apple. But I also know that if we were all loving with the love of a tata-mare, the annoyance would disappear, even if the gestures and the chewing would remain. And perhaps the Kingdom would be present, because it has already taken being in our hearts.