Anarê, the boy who unlearned to fly.

Once upon a time, in a distant, distant time  – so distant that there is almost no memory of it, nor clarity about whether belongs to the past or the future, nor clarity about whether it existed on our planet, there was a beautiful place called “Valley of Free Flight.”

The blessed people who lived in this beautiful valley were lucky enough to learn, even when they were very small, even when they were just tiny discoverers and the limits of their bodies’ movements were not yet well-known to them, how to do the very thing that gave its name to the valley:  to fly free.  Learning is not quite the correct term, actually, because it is said that these people where born knowing how to surrender to the air – all they needed to learn was to properly channel their energy and knowledge.

When I say to fly, I mean to fly:  to take your feet off the ground and throw your body into the air in a gesture of courage and surrender.  Of course, the people there did it because they lived in the “Valley of Free Flight.”  Green, beautiful, immense, and full of echoing sounds, the valley was full of magic, nurturing brave bodies and allowing them to deliver themselves to the air – allowing the free and delicate flight of all inhabitants of this remote space.

It was in this distant and remote realm that the boy Anarê was born.  Curious and fearful, the little boy had inside him an anxiousness to have immediate control over his body in order to jump into the air, and the fear of having the misfortune of not being protected by the magic of the “Valley of Free Flight.”  Never in the history of their people had there been a case of failure in the valley. Never was there a body that was not embraced by the space for free flight.  Still, Anarê was born suspicious, and had the thought that he might be the first unlucky one to crash down on the cliff.

And so he grew, in the constant dialogue between anxious curiosity and suspicious fear, until the day came. The day the boy controlled his body’s movements enough to throw himself courageously and surrender. His family prepared the ritual and celebration of the first flight, while Anarê muttered feverishly his bed, reluctant to get up and reluctant to fly.

Fear dominated Anarê’s small body in the form of a fever, and the boy refused to take the necessary step. “I’m not going, I’m not going and I’m not going,” he said reluctantly. To throw himself into it this way, without ever having practiced, without any certainty… it was too much for him. “Yes, I will be the first inhabitant of our valley to live with my feet firmly on the ground and I do not care! I will not go, I will not go and I will not go! ”

All the inhabitants of the valley had come together to think of alternatives. How could the boy not trust the safe and foolproof “Valley of Free Flight?”  How could the boy not trust in the wisdom of his body, which he had been born with, and which meant that he already had within himself the ability to surrender to the air? Disturbed by the possibility of having even one inhabitant living with their feet stuck to the ground, the people decided to make an exception for the boy:  let him practice the flight for some time before throwing himself off the edge of the cliff.

Some were uncomfortable with this idea. It was an insult to the wisdom of the body and the wisdom of the valley. But for the sake of maintaining the local tradition, they yielded to this exception. From that day, Anarê would be trained by the more experienced inhabitants to surrender, to release his body.

The training was very simple: Anarê would climb on a rock, nothing very tall, just about the height of his torso. From that rock he would jump into the arms of some of the adult villagers waiting for him. Not too far away, just a little hop and the arms would already find him.

The evolution of the boy in just a few weeks was impressive. Anarê learned to trust the arms that awaited him more than he trusted his own body. Anarê had learned to trust that distance – even though the adults increased it a little each day – more than he trusted the Valley. The gleam in Anarê’s eyes showed that little by little he was learning to surrender.

And so it was, or rather, and so it would have been, if it had not been for a particular moment one spring afternoon. An afternoon filled with songs of birds announcing the arrival of new flowers. A small moment in the unfolding of time, but as meaningful as eternity for the story of Anarê.

That afternoon, Mr. Nico, an experienced flyer from the Valley, was waiting for him at the foot of the rock. Anarê had already jumped into Nico’s arms seven times that afternoon and they were both preparing for the eighth and final jump. Anarê prepared himself by flexing his knees, looking at Nico’s hands and then closing his eyes for a quick prayer. Nico was also preparing himself by stretching his knees, raising his arms toward Little Anare, and fixing his compassion-filled eyes on the boy’s. All this lasted no more than 3 seconds.


In the third second, Anarê’s body was already in full swing. In the third second, Nico’s ear captured a beautiful and unusual sound not common in the region: the song of a macaw. In the third second, Nico’s ears and eyes broke the tension – which lasted just for a second – his ears were dazzled, eyes curious; his ears tried to convince him  that the sound was enough, his eyes tried to contain an imagination of what they could not see; his ears followed every movement of the macaw, his eyes did not resist the limitations of his imagination.

In the third second, Nico’s eyes overcame tension and followed his ears in contemplation of the macaw. In the third second, with his gaze overflowing with the beautiful image of the macaw, Nico’s entire body surrendered to the moment. In the third second, Nico’s eyes did not communicate with his arms, which were also delivered to the movements of the macaw, and let the body of Anarê pass between his hands, flaccid and without force. In the third second, Anarê’s body crashed to the ground.

In the third second, Anarê unlearned to fly.


See here a possible continuation of this story proposed by Priscila Freitas.

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