I'm teaching Alejo Carpentier's The Kingdom of This World to my SPA 260 class in about an hour. As I was going over my notes, I came across this passage that really moved me:
Ti Noël had squandered his birthright, and, despite the abject poverty to which he had sunk, he was leving the same inheritance he had received: a body of flesh to which things had happened. Now he understood that a man never knows for whom he suffers and hopes. He suffers and hopes and toils for people he will never know, and who, in turn, will suffer and hope and toil for others who will not be happy either, for man always seeks a happiness far beyond that which is meted out to him. But man's greatness consists in the very fact of wanting to be better than he is. In laying duties upon himself.
In the Kingdom of Heaven there is no grandeur to be won, inasmuch as there, all is an established hierarchy, the unknown is revealed, existence is infinite, there is no possibility of sacrifice, all is rest and joy. For this reason, bowed down by suffering and duties, beautiful in the midst of his misery, capable of loving in the face of afflictions and trials, man finds his greatness, his fullest measure, only in the Kingdom of This World.
(Trans. Harriet de Onís)
It is our ability to be altruistic as we struggle and toil through life that brings us closer to the divine. That is why this life, the kingdom of this world, is when we must prove ourselves.
Man, Carpentier was talented.