Josue often quotes an old Spanish proverb, “El torero no mata el torro. El torro se mata solo.” Translated, this means, “The matador does not kill the bull. The bull kills itself.” As of lately, this has been on my mind a great deal. Now, I don’t pretend to know much about Spanish bullfighting nor do I have an opinion about all the contravercy that accompanies it. However, I believe that traditions often teach us more than we realize at the surface. So, I spent some time learning about this tradition.
Allow me to introduce you to the Alguacilillos. These two men start the ritual by asking the presiding government official for a key to open the gate that allows the bull to enter the stadium. They parade in, with their fancy hats, and perform a quick little organized routine on horseback. Then, they receive the key and open the doors to allow the bull into the stadium for the awaiting crowd to meet for the first time.
After this, will begin the first of three rounds. The first round is dedicated to the Picadores. However, it is critical to the other two rounds. In this round, two Picadores are selected to start the tandas, or passes. These two men, on heavily padded and blindfolded horses, have the sole purpose of driving lances into the bull just behind the large mound of muscle in his neck. This has two purposes. First, it allows the matador to learn about the bull, understanding it’s movements and preferred charging side. Second, if successful, the combination blood loss and the force exerted by the bull to lift the horse up with its neck and horns will strain the bull enough to cause it to hold its head lower during the following stages of the bullfight. This is a mandatory step in the fight which makes the bull’s charges less dangerous and more reliable, enabling the matador to perform. The angered bull now is doing two things on his own. His heart rate is increasing, causing him to lose blood at a faster rate and he is becoming reactive as to make for a better show.
The first round is twenty minutes. The second round will welcome the Banderilleros. These are three matadors with the intent of driving two banderillas each, or barbed spears, into the bull’s shoulders. This causes the bull to become more weak and to make ferocious charges.
Onto the final round. This is the round of the actual Matador. Everyone recognizes the Matador. This is the goofy dressed guy carrying the large cape. This guy is largely just for show. The bull is angry but tired. If the other fighers have done their jobs correctly, the Matador is merely a 15 minute dance partner to finish off the bull. However, the Matador is best known for the final estocada. While this sounds like a graceful dance move it is actually “the thrusting of the sword between the bull’s shoulder blades and through the heart.” This is the move that earns Matadors the big money. The move is crucial. If done correctly, the bull dies almost instantly.
Why the famous proverb? What if the bull, when the gate was opened, just didn’t go inside? What if it opted out of the whole thing?
Satan lures us into the stadium and kills us spiritually, in an ever so slowly manner. He drives in lances of self-doubt and spears of complacency. When we are weak and bleeding, we go back for more, believing that it will relieve the pain. Finally, at our point of least resistance and strength, we finish ourselves off. The bull believes it is on the offense when it goes after the movement of the Matador’s cape. It believes it is protecting itself. All the while, it’s charges provide an open shot for the finale. It opens itself up to be killed.
Why must we be the bull? We need not enter the stadium. We can opt not to be around those that drive in self-doubt or complacency. We have the option to hold our head high, without the increased chance of battle wounds. If we but heed the warnings looming from the sound of “oh so appealing crowds.” The noise coming from that stadium is not what will make us happy, it will eventually kill us. Ironically, the average sized, less aggressive bulls live long lives out to pasture.