Personally I agree that laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired. Nevertheless one of the very few rules of this half-hidden journal (another one is that it has not any fixed rule…) is that I'm not supposed to speak directly about myself and my surely uninteresting daily life. If I considered worthy informing a large audience that I broke one of my nails I could create an account on Facebook. So far I can happily live without.
So my purpose is starting from particular to get open, if it's possible, to more general considerations.
My topic doesn't intend to be my personal praise of laziness. I have a kind of reverential admiration for all the people who are ready to run and jog every day with all kinds of weather. They gloriously sweat in summer and bravely face the icy wind in winter. They usually run alone, all concentrated in their own surely rewarding effort. Sometimes energetic mothers include in their healthy activity also their unaware babies, who are installed in technological strollers, probably made of tungsten or some other mysterious material and are pushed at high speed nicely shaken by all the ground bumps. Maybe they like that, probably they do. Babies like to be shaken, well, with moderation anyhow.
A common feature, which practically all runners and joggers share, is that they carry an iPod or an iSomething, well, shortly, a reader of music files and they have their ears well plugged by the earphones of the little omnipresent device.
They are in a private world full of their own music, probably loud, and they run, indifferent to the sound and the noise of the real world which surrounds them. You know what I mean, banal boring sounds like the song of the wind in the leaves, the cries of seagulls, the call of hidden little birds, the pastoral symphony of cows' bells ( sorry, this is just a Swiss matter, I'm afraid). In a word all what make the environment vibrant and real and make you feel part of that with all your senses.
Also running mums wear earphones. I saw one, crossing the road, a few days ago, beautiful and fit she run at a speed that I could keep only for 5 metres, and only when I feel in particularly good shape and she seemed to barely touch the ground. Her baby, comfortably installed in his stroller, looked in front of him, because he was turned that way, considering probably his mother like an engine which he could neither control nor see. The baby bumped lightly when his stroller was pushed over a little imperfection of the road, his little head followed the rhythm of the run. Nobody spoke to him, but fortunately he didn’t wear any small earphones. I'm sure that the birds' songs were a good company for him.
I feel comfortable writing in this relatively secluded virtual space. I can add whatever I feel like in this immaterial writing pad, knowing that it's under the eyes of very few adventurous visitors which have arrived her just by chance, but will never find their way again, who knows? It's amusing not to know…
Definitely I didn't stop thinking of Great Garbo yet since yesterday. One of the proofs that I'm getting really older is the huge quantity of memories I have of the past years of my life, which often come to surface because a casual concatenation of thoughts. Several (or some?) years ago I went to Sweden with my mother, without any particular reason. I knew a Swedish gentleman living near Stockholm ( the way I had got in touch with him is not fundamental ) and he kindly offered to come to our hotel to take my mother and I for a tour. He owned and old collection Rolls Royce, which he used to rent occasionally for wedding or to drive some important personality around and he was so kind to surprise us arriving with that impressive white Rolls. I felt a bit uncomfortable, but my mother was absolutely delighted. It was, I remember, a gorgeous day. One of the precious sunny days of autumn on Scandinavian countries.
Inside the Rolls there were little Persian carpets at the place of usual small rubber carpets which are under the feet of passengers in normal cars. He told us that only few weeks earlier he had taken around for a tour the Queen Mother and one of her lady friends. My mother became instantly a queen as well. She felt totally at ease in the role.
I will not speak of all the places we visited and all what we did. At a certain moment our host and chauffeur told us that we were arriving to Hårby, a large estate which belonged to Greta Garbo and he explained to us that it was not open to public, but we could see the building from outside and give a look at the gardens.
Actually, when we arrived it came out that the mansion had been rented for a celebration, I have not any idea about what it could be, maybe an official reception. The doors were all open and there were people carrying big boxes and a van which seemed to be for the catering service.
Our arrival on a white Rolls Royce was not unnoticed, but, as it often happened, people were impressed by those apparent signs of social status. I tried to pretend to be a shy secretary to justify my casual outfit, while my naturally smart mother was perfect in her presumed role.
I don't know exactly what our Swedish friend told them (obviously they were all speaking Swedish with each other) but then he come to us telling that we can get inside to look all around. I felt a little paralysed, and I felt like an intruder peeping through a half-open window and I refused. I said I would have walked in the garden and I would have waited for them by the car. But my cheeky mother was enthusiastic and she got in to the house with our friend. By the way he could speak Swedish and English, while my mother only French and Italian, but mysteriously they managed to communicate.
After a long time, when I already thought they had been arrested by security guards or something like that, they appeared again and my mother was happy and started telling me she had been everywhere and the furniture was magnificent, and she had been in Greta Garbo's bedroom as well and there was nobody there, because all those people were arranging things at the ground floor. Then with a whimsical light in her eyes ( I think my mother was already over 70 then) she confessed that she felt the need to go to toilet when she was there and she noticed a door in Greta Garbo's bedroom, she pushed it and she found a bathroom. She giggled like a little girls and enthusiastically told me: "I peed into Garbo's flush toilet!".
Sic transit gloria mundi
Old black and white movies have a charm that is not easy to find again in nowadays, sophisticated films in full colour, overfilled with amazing special effects. This is a topic I would never be tired to treat, so, exactly to avoid the risk to be tedious, I put limits on myself. Self-censorship is the only acceptable form of censorship after all. Among many other I'm thinking now specifically of a film called "Grand Hotel", a 1932 American drama. In this movie, among all the other famous actors there is also the charismatic presence of Greta Garbo, who plays the role of a Russian dancer, Grusinskaya. She pronounces one of the most memorable movie quotes of all time: "I want to be alone; I just want to be alone".
This quote remained stuck on her like a label, because Garbo had always been very reserved and had avoided all public appearances as much as it was possible.
In reality Garbo declared about her private life, that she never said, 'I want to be alone'; she only said, 'I want to be let alone'. There is a world of difference.
If compared with the fever of incessant self-promotion which seems to be present in all social spheres nowadays, when people try hard to put themselves in the limelight by all means I think Garbo's attitude was of sublime elegance.
Titus Livius, as you might remember, was a Latin historian, whose only surviving work is a huge history of Rome " Ab Urbe Condita" which means "From the town foundation", where he describe the complete history of the city of Rome and its empire, from its foundation to the death of Augustus.
But giving a few unnecessary biographic notes of information on Titus Livius is not my purpose at all.
What intrigues me today is mentioning a specific little episode which Titus Livius wrote about, among so many others, because it might be rather thought-provoking, if we try to see it in a larger context. This is one of the peculiar values of history; it helps us to see contemporary happenings much clearer if we compare them with the experience of the past.
Someone said: “If you don't know history, then you don't know anything. You are a leaf that doesn't know it is part of a tree. ” And I could not agree more.
Let's go back to Titus Livius. He wrote, in his monumental book, that one of the main military battles in the history of Rome happened by chance.
In 168 BC, during the third Macedonian War, there was a fundamental battle in the plain of Pydna, which marked the final destruction of Alexander’s empire and introduced Roman authority over the Near East. At first the leading members of the two armies hesitated to declare the attack. They were reluctant to do the first move and preferred to study the adversary.
The decision at their place was taken, paradoxically, by an unconscious Roman donkey, which ran away from the Roman camp and started galloping by pure chance toward the Macedonian lines. A few Roman soldiers decided to chase and catch it. But the Macedonians thought it was the beginning of the attack, they gave the alarm and soon the general battle started.
Very probably the battle would have started in all cases, but we cannot be quite sure of that…
The History is full of many "rebel donkeys" which play the role of the uncontrolled and unpredictable variable in a series of events. Maybe we would keep that in mind, for the little we can…
I like legends. All the legends. There is something enlightening and fascinating and they are an important part of our cultural backgrounds, even when we ignore them.
Many people feels the need to believe in their legends , as if knowing that what they described was a part of reality could make them worthier.
I don't want to be dragged into this kind of polemic, it would be for nothing.
People who claim that their beliefs are based on reality, while others' beliefs are based on legends are exactly the same people who call superstitions the moral principles and the beliefs of others.
I prefer to see legends as a projection of our past and a sign of our intellectual development.
Symbols are important if we realize they are symbols of something, not the thing itself.
There are ancient story which I find more appealing and fascinating than others.
The story, or the legend, of that Nepalese prince, born in the sixth century B.C., whose father had made him living a totally secluded and protected merry life, is one of my favourite.
The young prince, who we might like imagining handsome and inclined to reveries, ignored reality, prisoner in his parallel universe of beauty until the day he left his palace and discovered the existence of suffering and the miserable human condition.
He was deeply touched by these sights, and decided to leave his kingdom to lead an ascetic life, and determine a way to relieve the universal suffering that he now understood to be one of the defining traits of humanity.
For several years he made all efforts, endured pain, fasted nearly to starvation, and refused even water to find a spiritual answer, deleting nearly totally the role of the material body
Whatever he tried, he could not reach the level of satisfaction he was looking for, until one day when a young girl offered him a bowl of rice.
As he accepted it, he suddenly realized that corporeal austerity was not the means to achieve inner liberation, and that living under harsh physical constraints was not helping him achieve spiritual release.
From then on, however, he encouraged people to follow a path of balance instead of one characterized by extremism. He called this path the Middle Way.
Of course you have already guessed the name of the prince, who inspired also a great novel by Herman Hesse about the spiritual journey of self-discovery.
I don't mean to speak about religions.
I love the legend of Siddhartha Gautama.
Do you see the two pictures here? One was by Monet and represents the Waterloo Bridge in London, it’s a pastel and it was part of a series which Monet dedicated to this bridge during his stays in London. There would be many interesting details to tell about the experience of Monet in London and why he sketched also pastels, besides the oil paintings, but this is another story. The other picture represent a “Harlequin’s Head” by Pablo Picasso. No-one will ever see them in reality anymore. They are gone, forever. They were burnt together with other art masterpieces which had been stolen on the 16th October 2012 from the Kunstahal in Rotterdam, Holland.
The responsible for this act of pure idiocy is the mother of ringleader of the thieves, a Rumanian woman called Olga Dogaru who wanted “to protect” her poor son, her gentle child, Radu, who had not been able to sell to little scrupulous private collectors his loot.
So he was arrested for the suspicions hanging over his head and his loving mother tried first to hide the stolen paintings in a cemetery of the small Rumanian village of the improbable name of Caracliu or Carcaliu (reality is so often more absurd that imagination), then, when she realized that the Police was inspecting accurately the area, decided to put all the paintings together with old paper and old shoes into a large stove at her home and burnt all merrily.
“What a good mum I am” she probably thought, relieved to have a chance to defend her boy ”I make all that rubbish disappear, so nobody will have any proof against my son”.
What makes stupidity really insufferable is that it is forever in action - idiocy knows no rest
“Verus amicus amore, more, ore, re cognoscitur”.
“You can recognize a true friend from affection, behaviour, words and deeds”.
This Latin proverb concentrates in a few words the noble and fundamental value of friendship, a deep and strong relationship which is based on shared thoughts, shared feelings, shared projects and needs a constant mutual empathy for each other’s sorrows and joys.
Nowadays we live in an age of somehow aseptic and exasperating individualism, emotional distance, and incapacity of speaking with others in the context of a real communication from person to person. No problems! The social networks are there to fill this gap and to help us to build up easily an immoderate number of “virtual friends”. Just a few clicks and we are able to multiply our friends and with another click we can get rid of friends who have become obsolete. We don’t need to work regularly on our friendly relationships, to keep them alive, to make them grow stronger…Just a further click on the button “I like” and it’s enough.
I’m awfully old-fashioned, a real dinosaur, but I’m still faithful to the Latin approach…
Bertrand Russell wrote in his autobiography:
"I was told that the Chinese said they would bury me by the Western Lake and build a shrine to my memory.
I have some slight regret that this did not happen as I might have become a god, which would have been very chic for an atheist "
I have always appreciated this kind of lightly ironical humour, which I consider a proof of deep intelligence.
I wonder why, according to my personal, irrelevant and surely too limited experience, the best people, from every point of view, including positive human values, I have ever met were all atheists.
"With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."
Mark Twain described his mother as a genuinely good person, whose soft heart pitied even Satan, but who had no doubt about the legitimacy of slavery, because in years of living in antebellum Missouri she had never heard any sermon opposing slavery, but only countless sermons preaching that slavery was God's will.
“All the matter we are made of was built by the stars, all the elements from hydrogen to uranium have been made in nuclear reactions that occur in supernovae, that is those stars, much bigger than the Sun, which at the end of their existence explode and scatter into space the result of all the nuclear reactions occurred in them. So we are truly children of the stars”
Yesterday, Saturday the 29th of June, a great lady died in Trieste, Italy.
I felt an enormous admiration for her and, as it always happens when a special person passes away, I have today the feeling that our little world is a somehow poorer.
She was called Margherita Hack and she was an astrophysicist who explained her research on the stars in plain language for the public and who championed civil rights in her native Italy.
She was 91 years old.
Margherita Hack headed the observatory in Trieste, the first woman to hold that post, from 1964 to 1987, and was a popular and frequent commentator in media about discoveries in astronomy and physics.
An atheist who decried Vatican influence on Italian politicians, Hack helped fight a successful battle to legalize abortion in Italy. She unsuccessfully lobbied for the right to euthanasia and also championed gay rights.
Hack, an optimist with a cheerful disposition, studied the heavens in the firm belief there was no after-life.
“I have no fear of death,” Hack once said in a TV interview. “While we are here, death isn’t with us.”
“When there is death, I won’t be here,” she said.
Among the many comments about her passing was one from an admirer who wrote that Hack was “so great and nice that God will pretend not to exist so as not to upset her,”
She liked to joke that the “first and last” time she was in a church was for her marriage to fellow native Florentine Aldo De Rosa, in 1944. She agreed to a church ceremony only because the groom’s parents were very religious. Hack dressed simply in life, including for her own wedding, when she wore an overcoat-turned-inside out for a bridal gown. She and her widower, 93, had no children.
Goodbye, Margherita, lady of stars !
I wonder if my choice to speak here on my own, in this practically hidden place, doesn’t make me similar to the classic character of the « fool of the village », you know what I mean, one of those children of a lesser god who are lost in their private dimension and roam about mumbling something all by themselves. I’m aware that nearly none arrives until this secret land and it would be a tragedy, if my main purpose were an ephemeral but blatant illusion of visibility. Fortunately it’s not the case. There are Twitter and Facebook to nourish this virtual illusion to be constantly connected with a crowd of strangers who are supposed to pay attention to us, in all the most banal displays of our daily activities. But for me it’s not the case. On the opposite I have started cherishing this secluded corner of the immense virtual space, where I have built up a nearly invisible stall. I tell myself that if someone might arrive until here by chance, then would be like meeting an explorer looking for the source of Niles, who , by mistake, arrived to a domestic, even though unknown little stream. I offer what I have, without showing off.
I wrote a book.
A lot of people write books, the majority of them are less than average and also mine belongs to this group, I suppose. This is not the point. I didn’t write my book for any purpose. The purpose was my book itself. I had fun writing it, I practised my knowledge of English, I created my own characters and I let them suggest me what to do.
My book is set in Ireland and it’s a kind of detective story, with a certain attention for local characters and maybe it’s also a little entertaining.
Since I like real books, concrete books made of paper, I mean, I decided that my book deserved to have its own concreteness. So I got it printed. It’s easy and it’s not that expensive either.
Nowadays we can print whatever we like. A great percentage of amateur photographer prints their books of pictures and it’s a good idea, of course, to keeps one’s own visual memories or to offer a present to one’s elderly mum (mothers are probably the only people who really enjoy receiving an unrequested photographic book made by an amateur photographer, of course if the amateur photographer is their son or daughter.
There is nothing less than right in that, but things become a little funnier when the person who printed his/her own photographic book personally presents it proudly as “ printed work”, as if it was a recognition of quality and importance.
Let’s try to be serious, it’s not like that. It simply means that we printed something by ourselves and we paid for it, a personal satisfaction, maybe, but nothing which adds any specific value to what we have done.
I wrote my book, I didn’t put it on sale. I don’t know if it’s good, I think it’s average, but I did my best and I printed it for my own pleasure and for respect of the time I have dedicated to it. It doesn’t make a writer of me.
I offered on PBase a free copy of my book to the first people who would have asked me for that. Incredible but true some people accepted my proposal and asked me for the book and of course I‘ll send it to them as promised.
A few years ago, always on PBase, there was a gentleman, an amateur photographer, whom I have exchanged a few comments with.
Once he wrote me a message to ask me if I would have liked receiving one of his photography books…Oh what a naïve souls I was then. I thanked him for his kindness. I wondered why he wanted to offer me a gift, but I thought it was a kind attention.
The book arrived; well it was a normal photographic book, not too huge either. The funny thing was that the guy had included a bill. He charged me something like 60 US$ for his unrequested book I had mistaken for a gift. I paid, of course, considering it a kind of tax on my naivety. Then it’s always right to pay for a good lesson!
I have learnt and I don’t want to repeat the same mistake. My book is not on sale and if anyone wants to have a copy, they have only to ask, when I have no copies anymore, I’ll let them know.
But I’m sure that the voluntaries will be in limited number, so all of them will see their request satisfied.