Thursday, March 31, 2005

Post Number Twenty-Three: Requiem

Of Terri again, and the Pope

Requiescant In Pace.
This is the primeval sentence that originated the omnipresent acronym R.I.P. Whether you translate it as "Rest In Peace", "Riposa In Pace" or in other languages, I prefer the Latin sentence. Listen to the sound of it. "Requiescant in Pace".
My very charming and smart Chinese friend has pointed out, quite wittily, that the reason why Terri's parents insisted to fight for her daughter could be connected to an emotional desire to keep their offspring alive. Personally I doubt it. Roman Catholics are usually very oblivious to emotions, at least fundamentalist Roman Catholics. They don't really love anyone or anything, and I do not think they really love their offsprings as well. I recall a Roman Catholic family of my knowledge that locked their daughter in their house when they had to go out to be sure she wouldn't be back late (not going out at all provides an absolute certainty that she won't be back late). She was 17 when this happened. This is not love, it is a mixture of insanity and fanatism, and usually they go side by side anyway. I might be wrong of course, but I perceive Terri's parents as more concerned with the principles of their Church than with their daughter's life. Beware: principles of their Church, not fear for God. If it were just fear, it would mean they are emotional enough to act out of it, which I don't think is the case. No, I think they were trying to prevent their daughter from doing something their Church wouldn't approve. They probably hate and feel genuine disgust for liberals. They think they are obscene and they just can't tolerate them. Hence, they wanted their daughter to obey the rules of their Church, no matter what.

Whatever their motives, one thing alone matters now: Terri is dead. Of starvation, which is truly barbarian, but she is dead. She is in peace. At last, she has left this world and the grotesque struggle between her parents and her husband. As far as she is concerned, she has achieved the best state she could hope for ever since she was struck by that heart attack. Requiescat in Pace.

Another person is suffering.

Last night, I have discovered that I am probably prevented from truly hating someone.

There is probably no one in the world, apart Silvio Berlusconi and perhaps George Bush Jr., for whom I feel more dislike than John Paul II. Yes, the Pope. In years, every day the news of this country spend (too many) words about something that old imbecile said about this or that, and in years every day I see this happening I change channel, or turn the volume off. I do not want to hear his bullshit because every time he lets air through his vocal chords I get closer to ulcer. There is not even one thing in his (way too long) leadership of the evil Church of Rome that he said and I approved. He is the antithesis of everything I deem right. He is the ultimate idiot that promotes unsafe sex in third world country, who tries to prevent freedom, who denies women of their equality with men and ultimately represents the evil, scheming nature of the most hipocritical church of the world: the Roman Catholic. I thought there was no limit to how much I could hate that old bastard. I was keeping a bottle of champagne in the fridge to open it the day he would die.
Last night the news, as usual, spoke about the Pope. I turned the volume off so I am glad I don't know what they said, but I raised my eyes to see if it was over and I saw this old wreck staring at the window.
It was not the usual arrogant imbecile dressed in white I am used to see on TV. That was an old man that opened his mouth to speak in vain, because he obviously couldn't. Someone nearby took the microphone away from his mouth. Oblivious to this move, the wrecked elder kept moving his mouth in the attempt to say something. A thousand people below in Saint Peter0s square cried fake tears and disgusted me hardcore, but I looked at the old wreck and felt something.
I frowned at him. He is still that old bastard that caused so much damage to my country and its politics, that pushed Italy backwards to the Middle Ages and made me mad every time he spoke. My sister nearby was uttering her disgust for him, protesting that she feels nothing for him, that he deserves that much and so on.
I just frowned. I didn't say a word, because there was nothing to say in fact. I felt something that I didn't expect. I was, in a certain sense, moved by this evil old man's pain. If I had been there next to him, I would probably have taken him away from the sight of those imbeciles in the square that were unable to understand the pain of this old wreck. They are there to celebrate the "personality", if they really cared about the man they wouldn't want to see him in this conditions, they would beg the evil priests around him to let him rest. If I could have said something to him, it would be "Come on, get some rest". I would not say that in any sympathetic tone, I would still frown, but I would be unable to withstand his pain.
I stared at his figure on TV, this trembling jaw trying to bless the crowd, and frowned without saying a word. Inside my heart I felt I couldn't really hate him in that moment. I just felt sorry for him. I wished I could help him. He is a man that I thought I hated hardcore, a man whose death I would celebrate drinking. Instead, I understand that I hate the evil he promotes, but not him. I don't think I can hate anyone. I am just too moved by the misery of the old man. It was much easier to despise him and his stupidity when he was healthy and able to hurt and damage the world, something he relentlessly did every moment he could. But now... now he's just an old, suffering person, and I am unable to carry on the grudge with him. I just frown at him, but in secret, within my heart, I now pity him, and wish EVEN HIM some mercy. Now I am hoping for him to die not because I want him to stop causing trouble, but because I want him to stop suffering. There is nothing pleasurable in seeing the old wreck in these conditions. There is no point in hating him anymore. Now I hate those that force him to the window, when he obviously should just rest and patiently wait for his heart to let the grip on life go.
John Paul. I have despised your words, your church and yourself every second of your evil life. I still despise your arrogant church and loathe your god. And now I feel pity for you. I wish you a serene death. And soon, because I can't stand how your merciless priests keep using your wrecked body to stir the crowd's fake tears. Requiesce in Pace, Iohannes Paule II. My grudge with you and your evil is over.

Now I know. I will never hate anyone.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Post Number Twenty-Two: Terri

Of Terri Schiavo

It is not my habit to post about news. What we call news more often than not are completely irrelevant or of scarce importance. We can get very passionate at one case or another, but in a short time everything is over and few recall what happened one month ago. Only rarely, and I believe even more so in our day, news are truly historical. I suspect that even the 9/11 case is not really historical, no more than the Sarajevo murder at least. A casus belli is always less important than the real motives that hide behind a war, and the war against Iraq was conceived and planned by Republicans long, long before 2001.

Anyway there is a lot of fuzz around this case of Terri Schiavo. So much so that even if I consider it quite insignificant, I will spend a few words on it.

Terri Schiavo, for all those that in a month for now will have problems recalling this name, is an American woman who lives in Florida. In 1990, still in her late youth, she was struck by an heart attack, presumably caused by eating disorders. Due to various reasons, she did not fully recover from this strike. She now lives in what is called a vegetative state with no apparent chance to improve. She is kept alive by a feeding tube, but is unable to react to the surroundings due to massive brain damage.
Her husband, Michael Schiavo, insists that his wife wouldn't want to live in such conditions and therefore asked for the feeding tube to be removed.
Her parents believe that she could improve with the right treatment, and since they are both Catholic Roman believers they completely reject the idea of assisted suicide (not Euthanasia, this is really not a case of Euthanasia). They have appealed to many courts to obtain a verdict in their favor, but ever since the feeding tube was removed, 12 days ago, all verdicts have been the same: the feeding tube must not be reinserted.
Even the President of the USA and the Congress have been involved in this matter. George Bush Jr. signed a law that would "save Terri's life" in its intent, but failed anyway to do so. The Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, brother of the President, has tried to help Terri's parents but won't go beyond his powers.

So far these are the facts.

Now my opinions about them
1) It is absolutely a scandal that the President of the USA gets involved in familiar matters, but that's a scandal in line with the scandalous line of conduct of the decaying American democracy of the early 21st century so I am not very surprised
2) Personally I don't think it's all about love and life.

I think that probably Michael Schiavo loves his woman and because of his devotion to her, he feels compelled to help her put an end to her own life. It requires a great love and generosity to let someone you care so much about part from this world. After seeing Terri's picture on TV, and before knowing the details of the case, I instinctively felt a motion of compassion for this woman and wished they let her die in peace. Of course, my idea of compassion clashes with that of Roman Catholics. Roman Catholics care very little about pain as they do about life. They think that there is something "holy" with life because life is a "gift" from their god. Therefore only their god can decide when to take his gift back. Hence, if one is suffering or living in a vegetative state, that life must still be preserved no matter what. This is their opinion which I reject completely. Life is not holy. Life is beautiful, charming, fascinating: I don't even kill ants or other insects for the immense respect I have for the machinery of life. But when a body is wrecked to a level that questions the very desire of a person to live on, I think that life should be ended. We kill horses with broken legs for much less. Are we more compassionate towards horses than humans?
Let's not mention the hipocrisy of Republcans: they protest for Terri Schiavo's life but never raise a finger against death penalty. Terri's life must be protected and that of a hispanic immigrant from Mexico who was probably framed for a crime he never committed shouldn't? I don't reason like that. I am thoroughly against death penalty, but that's another matter. My opinion has to do with the concepts of Justice and State of Right, things that in America are often confused with Revenge. It would take us too far.

There is no way I can agree with Roman Catholics because there is no common ground. I don't believe in their God, and the existence of their God is critical for their morality (some of them even grasp the concept of "Christian Ethics", but only a few and generally not in the USA). There might be some occasional convergences on some issues, but this is not one of them. I am completely on Michael's side. Terri has the right to end her misery.

What troubles me is that, although I am instinctively and rationally on Michael's side, I can't help feeling a certain admiration for Terri's parents.
Let me elaborate briefly.
Terri's parents are Republicans, and what is probably worse, Roman Catholic. I find Roman Catholic beliefs evil to the core, gory, sadistic, immoral, inhumane. I believe they have no sense of compassion, they fear pleasure and chastize those who seek happiness in this world. I see their religion as castrating, irritating and offensive, not counting how it is invasive of other cultures, arrogant and superstitious. Their arrogance is so obvious that they call themselves "Catholic", a word that means "Universal". Not only their religion is so obnoxious to me and so unresonant with my inner self, but it has a well radicated tendency to impose its morals to others, whether they abide to it or not. If they played squeamish among themselves I would care very little about them, but they keep trying imposing their fanatism to others, which includes me. And I do not tolerate it. Personally I find Terri's parents egotistical and irrational, willing to prolong the useless sufference of their daughter not because they really believe she can improve (and I believe she can't) but because of their religion. They just can't tolerate that their daughter will be forced not to abide to their church's regulations. The Pope stated that people in vegetative state must be kept alive, and therefore they must. It's a matter of principle. Terri's parents, I am sure, would keep their daughter alive even if she had been torn all limbs off and her eyes plucked out. It doesn't really matter how much pain she undergoes, it's all about upholding the principles. It's their daughter and she must be a good Catholic.
They are so fixated, so determined to uphold their principles, that are willing to challenge even the President, even the very foundations of the country they live into. They don't revere Freedom and Democracy, the real Holy Grounds that allow them to profess their religion in what would otherwise be a strictly Protestant country. They don't give a shit if America becomes a fundamentalist country like certain Middle East dictatorships as long as it abides to THEIR religion. They just want to uphold their damn principle.
AND DAMN they ARE upholding it!
They have incomodated the dumb President of the USA and not only its dumber brother. They have called upon the Congress and the Supreme Court, they have fought this battle relentlessly, in an epic struggle of unbelievable proportions. In this sense, I have a certain admiration for them. Their beliefs are fucked up, but they have the guts to stand for them. People like that have only one fault: they are on the wrong side.
If I were engaged in a battle of principles, I think I would probably be as stubborn as them. Probably I wouldn't let my emotions influence my actions. Perhaps I would even ignore certain facts once I knew what to do. In a way, sometimes I think I understand those fanatics and fundamentalists because in a certain sense, I am similar to them. I could be equally fanatic and fundamentalist in the struggle to uphold the principle of Freedom and Equality. Perhaps not equally fanatic, in fact, but I would like to. Principles are paramount.

One final note. I am favorable to removing the feeding tube, but damn, what's this starvation thing? Why are they making Terri suffer so much? It's so brutal and barbarian, that I wonder if starving Terri to death is really much better than letting her live her pointless life. You know what I would REALLY have done? I would have given her an overdose of morphine, and let her pass immediately and without any pain. I cannot tolerate pain, neither mine nor that of innocent others. I only hope that Terri dies fast, as fast as possible, because this pronlonged starvation is really what makes me suffer the most for her. I know her parents cannot suggest something like this because it's against their gruesome, pain thirsty, sadistic god's principles, but why doesn't her husband do something? Let this woman end her pain. Please.

Post Number Twenty-One: Facts? Not Quite The Point

Of Facts

It is not really important how things are in the moment they are happening. What counts the most is how they will be perceived by our descendants, and what effect they will have because of this perception over the course of history.

Elaboration left to when I have time for it.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Post Number Twenty: The Republican Mother

Of Abortion and Embryos

This post will be told in the form of a short story. Short stories are an instrument used by Jesus Christ among others to convey complex messages to the masses. Christ's stories were called parables. Mine is not a parable, it's just a short story.

There once was a Republican woman who was converted to Roman Catholicism. She had a 5 year old son and she had been instructed by her Church that she was supposed to love him and raise him as a Catholic. She and her husband, an Italian Catholic who belonged to a sect called "Communion and Liberation" once decided to have a second honeymoon. They went on a cruise in the Caribbean Sea.
The will of God is often unpredictable. The ship wrecked on shallow waters and it started sinking. Safeboats were crowded. Obedient to the teachings of the Catholic Church, the woman let her husband go first, because a woman must be ready to sacrifice and a husband is the owner of his wife, just like Jesus is the owner of the Church. There remained room for only one person on the boat.
The Republican woman saw her son crying. He was still on board. Of course she had to save the child! She hugged her son, lifted him, and was ready to let him go to safety when she realized with horror that something else was still on board. There was a tank containing embryos!
The Republican woman immediately recalled that the Pope and the leaders of the sect "Communion and Liberation" said that embryos are humans. There could be a thousand humans in the tank. The woman knew what to do. She put her son back on board and ran to save the tank of embryos.
The woman and her son died in the wreckage. The tank of embryos made it to safety ashore. It was still lucid and in perfect conditions when the Catholic husband hugged it and called it "God's children".

There isn't much need to add more, but I will anyway.
Catholics keep ranting about embryos being humans. Would they save embryos instead of a human being?
News for Catholics: Embryos are embryos, humans are humans, and embryos are not humans. And if I were on board of a sinking ship, sure as Catholic hell I would kick the damn embryos off board and save a child.
Perhaps Republicans and Catholics see it differently.

Moral of this story: Abortion is not murder. It is women's right. But it's hard to explain to people who don't deem women equal to men. As usual I don't really care what they believe, but sure as hell I am the staunchiest supporter of the right to Abortion (and the right to research on embryos: because healing the living is more important than preserving the never - ever - born).
Oh, and we are going to vote a law on artificial fecundation made by the sect of Communion and Liberation in this country. No point to explain the details of their law. If we were in the Middle Ages, probably the Inquisition would find it too conservative. It will be an immense pleasure to vote against it. I am looking forward to it.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Post Number Nineteen: Freedom

Of the importance of Freedom

Some people rever God. I rever Freedom.

It is important to explain this concept of Freedom. To my right, there hangs a poster made by me. It is entitled A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America in Congress Assembled, July 4, 1776.
In 1776 the USA were a brave new nation grounded firmly on the values of the Philosophers of Enlightment. Among their paramount theses, Liberty was the most cherished. Unluckily the USA took their path through history and now at least half of its population is made of arrogant bigots that impose their will to others; nothing is more anti-American than present day American administration. In fact, if Jefferson could see Bush, he could have one of the following two reactions:
1. Sit in a corner, take his head in his hands and weep in silence;
2. Jump at George Bush's throat and strangle him.
I would hope for the latter but the first is more likely.

It is not my intention here to dig further into the American case. It would take me way too far. It suffices to say that I am an admirer of the original intent that served as a ground for the USA.

I am extremely resonant with the concept of Freedom. There is no way to describe how Freedom feels. But it feels good.

Now, consider the following statement:
I am a strong supporter of the movement to legalize cannabis.

Generally, it is believed that supporters of this movement are marijuana smokers, therefore they are drugged bastards and their ideas don't deserve being taken into consideration.
Surprise: I am not a marijuana smoker. In fact, I am part of that exiguous minority of people that never smoked a joint. Or tasted it. Or even approached a joint. In fact, I don't even know how marijuana looks like. The fact that I never smoked marijuana has absolutely nothing to do with its being illegal. It has to do with something that was the second part of my disappeared post number sixteen, that I will not summarize here (I will do it someday, but not now). It is also certain, that legal or not, I will never smoke a joint. If I went to Amsterdam, I wouldn't smoke a joint either.
I don't think that marijuana is unhealthy. I in fact am convinced that the press is intentionally presenting misleading claims to the population to drive smokers toward the market of nicotine, which is immensely more dangerous and deadly than any amount of marijuana we can think of. Cigarettes are poisonous, venemous, cancerous, and devastatingly addictive. Tobacco is one of the greatest evils the society has ever conceived, and the most fiendish spin-off of Colombo's discovery of America in 1492. Tobacco market is controlled by a number of societies, most of them based in the USA, and those in charge of them make an enormous, huge, humongous amount of money by selling cigarettes to people. There're few things I hate more than cigarette smokers, and one of them is cigarette producers.
These people do not feel any moral commitment to protect public health, and in complete awareness of the dangers intentionally keep selling their poison to the millions in order to raise their society's behemothic profits. It is vastly in their interest to demote other forms of smoke and promote only theirs.
Nicotine is a drug. Cannabis is a drug. Nicotine is addictive, cannabis is not. (No dear, it's not. You are not going to sell me that b/s about cannabis being addictive. Go telling that to some Republican bigot. Here you waste your breath.)
Nicotine is legal. Cannabis is illegal.
I am a strong supporter of the legalization of cannabis, and a strong supporter of the prohibition to sell tobacco. There has to be a limit to how much damage a company can do to the public, and since the nations pays for the health care of its population, tobacco should not be sold. Cannabis is healthier so go for it.
If cannabis were legal, I wouldn't smoke it. I never smoked cigarettes either. I never tried a cigarette. I will never try a cigarette. So I would never try a joint either. I couldn't care less, nothing much would change in my life. But a lot of people would be happier and live a healthier life (and would probably less prone to go to war, if it is true that marijuana induces states of communion with the world and a lust for peace).
But it would be only partially true to state that I care about other people's happiness so much as to be a militant for the legalization of something I won't use anyway, just for them to be happy. This is not really the case, to be honest.
In earnest, the legalization of cannabis would mean that I am free to smoke it, and that I am free to choose not to smoke it. Here. I absolutely need this formal freedom. I don't want to do things. I want to know that I am free to do them. That I could do them if I wanted. And then I'll be very happy to not do them. To me, formal freedom is paramount. I absolutely don't care what others do with their freedom. I base my social ethics on the already stated principles of liberalism. As long as what they do doesn't interfere with anyone else, they can do whatever they want. And if it intereferes with a consenting someone, I don't care either. They have their life, life is to be lived only once, so do as they see fit. They want to have sex with a dozen girls and guys at the same time? They want to smoke joints? They want to worship God, Zeus, or the Pink Invisible Unicorn of Lalaland? Their business, not mine. I don't care if they think that what they are eating is not bread but flesh and what they are drinking is not wine but blood (it's a bit gory of a belief, but if they like it...). I don't care if women want to wear a cloth on their face or not, or if men want to cut off a piece of their own penis if that pleases them. It's their own life. As long as they do not force it on someone else, I couldn't give a damn whatever they do. Someone is tired of this stupid life thing and wants to die? Go for it. Someone else is suffering like hell but because he believes in some supernatural entity he wants to keep living? Go for it. When it happens to me, I will ask to let my body cease to live. If I were in a state of irremediable disease and suffering, or not fully capable, or in coma with no hope of retrieving consciousness, I'd want to die. Really. In fact, I would demand to die in such a situation, and no damn god of no damn church is allowed to tell me I can't.
I am a fierce supporter of euthanasia. In this case, I would also benefit from it, but I cannot stand the sufferance of people too, and I can stand even less the gory cruelty of those relatives that inflict the pain of living to suffering beings, to protect their own feelings. I personally heard an old catholic bitch whose daughter is kept alive by a machine and won't ever recover, that "it helps her so much to live side by side with pain" and that she "thanks god for giving her an opportunity to witness pain". They are always thinking to themselves. Does the catholic bitch think that her daughter would also thank god for inflicting pain on her so that her mother could live side by side with pain?
The god of the catholics is a bloodthirsty sadist with no sense of humanity. I am glad I am not a catholic. Sometimes I wonder, if God existed for real, then Catholics are unknowingly worshipping Satan, and the Pope is the vicarious of Behelzebub on Earth. The Bible was certainly inspired by Lucipher, while God was sent to hell for protesting his authority. Jesus Christ tried to speak of peace but Satan had him killed and, as a final note of pleasurable despise, the Devil obtained that Christians worshipped only one picture of Christ: That of him on the cross. Satan must feel terribly amused to see the man that challenged him displayed dead on the cross in every church of the world. This is the only possible explanation for the intrinsic evil of the Church. They control life, they control sex, they brainwash people: who else would do this if not an intrinsically evil and perverted demon of evil? So, if God existed, then he lost his fight to Satan and the Church is the means of the Devil to rule the world. Hail, Satan!
I of course do not believe that God exists. If I believed in God, I wouldn't anyway believe in Satan. Satan is ludicrous. The concept of god might have some philosophical value, but Satan... PLEASE!

Anyway, the church, and the catholic roman church in particular, is a fierce enemy of freedom. They try to prevent people from doing whatever they want. They enjoy taking control of others and force them to do what they wish. This usually implies giving a lot of money to the local priest. There is nothing I hate more than people that control other people. I despise those that feel in the right to chastise what others do to themselves. Go figure what I feel about these bloodthirsty Satan worshippers like Pope John Paul II (in particular, the most evil, contorted, vicious, perverted, eretic Satanist ever born on Earth - I despise John Paul II immensely more than Adolf Hitler, Josif Stalin, and perhaps Berlusconi - although of course Hitler and Stalin aren't nearly as bad as Berlusconi).

Enough about the Church. The point in all this is that I cherish Freedom. I love Freedom. I need Freedom. I love to be able to say anything I want. I am rejoincing for having the right to call John Paul a Satanist (because that's what he is) and spit poison against Hitler and Stalin, which I both despise. I gleefully state that Kennedy is better than Bush and liberals are better than Republicans, and that George Bush Jr. is the worst president of the USA in more than 200 years. I insist that Dan Quayle would be a better president than George Bush Jr. There.
I also love to be free to do things I won't do. Formal freedom is critical. I am not going to smoke a joint but I want to know it's free. I am not going to have sex with a prostitute, but I want prostitution legal. Like it is in Holland. In fact, I think all I want is to be Dutch. The people in the Netherlands don't know how lucky they are. Now, if only they didn't speak that strange language of theirs...

Disclaimer for Satan Worshippers:
Some people might feel offended for being called "Satan Worshippers". I would like to point out clearly that the real Satan Worshippers are the priests. The people do not know they are adoring the Devil. Anyway, since God and therefore the Devil do not exist at all, I do not really believe that Catholics are worshipping Satan. Whatever they worship, do as they like, but if some of their bigot relatives, including in particular a fundamentalist sect known as "Communion and Liberation" believe I will ever abide to any of their grotesque moral biddings, they are really, really, really delusional.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Post Number Eighteen: Back To The Future. Or not?

Of the coincidence of past and future

This post is not exactly about the "coincidence of past and future".
Most people say "We are building our future". I disagree. We are not building our future. We are building our descendant's past.
Why do I say so? For two reasons. One is merely rational. It is in fact illogical to think of building your own future when we are fully aware of the fact that we are doomed, we will die in a relatively brief span of time. Very few things can be "built" in a lifetime, at least very few things that really matter. But many can be started. Of course, some great men like Alexander the Great could forge an Empire in less than a lifetime, but there aren't many men like Alexander.
Building one's future is highly unlikely to succeed. Besides, we have no idea if we'll still be alive tomorrow, so what future are we talking about?
The second reason is philosophical.
We don't exist out of the blue. We, our civilization, our ethics, our beliefs, everything we know of, is a consequence of all the things that happened before, the combination of all the deeds performed by those that came before us. Knowingly or unknowingly, Alexander the Great, Julius Ceasar, Charlemagne, Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Voltaire, Jefferson, Napoleon and Churchill weren't as much building their future as they were posing the roots for our past. We have inherited the world each one of them created, step by step, and we share the same responsibility toward those that will follow us. We should not let our civilization degrade in a craving for instant satisfaction and immediate pleasure, for our descendants will build upon the grounds we set for them. We must promote civilization toward novel routes, so that our descendants will have a richer past to look at when they will continue our work.

The future doesn't really exist yet; the past instead is very real and constitutes the basis from which we moved our first steps in the world. I think the world would move on a better route if we all thought we are not building our future, as if we were the last generation to ever live, but rather building the past of our descendants, who will build the past of their descendants, and so on, in a continuous struggle to improve what was given us by our ancestors.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Post Number Seventeen: O Tempora! O Mores!

Of Morality and Ethics

It is said that Marcus Tullius Cicero, the most famous lawyer of Rome and one of the most prominent philosophers of Latin culture, uttered the sentence "O Tempora! O Mores!", commenting the degradation of Roman customs. The sentence can be freely translated as "What kind of age! What kind of customs!"


The word mores, plural of mos, means both "customs" and "morality". In fact, the word morality itself derives from the Latin mores. According to dictionary definitions, morality is a behavior that doesn't contrast with the society's standards. In more than a way, morality is defined by a specific society.
There is another word, of much higher philosophical stand, that is ethics. Like most of the philosophically meaningful words, this one derives from the Greek, more precisely from the word ethos, which means behavior. Ethics are defined as a system of moral values. As a branch of philosophy, it deals with the nature of morals and the choices made by a person.
If you are interested into the details and the intricacies of morality and ethics, Immanuel Kant (German philosopher of immense importance, whose arguments lie at the basis of modern civilization) has written various books on the topic. It's not nearly an easy reading and I won't dig into his views, but it is certainly useful to get in touch with his writings.

Anyway, it seems quite obvious that morality lies "one step below" ethics, in the sense that:
ethics focus on the principles that define what is moral and what is not, therefore nothing can be deemed moral or otherwise without resorting to ethics first.

An example of modern ethics is easily brought to mind. Liberals (like me) define their ethics through two very powerful principles:

1) Individuals are free to do whatever they want, as long as their actions do not interfere with any other individual
2) Individuals are free to do whatever they want to other consenting individuals

It's all there. Liberalism in its essence. These two principles define a precise set of moral actions. Once these two principles are clear, it becomes immediately obvious that:

1) the religious opinions of others, whether they are the majority or the minority of the population, cannot influence in any way an individual's choices
2) the political beliefs of others, regardless of how cherished they are by the majority of the population, cannot influence in any way an individual's life
3) regardless of how annoying the sight of an individual's life is, the society has no right to chastise him or her for his choices.

Points 1) to 3) define moral behaviors.
Anyway, in each situation, it is possible to define what is "morally acceptable" for a liberal, by resorting to the principles of our ethics (I say our, because I am a liberal).

I will dig further into this matter later. This happens to be a small summary of my famous disappeared post.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Post Number Sixteen: A Space Odissey

Of a disappeared post

It's very simple: last night I spent one hour plus typing one of my best conceived posts about ethics and morals, and what did this program do? Due to a failure in connecting with the site, which was probably overloaded in that moment, I was unable to upload it, and completely lost all I wrote. I presume that my words now are lost in a virtual space odissey. This indicates the importance of lasting things as opposed to not lasting things: last night's effort of mine is now completely useless because everything I produced is lost. It never saw the light, it never fulfilled the purpose it was conceived for. Sometimes, dealing with the Internet can be really frustrating. Presumably, I will type it all again when I am in the right mood.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Post Number Fifteen: In the forest singing sorrowless

Of Happiness

First of all, yes, the title of this post is the last line of a poem by Tolkien, dedicated to the love story between the human Beren and the elf maid Luthien. The poem can be found in the Lord of the Rings and it's one of my favorites. Anyway, as usual I am using Tolkien's words to introduce a totally different topic. Recently I have paid a visit to my Asian friend's Blog, and that made me wonder on the concept of Happiness.

Happiness is central to Buddhism, in a certain sense, and it is central to our culture too. The American Declaration of Independence states that men have the right to the "pursuit of happiness". Nonetheless, it is never clear what happiness is supposed to mean. I am sure that in order to have the right to the pursuit of something, we should have an idea of what this something is.
I believe that each person in the world has a different perception of what should be defined as happiness, and this is the reason why no one ever managed to define it clearly. On the other hand, I suspect that some ideas of happiness are intrinsically taking us off-road, in the sense that in pursuing such forms of happiness we end up less than contented.
Personally, I deem the very concept of happiness misleading in principle, and the idea of a "pursuit of happiness" is even more misleading. There is nothing to pursue, I am quite sure. Some of my most cherished friends refer to their "doing" certain things in order to "be happy", or better, to "become happy". This implies that these people are not happy in this moment and perceive that somehow, following a certain course of actions they'll be led to a state of higher delight. Although I have been already accused to speak like a monk, which is quite funny considering I am probably the most atheist person in the world, I have pondered over the concept of happiness and have perceived an intimate truth (in the religious sense of the word), that happiness is that psychological state you reach when you stop pursuing it. Happiness, of course, is not the "contrary" of sadness. This perception of contrasting opposites is typical of Christian and Middle Eastern cultures, but it is not the only way to describe reality. Anyway, this would lead us very far from the core of my thoughts about this topic.
Some time ago, I took that Jung personality test the link to which you'll find among my favorite links, to the right. I think the result is very accurate and one of the things it says is particularly suitable to describe my attitude towards sensations. "Savor" rather than "categorize". There. I most definitely savor sensations, I really do not care about categorizing them. Some people get mad at trying to figure if they are in love or not, if they are happy or not, if they are having fun or not. They have certain ideas in mind of what being in love, being happy, having fun should feel like, and then categorize their sensations according to these standards. I don't. I don't even care about giving sensations a name. I can sit in front of the magnificent view from Stockholm's City Hall, staring at the trees in complete silence for hours. I savor the beauty. I am also the type that after spending one hour this way would raise an eyebrow and say "how pleasant".
Feelings are not really supposed to be categorized. Categories are a function of the rational mind, and feelings are by definition irrational. Careful here: feelings can be elicited by perfectly rational perceptions and considerations, but their ultimate nature cannot be described rationally. Any attempt to define happiness through a rational categorization is likely to yield no result.
The ultimate truth hidden in the Buddhist religion, the nirvana, cannot be reached through reason, that's exactly what those monks also say, and why they meditate that long. I do not really claim to be able to clear my mind like a Buddhist monk, but I believe that the first step consists in being able to savor sensations without attempting to categorize them. A good example, in my case, is eating a piece of chocolate. Have that ultimately exquisite delicacy melt in your mouth and stimulate your sensitive tongue, producing a storm of neural transmissions to the brain that signify pleasure - complete, total, mindless pleasure... (of course, I love chocolate).

The following concept is extremely hard for me to express through words, so I'll ask my reader to bear with me and excuse my failure in the attempt to communicate what is mostly beyond the reaches of spoken languages.

I think that what the Buddhist religion is trying to tell us about happiness is that, well, we must "discover" we are happy already.
Am I happy?

Well I don't like that word. Happiness usually comes with a Western idealization attached to it. We go about thinking that those smiling imbeciles in the commercials are happy, and that they have gotten that far because they bought that product. This is basically crap. Another Western society crap is that in order to be happy you must be in love (there will come a time to demote this stupid western concept called "love", just not yet). In fact, since it is almost impossible to separate my concept of happiness from that everyone else has in mind, I prefer to use the word serene. It is easier to tell people what being serene is and then explain that this is what the monks meant with the word happiness.
So am I serene?

Most definitely, I think I am. How come? Italy is led by a powercrazy dwarf, American democracy is overruled by a Texan warmonger that brings havoc everywhere in the planet. People suffer pretty much anywhere in the world, children die, my father died of cancer in 1997, I haven't managed to complete University studies after 10 years of attempts (thanks to the miserable academic system of this medieval country), we thrive on much less money than what we'd need to sustain our lifestyle, the boss I depend from in the office is an ultimate jerk whose name aptly translates into English as "Little Bitch"; I do not have a girlfriend (though I had some, don't worry) and I don't plan to have any in the foreseeable future, I do not go out on Saturday night, I do not smoke (I never smoked nor I ever will), I very rarely drink alcohol and with extreme moderation (especially because I get drunk after less than a glass of beer), I am not even particularly attractive and I am surrounded by a people of idiots that I dislike hardcore. Some people might infer that they are luckier than me. Nonetheless, I consider myself serene. The majority of reasons to be disappointed are either irrelevant (like Little Bitch) or relevant, but rational in nature (the dictatorship in Italy, the Texan warmonger in the USA). But in no way they can affect, for example, the ultimate pleasure I feel when I close my eyes for a moment and think of the gorgeous people I love and consider my friends, or the immense delight provided by the sight of trees, of flowers, of the Alps, or by listening to music, or by simply realizing that I am part of this world. This is of course, impossibly explained through words. One has to feel it, or not, there's no other way. But I think that, in the very end, we all are ultimately happy. All we need to realize is that those things that make us unhappy do not really matter. Somehow, the garden of Eden, the nirvana, are within us already. It just takes a damn lot of time and effort to realize that we never really had to go far to find them.

And then, we will find ourselves in the forest singing sorrowless.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Post Number Fourteen: The Great Gate Of Kiev

Of the Legacy of Architectural Marvels

The Russian people is hard for me to understand. They are so much like Italians, that very often I feel completely puzzled by them. Luckily they created an immense legacy of artworks, and among those there are magnificent novels and music. Music is always my gateway to other cultures (although Indian music remains alien to me). There are some great compositions by Russian composers, and among them one of the most famous I can't fail to mention the Pictures from an Exhibition by Modest Moussorgkij. This is a piano composition, although the French Maurice Ravel arranged it for orchestra in a magnificent way (Ravel was a genius at orchestral arrangements). I was asked by a charming and sexy Russian girl who read one of my previous posts here, to provide links to music I mention here. This is not always easily done, because Classical Music requires to be listened at least as an MP3 and those don't come for free. In this case, though, I managed to find an impressively good live recording of the Pictures from an Exhibition in MIDI format, whose quality also strictly depends on the quality of your soundcard. I have a very good soundcard. If you comply to the same requirements (that is, if your MIDIs sound cool on your PC), you can follow this link to the music I am mentioning here. It's about 36 minutes of piano music.
Scroll down until you find "Mussorgskij", and listen to KATSUHIRO OGURI's version (NOT Robert Finley's, which is quite bad).
Anyway, Moussorgkij witnessed an art exhibition in Moscow and was deeply struck by what he view. He rushed home and in a sort of inspirational frenzy wrote down in a hurry a peculiar piano piece through which he intended to describe what he had just seen. Without digging too much in the details, I will mention that "Promenade" is Moussorgkij's musical description of his own wandering among the artworks. "Gnomus" describes a little statue of a deformed being, the composers imagines him to be an angry gnome that falls every few steps and curses the audience. "The Old Castle" portrays the picture of, well, an old castle, which obviously looked very melancholic to Moussorgskij. "Tuileries" was inspired by a painting of Paris' public gardens, "Bydlo" (one of my favorites) is the description of an old, drunk peasant from Poland, passing by on his cart singing some popular song, "Ballet" is actually a dance of nestlings still half in their shells, "Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle" was inspired by the paintings of a rich man and a poor man, "Limoges Le Marché" is a description of the market of Limoges (it's easy to see it populated by chatting women), "Sepulcrum Romanum" was inspired by a painting of Paris' catacombs, "Baba Yaga" describes the hut of a witch of Russian folklore, and the last "The Great Gate of Kiev" was inspired by a grand model of a new gate for the city of Kiev. Incidentally it was never built.

I hope I have satisfied those of my readers that wanted to listen to the music I mention. Anyway, the topic of my post is not Moussorgskij's great composition, but rather architecture.

If you are listening to the Great Gate of Kiev, pay a moment of attention to it. Can you imagine how it could be like, considering the music? In my personal vision, inspired by this music, I see it like a huge, immense gate, pretty much in Orthodox style, completely covered by a shiny green mosaic. This music sounds very green and gold doesn't it? Though I am not sure other people see the color of music. It's something I have always perceived but I don't expect it to be a common thing.
A piece of architecture (a model to be precise) inspired such a grand composition. How come?
I have recently seen a documentary on TV about the wonders of Sicilian architecture from the Norman age. For those who might wonder, Sicily was first conquerred by the Greeks, then by the Romans, then by the Arabs, the Norsemen and the Spaniards. Each of these peoples left an indelible mark in the architecture of the island. The best examples are to be found in the Arabian and Norman era. All these buildings are wonderful. There is a cloister with a fountain of incredible beauty: its central part is a column of marble carved like the trunk of a palmtree, and the leaves are formed by the jets of water coming from its top. A must see.
I was staring at those fantastic works of art, the achievements of genius of great proportions, and all of a sudden my mum said "Italy is beautiful everywhere you go".
Technically speaking, this is true. Italy holds 47% of the entire planet's art. But this sentence triggered a train of thoughts in my brain.
Italy is beautiful. Why is it beautiful? Because there are these beautiful monuments of course, and so many of them. Architecture is beautiful. Why are there so many beautiful monuments? Because there were artists conceiving them - but they worked for someone of course, nobody works for free. In fact, the gorgeous monuments were demanded by kings, emperors, or wealthy people who intended to celebrate something. A wonderful, and I MEAN wonderful cathedral in Monreale near Palermo was built by order of a Norman King to celebrate his culture over the beaten Arabians'. The Coliseum in Rome was built by will of Emperor Nero. The Pyramids were built by order of the Pharaoh. Temples in Greece, cathedrals in central Europe, magnificent palaces in China, the Taj Mahal in India, the very city of Saint Petersburg, the sweetly sexy statue of the Baltic Princess in Helsinki... The examples are really many. In all cultures, for some reason or another, importance was given to things through the creation of awesome works of art and architecture that were meant to last, as a legacy of the people and the culture who created them. Italy is beautiful, ultimately, because a lot of people in this country (not necessarily Italians, actually, more often than not, foreigners) wanted to build something meant to last, and to be beautiful. More than spoken words and might of armies, the laypeople recognized their culture, their belonging to something greater than their mere lives, by watching around. Can you imagine how it must feel to be a citizen of Rome, during the golden age of the Empire, and see the mighty Coliseum stand in front of you, something so grand that nobody in the known world had ever seen a similar construction? Or to witness the Acropolis of Athens and realize it was built a thousand years ago and it will still be there in a thousand years? Have you ever felt that sense of immensity, of eternity, that speaks through the marvels of Chinese architecture?
Then I realized something devastatingly appalling... our culture, the culture of entertainment and lightness, is doing pretty much nothing in this sense. We have given up architectural beauty in exchange for functionalism. Our buildings are not meant to celebrate anything at least in the majority of cases, and in almost all cases are not meant to last. We live in a world where beauty has become the legacy of our ancestors. When Nero built the Coliseum, he didn't mean it to last for a decade or until he was Emperor, or until someone else built something over it. It was meant to last. It was meant to be a legacy. And for this reason it was beautiful, and the layman down in the street was still impressed by its grandeur centuries after the Roman Empire had fallen. We all, people of the world, owe a lot to our ancestors. They have given us countless marvels to contemplate. And what are we doing for our descendants? Pretty much nothing. We have betrayed the vision of those that came before us, who left us things meant to last, and nowadays concentrate on cheap, strictly functional buildings that are not meant to last. I think that one of the reasons people have stopped dreaming and they have lost the sense of "importance" that was more common in previous centuries, is that the layman has nothing to contemplate anymore, unless it is something from the past. Where are our Coliseums, our Taj Mahals, our Pyramids, our Hanging Gardens, our Machu Picchus, our Great Walls, our Neuschwansteins? I feel the need for our culture to return to substance, to return to create beauty even if it is expensive, and not functional at all.
Men cannot just be practical and functional, there's more with us than just working and get mad at paying taxes right? I think we need to recover that feeling of marvel that inspired Moussorgskij's "Great Gate of Kiev".

Next time you walk down the street and contemplate the horrors of our modern functional buildings, try to ask yourself: if Moussorgskij lived in our time, would he really compose a "Great Gate of Kiev"?

Post Number Thirteen - Superstition

Of Superstition

No, this post is not about Superstition as it could be inferred by some of those who know me. It is about how even I at times can be superstitious. I am absolutely convinced that the number of this post is connected to jynx and bad luck, and it is downright for this irrational reason that I intend to skip this post and type my thoughts in the next one.
Meet you in next post.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Post Number Twelve: No More Outraged

Of Speaking Too Early

It is a good habit not to speak too early. Somehow this software had memories of my post number Ten and uploaded it together with post number Eleven. So I am not outraged anymore and quite pleased instead. So be it.

Post Number Eleven: Outrage

Of outrage

I have spent at least one hour and a half typing my last post, and this stupid software dared fail to upload it ... My thoughts of post number Ten about dreams completely lost? I am OUTRAGED!!

It will take some time for me to recover from this blow. I will have to retype that again. It is absolutely annoying. I hate when such things happen!!

Post Number Ten: The Power Is In A Dream

Of the Power of Dreams

I would like to be very precise since the beginning. I am not referring to dreams such as those that come at night while you are asleep, and that the ancient Greeks thought were suggested by the god of sleep Morpheus. Although I have a certain appreciation for the Greek myth and an instinctive sympathy with Morpheus, whose catering of human sleep was abruptly interrupted by the invasion of a much bloodier Jewish god, the fact remains that I am not going to talk about night dreams.

What I am going to think of is dreams intended as "visions". We all have "visions", at least most of us do. Some people envision a better life, some a better house. It is part of the human nature to be able to imagine the outcome of actions; it is an evolutionary accident that turned out very useful when our ape-ish ancestors started planning their actions in advance. We all know for example that if we scare a rabbit, the animal will flee. That, together with some planning, can lead us to devise a strategy that will trap the rabbit and provide a dinner for the tribe.
There is a side effect of this innate ability of human: it doesn't have to be applied to hunting alone.
Some of us look at the world and imagine how it could be if it were different, in the same way our ancestors looked at the rabbit and tried to figure how it could be trapped. Anyway, most people have the problem to be able to feed themselves and survive to the next day.
It is probably the right moment to tackle this matter.
To some pragmatists that grew in very practical civilizations, it happens occurs that after all, what matters the most is to feed your body, shelter it, and survive. This is basically what all animals do after all, and humans are animals. Anything beyond these basic necessities is superfluous. As if, somehow, being practical and pragmatist, mainly focused on feeding yourself and your family and gather a reasonable amount of wealth to survive and breed, were the ultimate goal of life. As if, in some sense, there weren't much else in life.
I find this reasoning not only annoying, and I really mean it, but extremely ephemeral, vain, empty, void. How can a wonderful thinking machine like the human brain be reduced to an appendage of a body whose main goal is to gather food? Of course, I can understand that if the body is not well fed, the brain has little to think of, but once the body is healthy, is that all? Isn't there anything else that matters? So are we like African zebras that year after year, season after season, migrate from one region to another region, back and forth, chasing the edible grasslands and providing food for the lions, only to ultimately die after giving birth to a new generation of zebras that will behave like the previous one? Aren't we capable of reasoning too? With all the potentials that Nature gave us through evolution, aren't we going to do anything else but finding a job, gain money, use it to buy food, and wait for the end to come and close the curtain over a scenery of ultimate inane existence?
To me, this feels like a complete waste. It's like buying a sport car to slowly drive downtown on a 100 yard route back and forth, until the engine is so old that it doesn't start anymore. It's like having a grand piano and use it to play Frère Jacques. I cannot tolerate wastes, and dedicating one's life to gather the tools one requires to feed himself is a waste.
Feeding yourself is just the beginning. It's what you need to get done in order to start living. What kind of pointless futile thing would life be if all we need were to feed ours bodies with enough proteins to survive to the next day? What for? We die nonetheless. It's just a matter of when. Memento mori, said the ancient Romans, "Remember you have to die".
So, for these practical pragmatists, what matters the most is to postpone the ultimate end as much as possible. To keep living as long as one can live, until the end, inevitably, comes... et propter vitam vivendi perdere causas. And, to remain alive, lose the reason to live.
This is not acceptable to me. I cannot accept it. I especially cannot tolerate those that in this moment are thinking "you speak like that because you are well fed". Of course I am well fed, and of course I speak like this because I am well fed, if I weren't well fed I would be interested in feeding myself and then what? What would it be of my life once I am well fed? Once the poor African kid finally gets the food he needs and the water he requires to survive, once he's healthy and in good shape, well then what? What is he going to do with his life once he gets what he needs to live? Just live on? Keep feeding? And then die? So, what is the difference with dying right away? If all we have to do is to keep feeding ourselves until we die, then we can die immediately and put an end to this stupid experiment of nature called humanity. If we are nothing else but resource devourers we are unnecessary. There's no point at getting all that loving and caring with the African kid and give him food to survive to the next day. If all we care about is to postpone his death a couple decades, to let him live a totally pointless, aimless life of catering to his own most basical instincts, then we could as well kill him right away and it would make little difference.
LUCKILY there is much more with being human then just feeding. Humans think. Humans dream. Humans create. Humans shape the world. We are able to provide our life with a meaning. It doesn't really have one, we are the ones that attach a meaning to it.
It comes as an absolutely necessary consequence, that humans are not just animals to be taught how to feed themselves, but wonderfully complex thinking machines that require to be fed at a very basic and generally irrelevant level to start being real humans.
It is really appalling that a majority of people living in the modern ephemeral epoch do not understand this very basic truth. The ultimate essence of life is its meaning. Most people don't get it and don't really attach any meaning to their existence. They just live on. They stay contented of surviving, finding their niche in the giant mechanism created by others in other places and in other eras, and keep surviving until the end comes. Some actually find this vanity of life quite disturbing, and without being fully aware of it they resort to religions to fill their existence with some sense. So, many for example think that after living their pointless life of survival, they will be admitted in a very nice place called Heaven were they will be happy. Happy? I keep wondering, once they are happy, then WHAT? The point with being happy is that you aren't. When you are sick you of course want to recover, and when you recover? what happens then? You feel good. And then? What do you want to do, feel better? and then even better? And once you really feel "best"? What's the point with Heaven? What's the point with living a (short) life of vanity in the hope that things will be better after we die? I find the obstinacy of such blindfold believing very annoying, especially when enriched by the public display of superficial, vain behaviors, whose only point is that of pleasing some entity who has the power to let us in the nice place after we die. Usually such behaviors are very much in line with whatever the leader of the community wants you to do in order to control you better and strip you of your ability to think by yourself.

Fewer and fewer of us nowadays dare to dream. Nonetheless, history teaches us something of immense importance. Some people's dreams have shaped the destiny of entire humanity. Some people gave a meaning to their life: pursuit an ideal, a dream, a vision of something. Not a life after death in some delusionary Eden, but the creation of a better world down here. Normally, such dreams fail to be realized, but this is hardly the point. It's the pursuit of a dream that led the greatest among us to reach the highest achievements of our species.
I will provide the following, inspiring examples.
Alexander the Great, a Macedonian King who died at the age of 33, envisioned a united world, where all cultures were equal, intertwined to create a new, richer entity. Led by his dream, one that no one in his time really understood, he became one of the greatest legends of human history. Alexander's fifty thousand oplites met on the field of battle Persians counted in the millions and won. He pursued his dream of finding the borders of the world and unite it all. A Macedonian young guy in his late twenties, without the aid of cars and engines, without maps or medicines, without satellites, without bombs, without genetically engineered food... a man and his fifty thousand faithful oplites crossed the known world and reached the unknown. Alexander marched all the way to India, creating the greatest empire the world had seen to that point. His deeds echo in eternity, and although he died young, although his dream wasn't realized, he shaped the destiny of the world.
Rome. Rome is a great, immense dream. The ancient Romans chased a dream, a dream that was the Greatness of Rome. Despite the bad advertising that some Anglosaxon and French contemporary scholars provide them with, the Romans were the ultimate force of civilization in a rude, primitive Europe. Rome never conquered other cultures but eniriched itself with them. In the Roman Empire, a citizen of Rome was equal to others regardless of his nationality. There were Roman Emperors from Spain (e.g. Traianus), from Africa (Adrianus)... How many African immigrants have a chance to be leader of a Western nations nowadays? Rome was the cradle of Europe, and its ideals lived through the dark ages of the Christian Church to speak through the millennia. But how did Rome came to become such an immense cradle of history and culture, how could Rome be the essence itself of civilization?
Through the dreams of its prominent citizens. Julius Ceasar, Marcus Aurelius, Scipio Africanus, Augustus, Traianus, and the philosophers and poets Seneca, Cicero, Vergilius, Ovidius... These people dared to chase their dream, a dream that was Rome.
Charles the Great, in the ninth century, had a dream too. He wanted to return Europe to its Golden age. After the fall of the Roman Empire, our continent had turned into a barbarian land, prey of the obscure schemings of the church and its delirious moment of glory. Pursuing a dream that he never managed to realize, Charles the Great forged a kingdom known as Holy Roman Empire (and I would like to stress how the immensity of Rome still echoed centuries after the fall of the empire, if Charles wanted to give the name Roman to his Empire). That kingdom is what later had to become France.
Voltaire, Rousseau and Diderot dreamt of a world where the Pope and the King ceased to hallucinate the population with their lies and wrote down their ideals. These ideals led Jefferson and others to state that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal...". These are immense words. They are so immense that they led not one but two peoples to revolution and they shaped our world and our mind completely.

Alexander the Great, Julius Ceasar, Charles the Great, Voltaire, Jefferson - and nowadays John Kennedy, Martin Luther King and many others... all these people had dreams and dared to follow them. Their life had a much greater meaning than just feeding themselves. Their deeds echo through eternity. Most of them died young, or killed. Alexander was 33 when he was struck by disease. Julius Ceasar was killed by a group led by Cassius who had a different vision of Rome. John Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated. But they gave their life, however brief, a meaning. Their lives are to be taken as examples to us, who basically survive. Look at what other human beings, not different from us, could do thanks to our ability to think and dream! The power of dreaming is immense, the courage of dreaming is too rare. But as long as dreamers will walk the grass of Earth, their steps will echo through eternity.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Post Number Nine: Snow

Today, the only thing I intend to think of is the snow outside. It snowed for good at last in Milan. Winter is the most fascinating season of the year, and it is so because it snows in winter. So it's really appalling that in Milan it doesn't copiously snow every winter as it should do. Luckily at last this MARCH it decided to give me a lot of white, soft, lovely snow. Therefore I am going out with my sister playing snowballs and I have no time to type posts in my Blog.
Let's go!

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Post Number Eight: Danse Macabre

Of Graveyards

I am not too fond of French composers in general. Take Offenbach: nice to the ear (to some extent) but totally pointless (my personal opinion is that it's quite cretin, to be precise). Maybe because his music was supposed to be played while girls dressed in sexy clothes lifted their skirts and showed their legs and other feminine parts of their body to the (male) audience - a form of entertainment that is very Parisienne and very close to many contemporary forms of amusement that totally fail to amuse me. Anyway (luckily) not all French composers are like Offenbach. I have a sincere esteem for Camille Saint-Saëns. Among his creations there is one called Danse Macabre, or Dance of the Dead. It intends to be descriptive of a specific scene in a very literal way. It begins with twelve bell rings, marking midnight. A pizzicato depicts the steps of the Grim Reaper entering an old graveyard. Then the Grim Reaper takes a violin, starts playing a gruesome dance, and slowly the dead begin to rise from their graves. They join the Grim Reaper and dance to his violin, ghosts and rotten corpses, and skeletons alike. It is quite amusing how the composer tried to describe skeletons through hard wooden sounds and ghosts through distant bells and cimbals. It is intended as a sort of black humour composition, reminding very much of the style of the Addams Family, if you know what I mean. The composition ends with a cock-a-doodle-doo marking the sunrise. The dead return to their graves and the Grim Reaper leaves the Graveyard. Perhaps to return?

I have always had a certain fascination with graveyards, but Italian Catholic Cemeteries are not very much the type I favor. In catholic graveyards, a high wall normally prevents you from entering the place (or even viewing it from the outside), and usually you are only allowed in when the local priest intends you to visit your dead. That's mostly during certain hours of certain days of certain weeks depending on the priest's rules. Inside, there is little room for grass of trees. Everything is crystal clean, tombstones are arranged in perfect order side by side, with their shiny marbles taken care of for precisely 20 years by the local priest. After 20 years (normally, but sometimes more) the body of your beloved deceased is taken off the grave to leave room to new bodies and incinerated. The cinders are then collected by the priest and secluded in a designated locale together with the cinders of other long-gone humans, for you to pay a visit (according to the priest's time schedule). Not really my idea of graveyard.
A graveyard should be open and relatively removed from the cityscape. Possibly, it should be visited at night, in a cold, humid night of late November, when the only, twisted-trunk trees have lost their leaves to the aging Autumn. The old tombstones should look as ancient as the date they annouce implies, and simple granite should replace expensive marbles. Possibly, they should be erected and not placed horizontally as they do in Catholic cemeteries. And of course, the dead bodies should be left in the place they were buried.

Places like this, of course exist, and I have been lucky enough to visit one in the right moment of the night and of the year.
Thanks to a gorgeous girl I know of (gorgeous in many senses) I had the opportunity to visit a city called Glasgow, which happens to be on a European island of ancient history and tradition called Great Britain, and more precisely in the Northern part of this island, which is normally known with the historically evocative and charming name of Scotland. The people of Scotland have a great advantage over the people of Italy: they are not Catholic. Therefore their graveyards are not Catholic either. The Scots (a warm and lively people themselves) seem to have an innate good taste for creepy, disquieting locales, which is especially true for their graveyards; thanks to my friend, I was led to a hill in Glasgow, on the top of which there laid one of the most charming graveyards I have ever seen. It could be that my memory is adding some flavor to this, but I recall it being a cold, humid night, and the tombstones were particularly huge, standing at least 6 feet tall, which made them look even more charming due to the foggy atmosphere. I think I will recall that graveyard trip as one of the most impressive sight-seeing tours of my life (which include the previous night's visit to another, lovely graveyard in Edinburgh, although in that case it happened that we were locked inside the locale, and had some trouble figuring a way out - although fascinating, I wasn't too inclined to spend the entire night in the company of a charming girl and a hundred dead bodies - at least, I could do without the dead bodies).
Graveyards are terribly charming, I believe. I keep thinking of that graveyard in Scotland when I listen to the Danse Macabre, and I wonder if the Grim Reaper ever passed by that place, at midnight, and had the skeletons dance at the sound of its violin...

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Post Number Seven: Fixations

Of hobbies and fixations

Most people have hobbies. They cultivate such hobbies in their spare time and relax from the stressful course of their lives.
I don't have hobbies, I have fixations. I cultivate my fixations continuosly and keep mumbling over them without restraint or shame. Here is a list of my most preminent fixations:

1. The Lord Of The Rings (and other Middle Earth things)
2. Movies (including the above mentioned)
3. Classical Music
4. Astronomy, Science and Carl Sagan
5. Books
6. Fantasy & Science Fiction
7. Beautiful Women

These are my principal seven fixations. I like to refer to them as my "Seven Sins", although I don't perceive them as Sins if not in the sense that everything the Christian church considers a Sin is terribly pleasant and attractive. I have other fixations of course, and many interests that are not fixations, but these seven are the most important.
One quick note on fixation nr seven that (I bet) you have noticed first. No, I am not fixated with sex. I personally think that sex is annoying. I am fixated with women, and their beauty, and how I perceive it, and what I consider beautiful. Most girls I like are not considered beautiful by others and I don't give a damn about it. My fixation with women is also connected with (and probably descended from) my profound dislike for men. I find men dull and repetitive, devastatingly ugly to sight and annoyingly boring. I perceive women as witty, smart, astute, independent, charming and beautiful. There shouldn't be any men in the world, we suck. It should be a women world. Or else, a world ruled by women where men are allowed to thrive as long as thy don't bother them too much. Anyway, enough about women.

If I have seven fixations, how come that in my posts only a couple have been mentioned?

Explanation: because I haven't had enough time to explore even the first fixations of mine. Give me time and you'll see that each fixation will have its deserved room. And now, I intend to go back to one of my fixations.

Later, pals.