December 14, 2018

Tempus Fugit

Sed fugit interea, fugit inreparabile tempus.

(Fast flies meanwhile the irreparable hour)

~ Vergil, Georgicon,  Book 3

We should cherish the moments we have with the ones we love. Our time upon this earth is not infinite, neither is it actually that long, and we know we are almost always blind to how fast time goes by. In this regard, it is true that speech is silver and silence is golden, but I think that the right words at the right moment matter, and always will.

Therefore my philosophy on this matter can be summarized as follows:
  1. Never pass up the occasion to tell someone how much they mean to you.
  2. Never miss an opportunity to say something kind to someone you love.
  3. Never waste a chance to say “I love you” to someone you really love, because in the blink of an eye, everything can change, and you may never know when you may not have that chance again.

But none of this would be possible without one basic prerequisite, which is also an effective way to describe what love is all about: the courage of one’s tenderness. It’s D. H. Lawrence’s definition of love as “having the courage of your tenderness.” Love invites one to have the courage to show oneself as one is, including one’s own tenderness and fragility. Therefore, the list should be recompiled as follows:
  1. Never be afraid to show your feelings.
  2. Never pass up the occasion to tell someone how much they mean to you.
  3. Never miss an opportunity to say something kind to someone you love.
  4. Never waste a chance to say “I love you” to someone you really love, because in the blink of an eye, everything can change, and you may never know when you may not have that chance again.

August 28, 2018


They say integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching, even when it may work to your disadvantage, and this obviously because wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it, and right is right, even if no one is doing it. This simply means that integrity—besides being the moral excellence that the modern world most needs—is a very difficult virtue to practice. It has way more false fans than true ones, and more true enemies than real friends. Personal integrity requires that the person invariably act in accordance with his values. Of course, this is clearly an ideal standard rather than an achievable state. Sometimes having personal integrity means you will taste failure temporarily. As Winston Churchill once said, “Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” In other words, integrity is a continuous challenge and a never-ending struggle against ourselves and the world around us.

Actually, as Job rhetorically once asked (Job 7:1), Nonne militia est vita hominis super terram? (“Isn’t man’s life upon the earth a military campaign?”). Or, as Seneca put it (Epistle 96 to Lucilius), Vivere militare est (“To live is to fight”). Maybe, in a time when peace is often confused with passivity—and war is almost always associated only and exclusively with death, terror, cruelty, and destruction—I guess we’d better rethink this whole matter and to rediscover the positive aspects of the concepts of fight, struggle and war. After all, there are unjust wars, but also just wars, there are bad fights and good fights… Let’s not forget Paul’s words (2 Timothy 4:6-8):
For I am already being offered, and the time of my departure is come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day; and not to me only, but also to all them that have loved his appearing.

July 18, 2018

Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil

And I can teach thee, coz, to shame the devil
By telling truth: tell truth and shame the devil.
If thou have power to raise him, bring him hither,
And I'll be sworn I have power to shame him hence.
O, while you live, tell truth and shame the devil!

~ William Shakespeare, King Henry IV,  Part 1

Have you ever experienced the power of telling the truth? Well, the fact is that, nowadays, no one expects you to speak the truth, they simply think that you are part of the “Big Lie” that underlies the Western culture on so many levels, but when you speak the plain truth out loud the energy that carries your spoken words to the ears of a listener is of a particular vibration, or frequency. This is the frequency of truth, and the universe is behind you. In Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words, “Speak the truth, and all things alive or brute are vouchers, and the very roots of the grass underground there, do seem to stir and move to bear you witness” (Harvard Divinity Address). Of course, sometimes you need to tell a little white lie to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, or, say, to get yourself the timeout you need…, but speaking the truth should be something like a minimum requirement of decency, which should be inculcated from the childhood. Obviously, reality is different, and when you speak the truth you must expect the worst and assume that it will happen. Yet, nothing will be the same afterwards. As if a curtain had fallen. As in the story “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”

July 16, 2018

Prepare to Submerge Yourself in Silence

Someone—maybe from an atheistic point of view—once said, “Faith isn’t a virtue, it’s the glorification of voluntary ignorance.” Well, no truer words were ever written or spoken. Read this St. Ephrem the Syrian’s sermon on Faith if you don’t believe that’s the case—and prepare to submerge yourself in Silence…

The sea is mighty. If you want to fathom it, you will be overwhelmed by the force of its waves. One wave can sweep you away and dash you against a cliff. Suffice it, oh feeble being, to be able to trade in a boat. Faith is better for you than a boat on the sea. The boat, in fact, is guided by a rudder, but the tide can sink it. Your faith cannot sink, if your will does not wish it so. How desirable for the sailor to be able to manage the sea as he likes! He thinks in one way; the sea acts in another manner. Only Our Lord held sway over the sea, so that it became silent and stopped raging.
He also gave you the power to dominate a sea and calm it. Mightier than the sea is arguing and disputing is more violent than the waves. If the wind of inquiry rages in your mind, reprimand it and calm its billows! The storm tosses the sea about; your quibbles perturb your mind. Our Lord issues an order, the wind dies down and the boat slips peacefully through the sea. Control and bridle inquiry and your faith will be at peace!
The creatures, whose use you know, should convince you of that. For instance, you are unable to relinquish a drink, even if you collapse at the spring. Having drunk from springs you do not surely think you have taken them all in. You also fail before the sun and yet you are not deprived of its light. By the fact that it comes down to you (with its rays), you do not desire to reach its height. Although the air is quite extensive for you, a little bit of it provides you with life. Although it is your pledge, you ignore how great its mass is.
You receive from creatures their limited help and service and leave their vast unknown treasures in the chest. Do not disdain what is less nor long for that which is more. Let these creatures of the Creator instruct you about the Creator Himself: you should boldly ask His help and shy away from sophistry about Him. Accept the life of divine Majesty, but do not probe it! Love the Father’s goodness, but do not scrutinize His essence! Yearn after and love the Son’s blessedness, but do not inquire about his eternal birth! Long for the presence of the Holy Spirit, but do not try to fathom Him! The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are registered by their names. Ponder their names and do not mull over their content! If you want to scrutinize their essence, you are lost; if you believe in the name, you are safe. Let the Father’s name be a limit for you; do not surpass it trying to plumb His nature! Let the Son’s name be a wall for you; do not try to scale it to scrutinize His generation! Let the Holy Spirit’s name be for you a hedge; do not enter in order to understand! These names will be a limit for you and with them stop every investigation. You have heard the names and their reality. Turn to the commandments! You have perceived the laws and the commandments. Turn now to your way of living! You have accomplished it perfectly, then turn to the promises! Do not neglect the commandments to apply yourself to what is not prescribed! You have heard the truth in manifested realities, do not go astray in the case of hidden things! Truth is proclaimed in few words, do not search it with lengthy probes! Save your effort by being silent, O frail being!

June 1, 2018

Under the Linden Tree

Have you ever enjoyed the smell of linden trees in late spring to early summer? Sweet, heady, totally overwhelming with their aroma, in the Northeast of Italy these majestic trees—also known as lime trees (though with no connection to the fruit) or basswoods—usually blossom between the end of May and the beginning of June. Every time it’s the same wonderful olfactive experience. Only God knows how much I love this time of the year! The scent is so strong that you can smell it hundreds of yards away—actually, the odor is more pronounced further from the source! As soon as you get out or open the windows to let in the light of the day or the cool air of the night, the gentle and pervasive smell of linden trees spreads everywhere and reigns supreme. It’s something magical, it’s a kind of urban miracle that transforms the town into a scene that wouldn’t look out of place in a fairy-tale.

Walther von der Vogelweide
Not for nothing in China, the linden is named the tree of forgetfulness because its energy is soft, gentle and it offers the sensation of warmth and peace. It’s also interesting that in the Hellenic period of Egypt, the masks of the sarcophagus of Fayoum were made of linden wood—which proves the sacred nature of this tree since ancient times—and that in the mythology of Ancient Rome, it was a symbol of marital love and fidelity in the couple. In turn, in Slavic mythology the linden was considered a sacred tree—in Polish folklore, the belief still exists that the linden tree planted in front of a house protects the family from the evil spirits…—while the Germans considered it as a sacred tree of the lovers because it had the capacity to give fertility and prosperity.

The linden tree also appears as a romantic symbol in medieval poetry. For example, there is a medieval love poem called Unter der Linden (“Under the Lime Tree”), which is one of Walther von der Vogelweide’s best-known pieces. In it, a naïve, common-class girl rejoices in her love experience under the linden tree, the crushed flowers still showing the place where the couple had lain. I’m quoting it because I think this is an appropriate way to celebrate the linden tree.

1. Under the lime tree
On the heather,
Where we had shared a place of rest,
Still you may find there,
Lovely together,
Flowers crushed and grass down-pressed.
Beside the forest in the vale,
Sweetly sang the nightingale.

2. I came to meet him
At the green:
There was my truelove come before.
Such was I greeted —
Heaven's Queen! —
That I am glad for evermore.
Had he kisses? A thousand some:
See how red my mouth's become.

3. There he had fashioned
For luxury
A bed from every kind of flower.
It sets to laughing
Whoever comes upon that bower;
By the roses well one may,
Mark the spot my head once lay.

4. If any knew
He lay with me
(May God forbid!), for shame I'd die.
What did he do?
May none but he
Ever be sure of that — and I,
And one extremely tiny bird,
Who will, I think, not say a word.

[Modern English translation by Raymond Oliver]

May 3, 2018

Do not Cast Your Pearls Before Swine

Rudeness is a contagious behavior that spreads rapidly, and, as we all know, is rampant everywhere nowadays. Edmund Burke once said that, “Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength.” Perhaps this suggests that, given the widespread diffusion of such contagious behaviors, weak people are the majority of humans. Be that as it may, however, well-mannered and kind people are becoming increasingly rare. At the same time, it must be said that, often, the ruder they are, the more demanding of other people’s time and attention they are. Clearly, they take too much for granted.

Fortunately, though, there are many antidotes to rudeness and oafish behavior, and I think I can say without fear of contradiction that I know some of them very well. One, and perhaps the most effective, is minimizing the contact opportunities with rude people. You have certainly heard the expression, “Do not cast your pearls before swine,” which is part of a famous Gospel passage (Matthew 7:6): “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast your pearls before the swine, lest haply they trample them under their feet, and turn and rend you.” (For a correct understanding of the metaphor, please note that the Jewish law regarded swine and wild dogs as unclean and unfit for close human contact, very likely because they were dirty, unkempt, lice-infested, and prone to attack or cause trouble).

Well, that’s not only a great Gospel passage, but also an inspirational piece of advice for everyday life. In fact, one of the possible meanings—in a lay sense—of the metaphor could be that we should not waste our time and energy on people who rebuff the rules of well-mannered behavior and live by the rules of the worst selfishness, self-aggrandizement, and callous disregard of others, including the manipulative use of others for one’s own ends. Of course, the Gospel doesn’t say that we have to despise the “dogs” and “swine”—those who don’t recognize something “holy” for what it is, and people who don’t show discretion, appreciation, or discernment—of the metaphor, and even less that we can treat them like garbage. Similarly, we must be patient and open-minded towards other people’s feelings and opinions, but at the same time, we must be firm on principles: all emotions are acceptable, not all behaviors are. Not everything is justifiable. This means that we have the right and duty to sanction bad conduct when it occurs. The above-mentioned sanction makes it so that we give the right message while protecting ourselves from an over-exposure to other people’s bad energy, so to speak. This is essentially a question of both ecology of mind and justice, inextricably intertwined with each other.

Of course, there are a lot of other “corrective actions,” but most of them seem to me to be either too extreme or too watered down, and far less effective than that above mentioned.

April 3, 2018

Out Beyond Ideas of Wrongdoing and Rightdoing

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other”
doesn’t make any sense.
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.

The above quoted verse is from a Rumi’s poem called “A Great Wagon”—here in the translation by Coleman Barks (The Essential Rumi, published by HarperCollins in 1995). Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, more popularly simply known as Rumi, was a 13th-century Persian Sunni Muslim poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic. His poems have been the best-selling poetry in North America for at least two decades. The most popular of them is probably “A Great Wagon,” which is somehow representative of the image of Rumi in the popular imagination of Western readers as a mystic beyond the realm of religious dogma. Actually, he wasn’t by any means a mainstream Muslim. In particular, he had a deeply transformative life experience—his meeting with the dervish Shams-e Tabrizi on  November 15, 1244—at the age of thirty-seven, that transformed an accomplished teacher and jurist into an ascetic, and changed his traditional Muslim worldview to an ecstatically mystical one, which provided the main inspiration for his poetry.

It is certainly not without reason that Rumi remains the most popular poet in America today. As Jawid Mojaddedi points out, to many who claim to be “spiritual but not religious,” his poems represent direct spiritual connection with a higher power: ‘There is a lot of correspondence between the teachings of Rumi and the increasing Spiritual But Not Religious trend; the popularity of both are undoubtedly related.’ Yet, he continues, ‘there is a huge difference between prioritizing the feeling of peace through individualistic practice and developing spirituality under the training of a master,’ as Sufism teaches—and Rumi was himself a Sufi—‘even though neither need be religious in the conventional sense.’

Rumi has sometimes been compared to Dante, with whom he was contemporary, even though Dante was much younger than him: when Rumi died in 1273, Dante was just eight years old. What is certain is that both Rumi and Dante closed the Middle Ages, because although their works are imbued with medieval thought, they introduce new concepts about life, love, compassion, and religion. It’s also certain that, according to both Dante and Rumi, beauty is a fundamental element in the road to truth, while love is the only way towards salvation.

As Nour Seblini puts it (“On Mystical Metamorphosis in Christianity and Islam: Dante’s Divine Comedy and Rumi’s Masnavi in Comparative Perspective”),

A search for absolute morals expressed with intense emotions and a spiritual ardor is a value shared in Rumi’s Masnavi and Dante’s Divine Comedy, the most influential medieval works of the East and West, respectively. Their inner selves undergo a purifying process from sins and get beautified with traits that permit their union with the Divine.
Love transforms the human heart by purifying its mirror and consequently prepares it to attract the Divine. Its personification comes in the figure of Shamsoddin of Tabriz that reflects the Sun of Truth for Rumi; while for Dante what is synonymous with such kind of love is the figure of Beatrice. Both poets, as it will be demonstrated in more details in this work, present love as the divine essence making the beloved a fundamental element in human’s search for the Eternal; in this way, love becomes the animating spirit of mysticism which in turn lies at the very heart of Dante’s and Rumi’s work. In the New Life, Dante’s declaration that “ladies understand Love’s every way” signals that love is the soul of knowledge. Dante the poet is seeking wholeness through love. A thorough examination of his mystical journey shows that since the beginning the quest was set by his love for a woman, Beatrice Portinari, with whom his relationship evolved back on earth in Florence, who would lead him through a synchronicity of time and eternity to his ultimate transcendence as he attains redemption.

Please note that in the first line of the above quoted verse, Rumi is talking of ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing, not rightdoing and wrongdoing per se. Which roughly means that what we think to be good or bad is not necessarily what is actually good or bad. Our ideas, though we may believe them to be based on God’s Word and will, are much less important than Love. Love transcends everything. Omnia vincit amor et nos cedamus amori (Virgil’s Eclogues 10:69, Love conquers all; let us, too, yield to Love!).

P.S. Click here to read the full text of the poem.

February 14, 2018

Ash Wednesday AND St. Valentine’s Day

Ash Wednesday and St. Valentine’s Day both occur on the same time this year, and that’s today. Of course “Ash Wednesday has precedence,” says Cardinal Dolan, “and the coincidence of St. Valentine’s Day would not lift for us the duty of fasting and self-denial.” But a more positive way to look at it, he continues, is that “both days center on the heart”:

The very symbol of St. Valentine’s Day is the heart, the icon of love, especially the romantic love between a man and a woman. We’ll send greetings and boxes of sweets that are both heart-shaped.
Ash Wednesday, the first of forty days of prayer, penance, and charity we call Lent, leading us to Holy Week and Easter, is also about the heart: a heart called sacred, wounded by unreturned love, broken by callousness and selfishness: the heart of Jesus.
This heart is on fire with love for us, but surrounded by a crown of thorns. It will be pierced by a spear on that Friday weirdly termed “good” on a hill called Calvary, a heart beating in the broken body of a man on a cross.
It is the love of this heart from which all true love flows. It is this Sacred Heart we trust this Wednesday; it is this Heart we turn to through our repentance and acts of sacrifice and atonement this Wednesday.
St. Valentine willingly bows to this Sacred Heart, for which even he lovingly gave his life eighteen centuries ago.

Now then, my dear fellow Catholics, have a Blessed Ash Wednesday AND a Happy St. Valentine’s Day!

January 27, 2018

The European R-Word

The whole matter has developed into a national scandal, to the point that even Italian Bishops Conference (CEI) President Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti felt it necessary to weigh in on this. “We thought talk of (the white) race had been buried for good,” he said after League Lombardy governor candidate Attilio Fontana recently said migrants threatened the white race. To be precise, Fontana said, “We have to decide if our ethnicity, if our white race, if our society continues to exist or if it will be wiped out.” Subsequently he said that it had been a “slip of the tongue,” and made it clear that it’s not about being xenophobic or racist, “it’s just about being logical or rational.”

While some on the center-right agreed there was a real risk to Italian society in the numbers of migrants arriving here, the mainstream media and parties condemned the comments. European leaders, in turn, expressed concerns about what they consider an increasingly xenophobic tone of the campaign for the March 4 general election. Even ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose center-right Forza Italia party is the League’s coalition partner for the elections, said Fontana’s comment had been “unfortunate.” But he also said that it would be “a serious mistake to focus too much attention on one wrong word and not on the risk that Europe loses its identity.” On the same wavelength, but even more strongly, League head Matteo Salvini said Italy was “under attack.” “Our culture, our society, our traditions and our way of life are threatened. An invasion is under way,” he said. However, even Matteo Salvini failed to pronounce the word ‘race’. Why? Because in Europe, unlike in the U.S., the word ‘race’ has been banned. Italy is obviously no exception, even though the Constitution itself expressly talks of different ‘races’. In fact, Article 3 of the Constitution of the Italian Republic reads as follows: “All citizens have equal social dignity and are equal before the law, without distinction of sex, race, language, religion, political opinion, personal and social conditions.” In other words, according to the fundamental law of the country, different races do exist, but nonetheless, you cannot pronounce the word in question. One of political correctness’s many mysteries.

Now we all know there is a social science bias towards the belief that  the differences between the different races are so minimal that they don’t qualify as a strong enough reason to think that there are actually separate races. Accordingly, there is actually only one human race and that is Homo sapiens, and by consequence the correct term to use is ethnicity... Yet, even though the differences are minor they are real and they do define a person’s race—or ‘ethnicity’, ‘ethnic background’, or whatever you like to call it. Therefore, if the exclusion of ‘race’ as a term means denying the genetic differences between groups of people, there is something deeply wrong with the whole concept. Ask a physician about this, and he/she will tell you that he/she sees the differences between races in how they are affected differently by infectious diseases, genetic diseases and cancer. To be precise, from a physician’s point of view asking a person’s ethnicity is basically a cultural question, asking their race is asking something else. The terms are not interchangeable.

As Bruce T. Lahn and Lanny Ebenstein wrote in an opinion piece in Nature (“Let’s celebrate human genetic diversity,” October 8, 2009),

A growing body of data is revealing the nature of human genetic diversity at increasingly finer resolution. It is now recognized that despite the high degree of genetic similarities that bind humanity together as a species, considerable diversity exists at both individual and group levels […]. The biological significance of these variations remains to be explored fully. But enough evidence has come to the fore to warrant the question: what if scientific data ultimately demonstrate that genetically based biological variation exists at non-trivial levels not only among individuals but also among groups? In our view, the scientific community and society at large are ill-prepared for such a possibility. We need a moral response to this question that is robust irrespective of what research uncovers about human diversity. Here, we argue for the moral position that genetic diversity, from within or among groups, should be embraced and celebrated as one of humanity’s chief assets.

The current moral position is a sort of ‘biological egalitarianism’. This dominant position emerged in recent decades largely to correct grave historical injustices, including genocide, that were committed with the support of pseudoscientific understandings of group diversity. The racial-hygiene theory promoted by German geneticists Fritz Lenz, Eugene Fischer and others during the Nazi era is one notorious example of such pseudoscience. Biological egalitarianism is the view that no or almost no meaningful genetically based biological differences exist among human groups, with the exception of a few superficial traits such as skin colour. Proponents of this view seem to hope that, by promoting biological sameness, discrimination against groups or individuals will become groundless.

We believe that this position, although well-intentioned, is illogical and even dangerous, as it implies that if significant group diversity were established, discrimination might thereby be justified. We reject this position. Equality of opportunity and respect for human dignity should be humankind’s common aspirations, notwithstanding human differences no matter how big or small. We also think that biological egalitarianism may not remain viable in light of the growing body of empirical data.

Somewhere in the Web I also read that the mantra that “Race Does Not Exist” is roughly similar to claiming that “Teeth Do Not Exist” or perhaps “Hills Do Not Exist,” with the latter being an especially good parallel.

It is perfectly correct that the notion of ‘hill’ is ill-defined and vague—what precise height distinguishes a pile of dirt from a hill and a hill from a mountain?—but nevertheless denying the reality or usefulness of such a concept would be an absurdity. Similarly, the notion of distinct human races—genetic clusters across a wide variety of scales and degrees of fuzziness—is an obviously useful and correct organizing principle…

Generally speaking, common sense should lead us to think that mentioning and being aware of racial differences is not the same thing as racism . In fact, racism is assuming those differences have an innate value scale attached (one is better than another), it’s “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race” (Merriam-Webster’s dictionary). But as Voltaire once said, “Common sense is not so common.”

December 12, 2017

Athens and Jerusalem

View of Jerusalem (Conrad Grünenberg, 1487)

Il fatto è che questa non è una città: questa è la vita di ciascuno di noi, che a volte c’illude e a volte ci fa disperare, a volte ci sembra irreale, a volte inutile. La nostra avventura interiore, il nostro eterno viaggio, la nostra vera crociata, è la conquista di un senso da dare alla vita. Questa è la Gerusalemme della quale abbiamo bisogno, alla quale aspiriamo.
(The fact is that this is not a city—this is everyone’s life. Sometimes she deceives us, and other times she drives us to despair, she seems unreal at times, and at other times useless. It is our inner adventure, our eternal journey, our true crusade, and the achievement of giving life a meaning. This is the Jerusalem we need, the one we dream about.)

~ Franco Cardini, Gerusalemme. Una storia (English translation mine)

The above quote came to mind almost as soon as I started reading a gorgeous article at American Thinker titled “What Has Jerusalem to Do with America?” by Fay Voshell. The article takes its cue from the furor following President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but carefully avoids any excess and tries to keep a high profile.

Since the incipit Voshell captures the attention of the reader by quoting a statement by Tertullian—the founder of Latin Christian literature and one of the most powerful formative influences in Western Christian culture—concerning the importance of Jerusalem as contrasted with the secular city of Athens. He wrote, “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem? After we become Christians, we have no need of Greek philosophy.” Well, somehow paradoxically Tertullian’s drastic view, his outright hostility toward the entanglement of religion and the world, has largely been adopted by the left and, in general, by those who believe in radical separation of church and state: Jerusalem has nothing to do with Athens—or America and the West. They have a substitute, secular vision for the world. This substitute vision, says Voshell, is presently called globalism. And globalism

has a deep interest in supplanting Judaism and Christianity, both of which share the eternal spiritual vision of Jerusalem as the holy city whose foundational principles are critical to any society choosing justice and righteousness above power and might.
The globalist vision is against any particular identification by nation or religion. To acknowledge Jerusalem […] is to ratify the cornerstone beliefs of Western civilization while the real desire is to allow two competitors for a new world vision to advance their dreams of empire. The one is the secularist vision of the E.U. and the United Nations; the other is the vision of a global caliphate.
[…] What is at the heart of the debate over Jerusalem is the spiritual foundations of Western civilization. What is being sought is the extermination of the Judeo-Christian consensus that has animated the West and now increasingly much of the globe, ever more gradually over the last five thousand years. What is being hoped for is the actualization of an alternate vision, be it secular or Islamist, by assimilating or destroying Jerusalem. Opposing visions cannot tolerate the vision of the Holy City.
But the truth is that Jerusalem is like no other city.
She is not like El Dorado, the Lost City of Gold that men vainly sought for attaining wealth and fame. Nor is she the city where the Fountain of Youth was sought that men might live forever. Nor is she like fabled Troy, city of Priam’s treasure and the beauteous Helen, both exquisite but mortal. Nor is she the mythical city of Atlantis, powerful and beautiful but sunk forever into the dark seas.
All of those cities have perished, only to become myths, the legends of which continue to fade.
Jerusalem is the Eternal City allied with eternal truth. No one can take her identity from her, even though once again, as it has for thousands of years, a great Beast slouches toward Bethlehem.
She remains a light to the world—a beacon for the past, for the present and for the future.
Jerusalem is the Shining City on the Hill.

It’s beautiful, isn’t it? What else can I say? Amen!

November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

"The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth" (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe
Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden (Netherlands)

For us Christians, thanksgiving is an everyday event that begins with a state of mind, an attitude. That’s also why the American Thanksgiving Day is not a church holiday. It’s actually a national holiday, even though the idea of giving thanks to God is a very Christian one. In a speech delivered in London at the annual banquet of the American Society on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, 1903, a prominent U.S. politician, William Jennings Bryan, stated that “On Thanksgiving Day we acknowledge our dependence.”

In other words, to the extent that it is right and good that Americans celebrate their Independence Day as the time when they gained release from tyranny, Thanksgiving Day is precisely the time when they recognize that all of the bounty they have is not merely, and perhaps not so much, the result of their own efforts and dedication, but also a gift to them from their Creator. That’s also the reason why this is one my favorite holidays, even though I’m not an American citizen—but definitely an American by philosophy!

Here are a couple excerpts from the above mentioned speech. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, Americans and non-Americans, men and women of goodwill!

On the Fourth of July the eagle seems a little larger than it does on any other day, and its scream may grate more harshly on the foreign ear than it does at any other time. But on this day we cultivate reverence and express our appreciation of those blessings that have come to our country without the thought or aid of Americans. We have reason to look with some degree of pride upon the achievement of the United States; we contemplate the present with satisfaction, and look to the future with hope; and yet on this occasion we may well remember that we are but building upon the foundations that have been laid for us. We did not create the fertile soil that is the basis of our agricultural greatness; the streams that drain and feed our valleys were not channeled by human hands. We did not fashion the climate that gives us the white cotton belt of the south, the yellow wheat belt of the north, and the central corn belt that joins the two and overlaps them both. We do not gather up the moisture and fix the date of the early and later rains; we did not hide away in the mountains the gold and the silver; we did not store in the earth the deposits of copper and of zinc; we did not create the measures of coal and the beds of iron. All these natural resources, which we have but commenced to develop, are the gift of Him before whom we bow in gratitude tonight.
We sometimes feel that we have a sort of proprietary interest in the principles of government set forth in the Declaration of Independence. That is a document which we have given to the world, and yet the principles set forth therein were not invented by an American. Thomas Jefferson expressed them in felicitous language and put them into permanent form, but the principles had been known before. The doctrine that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with inalienable rights, that governments were instituted amongst men to secure these rights, and that they derived their just power from the consent of the governed—this doctrine which stands four square with all the world was not conceived in the United States, it did not spring from the American mind—ay, it did not come so much from any mind as it was an emanation from the heart, and it had been in the hearts of men for ages. Before Columbus turned the prow of his ship toward the west on that eventful voyage, before the Barons wrested Magna Charta from King John—yes, before the Roman legions landed on the shores of this island—ay, before Homer sang—that sentiment had nestled in the heart of man, and nerved him to resist the oppressor. That sentiment was not even of human origin. Our own great Lincoln declared that it was God Himself who implanted in every human heart the love of liberty.

November 21, 2017

Dante and Beatrice

Henry Holiday (1839 - 1927), "Dante and Beatrice"
Walker Art Gallery - Liverpool, UK

As some of you readers know, Beatrice was the love of Dante’s life: she was a real person and the Poet decided to use her as an important character in his masterpiece, the Divine Comedy. The tradition that identifies Bice di Folco Portinari—the daughter of a banker and wife of Simone dei Bardi—as the Beatrice loved by Dante is now widely, though not unanimously, accepted by scholars.

Beatrice, whom Dante first saw and fell in love with when he was nine years old and a few months older then her, probably never had any idea of the depth of the Poet’s passion for her. For the next nine years after he first met her, Dante remained absolutely besotted with Beatrice. “From that time forward love fully ruled my soul,” as he later wrote in his Vita Nuova. But he loved her only from a distance and it was only when he was 18 that the young angelic creature spoke to Dante to greet him—a very rare event, indeed, in a time when women weren’t in the habit of taking any kind of initiative with men!—as they passed each other in the street. This is how Dante himself describes the meeting in the Vita Nuova:

When so many days had passed that exactly nine years were completed since the appearance of this most gracious being […], it happened, on the last of these days, that this marvellous lady appeared to me, dressed in the whitest of white, between two gracious ladies who were of greater age: and passing through a street she turned her eyes to the place where I stood greatly fearful, and, with her ineffable courtesy […] she greeted me so virtuously, so much so that I saw then to the very end of grace. The hour at which her so sweet greeting welcomed me was exactly the ninth of that day, and because it was the first time that her words deigned to come to my ears, I found such sweetness that I left the crowd as if intoxicated, and I returned to the solitude of my own room, and fell to thinking of this most gracious one.

Dante is led by Beatrice to contemplate the fixed stars
 Libreria Marciana, Venice.
14th Century Venetian School. Illumination
 Photo Credit: Erich Lessing
Of course Dante’s love for Beatrice is not a secular love, at least no more than that which is described in the Canticle of Canticles—with all due distinctions—or in the songs of twelfth- and thirteenth-century troubadours and minnesingers. By the way, judging from the literature of that period, that was a time when love was at the core of everything: besides the songs of troubadours and minnesingers, and the emergence of the “romance” among court poets, monastic theologians engaged in an intense and extensive dialogue on Solomon’s Song that gave birth to an outpouring of sermons and commentaries on the same topic. Love was being celebrated as central to human experience, extolling its joys and honoring its pains, plumbing the depths of its anguish and measuring the heights of its delight. The trajectory of this cultural zeitgeist—which had its apogee with Dante’s Divine Comedy—passed through a group of 13th–14th-century Italian poets, mostly Florentines and including Guido Guinizelli, Guido Cavalcanti and Dante himself, who wrote in what the “Sommo Poeta” called the “dolce stil nuovo” (“sweet new style”). They fused troubadour and minnesinger elements (Dante’s worldly view of Beatrice as an idealized-yet-approachable being, for one thing, is drawn from love à la Provençale), but their treatment of love was their own. To them , love purifies the heart as with fire. Love reflects the divine and leads the spirit back to the supreme source of Love itself. Hence the love of Dante for Beatrice transcends the physical: he wishes to contemplate and to worship in Beatrice a revelation of the divine—not for nothing she is usually taken to be an allegory of divine grace. It is a love of the heart and the intellect, the manifestation of a sacred or divine love in the mortal world, even though, at the same time, the lady is not an ethereal, unreachable entity of epic overtones, but a woman-in-town, someone who is both admirable and visible. It follows the description of love by St. Thomas Aquinas called “amor amicitiae” (love of friendship), based on spirituality and mysticism, which is the exact opposite of “amor concupiscentiae” (love of concupiscence), based on physical or sexual lust. In other words, Dante’s love for Beatrice was never of an adulterous nature nor was it of the unrequited kind that causes mere yearning for a relationship. Definitely a strange type of love, one that you don’t see much of in the real world of today!

As a result of this, in the Comedy Beatrice is an image of absolute perfection and functions as an intermediary in Dante’s ascent to God. Beatrice was also the main inspiration of the above mentioned Vita Nuova, which contains the widely-celebrated sonetto “Tanto gentile.” Here is an English translation of the sonnet and the words with which Dante himself introduces his poem.

This most gracious lady of whom I have spoken in the preceding poems came into such widespread favor that, when she walked down the street, people ran to see her. This made me wonderfully happy. And when she passed by someone, such modesty filled his heart that he did not dare to raise his eyes or to return her greeting (many people, who have experienced this, could testify to it if anyone should not believe me).

Crowned and clothed with humility, she would go her way, taking no glory from what she heard and saw. Many would say after she had passed: “This is no woman, this is one of the most beautiful angels of Heaven.” And others would say: “She is a miracle! Blessed be the Lord who can work so wondrously.”
Let me say that she showed such decorum and was possessed of such charming qualities that those who looked at her experienced a pure and sweet delight, such that they were unable to describe it; and there was no one who could look at her without immediately sighing.

These and still more marvelous things were the result of her powers. Thinking about this, and wishing to take up again the theme of her praise, I decided to write something which would describe her magnificent and beneficent efficacy, so that not only those who could see her with their own eyes, but others, as well, might know of her whatever can be said in words. And so I wrote this sonnet which begins: Such sweet decorum.

Such sweet decorum and such gentle grace
attend my lady’s greeting to mankind
that lips can only tremble into silence,
and eyes dare not attempt to gaze at her.
Untouched by all the praise along her way,
she moves in goodness, clothed in humbleness,
and seems a creature come from Heaven to earth,
a miracle manifest in reality.
Miraculously gracious to behold,
her sweetness, through the eyes reaches the heart
(who has not felt this cannot understand),
and from her lips there seems to move a spirit
tender, so deeply loving that it glides
into the souls of men and whispers: ‘Sigh!’

To conclude, with specific reference to Dante’s epic poem, I want to warn against focusing too one-sidedly on the love for Beatrice, in fact there are many other love stories in The Divine Comedy. There are loves gone wrong—but somehow awesome at the same time—such as the love between Paolo and Francesca (Inferno, Canto V), Ulysses’s love of knowledge (Ibidem, Canto XXVI), Ugolino’s love for his children (Ibidem, Canto XXXIII), and Farinata’s love for Florence (Ibidem, Canto X). And there are loves without fault, such as the one between Dante and Virgil, that is the relationship of a mentor and a protégé. As perhaps no earlier writer, Dante celebrates such a relationship by calling Virgil not only master, guide, and teacher, but also “dearest father,” and by comparing his concern for him to that of a mother for her child. Or the love of St. Bernard of Clairvaux for the Virgin Mary—hence one of the most beautiful prayers ever written (Paradiso, Canto XXXIII). Not to mention the “love that moves the sun and the other stars” (Ibidem) That’s what is meant when we say that The Divine Comedy is a love story.

In the old video below you can hear Giorgio Albertazzi—one of the most important actors of the Italian theater—reciting “Tanto gentile.”

November 17, 2017

On Losing Patience

Sometimes you are tempted to lose patience with someone and to not waste words on people who—according to you, in a given situation and at a particular time—deserve your silence. Well, that’s exactly when you’d better remember that everyone has a story, everyone has gone through something that has changed them, and often not for the better. That’s when you show who you really are and what life has taught you so far. Qui si parrà la tua nobilitate (“Here thy nobility shall be manifest!” Dante’s Inferno, Canto 2).

November 12, 2017

The Boy from Gluck Street

A song I’ve loved since I was a young boy, “Il ragazzo della via Gluck” (“The Boy from Gluck Street”) is not just a song, it’s a piece of pop music and cultural history. It was originally written and recorded by Italian pop music legend Adriano Celentano in 1966—the lyrics are by Luciano Beretta and Miki Del Prete—and soon became a world hit, translated and recorded in 18 languages by numerous artists, including American pop singer Verdelle Smith (“Tar and Cement”), French singer and songwriter Françoise Hardy (“La maison où j’ai grandi”) and Swedish singer Anna-Lena Löfgren (“Lyckliga gatan”), who also covered a German version of the song (“Immer am Sontag”).

Adriano Celentano’s vocation as a counter artist was evident since the very beginning of his artistic career. Italy’s best-loved singer and songwriter, and one of the greatest selling non-English language recording artists of all time, he characteristically performs his songs with a Brechtian detachment to the text and is the creator of a broken, syncopated language that he alternates with a crooner style. His whole career, not only as a singer & songwriter but also as an actor, director, producer, as well as a host of TV programs, bears witness to his intellectual integrity and his deep commitment to promoting values and principles such as fairness, friendship, kindness, and love for one another. All this, however, without indulging in sentimentalism or presenting a Manichean worldview, but always with strength and simplicity—and with a grain of folly: who could ever forget his legendary television monologues with his “lunatic” and Buster Keatonesque ecstatic pauses?

Prominent film directors such as Ermanno Olmi, Federico Fellini—who asked him to play himself in La dolce vita—and Pier Paolo Pasolini were fascinated by his free-thinking attitude and independent spirit, and saw in him a poetic and at the same time a down-to-earth representative of traditional values and aspirations in the face of a tumultuous period of huge social and economic change. Needless to say, as a result of the rapid modernization and industrialization of the country, a huge urban sprawl—which dramatically changed the face of Italy’s cities and towns—took place in the 1950s and the 1960s. Definitely against the tide and somewhat prophetically at the time, Adriano spoke out against the “cement tsunami” and the consequent loss of identity and traditional ways of life. The autobiographical “Il ragazzo della via Gluck” became his manifesto against “unsustainable development.”

The following is a literal translation from the original, which is quite different from the above mentioned “Tar and Cement” (by American songwriters Lee Pockriss and Paul Vance):

The Boy from Gluck Street

This is the story of one of us,
who was also born by chance in Gluck Street,
in a house outside the city,
quiet people, who worked.
Where there was grass there is now
a city, and that house
amid the green now,
where may it be?

This kid from Gluck Street,
enjoyed playing with me,
but one day he said,
“I’m going to the city,”
and he said while weeping,
I asked him, “Friend,
aren’t you glad?
You’re finally going to live in the city.
There you will find
the things that you didn’t have here,
you can wash at home without going
down in the yard! ”
“My dear friend,” he said,
“I was born here,
and in this street
now I’m leaving my heart.
But how can’t you understand,
it’s lucky for you who remain
barefoot to play in the fields,
while there downtown
I’ll breathe concrete.

But there will come a day
when I’ll come back
here and I will hear the friendly train
whistling like this – ua-ua ”
The years go by, but eight are long
But that kid has come a long way
But doesn’t forget his first home
Now with the money he can buy it
He comes back and doesn’t find
the friends he had
Only houses upon houses,
tar and concrete.
Where there was grass
there is now a city
And that house amid
the green now
where may it be?
I don’t know, I don’t know, why
they go on building houses
And don’t let the grass, don’t let the grass,
And don’t
let the grass, don’t let the grass,
And no, if we go on like this
I wonder how we will do,
who knows, who knows how we
will do.

All in all, besides being (by far) my favorite Italian singer, I’ve always had the utmost respect for Adriano Celentano as a person, and I’m pleased to pay tribute to him with this post. To conclude, this, in my opinion, is his core message in a nutshell, in his own words (and in his typically imaginative style):

What we are losing is the utopian dimension of life. Sometimes I say things that seem impossible to achieve, and yet there are many things that seemed impossible at one time but they are very real today. My concern is that if we lose our belief in utopia the world will get worse and worse. Today we live longer than in the past, the quality of life has improved, we have medicine that saves lives, but still the world is headed for disaster, because we have abandoned our past to climb higher and higher. But if you climb a very tall ladder and then cannot climb down again, you cannot save beautiful things. The lack of Beauty is a problem. The key to the future is Beauty. There are not only skyscrapers, we are a part of nature. There are helicopters, but there are no meadows. [Rockpolitik, (in Italian, translation mine) edited by M. Ciotta, Bompiani, 2006]

As is more than evident from the above quoted passage, Celentano’s “utopianism” is one of its own kind, and his utopia is a back-to-the-future one rather than a traditional one. After all, unlike most of his fellow Italian artists, he has never been sympathetic to leftists, nor has he never hidden his deep Christian faith and beliefs. In other words, he is a true contrarian—and I thank him for that!

November 10, 2017

As Late As Possible

There are works going on a few dozen meters away from where I live. Looks like they are in the home stretch. Today I found out—thanks to the newly-added sign on the front door—that the old pizzeria will be replaced by a funeral home. It will be a memento mori to remind the passers-by the inevitable fate of us all. And that there is a time for everything. After the feast comes the reckoning—as late as possible, ça va sans dire!

October 24, 2017

Fake News: An Emblematic Case

Ok, fake news is nothing new, we all know that. But we also know that today the amount of misinformation that is spread on the web is staggering. Bogus stories can reach more people more quickly via social networks and websites than what good old-fashioned viral emails could accomplish in years past. The hot topics for such misinformation, especially in the U.S., are politics, government policies, religion and various scams and hoaxes.
That’s why “fact-check” websites such as,,, etc., have taken up the task of spreading awareness against rumors by presenting evidence and hard facts. In other words, they monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases. As in the case of, for instance, their goal is —in their own words—to be “a nonpartisan, nonprofit consumer advocate for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics” by applying the best practices of both journalism and scholarship and thus increasing public knowledge and understanding. Arguably this does not apply in the same degree to all of them, but that's roughly how they like to present themselves to the public.

With that being said as an introduction, let me relate a personal experience which is both significant and emblematic. A few days ago, last Friday to be precise, YourNewsWire—a news website I didn’t know existed until then—published an article asserting that Sebastian Kurz, the newly-elected Austrian Chancellor, has informed George Soros, the speculator turned philanthropist, that his Open Society Foundation has 28 days to cease and desist operations in Austria or face legal action for “attempting to undermine the democracy of the nation.” According to the above mentioned source, 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz, Austria’s youngest ever leader, has told colleagues that action must be taken immediately, after news broke that George Soros has donated $18 billion of his $24 billion dollar fortune to his Open Society Foundation.

Needless to say, this is the kind of news I like to read & share! That’s why, at first, I couldn’t hold back my virtual tears of joy and appreciation… but after a few moments I took back control of my emotions. “Ok, let’s check it out and get some more information first,” I said to myself. In fact, rule number one is: ensure that the story is written by a source that you trust, with a reputation for accuracy, and if the story comes from an unfamiliar organization, then check their “About” section to learn more. That’s exactly what I wanted to do, but couldn’t, in fact there’s no “About” section on the site. But I didn’t give up. As a second step I searched the Web in multiple languages, far and wide, high and low—the golden rule being that if no other news source is reporting the same story, it may indicate that the story is false, while if the story is reported by multiple sources you trust, it’s more likely to be true—but didn’t find a thing. Nothing, except a couple of other websites, both of them quoting YourNewsWire as their only source. Which is very strange in the face of an objectively relevant event, without ifs and buts—of course, provided that it really happened.. But in return I found a website called Media Matters for America claiming that “Fake news purveyor YourNewsWire is pushing a false narrative on its site and affiliated Facebook-verified page asserting that Sebastian Kurz has banned George Soros’s foundations from Austria..” As a consequence, I searched the Web in order to find more info about whether YourNewsWire is a fake news website or not. The result of the investigation was that it is highly probable that things are the way Media Matters says they are.

At the same time, I learned that, according to Breitbart News Network, Media Matters for America is… a George Soros-funded progressive activist organization! Now, what are we to make of that? What are we to think? Well, I personally think that the news about Sebastian Kurz’s decision regarding George Soros’ Open Society Foundation is most likely fake, and this not only and not so much because of what YourNewsWire is, or seems to be, but rather because of the lack of objective evidence and/or of other sources attesting to the facts asserted in the story. In other words, because the whole thing is self-referential. Paradoxically, even if the story were proved true, YourNewsWire’s reputation would continue to remain very low.

PS Fake News: What's the best way to deal with it? Here are a number of suggestions for further reading:
  1. How to Spot Fake News
  2. 10 Ways to Spot a Fake News Story
  3. What is fake news? How to spot it and what you can do to stop it
  4. 'Fake news': What's the best way to tame the beast?

UPDATE, October 27, 2017: Did Austria's Sebastian Kurz ban George Soros' organization? That's fake news

...The fake story goes on to quote Kurz describing Soros as "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming his blood funnel into anything that smells like money" — language identical to a 2010 Rolling Stone piece about Goldman Sachs by Matt Taibbi.
Besides Soros’ massive donation and Kurz’s young leader status (he’s 31), this story is complete bogus.
Open Society Foundations, an organization with efforts in different countries all over the world, has no offices in Austria — and therefore nothing to "cease and desist."
We couldn’t find any record of Kurz describing Soros in that light or commenting on OSF.

UPDATE, November 3, 2017: I just came across yet another fake news by YourNewsWire. This time they reported that Hollywood icon Morgan Freeman stated that the best way to restore public faith in government institutions is to “send Hillary to prison“ and that unless the former First Lady’s crimes are seen to be punished, “everyday Americans will forever know, deep down, that there is one law for those with money and power, and another for the rest of us.” And this is what has to say about the article:

This is not a genuine quote from Morgan Freeman; is a particularly vicious fake news blog that has a long history of publishing corrosive misinformation. The site claims that the actor made this comment while promoting his new documentary series “The Story of Us” during an event in New York, but, naturally, provided no video from the event containing Morgan’s alleged remarks, as none exists.
Furthermore, the “Story of Us” premiere was held on 28 September 2017, more than a month before Your News Wire published this article. It is possible that Freeman held additional promotional events (although it would be odd for the press tour to continue long after the premiere), but we could not find any news articles regarding a promotional event in New York for the series near this article’s publication date.
It is also unlikely that Freeman would ever suggest the idea that President Donald Trump should imprison Hillary Clinton. The actor openly supported of the Democratic candidate and even narrated several political ads for Clinton.

UPDATE, November 9, 2017: I just became aware of a May 16, 2016 tweet from Glenn Beck’s Twitter account in which he made reference to a position statement by the American College of Pediatricians on so-called gender identity disorder, or gender dysphoria (see also the talk show host’s website). The statement—which is still on the organization’s website—is prefaced with the following: “The American College of Pediatricians urges educators and legislators to reject all policies that condition children to accept as normal a life of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex. Facts—not ideology—determine reality.” Addressing parents giving children dangerous puberty blockers to impersonate the opposite sex, the statement explains that this practice requires cross-sex hormones into late adolescence, which are associated with health risks like high blood pressure, blood clots, strokes and cancer. In addition, the American College of Pediatricians makes it clear that “as many as 98% of gender confused boys and 88% of gender confused girls eventually accept their biological sex after naturally passing through puberty.” But what is perhaps the most striking part of the statement is that it claims that “conditioning children into believing a lifetime of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex is normal and healthful is child abuse.”

That being said, and given the authenticity of the document itself, what is wrong with Glenn Beck’s tweet? What does that have to do with the subject at hand? He reported a true story! Well, let’s say that what we have here is something quite different—but not entirely unrelated—from what we mean when we use the expression “fake news.” What we are dealing with in this case is basically a misunderstanding due to and/or leading to misinformation or disinformation. In fact, as pointed out, “Beck’s tweet led many viewers to believe that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) had taken that stance on childhood gender dysphoria, but the tweet linked to an article containing quotes from the American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) not the AAP.” In reality, the American College of Pediatricians and the American Academy of Pediatrics are vastly different entities: the former is a very small group—with an estimated membership of between 60 and 200 pediatricians—formed relatively recently in response to political disagreements over same-sex parenting, while about 64,000 such physicians are aligned with the AAP.

Now, to bring all this to a conclusion, once again I’m forced to acknowledge that the way I would like things to be is not the way things actually are. The truth is more important than what we want to believe.


September 6, 2017

The Sun Sinks

Not for long will you thirst yet,
Burn heart!
Promise in the air,
From unfamiliar mouths it blows on me,
—The  great coolness comes…
My sun stood hot over me at noon:
My greetings for coming,
You sudden winds,
You cool spirits of the afternoon!
The air moves in a strange and pure way.
Does not the night, with a wry
Seducer’s glance,
Watch me from the corner of her eye?...
Stay strong, my stout heart!
Ask not: why?
Day of my life!
The sun is sinking.
The smooth flood already
Is gilded.
Warm breathes the rock:
Did happiness take its noonday sleep
On it at noon?
In green lights
The brown abyss’s play still evokes happiness.
Day of my life!
The eve is looming!
Your eye already glows
The teardrops
of our dew already surge,
Your love’s purple
already runs quietly over white seas,
Your last lingering bliss…
Cheerfulness golden, come!
You, death’s
Most secret, sweetest anticipatory delight!
—Did I run down my path too swiftly?
Only now, when my foot has become weary,
Your glance overtakes me,
your happiness overtakes me.
All around are only wave and play.
Whatever was heavy
Sank into blue oblivion,—
Now my boat lies idle.
Storm and voyage—how it has forgotten that!
Wish and hope drowned,
Smooth lie soul and sea.
Seventh loneliness!   
Never did I feel
Sweet certainty nearer to me,
Never warmer the sun’s look.
—Does not the ice of my peak still glow?
A light silver, a fish,
My skiff now swims out…

Although I strongly believe that Nietzsche’s works are a must read for anyone who wants to understand the world we live in and why it is the way it is, I’ve never been a huge fan of him. Yes, he was deeply inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of my greatest intellectual heroes, and held in very high esteem the writings of Montaigne, yet another of my most favorite thinkers/writers ever. But as far as I can tell, he lacked what, in my view, made both Montaigne and Emerson what they were, are and will be, that is, respectively, the thoughtful, elegant levity and the “Americanness.” Yet, reading Nietzsche’s writing has been one of the most intense and challenging intellectual experiences I’ve ever gone through. Roughly speaking, I enjoyed the books, although sometimes (if not often) disagreeing with the author’s views, but didn’t love the author himself. Quite the opposite of what happened to me when I first read Montaigne’s Essays —some of them, the less “exciting” ones, so to speak—or some of Emerson’s less brilliant lectures and addresses. After all you can admire someone without loving him/her, but the opposite is pretty unlikely if not impossible: how can you love someone who doesn’t dazzle you in some way? To love is also to be positively marveled and surprised about what the other person does/writes or says, even if it is only now and again..

Perhaps, what I like least about him—apart from his well-known moral nihilism and his many other intellectual excesses—is his contiguity with the so-called Decadent Movement, which first flourished in France in the late 19th century and then spread throughout Europe and to the United States. Light-years away from my views on literature and art. A great example of Nietzsche’s “decadent” sensitivity is the above beautiful and touching poem. By the way, “Die Sonne sinkt” (The Sun Sinks), is proof—in case it was ever needed—that you don’t have to agree with a certain Weltanschauung to thoroughly enjoy one of its most powerful poetic expressions. Analogously, but in a different context, disapproving someone’s behavior should never prevent us from treating them with the utmost respect, if not love as in the case of Dante, when he tells us about Paolo and Francesca’s tragic love story with deeply moving and amazing verses (Inferno, Canto V), or when he describes Farinata degli Uberti as rising out of his burning tomb “from the waist up” and seeming to “have great contempt for Hell” (Inferno, Canto X). This posture suggests that spiritually, he towers above all of Hell and creates an image of infinite strength and grandeur. The just punishment of sins doesn’t include the denial of compassion and of the humanity of sinners—or at least of some of them—in all its aspects and contradictions.

Paolo and Francesca da Rimini by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
(1862; Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, Bedford)

This poem from the Dithyrambs of Dionysus (Dionysos-Dithyramben), a collection of nine poems written in the fall of 1888 by the German philosopher under the nom de plume of Dionysos, reflects very much the views of Nietzsche on life, death and everything in between, including the ultimate meaning of happiness. Whether or not one disagrees with him there’s no doubt that the poem is proof that he was a true philosopher in the Ciceronian sense of the term, because it was the great Roman orator who once said that to study philosophy is nothing but to prepare oneself to die (Tusculanae Disputationes). “The reason of which—as Montaigne put it commenting on Cicero’s statement—is, because study and contemplation do in some sort withdraw from us our soul, and employ it separately from the body, which is a kind of apprenticeship and a resemblance of death; or, else, because all the wisdom and reasoning in the world do in the end conclude in this point, to teach us not to fear to die. And to say the truth, either our reason mocks us, or it ought to have no other aim but our contentment only, nor to endeavor anything but, in sum, to make us live well, and, as the Holy Scripture says, at our ease. All the opinions of the world agree in this, that pleasure is our end, though we make use of divers means to attain it: they would, otherwise, be rejected at the first motion; for who would give ear to him that should propose affliction and misery for his end?” (Essays, Book I, chapter XIX)

  1. Friedrich Nietzsche, "Die Sonne sinkt", aus den Dionysos-Dithyramben (original German text)
  2. Ditirambi di Dioniso (Italian version)
  3. The above quoted text is from  Nietzsche’s Philosophy of the Eternal Recurrence of the Same, by Karl Löwith. University of California Press, 1997.