September 28, 2022

Is the EU’s Establishment Trembling?


My latest on American Thinker.

Apart from the EU’s establishment and the international leftist community, no one should be worried about Italy’s next government.

The New York Times’ Jason Horowitz on Monday correctly stated that “Italy turned a page of European history on Sunday.” Unfortunately, he was wrong in adding that Italy elected “a hard-right coalition.” In fact, the winning coalition led by Giorgia Meloni is a center-right one. But this kind of misunderstanding perfectly reflects the way liberals -- and the mainstream media -- change the meaning of words to suit their own narrative and agenda. Meloni, for her part, describes herself and her Fratelli d’Italia party -- Brothers of Italy, a name that echoes the first line of the Italian national anthem -- as conservative. “There’s no doubt that our values are conservative ones,” she told the Washington Post. “The issue of individual freedom, private enterprise in economy, educational freedom, the centrality of family and its role in our society, the protection of borders from unchecked immigration, the defense of the Italian national identity -- these are the matters that we preoccupy ourselves with.” Of course, she’s very firm on her beliefs and principles. As she said at CPAC 2022: [...]  







September 10, 2022

Is Europe on the Verge of a Political Breakdown?


My latest on American Thinker:


"Among the many consequences of the war in Ukraine, power dynamics in the EU are changing -- or have changed -- in response to the profoundly altered circumstances. As a matter of fact, if on the one hand Viktor Orbán’s proximity to Vladimir Putin has de facto paralyzed the Visegrad group (Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, and the Czech Republic), on the other Poland and the Baltic states are gradually coming into a more structured relationship with Nordic countries such as Sweden and Finland, presenting the EU, starting with Germany and France, with a fait accompli.

At the same time, last Saturday tens of thousands of Czechs protested in Prague against the government to demand more state help with rising energy bills, with some carrying signs denouncing the country’s membership of the European Union and the NATO military alliance. It was the largest manifestation of public discontent over the worst cost-of-living crisis in three decades.

In Germany on Monday, more than 70,000 protesters took to the streets in Leipzig, the most populous city -- with population of 500,000 -- in the German state of Saxony to protest against the government’s inefficiency in supporting measures to overcome the rising cost of living amid soaring inflation in the European country after the sanctions imposed on Russia by the EU in response to the assault on Ukraine. In addition to the Left Party, several right-wing parties have also called for demonstrations, including Free Saxons and Alternative for Germany (AfD).

In addition to that, it’s almost election time in Italy, where the very likely victory for the center-right coalition in the general election on September 25 could see Europe’s fluctuating power dynamics shift still further... [...]"


Read more: Is Europe on the Verge of a Political Breakdown?







June 11, 2022

A Roller-Coaster Ride in Leftist Academia Hell



My latest on American Thinker:


"It must have been a whirlwind last few days for Ilya Shapiro, from his reinstatement as head of the Georgetown University Law Center, on Thursday, June 2, after a more than four-month investigation launched by Georgetown Law School, to his resignation from the school, on Monday, June 6, to the news that he joined the Manhattan Institute as senior fellow and director of constitutional studies.

Ilya Shapiro
Georgetown investigated Shapiro after he tweeted on January 23, 2022 that Sri Srinivasan, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, would be President Biden's "best pick" for the Supreme Court. He continued: "[Srinivasan e]ven has identity politics benefit of being first Asian (Indian) American.  But alas doesn't fit into latest intersectionality hierarchy so we'll get lesser black woman."

Ilya Shapiro's "lesser black woman" tweet gained wide attention on Twitter and within the Georgetown community and led Georgetown Law dean William Treanor to send an email denouncing the tweet as "appalling" and "at odds with everything we stand for at Georgetown Law."  Georgetown's Black Law Students Association also called for Shapiro to be fired, the Washington Post reported.

Shapiro deleted the tweet within hours, calling it "poorly worded" and "inartful."  But, as the report submitted by Georgetown to the dean's office on June 2 shows, contrition can empower the mob rather than placate it.  In fact, that apology was framed as evidence of guilt: Shapiro's "plain words not only explicitly identified the race, sex, and gender of a group of individuals," the report said, "but also categorized Black women as 'lesser.'  Though [Shapiro] did not himself describe his comments as offensive or acknowledge that his comments could reasonably be interpreted to denigrate individuals, he promptly removed the tweet and apologized after others expressed their criticism."  Besides, the 10-page report suggests that the university faced tremendous pressure to ostracize Shapiro.  A "lot of faculty" expressed "deep concern" and "outrage" about Shapiro's tweet, as did several administrators, who said they would "not participate in any program or activity" involving him.  It would be "disruptive," they told the diversity office, if Shapiro were "physically present" on campus.

Yet Georgetown reinstated Shapiro, saying university policies did not apply to him when he tweeted on Jan. 26, as his employment was to begin Feb. 1.  In other words, he was cleared in the 122-day investigation only on a technicality.  A bit too much to take in.[...]"


Read more: A roller-coaster ride in leftist academia hell







April 6, 2022

Western Suicide

Gerardo Dottori, "Incendio sulla città" (1926, olio su tela)
Perugia, Museo Civico di Palazzo della Penna

My latest on American Thinker:


"On September 19, 2019, accepting the Defender of Western Civilization award from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute at the fourteenth annual Gala for Western Civilization, Sir Roger Scruton gave a splendid address, his last one before he left this world after battling cancer.  The core message of the speech was that if Western civilization is under attack, this is happening precisely because it's Western, and "the word Western has been taken to be a standard term of abuse by so many people in the world today."  Yet, he explained, Western civilization is not even close to what its detractors think it is — namely, some narrow, small-minded thing called Western.  It is instead "an inheritance, constantly expanding, constantly including new things.  It is something which has given us the knowledge of the human heart, which has enabled us to produce not just wonderful economies and the wonderful ways of living in the world that are ours, but also the great works of art, the religions, the systems of law and government, all the other things which make it actually possible for us to recognize that we live in this world, insofar as possible, successfully."  That's why "we shouldn't despair of Western civilization."  We're talking about, he concluded, "an open, generous, and creative thing called civilization."

Sir Roger's remarks came to my mind as soon as I read the first pages of Suicidio occidentale  (Western Suicide), the new book by Federico Rampini, a prominent Italian journalist who lives in the U.S. and holds Italian and American citizenship.  If an attack in the heart of Europe caught us unprepared, he argues with reference to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it is because we were engaged in our own cultural disarmament and self-destruction.  The dominant ideology spread by elites in universities and in the media requires us to demolish self-esteem and blame ourselves for almost everything that goes wrong in the world.  According to this ideological dictatorship, he says, we Western countries no longer have values to offer the world and the new generations; we only have sins to expiate and lessons to learn.

This is the suicide of the West.  In many U.S. universities, Rampini notes, it is impossible for non-extremists on issues of sex and gender to have freedom of speech.  The New York Times in particular, says Rampini, bears heavy responsibility in this regard for playing a central role in the creation of Critical Race Theory.  Putin's aggression on Ukraine, backed by Xi Jinping, he concludes, is a consequence of the fact that the two major autocracies know we are sabotaging ourselves.

Well, that makes perfect sense, does it not?  After all, isn't it true that Putin wouldn't have dared to attack Ukraine if the 45th president had gotten a second term?  And this not only because of Trump's personal charisma, but also — if not mainly — because of his philosophy and anti–politically correct narrative.  From this point of view, too, the change at the White House was a disaster: Joe Biden's "woke" presidency is a luxury the West couldn't and can't afford. [...]"


Read more: Western Suicide






February 7, 2022

The Big Lie of Woke Capitalism

 My latest on American Thinker:


"There are at least three terms to describe the concept of stakeholder capitalism -- corporate wokeness, woke corporatism and woke capitalism. The last of the three was coined in 2015 by Ross Douthat when writing a piece for the New York Times. He defined it as how companies signal their support for progressive causes in order to maintain their influence in society. Since then the concept has become very popular in the U.S. and worldwide, corporations have gone political and seek, or at least profess to seek, change in the world.

On January 24, for one thing, former Unilever CEO Paul Polman wrote in a piece for the Financial Times that “Today, staff and customers believe you should... speak out on big, touchstone issues, from race to fake news and climate change.” In a historic moment of multiple and converging global challenges, he thinks, we have no other option but to embrace so-called stakeholder capitalism. After all, evidence is stacking up to show the “financial benefits to companies that consistently apply their principles and actively work to solve societal problems,” he argues. “Not everyone agrees, however,” he sadly but honestly acknowledges. In fact, if there is a big support for stakeholder capitalism among corporations, there’s also been a backlash from conservative voices, as we will see below. But let us dwell a little more on the supporters of stakeholder capitalism.

In his annual letter to BlackRock shareholders a few days ago, CEO Larry Fink argued that expectations of business leaders have changed dramatically in the last few years. Increased profits, happy shareholders, and more jobs are no longer what a chief executive is expected to deliver. For instance, most stakeholders -- from shareholders, to employees, to customers, to communities, and regulators -- “now expect companies to play a role in decarbonizing the global economy.” And “few things will impact capital allocation decisions -- and thereby the long-term value of your company -- more than how effectively you navigate the global energy transition in the years ahead.” This illustrates perfectly what stakeholder capitalism -- the new mantra of the Business Round Table as announced in August 2019 and endorsed by almost 200 CEOs of the largest corporations -- is all about..."


Read more: The Big Lie of Woke Capitalism






January 18, 2022

The American Medical Association Falls to CRT

 


My latest on American Thinker:


"The old world is dying and the new world struggles to be born. Now is the time of monsters.” This well-known quote is a liberal translation of Antonio Gramsci popularized by Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, which renders “In this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear” as “Now is the time of monsters.” Antonio Gramsci, the Italian Communist leader and theoretician who is considered the forefather of Critical Race Theory, had probably no idea that, a century later, such an accurate insight into his time would prove to be incredibly prophetic of our own here and now. Today the monsters -- or morbid symptoms -- are among us as neighbors, colleagues, and friends accept and embrace the Critical Race Theory and its ramifications in the many fields of human life and scientific research.

One of these fields -- perhaps the most unthinkable -- is that of medical science and practice. Things have meaningfully changed since on June 25, 2021, White Coats for Black Lives (WC4BL), a national organization led by medical students, published its statement of “vision and values.” The organization, which boasts 75 chapters at medical schools across the country and was called to action by the Black Lives Matter movement, “aims to dismantle racism in medicine and fight for the health of Black people and other people of color […]. Our job is two-fold: 1) dismantling dominant, exploitative systems in the United States, which are largely reliant on anti-Black racism, colonialism, cisheteropatriarchy, white supremacy, and capitalism; and 2) rebuilding a future that supports the health and well-being of marginalized communities.” WC4BL also focuses on “dismantling fatphobia,” embracing “Black queer feminist praxis (theory and practice),” “unlearning toxic medical knowledge and relearning medical care that centers the needs of Black people and communities.” [...]

On top of that, the Association of American Medical Colleges’ (AAMC) recent guide to anti-racism planning suggests that universities develop a scorecard “similar to the White Coats for Black Lives’ Racial Justice Report Card.” A very important endorsement! Similarly, the October 30, 2021 “Guide to Language, Narrative, and Concepts,” a collaboration between the American Medical Association (AMA) and the AAMC Center for Health Justice, offers “a guidance on language for promoting health equity, contrasting traditional/outdated terms with equity-focused alternatives,” explores “how narratives (the power behind words) matter,” and provides “a glossary of key terms, defining key concepts, and whenever possible acknowledging debates over definitions and usage.” Terms such as “Caucasian,” for instance, should be avoided. Conventional phrases such as “Low-income people have the highest level of coronary artery disease in the United States” and “Native Americans have the highest mortality rates in the United States” should be changed respectively into..."


Read more: The American Medical Association Falls to CRT






December 26, 2021

The Covid fear factory is trembling

 



My latest on American Thinker

"Hard times are coming for vaccine fanatics and fear-mongering lockdown enthusiasts, or at least that’s what we can reasonably expect after reading the news coming out of South Africa and the U.K. about the Omicron variant. As a matter of fact, the data out of South Africa after five weeks of Omicron spread and out of the U.K. in the first full week after Omicron hit the country suggest that the new Covid-19 variant should be a cause for celebration and relief, not fear and alarm—yet that’s not the direction in which the American media and many politicians are heading..." READ THE REST



November 8, 2021

Will American Wokeness Destroy the Rest of the West?


It definitely seems that there's a sickness emanating from the United States that seeks to contaminate all of Western civilization. France in particular, believe it or not, is alarmed... 

July 19, 2021

The Woke Are Coming to Britain


As a result of the rise of wokism, faith in the principles of economic freedom and meritocracy is at an all-time low in the UK... My latest on American Thinker

June 30, 2021

Critical Race Theory and Its Offspring, BLM, Have Struck Again.


American Thinker
– one of my favorite online magazines! – just published a piece I wrote about how Critical Race Theory seems to have become the EU’s equivalent of China’s Cultural Revolution, and BLM’s agenda is the most crucial social problem facing the old continent.

March 20, 2021

Blessed Are the Free in Spirit: a Review by Walter Bernardone

Once upon a time, I was a blogger. Now I’m someone who has a blog somewhere but has no time to update it anymore. But once a blogger, always a blogger… yeah, as Samuel Robert Piccoli has brilliantly (albeit indirectly) shown throughout his new book, blogging is much more than simply writing, it’s a way of life. Most people think blogging is a Web site on which people publish periodic entries in reverse chronological order and allow readers to leave comments.

This is only partially true, however. As a matter of fact, blogging is defined more by a personal and opinionated writing style. The over-40’s know that blogs went largely unchallenged until Facebook reshaped consumer behavior with its all-purpose hub for posting everything social. Twitter also contributed to the upheaval. No longer did Internet users need a blog to connect with the rest of the world. They could instead post quick updates to link to articles that infuriated them, comment on news events, share photos or promote some cause, all the things a blog was intended to do. Yet the change is real, but not essential.

What I loved most about Blessed Are the Free in Spirit is that it is the quintessence of blogging, an example of blogging at its best.

Rob – as the author is best known in the blogosphere and social media – is also a philosopher and a man of letters, and this makes his writing even more fascinating. He can write about almost everything, as his book shows, without boring the reader. In short, he’s a great writer.

Walter Bernardone (GoodReads, March 16, 2021)

Blessed Are the Free in Spirit: a Review by Helen Butler

Rarely have I come across such an inspirational and enlightening book. Though simply and pleasantly written, Blessed Are the Free in Spirit: A Journal in Complicated times displays a critical spirit that is rare for our time of politically correct madness. This book challenges the reader without appearing to and without ever trying to preach to them, letting them make their own minds up about the many issues and topics the author touches upon, ranging from philosophy to literature, from politics to social media, from songs to seasons and places…

At the same time the book shows the importance to have a strong inner compass, and in so doing the author takes the reader’s consciousness to the highest level.

With that being said, if there is a flaw with this book, it is that it is not for everyone: it is not for small-minded people. It is not for people who cannot bear the freedom to be themselves and to take risks rather than just follow convention.

Politically speaking I’d say that this is a book for open-minded Conservatives and common-sense Liberals, or vice versa. Religiously speaking, in turn, this is a book for open-minded Christians and open-hearted secularists. And so on. Not by chance, as the author himself suggests in the Introduction, Blessed Are the Free in Spirit was conceived under the sign of Michel de Montaigne, who excelled in the art of looking at the things of this world without blinkers, prejudices, and preconceived notions. As S.R. Piccoli puts it, “the Lord of Montaigne was a skeptic, but of a very different sort from the one we are familiar with. He was not the kind of skeptic who basically believes in nothing, who refuses to take anything on faith, who takes issue with organized religion, and things like these. Yes, he was a man who doubted almost everything, but at the same time, he was a good Catholic, one who believed without reservation all that the church taught and prescribed. Strange enough, isn’t it? But strange as it might seem, to be honest that’s what I have always liked the most about him.”

To say that I like this book is an understatement, I love Blessed Are the Free in Spirit and strongly recommend it!

Helen Butler (GoodReads, March 13, 2021)

February 19, 2021

My New Book Is out and Available on Amazon!

Dear Readers,

Here we go again, a new book is born. A few weeks ago, when all the chapters were already written, I just had to write the Introduction to outline the purpose, goals, and contents of the book. Which, at least as regards the contents, was not an easy task at all, since this is a book that ranges across a vast array of topics and subjects. Yet I was well aware that the contents are not what matters most, to some extent they are just a chance and an opportunity. What matters most is what certain events, facts, issues, thoughts, and feelings can teach us about ourselves, life, and the world around us. I’d say that this book is a dialogue with myself about my understanding of and relationship with life itself. Existential, political, and philosophical issues—which are frequently recurrent in the book—are functional to wider self-knowledge and self-understanding. But this is not a philosophical book, despite the many philosophical issues that crowd its pages. Nor is it a political one, despite the seven subchapters devoted to the Trump era and its implications in the political, social, cultural, and economic life in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Let’s put it this way: to me, it is always like this in people’s lives, the idea is to always go forward, to progress toward an ever better condition. And it is right that it should be so. But reality rarely matches the initial vision exactly, and often it marches in the opposite direction. Contrary to popular belief, in our times many never stop unlearning, nor do they give up rising in the hierarchy of what is contrary to the Good, the Beautiful, the Just, or simply the Reasonable. Ours are times of intellectual chaos and moral relativism, if not nihilism, and everything seems on the verge of falling apart, as the events of the recent past in the U.S. and elsewhere, in case it was needed, have abundantly shown—by the way, while I was writing the Introduction, thousands of President Donald Trump’s ardent supporters violently were storming the U.S. Capitol building, prompting evacuations, injuries, and arrests...

The whole story of Covid-19 fits perfectly into this context, to the point of becoming, at least in my mind, an effective metaphor of the Zeitgeist, which is interwoven with individual and collective pursuits, aspirations, and ambitions that are so very often ill-conceived, short-sighted, and based on false premises. Yet, such an upside-down world is nevertheless our one and only world—and it is well worth fighting for, in spite of everything. In a small way and to some extent, Blessed Are the Free in Spirit. A Journal in Complicated Times is my contribution to the fight.

Like my previous book, Blessed Are the Contrarians. Diary of a Journey Through Interesting Times, this one is a kind of diary of a journey through our time—politics, culture, lifestyles, worldviews, etc.—and back home again, where “home” stands for a deep sentiment of belonging to our own free and indomitable spirit, which is much stronger than the spirit of our times, however powerful and attractive it may be. Moreover, in this book, as in Blessed Are the Contrarians, I have selected some of the articles posted on my blog over the last few years, those most suitable for this traditional mode of communication. In other words, Blessed Are the Free in Spirit is somehow none other than Part Two of Blessed Are the Contrarians. But with a couple of differences. The first being that in this book, the “journal” entries are arranged in chronological order (from most recent to oldest), as well as by subject matter. The second is that the author is no longer exactly the same person he was when the first book came out in 2012. This for the simple reason that time never passes in vain. As Heraclitus said, “You cannot step into the same river twice.” The water in the river is never the same, it is constantly moving, so the river is never the same river twice…

One word on the title of the book. A free-spirited person can be many different things—even (at least apparently) opposed to one another rather than harmonious or compatible—because their heart is their compass, and heart has no boundaries or rules imposed from outside. When they are religious, they tend to focus on the innermost teachings and truths of their religious faith rather than the “letter” of the Scriptures—and therefore they’re often, if not always, on the verge of heresy... They do not dwell on the past but resist a progress built on the destruction of traditions that go back many centuries and of the systematic denial of our history and civilization. They are fiercely independent, but can still develop a close emotional bond with those who provide for them and look to others for protection. They deeply care about their beliefs and what they feel strongly about but seem to not worry at all—except the bare minimum—about normal stuff like money, career, success, etc.

Free-spirited people are the salt of the earth, they are not restful persons. You never relax with these people. They are inspiring and thought-provoking, challenging and uplifting, men and women at their best. They are “contrarians” in the best sense of the word. And so they are somehow a step ahead of those to whom I dedicated my previous book. Some time ago, I stumbled upon an excellent definition of that blessed kind of person: “A free spirit is not bound by this, that, matter, materialism or opinion. They sing, dance, and flow on the wind—for they are at one with it. They are nothing and everything—void and expanse. Even space and time do not confine or define them. For they are pure energy itself” (Rasheed Ogunlaru).

With that being said, please note that free-spirited does not mean self-referential, solipsistic, or selfish. Quite the contrary. It’s because they are deeply in love with Life, Humanity, Poetry, Music, Dance, Theater, Writing and so many other things that Free-spirited people are what they are—if they flow on the wind it’s because they are at one with it! If they are self-confident it’s because they have faith in life! As the French say, tout se tient (everything fits). Freedom itself is not an absolute, not an either-or proposition, but a set of relations, possibilities mixed with actualities. Likewise, freedom of spirit, which is the quintessence of human nature, is basically the fruit of a compromise, a miracle of balance and elegance. Ultimately, free-spirited people cannot but be the result of a coincidentia oppositorum (the coincidence of opposites). As the most elegant of essayists and a living miracle of balance and intellectual like Michel de Montaigne once said, “One may be humble out of pride.” Which is certainly not a good thing, but what if we apply the same scheme in positive rather than in negative terms? Well, let’s say, for instance, that one may be cheerful/ironic out of seriousness, easy-going out of severity, naive out of sophistication, and so on. Hence Montaigne’s writing en chair et en os (“in the flesh”), as well as the imperceptibly subversive turns of his sentences and the slyly ironic tone that often creeps into his Essays. That’s what free-spirited people are made up of, and why they are the salt of the earth.

By invoking blessings on the Free in spirit, I’m trying to express the feeling I feel for them, my deep admiration and gratitude for their very special contribution to mankind and society. They are my North Star, my source of inspiration, and the reason why I am what I am. I would like to think that in whatever I write there is something the free-spirited writers and thinkers of the past centuries would approve of. Likewise, I hope what I write does not displease the free spirits of our day too much.

Now, for me, there’s nothing left to do but wish you happy reading and look forward to hearing from you with any questions or comments that you may have.


Blessed Are the Free in Spirit. A Journal in Complicated Times 
Paperback Ed. - ISBN-13 : 979-8702016979 - Publication date : February 5, 2021
Kindle Ed. - ASIN : B08W2DP9RC - Publication date : February 4, 2021 

December 26, 2020

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud



I wandered lonely as a cloud,
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

~ William Wordsworth


This famous and amazing poem speaks about one of William Wordsworth’s walks in the countryside of England’s Lake District. During this walk, he encountered a long strip of daffodils... Besides being a quintessentially Romantic poem, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” explores the close and fundamental relationship between nature and humanity. Introducing the idea of loneliness in the first line, but suggesting at the same time that the Poet is not really alone at all, Wordsworth intimates that the natural world—and a strong bond with it—is essential to human happiness and serenity.

The stars of the show in this poem are the daffodils. In the Northern Hemisphere, these beautiful flowers are one of the most welcoming signs of spring. Following the wintry months of grey skies and rain, daffodils bring bright swathes of color to our gardens and parks. That’s why they symbolize rebirth and new beginnings. These strong, resilient flowers are a positive, life-affirming symbol, with a bright and joyful yellow color. As it was not enough, the Poet describes the daffodils as having imaginatively human characteristics. Take their “dancing,” for instance, which is referenced in every stanza and which is an inherently joyful activity, despite being just the effect of the wind… In addition, Wordsworth projects human emotion onto the daffodils: “A poet could not but be gay/In such a jocund company”—even though, obviously, the daffodils don’t experience the world in this way.

As a result of all this, and other subliminal messages of the poem, the reader is led to feel the overwhelming happiness that the Poet enjoyed at the sight of what he describes as a “crowd” and a “host” of daffodils—b.t.w., “host” also has the subtle connotation of relating to angels—that are “fluttering and dancing in the breeze…“

P.S. This post wants to be a sign of hope and optimism for the New Year ahead, and is especially dedicated to my friends who are struggling. 
In this video, British actor Simon Russell Beale performs William Wordsworth's most famous poem, which takes on new meaning amid the coronavirus crisis (August 15 2020, directed and produced by Juliet Riddell and Joe Sinclair; curated by Allie Esiri and edited by Joe Sinclair). 

December 13, 2020

Time Flies



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.


Originally published on December 13, 2018 in my Facebook profile.

November 19, 2020

Through the Labyrinth to the Self: the Esoteric Way


There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, 
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
~ William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 5

Publicity still of Laurence Olivier
in Hamlet (1948)
The above is the phrase Hamlet uses in the homonymous William Shakespeare’s play. To be precise and to minimally contextualize the phrase, let’s recall that Hamlet has just talked with his father’s ghost and learned of his uncle’s perfidy, and when Horatio calls this confrontation “wondrous strange,” Hamlet says: “And therefore as a stranger give it welcome. There are more things...” Given that, as always with Shakespeare, there are layers of meaning, which have made scholars happy and frustrated in various measures over the centuries, I’d say that Hamlet seems to suggest that human knowledge is limited and that, no matter how broad our education, even the most learned of men cannot explain everything. Not by chance the above was one of Sigmund Freud’s favorite quotations from any source, a true tribute to the complexity of existence. As for Horatio, who is a model of rationality, ghosts are not the sort of beings his “philosophy” easily takes into account. Please note that both Horatio and Hamlet are students at the University of Wittenberg, a recently founded university (1502) that represented the institutional change from scholastic theology to Protestant humanism, and that the rational philosophy they’ve learned there is not adequate to deal with what the two friends have just seen. Of the two though, Hamlet is more open to mystery and the ineffable. He doesn’t overestimate philosophy, science, and rationality at large. And this, in my view, makes him a model of what every human being should be: rational but open-minded and willing to consider alternate perspectives if and when reason… isn’t able to do the job. And that’s where different scenarios open up, of which the history of religions on one side, and the esoteric sciences and traditions on the other, are full. The latter are exactly those I want to talk about here.

First and foremost, what is esotericism? Arthur Versluis, a professor and Department Chair of Religious Studies in the College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University, gives the following definition (Magic and Mysticism: An Introduction to Western Esotericism, 2007, Rowman Littlefield): 

The word “esoteric” derives from the Greek esoterikos, from esotero (inner), comparative of eso, meaning “within.” Although its first known mention in Greek is in Lucian’s ascription to Aristotle of having “esoteric” (inner) and “exoteric” (outer) teachings, the word later came to designate the secret doctrines said to have been taught by Pythagoras to a select group of disciples. In this context, the word was brought into English in 1655 by Stanley in his History of Philosophy. Esotericism, as a field of academic study, refers to the study of alternative, marginalized, or dissident religious movements or philosophies whose proponents in general distinguish their beliefs, practices, and experiences from public, institutionalized religious traditions. Among areas of investigation included in the field of esotericism are alchemy, astrology, Gnosticism, Hermeticism, Kabbalah, magic, mysticism, Neoplatonism, new religious movements connected with these currents, nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first-century occult movements, Rosicrucianism, secret societies, and Christian theosophy.


Horloge de Sapience - Henri Suso
Biblioteque Royale de Belgique, Bruxelles
As for Christianity, it’s interesting to note that, according to the great French thinker, scholar of world religions, Eastern cultures, and esoteric teachings René Guénon, the almost impenetrable obscurity that surrounds everything relating to its origins and early stages—“an obscurity so profound that, upon reflection, it seems impossible that it should simply have been accidental, but more likely was expressly intended”—seems to suggest that Christianity originally had both in its rites and doctrine an essentially esoteric and ‘initiatic’ character. “We find confirmation of this,” he says, “in the fact that the Islamic tradition considers primitive Christianity to have been a tariqah, that is, essentially an initiatic ‘way’, and not a shariyah or social legislation addressed to all; and this was so true that subsequently this latter had to be supplied by instituting a ‘canon’ law that was really only an adaptation of ancient Roman law, thus something coming entirely from the outside, and not at all a development of something originally contained in Christianity itself.”  Moreover, he continues, “it is evident that no prescription can be found in the Gospels that might be regarded as having a truly legal character in the proper sense of the word. The well-known saying ‘Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s’, seems to us particularly significant in this respect because, regarding everything of an exterior order, it formally implies the acceptance of a legislation wholly foreign to Christianity.” In fact, the Canon Law was simply modeled after the Roman Law. “This would surely have been a most serious lacuna,” says Guénon, “if Christianity had been then what it later became, for the very existence of such a lacuna would have been not just inexplicable but truly inconceivable for a regular and orthodox tradition if Christianity had really included an exoterism as well as an esoterism…” , and if it was even to have applied—above all, only might say—to the exoteric domain. If, on the contrary, Christianity had originally an esoteric character, such lacuna is easily explained. (Insights into Christian Esoterism, chapter 2 “Christianity and Initiation”)

Moreover, according to the same thinker, the esoteric or initiatic domain is absolutely not to be confused with the mystical domain. For instance, Guénon argued that “it is currently the fashion […]  among those with limited horizons to construe all Eastern doctrines as ‘mystical’, including those that lack even a semblance of the outward aspects that could justify such an attribution.” In reality, “in everything pertaining to initiation there is really nothing vague or nebulous, for on the contrary it is as precise and ‘positive’ as can be, so that initiation by its very nature is in fact incompatible with mysticism” (Perspectives on Initiation, chapter 1). The same applies, of course, to the so-called “occultism,” a term introduced by the 19th-century French ceremonial magician Eliphas Lévi. Lévi was also who popularized the term ésotérisme in the French language in the 1850s—which is perhaps also why “esotericism” and “occultism” were often employed as synonyms until later scholars, such as René Guénon, distinguished the concepts.

Esotericism, however, remains in itself a controversial term. An acceptable definition seems to be the one according to which “the term stands for ‘inner’ traditions concerned with a universal spiritual dimension of reality, as opposed to the merely external (‘exoteric’) religious institutions and dogmatic systems of established religions.” This use of the term “stays closest to the original meaning of the adjective ’esoteric’ in late antiquity, when it referred to secret teachings reserved for a spiritual elite such as the Pythagorean brotherwoods or some mystery cults.” In other words, exoteric teachings are meant for the uneducated masses that can be kept satisfied with mere ritual observance and dogmatic belief systems. Yet, underneath the surface of conventional religion, “there are deeper truths that are known only to initiates into the true mysteries of religion and philosophy.” (Wouter Hanegraaff, Western Esotericism: A Guide for the Perplexed, 2013, London: Bloomsbury)

It is interesting to note that this way of looking at the whole matter entails as a corollary that the true esoteric spirituality must ultimately be one, independent of social, historical or cultural circumstances: Regardless of the tradition in which each of us has been raised, those who want to go beyond outward appearances and conventional religions will always find access to the universal truth about life and death, human nature, the universe and our place in it, compassion and empathy towards others. This means that ‘Western’ esotericism is only one part of a larger whole: the esoteric teachings of all non-Western religions and cultures, such as Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Sufism, Shamanism, and so on, must ultimately point towards the same esoteric underneath surface appearances.

Another way to approach the concept of esotericism is to see it as an “enchanted” alternative to established religion and rationalistic science, a worldview opposed to the disenchanted, secularized Weltanschauung of modern West. (See: Ibidem) In any case, it’s clear that everything rests upon the conviction (faith) that a universal, hidden, esoteric dimension of reality really does exist. In this perspective, the problem is that scholarly methods are by definition “exoteric,” and scholars can only take into consideration what is empirically available to them and to whomsoever it may concern… To put it another way, academically speaking, the main problem is the unverifiability of the kind of “reality” claimed by the esotericists of all faiths and schools of thought. As a matter of fact, whether you like it or not, the academy has no methodologies for either falsifying and or verifying what the esotericists talk/narrate about. This, of course, applies to religion as well, though perhaps in varying degrees.

However, with that being said, we’re right back where we started from—William Shakespeare’s Hamlet’s willingness to be open-minded in the face of the unknown and the unknowable, at least stricto sensu. Of course, the risk of getting lost in the desert of the unreal and/or in the prairies of non-sense is extraordinarily high. “But,” as German poet and philosopher Friedrich Hölderlin put it, “where the danger is, also grows the saving power.” Let’s say that, in the case of esotericism, salvation comes from the power of symbols. The wisdom of esotericism, like “the ruler whose prophesy occurs at Delphi,” “neither gathers nor hides[oute legei oute kryptei], but gives hints [alia semainei].” (Heraclitus, Fragment 93)

Hugh of Saint-Victor
Works of Hugh of St-Victor 
 illumination on parchment
(Bodleian Library, Oxford)
To put it in a nutshell, we must take into consideration that a symbolic form in the transmission of doctrinal teachings of a traditional order is precisely what is needed. This because, as the great 12th-century philosopher and theologian Hugh of Saint-Victor opined, “symbolum est collatio formarum visibilium ad invisibilium demonstrationem” (symbols resemble visible forms in order to ‘demonstrate’ the invisible). “The truth of the invisible,” he explains, “is ‘demonstrated’ by the visible. Our mind can ascend to the truth of the invisible only when taught by the consideration of the visible.” (Expositio in Hierarchiam coelestem Dionysii Areopagitae II)

René Guénon’s explanation echoes Hugh of Saint-Victor’s:  “First of all,” he writes, “symbolism appears to be quite specially adapted to the needs of human nature, which is not a purely intellectual nature, but which requires a sensory base from which to rise to higher levels. One must take the human compound as it is, at once one and multiple in its real complexity; this is what tends to be forgotten, ever since Descartes claimed to establish a radical and absolute separation between soul and body.” This means that, in order to guarantee a complete understanding of reality and our place within it, “there can be no opposition between the employment of words and that of figurative symbols; these two modes of expression should rather be complementary to each other.” Therefore nothing is more wrong than thinking/saying that symbolism is suited to the under-standing of the common man only. It is rather the contrary that is true, writes Guénon. “Or better still,” he continues, “symbolism is suited equally to all, because it helps each one to understand the truth which it represents, more or less completely, more or less profoundly, according to the nature of each person’s own intellectual possibilities.” It is thus that even the highest truths can be communicated “up to a certain point” when they are “incorporated in symbols.” (“Word and Symbol” in Symbols of Sacred Science, trans. Henry D. Fohr, ed. Samuel D. Fohr. Hillsdale, NY: Sophia Perennis, 2004) Those very truths would not be otherwise communicable or transmissible and would remain hidden for many. Which, of course, would be an unforgivable loss for a large part of humanity.

Edward Burne-Jones - Tile Design -
Theseus and the Minotaur in the Labyrinth
Yet, as previously outlined, such an approach requires the acceptance of a non-calculated risk, a leap into the unknown. One of the most appropriate metaphors to illustrate and clarify the proposed approach is that of the labyrinth, such as the one in Chartres Cathedral in France, or the one that, according to Greek mythology,  was built by the legendary artificer Daedalus for King Minos of Crete at Knossos, and whose function was to hold the Minotaur, the monster eventually killed by the hero Theseus. In both cases, the symbolism refers to concepts such as the quest, spiritual pilgrimage, or odyssey through hell, etc. All of which include the ultimate risk of sacrificing—metaphorically or not—one’s life. The bet is that, as Hermann Kern states in his book Through the Labyrinth: Designs and Meanings Over 5,000 Years (2000, Prestel Publishing),  “In the labyrinth you will not get lost, in the labyrinth you will find yourself. In the labyrinth you will not meet the Minotaurus. In the labyrinth you will meet yourself.”


October 31, 2020

R.I.P. Sir Sean Connery

 


Sean Connery was born into a working-class Edinburgh family. And this, perhaps paradoxically, is the key reason why, at least in my view, he was perfect in the roles of kings (e.g. King Arthur in First Knight and Richard the Lionheart in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves), intellectuals (e.g. Brother William of Baskerville in The Name of the Rose and Professor Henry Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), “masters & commanders” (e.g. Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez in Highlander and Captain Marko Ramius in The Hunt for Red October). 

In other words, he was the living proof that true aristocracy, in all of its variants, is exclusively a matter of personality. 

Rest in Peace, Sir Sean.

September 26, 2020

The Purpose of Reading


There is a story on the internet and social media that talks about “the purpose of reading.” Nothing too original, nor particularly brilliant, at least in my opinion, but quite thought-provoking and, in its own way, insightful. Unfortunately, though, it is written in broken English—perhaps it’s a bad English translation of a story that was originally written in Chinese or another Far Eastern language... Thus I thought it was worth being rewritten in good English, so I asked an old friend of mine, Peter Weevers, who is a great storyteller, perfect for the job, to take over the task of doing justice to a beautiful story. And here is the excellent result: 
 

I’ve read lots of books, but most of them I’ve forgotten. What then is the purpose of reading them?” This was the question a pupil once asked his Master.
The Master didn’t answer at that time. After a few days, however, during a peaceful period when he and the young student were sitting by a river, he said he was thirsty and asked the boy to bring him some water using an old, dirty sieve that he found lying there on the ground.
The student was taken aback because he knew it wasn’t a reasonable request.
However, not wishing to displease his Master, he took the sieve and began to try to carry out this absurd task.
Every time he dipped the sieve into the river to scoop up some water to take to his Master, after only one step towards him there was not even a drop left in the sieve.
He kept trying several times but, as hard as he tried, even running as fast as he could from the riverbank to his Master, the water continued to pass through the mesh of the sieve and was all lost in the process. 
Finally exhausted, he sat down next to the Master and said: “I cannot bring any water with the sieve. Forgive me, Master, it’s impossible and I have failed in my task.”
“No,” answered the old man smiling, “you have not failed. 
Look at the sieve, now it shines, it’s clean, like new. The water, filtering through its mesh has thoroughly cleaned it.”
“When you read books,”  continued the old Master, “you are like a sieve and what you read is like the water of the river. It doesn’t matter if you can’t memorize all the words that flow through your mind, because books, with their ideas, emotions, feelings, knowledge, truths, that you read on their pages, will clean your mind and your spirit. They will renew you and make you a better person. 
This is also the purpose of the reading.” 

~ Anonymous



Music to my ears and those of the many whose memory leaves much to be desired! In any case, that’s exactly how it works, I get confirmation of this whenever I happen to think about something important or someone I care about. Books I thought I had forgotten—and suddenly they come to my mind, along with the gist of everything they taught me, showed me, suggested to me, and the ineffably good vibes they transmitted to me.

But the story also explains something that goes far beyond the books themselves: even books you may have totally forgotten about are essential and may continue operating inside us all in mysterious ways. French politician Edouard Herriot famously said that “culture is what remains when one has forgotten everything.” What is certain is that very few students could pass their final examinations even a year or two after leaving college or university. But the results in culture, in largeness of being, in purity of feeling, in nobility of character, still remain. In other words, culture is not so much a “thing” you own as a process and an attitude of mind—an attitude that is rooted mainly in our literary, philosophical, and religious readings. Hence, by the way, the importance of both increasing our reading and understanding ability on one hand, and of carefully selecting what we read on the other hand—classics are always the best choice, this goes without saying and it’s why I think I haven’t wasted a single minute of the time I’ve spent reading books!

September 8, 2020

Ten Essential Guidelines and Tips for Social Media Users Who Put Truth First and Hate Fake News

 


Fed up with the spread of fake news? Well, here are a few survival tips… 

1. First and foremost, what is fake news? There are two kinds of fake news: a) stories that aren’t true, that is entirely invented stories designed to make people believe something false; b) stories that have some truth, but aren’t 100 percent accurate. For example, a journalist or a social media user—whether deliberately or by mistake—quotes only part of what a politician says, giving a false impression of their meaning. 
 
2. Although fake news makes headlines today, it is actually nothing new. But, what is new is how easy it’s become to share information—both true and false—on a massive scale. 

3. Social media platforms allow millions and millions of people to publish their thoughts or share stories with the world. Unfortunately, though, most people don’t check the source of the material that they view online before they share it, which can lead to fake news going viral faster than covid-19. 

4. Before helping to spread fake news, please check whether anyone else has picked up on the story and what other sources say about it. 

5. Please bear in mind that a credible news story generally includes plenty of facts and/or detailed, consistent, and corroborated eye-witness accounts from people on the scene. If this is not the case, be suspicious. 

6. The main reason why fake news is such a big issue is that, in addition to being almost always believable, it is written to create “shock value,” that is, a reaction of sharp disgust, shock, anger, fear, or similar negative emotions. Therefore, a dose of critical thinking will always be needed. 

7. Always be suspicious of the news you want to hear, especially the most spectacular and sensational… 

Last but not least, on behalf of fair play and to maintain a high standard of intellectual honesty, please note that: 

8. Quoting someone’s words without giving credit, especially when done intentionally, is plagiarism and is generally considered unethical. 

9. Attributing a quote to someone without previously checking whether or not he/she actually said what you say he/she did is unethical and unfair. 

10. The same applies to those who report that someone did/said something without mentioning the source and, what is more, without checking the reliability of the source itself. In turn, to a journalist, attribution simply means telling your readers where the information in his/her story comes from…