I am walking through the beautiful city of Utrecht. The sky is pierced by occasional sun-rays and the city seems to be magical. The traffic-light is red.
I stop and wonder.
One more day is passing by and it is running as fast as the train speeding in the Dutch countryside at few kilometres from me. From one of the many canals that surround the city centre you can get a wonderful view; indeed it is in this area that I look upwards at the wonderful street paintings that the city offers.
I have always liked street-art in all its forms, from music to paintings or juggling. I find it beautiful, positive and liberating; it represents an opportunity, a very rare and precious one, to abstract from this standardized word, made of routines and commonplaces and to enjoy some creativity. Street-art even makes me happy and I believe it gets to improve the day of most people taking the time to contemplate it. Contemplating, this is such a simple but fundamental activity to live a life worth living that we could call it an art-form itself. It is a shame to think how our post-capitalist society, pushing people to rush in producing and in consuming, is cutting off the time that we could dedicate to stop and wonder. Art is per se something extraordinary and people who devote their life to it are very often extraordinary as well; you have to believe in yourself to quite a large extent to give up more secure, and often more remunerative carriers, and take the tremendous amount of time needed to master an instrument or a painting technique or your writing, etc…
By simply being there art demands those who contemplate it to get rid of the strings of routine, art is fresh air that gets all the way into your lungs, in a world where deep breathing is more and more unusual. In particular, Street Art for me is somewhat even more intriguing, indeed it is at the heart of our cities, outside, for everyone to appreciate it, with no shame of expressing itself in all its different forms.
Art and originality are pillars that we must embrace if we want to successfully commit to the process of common understanding. After 30 years that the Erasmus program is in place I think the time has arrived to step back and look at things from a larger perspective. I will not write about how great and enriching the Erasmus program is, but I will write about how empowering it is and what I believe we will be able to achieve from this unique expertise we get out of it. Students undertaking an Erasmus during their academic career are just a minor, lucky and skilful, percentage (around 5% in the academic year 2011-2012).
Firstly, we are lucky because we got the opportunity to go on Erasmus, and I am not only talking about the luckiness of studying in a time where the project is in place, but I am also talking of the good chance we had of being supported by our Universities, families and States. The luck I am writing about has to be here interpreted according to the Machiavelli’s conception, not the fate which rules on human beings, but the potential of everything that is outside its domain: a precise breach of opportunity where to penetrate. Secondly, we are skilful because we exceeded in our studies, because we won against the fear of leaving what was known for the unknown. Finally we get out of the experience with a network of friends spread all over the word, with a trained spirit of adaptability and with a better knowledge of ourselves and of a new language.
I gaze to the canal flowing under me, the water runs like my thoughts, life evolves beyond this canal, beyond these bricks, beyond that train and beyond this irregular sky, the strength of the traveller’s sight is itself movement and change.
Recently I have read an article claiming that the new generations want to change the world without having the skills and without knowing what they are doing, the article basically ended-up arguing that we are all destined to be hit by reality and to be dissatisfied with our lives. Bullshit.
I firmly believe we not only should try to change the world, but we have the duty of trying. We do not have to passively accept the imposed standard paths, we should instead be part of the changing process that shapes reality. Simply by breathing and therefore existing as rational beings, we have the duty to stand for something, to reflect on ourselves and reality, it is time we fill our hands with books, pencils, hopes and not only with an iPhone or a drink.. Do not get me wrong, I am not appealing for every-one of you to become an artist or to join an NGO or a no-profit. Instead, what I am asking from you is to believe in who you are, in the beauty of what you feel and in the power of expressing it. We have the opportunity of doing what matters to us, because we are skilful, young and very lucky, a combination that is very difficult to get. Let’s be brave and exhibit ourselves out in the world, let’s express our ideas, our values and ourselves like the artists do. We should not let fear winning and settle for the easiest path, life is only one and we shall better realize it and live it as such.
Originality is the only key to save our generation, the only way to break the wall of indifference that is now sealing our minds and darkening lights. To those calling for uniformity of thoughts let’s answer with the game of shapes and with different points of view. Without originality we would not have had Kant, Rubens or Cervantes, who were able to catch an opportunity out of their fate, creating something extraordinary. The luck of Machiavelli that joins virtue: the prince who, within its good fate, finds an opportunity to express his virtue (originality) and decides to pick it up, changing a life that is in his own hands. The inner word that studies what is outside, to understand it, and to make sure that “carpe diem” becomes a reality.
While I wonder I turn and look at what is happening behind me, in the moving crowd of people going up and down the street I notice a young man who is drawing something on the pavement.
It is a lady’s face. I see it coming to life thanks to the strength of its colours and the lines making up its physiognomy. She is not beautiful nor very seducing, but I cannot take my eyes off her.
I get closer.
The young man looks up at me and smiles.
I am slowly starting to understand.
We chase so much beauty that we forget that beauty only relies in what is different and original.
 The European Commission, Erasmus. Facts, figures and trends 2014, pag. 35.
 Niccolò Macchiavelli, Il Principe, 1532.