The Sky is Blue

No more planes shadow up in the sky.

It’s been a few evenings since I left home on the twilight, and I still notice this unusual lack up there, several kilometres above my head. Even if I lay upside down in the garden, I can’t even see the shadow of planes, niet. It is the 36th day of lockdown, a spring breeze makes me tremble, and even looking up in the sky there seems not to be exciting news.
Plane travels, that fantasy world in which I was first projected almost 15 years ago. I remember it as a dream, as something I had only seen in movies and instead, at that moment, I became the protagonist. With the eyes of a student, that simple attempt to emulate birds and stand as leaders of the Universe was itself the reason for enormous excitement. I passed that journey so happy only a few other times in my life, and I was disappointed when I had to leave that blue and white sphere with the Ryanair writing that stood above my head. Since then, from that Pisa-London Stansted, many leaves have fallen and many trees have grown, as well as many flights I have left behind. I wondered about them the other night while looking at photos of a trip to the Pyrenees. If I’m not mistaken they are almost 200 but my memory, on days like these, could legitimately fail.

A Ryanair aircraft leaving from Sofia airport

Those journeys, those places, those people who within a few years have populated my life and made me grow inside a universe that I could never have imagined in its greatness. If I merge the time I spent travelling and living abroad, I realize how much I have always been in perfect balance between these two worlds. Travelling displayed to me what is beyond my garden, it made me realize dreams and break down prejudices. I learned the languages and customs of peoples with whom I have always felt in harmony, realizing the importance of having one’s own culture, strong, rooted, and being able to share it peacefully with others. I understood that peoples, their customs and their rules, exist, condition us, give us a compass to guide us within the human race, without which it would be difficult to make sense of our steps, define our identity. Who knows what happens now in a deserted Louvain-la Neuve, where the coming and going of students leaves room for an unreal silence. Who knows how the Sevillians are living it, deprived of the most beautiful week in the world, that Semana Santa that only from the photos makes you tremble like the first kiss.

An aereal view over the Spanish region of Castile la Mancha

But among all those places, those people and those cultures, one comes back to me with renewed insistence. Like a dear voice, like a childish caress that drives bad thoughts back. The only place where, paradoxically, Covid-19 has produced negligible effects, given its isolation in Northern Spain.

If I close my eyes, memory travels back a few years, and when I reopen them I always find myself there, in the heart of Biscay, admiring one of the most fascinating hermitages in the world. In these moments San
Juan de Gaztelugatxe comes to mind with all its strength, with the mystical soul that surrounds it. There, where the Atlantic lashes at every hour of the day and night, the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks never stops. The noise of Nature, the silence of the Absolute.

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, February 2018


Maybe it’s a signal. Perhaps that of silence is truly teaching. It is the memory of when this Zeitgeist is so pervaded by words, poses, messages, that he ends up closing himself in a Babel where no language is more comprehensible. If we stopped looking obsessively at screens, data and statistics, rising to virologists, climatologists and conspiracy theorists, perhaps we would understand life a little better.

We will know, above all, to love people and not things, to live in terms of what is necessary and not in terms of accessories. We will perhaps live a bit lighter, without needing to always know everything, to take a stand, to scream without even knowing who we are fighting against. How beautiful it would be if in the silence of our intimacies we formed thoughts, words, feelings, without the need to print them, protest them, erect them as a fetish of what we would like to be and from which, conversely, we move inexorably away.
When I focus, I sometimes feel those waves on the Atlantic inside my own, like a mantra that relaxes me and connects me to my heart.

I open my eyes. It’s ten past two.


The coffee is ready, and the pause for my reflections is running out in a few moments. I recover for a moment, and I pretend indifference to the thoughts of a moment ago. I move the curtain and look out the window, before my grey hour of a break from work runs out and sends me back to basic needs.

There are still no aircraft trails. But if I look closely, there is a thinner, almost invisible thread that we are all afraid of pronouncing in our hearts but that stands out well in the space between the clouds and the sky.

That thread is called Hope.

Alessio Vagaggini
Marciano della Chiana, 14/04/2020

The unbearable lightness of Erasmus

Is the Erasmus light or heavy?

v “Over the town,” Marc Chagall, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

The title of this brief piece that I am about to write is inspired by the masterpiece of Milan Kundera the unbearable lightness of being. The Czech writer, taking back Parmenide’s reflections, reasons on the meaning of the dichotomic poles of heaviness and lightness, providing the keys for reading it: both to historical-philosophical level and lowering the abstractness of the two terms in a magnificent love story. Here, as soon as I think about the period that I am living in this small college town in the North of Europe, it is impossible for me not to think of this question: is Erasmus light or heavy?

First of all, Erasmus is a ‘heavy’ experience. It is primary heavy for you are leaving your certainties and your loved ones. Your usual daily routine is nullified, your acquaintances change completely, your alimentary habits are revolutionised. Even the way in which you view the global map changes because it makes you see the world and your country in a completely different manner. However, the ‘heavy’ aspect of this Erasmus experience overall relates to the changes in habits and in the human body maturation due to these worthwhile experiences. Changing your paths, meeting people that speaks languages different from yours, smiling and noticing how that smile has different values for different people, Erasmus leads you in a constant challenge that leads you to grow. For better or worse, what characterises our body as material, is heaviness. We have somehow to take care of it is the starting point from which we can cultivate and make our reflections grow, through them we can look for a sense.

On the other hand, Erasmus is also lightness. The thoughtlessness with which we write the name of our destination, without caring, it is just one place or another. A word, a name, a city that can represent opportunities, dreams and relationships one completely different from the others. The lightness with which, teenagers for a second time, we look at the stimulating afternoon lessons and we get blinded by the lights of the night. The heaviness, the material part of being, makes born and grow the lightness, the critical and free from the constraints of materiality thought, the supreme expression of human perfection. Therefore, as Kundera speaks of the drama of central Europe and of its lost cultural identity, with this light project we rather lean out in a complicated thematic. We lean out there in a European scenery that gets more and more lacerated by the disenchantment, by ethnic conflicts and youth unemployment.

The Erasmus, in the lightness of its idea, is the project that has engraved more concretely on the life of millions of individuals. It does not aim to make you become Europeanist or paladin of who-knows-which political party, but just to experiment the endless value of freedom and the knowledge of the other. It teaches you to remain yourself, but lightly, in the way of living, in the awareness of the differences between people: differences that we must recognize, for only through the knowledge of the different one we can recognize him, respect him and not to be afraid of him.

Erasmus is not a tool for pointing a direction, is the manual that gives you the means for building social life, our civic growth. For no coincidence, these people with different ideas, languages and nationalities have met and they feel now pushed to share ideas and experiences with the common aim of an only system of values in the respect of the plurality of positions and solutions.

The heroism of originality

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

Once again, lightness plays a key role in the randomness of our meeting: the resulting heaviness triggers the channel of this common sharing space. What unites the two terms is not the assignment of a value, but the perceiving of the deepest meaning and the gathering of the enormous wealth that an experience of this kind can transmit. Erasmus, as metaphor of losing ourselves for then find us again renewed, perfectly reflects the perfection, the wealth that this dichotomy has given not only to the literature but to the humankind too.

The heaviness of the experience, the lightness of the thought.

Or, maybe, the lightness of the experience and the heaviness of the thought?

Good question…

In the end, neither Kundera succeeds in explaining us whether life is lighter or heavier, also for being caught up in the doubt if the love among the human beings is light for the feeling or heavy for its concreteness.

When you will be intent to study head down in view of an examination in a different language from yours, when you will not understand a single word of what the cashier of the supermarket tells you or when you will wait for the person that you love standing under the rain, just smile.

Smile in any case.

You are dancing the one-time waltz of life.

Alessio Vagaggini

References

The unaberable leightness of being, M. Kundera, Adelphi editions, 1982

The tragedy of central Europe, M. Kundera, The New York Review of Books, 1986

L’insoutenable légèreté de l’Erasmus

L’Erasmus est-il une expérience légère, ou au contraire pesante ?

"Au-dessus de la ville”, Marc Chagall, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

Le titre des quelques réflexions que je suis sur le point d’écrire est volontairement inspiré du chef-d’œuvre de Milan Kundera, L’Insoutenable Légèreté de l’être. L’écrivain tchèque, reprenant les réflexions du philosophe antique Parménide, médite sur la signification de ces pôles opposés que sont la pesanteur et la légèreté. Il fournit ainsi au lecteur les clés d’une double lecture, qui se fait à la fois dans un contexte historico-philosophique et au travers d’une magnifique histoire d’amour qui permet d’atténuer le caractère abstrait de ces deux termes – pesanteur et légèreté. Et voilà donc qu’à chaque fois que je pense à cette période que je suis en train de vivre, dans cette petite ville du nord de l’Europe, je ne peux m’empêcher de me poser toujours la même question : l’Erasmus est-il léger ou pesant ?

L’Erasmus est avant toute chose une expérience pesante. Est pesante en premier lieu l’idée de sortir de sa propre zone de confort et de s’éloigner de ses proches. La routine est réinitialisée, les amitiés sont chamboulées, et les régimes alimentaires réinventés. La façon même avec laquelle nous regardons les cartes géographiques change : l’Erasmus nous fait voir le monde et notre propre pays sous un tout nouvel angle. Mais la pesanteur tient surtout au changement de nos habitudes et à la maturation de notre corps dus à cette expérience inédite. Changer de chemin, fréquenter des personnes qui s’expriment dans des langues différentes de la nôtre, sourire et voir comment ce simple sourire peut avoir des significations et des valeurs différentes selon les peuples… L’Erasmus est un défi constant qui fait grandir et s’ouvrir aux autres. Que ce soit bien ou mal, c’est bel et bien cette pesanteur qui caractérise la matérialité de notre corps. C’est cette base, ce corps, que nous devons soigner, puisque c’est sur celui-ci que nous pouvons cultiver nos propres réflexions et, à travers elles, chercher un sens.

Toutefois, si l’on y regarde de plus près, l’Erasmus est aussi légèreté. La désinvolture avec laquelle nous écrivons le nom d’une destination plutôt que celui d’une autre… Un mot, un nom, une ville qui peuvent signifier tant de choses différentes : des opportunités, des rêves, des relations complètement différentes les unes des autres. La légèreté avec laquelle, adolescents pour une seconde fois, nous appréhendons les leçons stimulantes de l’après-midi, alors que le soleil est encore haut dans le ciel ; tandis que nous nous retrouvons aveuglés par les lumières de la nuit tombée, est à la fois accueillante et irrationnelle.

La pesanteur, cette partie concrète de l’être, fait mûrir la légèreté, la pensée critique et libre de contraintes, l’expression suprême de la perfection humaine.

C’est ainsi que, tout comme la façon dont Kundera parle du drame de l’Europe centrale et de la perte de son identité culturelle, nous faisons face, pris dans ce projet pourtant si léger, à une situation pour le moins problématique. Nous sommes plongés au cœur d’un scénario européen lacéré par le désenchantement, par de nouveaux conflits de classe et d’ethnie, et par le chômage des jeunes.

L’Erasmus, par la légèreté de son idée, est le projet qui a le plus concrètement affecté la vie de millions d’individus. L’Erasmus n’a pas pour but de faire de nous des pro-européens ou des paladins de je ne sais que parti politique. Il ne vise qu’à nous donner l’opportunité de faire l’expérience de la valeur infinie de la liberté et de la connaissance de l’autre. Il nous apprend à rester fidèle à soi-même, tout en vivant, tout légers que nous sommes, dans la conscience de la diversité à laquelle nous devons nous confronter, puisque c’est seulement en connaissant celui qui est différent de nous que nous pouvons le respecter et ainsi grandir ensemble. L’Erasmus n’est pas un outil qui pointe du doigt la direction à suivre, c’est plutôt une sorte de manuel, de boîte à outils qui fournit les instruments de base sur lesquels construire notre vie sociale et notre maturité civique. Ce n’est pas par hasard si cette expérience nous a mis sur le chemin de ces personnes aux idées, langages et nationalités si différentes. Des personnes qui partagent ce projet de construction d’un système de valeurs commun, envisagé dans le strict respect de la pluralité des opinions.  

Encore une fois, la légèreté joue un rôle-clé dans la causalité de nos rencontres : la pesanteur qui en découle active le chaînage de cet espace commun de partage. Ce qui unit ces deux termes n’est donc pas l’assignement d’une valeur qui se mesure, sur une échelle allant de l’un à l’autre, mais plutôt la perception d’une signification profonde, la possibilité de récolter de chaque expérience de ce type une richesse inestimable. L’Erasmus comme la métaphore du « se perdre pour mieux se retrouver ensuite », est une expérience qui reflète à la perfection la richesse que cette dichotomie (pesanteur-légèreté) a transmis à la littérature mais aussi à l’être humain lui-même.

La pesanteur de l’expérience, la légèreté de la pensée.

Ou peut-être la légèreté de l’expérience et la pesanteur de la pensée ?

Bonne question…

Au final, Kundera lui-même n’est pas parvenu à trancher, à déterminer si la vie était plutôt légère ou pesante, perdu aussi comme il l’était dans un autre doute : celui de savoir si l’amour entre êtres humains était plutôt léger (dans le sentiment) ou pesant (dans sa tangibilité).

Alors, quand vous aurez l’intention d’étudier corps et âme en vue d’un examen dans une langue étrangère, ou quand vous ne comprendrez pas ce que vous dira le caissier du supermarché, ou quand vous attendrez la personne aimée sous la pluie, souriez.

Souriez dans tous les cas.

Vous êtes en train de danser la valse exceptionnelle de la vie.

Alessio Vagaggini

References

The unaberable leightness of being, M. Kundera, Adelphi editions, 1982

The tragedy of central Europe, M. Kundera, The New York Review of Books, 1986

Le scie degli aerei

In quel cielo azzurro non si vedono più le scie degli aerei.

Sono ormai alcune sere che esco di casa sul fare del crepuscolo e noto questa insolita mancanza, lassù, a diversi chilometri sopra la mia testa. Anche se mi sdraio a pancia all’insù in giardino, di aerei non se ne vede nemmeno l’ombra, niet. E’ il giorno 36 di isolamento, una brezza primaverile mi fa tremare, ed anche guardando in alto non sembrano esserci novità.


I viaggi in aereo, quel mondo fantastico in cui venni proiettato per la prima volta quasi 15 anni fa. Me lo ricordo come un sogno, come un qualcosa che avevo visto solo nei film ed invece, in quel momento, ne divenivo protagonista. Con quegli occhi infantili, quel semplice tentativo di emulare gli uccelli ed ergersi come condottieri dell’Universo era di suo motivo di eccitazione imparagonabile. Passai quel viaggio inebriato come poche volte, e rimasi deluso al momento che dovevo lasciare quella sfera bianca e blu con la scritta Ryanair che campeggiava sopra la mia testa. Da allora, da quel Pisa- Londra Stansted, tante foglie sono cadute e tanti alberi sono cresciuti, così come altrettanti voli mi sono lasciato alle spalle. Li ho calcolati l’altra sera, mentre riguardavo le foto di un viaggio sui Pirenei. Se non mi sbaglio sono quasi 200 ma la mia memoria, in giornate come queste, potrebbe legittimamente perdere lucidità.

Un volo Ryanair in partenza dall’aeroporto di Sofia


Quei viaggi, quei luoghi, quelle persone che nel giro di qualche anno hanno popolato la mia esistenza e fatto crescere dentro di me un Universo che non avrei mai potuto immaginare nel suo splendore. Se metto assieme il tempo che ho passato viaggiando e vivendo all’estero, mi rendo conto di quanto sia sempre stato in equilibrio perfetto fra questi due mondi. Viaggiare mi ha spiegato cosa ci sia al di la del mio orto, mi ha fatto realizzare dei sogni ed abbattere pregiudizi. Ho appreso lingue e costumi di popoli con i quali mi sono sempre sentito in sintonia, realizzando l’importanza di avere una propria cultura, forte, radicata, e di poterla condividere pacificamente con gli altri. Ho capito che i popoli, le loro usanze e le loro regole, esistono, ci condizionano, ci danno una bussola per orientarci all’interno della razza umana, senza la quale sarebbe difficile dare un senso ai nostri passi, definire una nostra identità. Chissà che succede adesso in una Louvain-la-Neuve, deserta, dove il via vai di studenti lascia spazio ad un silenzio irreale. Chissà come lo stanno vivendo i Sivigliani, privati della settimana più bella del mondo, quella Semana Santa che solo dalle foto ti fa tremare come il primo bacio.


Ma fra tutti quei luoghi, quelle genti e quelle culture, una mi torna alla mente con rinnovata insistenza.
Come una voce cara, come una carezza infantile che ricaccia all’indietro i brutti pensieri. L’unico luogo dove, paradossalmente, il Covid-19 ha prodotto effetti irrisori, dato il suo isolamento nel Nord della Spagna.


Se chiudo gli occhi infatti, la memoria mi permette viaggi a ritroso di qualche anno, e quando li riapro mi ritrovo sempre li, nel cuore della Biscaglia, ad ammirare uno degli eremi più affascinanti del mondo. In questi momenti San Juan de Gaztelugatxe mi viene in mente con tutta la sua forza, con l’aura mistica che lo circonda. Lì, dove l’Atlantico sferza ad ogni ora del giorno e della notte, il rumore delle onde che si infrangono contro gli scogli non si interrompe mai. Il rumore della Natura, il silenzio dell’Assoluto.

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, Febbraio 2018

Forse è un segnale. Forse quello del silenzio è davvero un insegnamento. E’ il ricordo di quanto questo Zeitgeist sia talmente pervaso di parole, di pose, di messaggi, che finisce per chiudersi in una Babele dove nessun linguaggio è più comprensibile. Se la smettessimo di guardare in modo ossessivo schermi, dati e statistiche, ergendoci a virologi, climatologi e complottisti, forse comprenderemmo la vita un po’ meglio.

Sapremo, al di la di tutto, amare le persone e non le cose, vivere in termini di necessario e non di accessorio. Camperemo forse un po’ più leggeri, senza bisogno di sapere sempre tutto, di prendere una posizione, di urlare senza nemmeno sapere contro chi stiamo combattendo. Quanto sarebbe bello se nel silenzio delle nostre intimità ci formassimo pensieri, parole, sentimenti, senza bisogno di stamparli, protestarli, ergerli a feticcio di ciò che vorremmo essere e dal quale, viceversa, ci allontaniamo inesorabilmente.


Delle volte, quando mi concentro, quelle onde sull’Atlantico me le sento davvero dentro, come un mantra che mi rilassa e mi congiunge al mio “sacro poco”.


Apro gli occhi. Le due e dieci.

Il caffè è pronto, e la pausa per le mie riflessioni va esaurendosi in pochi istanti. Mi riprendo un attimo, e fingo indifferenza rispetto ai pensieri di poc’anzi. Sposto la tenda e mi affaccio alla finestra, prima che la mia grigia ora di pausa dal lavoro si esaurisca e mi rimandi alle necessità primarie.

Non si vedono ancora scie degli aerei. Ma se guardo bene, c’è un filo più sottile, quasi invisibile, che tutti in cuor nostro abbiamo paura di pronunciare ma che si distingue bene nello spazio fra le nuvole e il cielo.

Quel filo si chiama Speranza.

Alessio Vagaggini
Marciano della Chiana (AR), 14/04/2020

Dal Globe a Porto San Giorgio: il Riccardo III…on the beach

 


Sotto un cielo che si fa a poco a poco più scuro, dolente messaggero della minaccia incombente, e che tenta di fagocitare i sereni colori confetto spruzzati nell’altra sua metà, quella rasente la superficie del mare, si apre l’ultima serata dei Magical Afternoon – Shakespeare on the beach.

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Du Globe à Porto San Giorgio: Richard III.. on the beach

Sous un ciel de plus en plus obscur, messager douloureux de la menace imminente et tentant d’engloutir les couleurs sereines aspergées dans son autre moitié, celle qui effleure à peine la surface de la mer, on inaugure la dernière soirée des Magical Afternoon – Shakespeare on the beach.

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