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And you, who do you walk for?

E tu, per chi cammini?

Dear professor,
Summer is coming  together with the end of the school. I desire to tell you that I joined the GMG in Poland last summer, and this experience really marked me... I don't want to talk about faith or religion, but I would like to present you one of the many questions arose  inside me after my adventure. One morning, while traveling by train to Krakow, I was writing on my logbook and it happened that a flying paper came to my attention. Inside the paper were written the following words: a Jewish tale tells of a wise God-devoted rabbi who decided to go on the road for a relaxing walk. While he was walking slowly on a isolated street, he met a guard who was marching back and forth with long and steady steps in front of the gate or a rich estate. “ Who do you walk for?” the rabbi said curious. The Guardian answered saying the name of his master. Immediately afterwards he posed the same question to the rabbi: “and what about you, who do you walk for?”. That question stuck inside rabbi's heart. That day I tried not to think about it because I didn't want to face myself. Despite that, a few months later, when I was home again, I felt the need  to find the answer and that doubt has always concerned me... “And I, who do I walk for? For who and what am I waking up every morning?”
Sara, 4H

Dear Sara,
When questions concern the meaning we give to our lives, I look at people who have experienced extreme moments, at the confines of life and death, and listen to the motives of their journey. I consider these situations because when life fades and it would be even easier to accept fate and surrender to defeat, men expound the reasons behind them. So, literally, I think of the long marches induced during the war, because in that forced inducement emerges the reasons we're walking for. I think of the retreat of Russia, told by Nuto Revelli in "The War of the Poor". The reason for the departure and the will of the return. And I think that if you are obliged to leave because the path has been decided by an authority to be obeyed, the will of return is a will from the heart. If you start your journey in the name of a "master," then you'll march for something you think is indispensable: a person, an ideal, your children. "For those who walk" sounds a bit like the question that Corrado, protagonist of the novel by Cesare Pavese, "The House on the Hill", where he tells the companion referring to his son Dino: "If he asks you who do you live for, [...] ? ». And Caterina responds to Corrado, telling her heavy life: "I have always struggled and beat my head. Early times was bad. But I had Dino, I could not think of nonsense. I remembered of what you told me once, that life has value only if you live for something or for someone. " Both if you live for an ideal or a person this is confirmed by war and extermination camps survivors . This is, in fact, also the reflection of a Jewish writer Elie Wiesel, who describes the German directives and the reactions of prisoners in the work "Alien Words": "Everyone think about himself, they were telling us. Forgive parents, brothers, the past, they repeated it day and night, otherwise you will perish. The opposite was true. Those who lived for themselves, to feed themselves, ended up giving up to the laws of death, while others, those who knew who to live for - a parent, a brother, a friend, were able to obey the laws of life. Many others have also said that without strong motivations it is impossible to survive, so Primo Levi ("If This Is A Man, The Truce"), Vasilij Grossman ("Life and Destiny"), Viktor E. Frankl ("A Psychologist in the Lager" ), Pavel A. Florenskij ("Do not Forget Me, Letters from the Gulag").
If I were to tell you who am I walking for, I would say that as long as my mother was alive, I lived for me but with one eye on her, and when she died I found myself wondering why and who I was walking for. Now I have a son: then I know I still live a bit for me, but I know I have an eye on him and his path. I think the reason why you walk is always for someone or for something. When you are a child, you also walk for your parent's approval, when you are a parent, perhaps even to deserve your children's trust. When you lose someone you lose the witness of your life, someone who has given or has gathered the sense of existence so that it does not fall into meaninglessness. Fortunately, we do not walk for a master, but to accomplish what we are, to complete the voice that we hear within us. The aforementioned authors have highlighted how affections make sense of life even beyond egoistic interests.

The father of the classic liberalism John Stuart Mill in the work "Utilitarianism" (1861) emphasized the need to cultivate both personal feelings and collective interests. Mill writes: “To those who have neither public nor private affections, the excitements of life are much curtailed, and in any case dwindle in value as the time approaches when all selfish interests must be terminated by death: while those who leave after them objects of personal affection, and especially those who have also cultivated a fellow-feeling with the collective interests of mankind, retain as lively an interest in life on the eve of death as in the vigour of youth and health.” So there are many reasons why you can get stimulated every morning, knowing who or what you are walking for. 
Best wishes, 

Intimacy and prejudices

Confidenze e pregiudizi

Dear professor,
During these holidays I went to Croatia for a week to meet with other kids around my age mainly from Italy, but also from many Eastern European countries. Although we have never  met before, we created a friendly atmosphere that allowed me to feel totally accepted, free to be 100% myself and face with the most complete calm and lack of embarrassment very much deep and sometimes strictly personal. This made it possible to create very close friendships within a few days. Since when I return from this wonderful experience I've been living in the past but never so strongly, I began to think that everything I found in Croatia, this serene and welcoming environment between strangers, I can not find it here in my city between my classmates and friends of a lifetime. Yet it should be the opposite. How is this possible? I also wondered: who should I really consider my friends with capital "F"? Those with whom I felt immediately welcomed and with whom I opened with sharing many experiences, but I will probably never see again, or those I see every day, sharing my daily life, but with whom I still feel the shadow of prejudices?
Domiziana, 4H

Dear Domiziana,
In my workplace, where I study we are always plunged in a precise context. It is a social environment defined by those with whom we are most concerned: occasional friends who often live in the same neighbourhood and in the same city. Sometimes the opening up of our heart to those we already know may not be so easy or convenient. It is not easy, because some of our choices are conditioned by the knowledge of the other and the bond we have with him. We try not to bother a friend with excessive concern to prevent him from judging or going away. Since in every environment we have built up with fatigue and time some relationships, we know that to avoid bothering the other we can not always be 100% free. We are afraid to be misunderstood and to change the relationship, the opinion that others have about us and the role that we had in the past. But opening can also not be convenient because routine relationships have created a hierarchy in our relationships.
The longer the time passes and the bonds become stable, the less the others are willing to accept what does not agree with their representation of us. Sometimes we foresee even how they will interpret our revelations and the solutions they will propose, and sometimes we even fear that someone may make a distorted use of confidences. We are not particularly concerned about the judgment of those who do not know us, because the other has not yet classified us and does not move in our relational context. American sociologist Mark Granovetter introduced the concept of "strength of weak ties," a notion resumed by both Zygmunt Bauman in "Liquid Modernity" and by Richard Sennett in "Flexible Man". The latter has translated it: "For occasional association relationships, people are more useful than long-term constraints." Not always the best suggestions come from the closest people: sometimes not always the suggestions related to work given by our relatives are the best. Perhaps a person we do not hang out with can provide more useful suggestions because he is more familiar with a specific field of business. There is also another aspect to consider: very often we do not look for the other exactly "an answer", but simply the opportunity to freely express our recurring thoughts so that they can evaluate them without censorship.

Sharing with others allow us to see our ideas and to deepen their consequences. Since he accepts and does not judge, he listens, and remains distant, we must not reconsider the relationship with him at the end of the chat. The friend sees our contradictions, the stranger welcomes it as complexity, a friend would like us not to change much, the stranger welcomes new things. A friend can compete with us, a stranger not yet. Those who know us expect a consistency with the past and struggle to accept our change, the stranger does not know our story and has no particular expectations. It is the benefit of the novelty. The people you met with, however, shared your ideas and passions and that's why you went to them. A time and a place to experience has been created. With the people we know we do not always have the space to share. If new things always represents a total opening and an absence of "prejudice," when the new people become a stable more presence in our life, won't there be the same problems we have with the old friends? In every relationship, difficulties and conflicts arise. Heraclitus said that "polemos" is indispensable and fruitful ("father and king of all things"), but it is also true that sometimes, where there is more lightness, there is more freedom. 
Best wishes, 

With no friends

Senza amici

Dear professor,
Spending so much of my time with people I say being "my friends", I ask so many times how to define a friendship. Can anyone consider a friend anyone who's not your enemy or do you need something more? Do you need to spend happy moments with someone to define him your friend or is there another way to establish a friendship? And finally can you live without friends?
Giacomo 4H

Dear Giacomo,
If it is true that Vasilij Grosmann wrote in "Life and destiny", that is "Friendship is a mirror in which a man sees himself," thinking that we can consider a friend anyone who's not an enemy seems to me inadequate. Of course, where there is no enmity, there is a space for the relationship, but it is simply potential. And the availability to meet is a land to explore, not a form of friendship. To see if you need some elements. I choose three elements: affinity, relationship and sharing. Although it is true that friendship can be exists between very different people, it is easier to look for someone that resembles us, for a sort of relational ease.
Perhaps we are lazy in doing so too, but we can accept the differences if we find that there are some affinities somewhere. The mere difference can get us exited, but behind the diversity we aspire to a common ground for sharing. Although many scholars remind us that the desire for friendship is inherent in human nature, Aristotle claimed in some beautiful pages of "ethica nicomachea" that "the desire for friendship arises quickly but the friendship does not." The desire to have new friends is immediate, but to build a friendship takes time. Not all those we feel sympathy for will become friends, just as not all those with whom you relate today to school or groups you hang out with will remain your friends.
And even though in the past we said "the abundance of friends seems to be one of the decent things," maybe because it gave us a sign regarding someone's good character and his ability to create positive relationships with others, the overabundance of friends we show today on the social networks can turns into a simple show of power. And force has nothing to do with friendship that is based on quality and not on number. Friendship also requires a necessary element: the sharing of experiences. In the new collection of articles titled "The new barnum" (Feltrinelli 2016), writer Alessandro Baricco told about "Friendship Before Facebook". Since I belong more or less to his generation, which is then the one of your parents, I believe there is a lot of truth in his words. The writer is clear: "Being friends meant doing things. Do not talk about them, or tell them: just do them. "
He recalls that once we reserved "endless" phone calls only for girls. The bond with somebody was given by the activity that took place: playing ball, fishing, spending Sundays in the square and invent something to do, walking to discover a wider portion of the world where they were born. The depth of a friendship was linked to the intensity of the activity with others. No word exchanged on computers, few of them on the phone, but a lot of time together to share experiences. In his reflection, I found part of my experience, but also again in Vasilij Grossman's words when he writes that "Perhaps the supreme form of friendship embraces the active friendship, the friendship in work and in struggle and the friendship of those who talk and share experience. "
Grossman shows the extension of "doing things together" that we will find again in the adult world as sharing of experiences, ideals, and visions of the world. The fact that the author emphasizes "active" indicates that "doing together" creates an exclusive bond, and that sharing increases the quality of the relationship. Ask anybody if you can live without friends. I do not feel like excluding it, because in extreme conditions, men have become accustomed to everything. However, although there may be difficulties in relations and today the tendency to emphasize the flaws of friendship has increased, I always find Aristotle's view true: "without friends no one would choose to live, even if he possessed all the other goods. (Ethics Nicomachea 1155 a). I recently found a similar reflection in Elie Wiesel's "All rivers run to the sea" (Bompiani 1996). The author writes: "The worst curse? For a father, the lack of children. For a child, the lack of a fireplace. For a believer, the lack of justice. For a researcher, the lack of truth. For a prisoner, the lack of hope. For every human being, the lack of friends. Without friends, freedom does not make any sense or value. Those who have no friends are just prisoners out of prison. " Lack of friendship is presented as a disgrace or a damnation. We need to share our lives, even with a few people. But we need to see ourselves through each other and be grateful. 
Best wishes, 

Authenticity, at what price? 

Autenticità: ma a che prezzo?

Dear professor,
The pursuit of authenticity is a thought that besiege me. This life runs unceasingly and we do not ask ourselves many questions: but in all this what are we? I ask myself this question while living a monotonous life into a superficial and materialistic society, where it seems to me that the only purpose is to make me scratched by the time. I know that in order to live well we need to get peace with our own soul, given by relationships with authentic people, without purpose or interests. A shared happiness with someone real, to admire and to be charmed by the real beauties of life and nature that we are slowly forgetting. That's it, I expect this from my existence: authenticity. But how?
Leonardo, 3I

Dear Leonardo,
Hugo Ball, one of the founders of Dadaism in Zurich, in the work "Flametti, or The Dandyism of the Poor " (1918) writes that the life of acrobats and circuses is more authentic than the one of the bourgeoisie. Those who live on the margins of society, poorly integrated into the system, are perhaps less willing to compromise and to conceal, for "those who walk on the rope can't, not even for a moment, think "what if. " There is no way of pretending, flaunting, or hiding one's true nature. Authentic life is no different from the one they, because you can not make it look like you're not on a suspended mid-air cable. Authenticity can be conceived in many ways: we speak of an authentic picture if it is compatible with the author who created it and of an authentic document if it is original.
That is what we mean by authenticity often referring to an original object that differs from its copy, to an autograph and not to its reproduction. The authenticity of life to which you refer is however of another kind: it is not about cleaning up an amphora covered with scraps and shells - that you identify in "monotony, superficiality and materialism" - to rediscover the authentic object that is below. That is because the existence of someone is not an artefact that remains unaltered over the years, slightly veiled or spoiled by the time. Life not only changes over time, but it is gradually generated. So what does it mean to be authentic if there is no original to preserve? Philosophies and religions have always urged the passage from the authenticity to the authenticity of men. According to Socrates, in order to be authentic and not to repeat what most of the people say, it is important to know ourselves, for Jesus it is crucial to open up to a dimension of love with the divine and with the human. For Kant it is true who knows how to obey the moral law, for Marx who knows how to unveil superstructures and seize the causes of human alienation; for Nietzsche those who suspect the truths of tradition and listen to the Dionysian, for Freud who listens to their unconscious, for Heidegger who knows how to get out of the anonymous existence of impersonal "yes".
Everyone has found his own way to authenticity: some have come out of a social group, moved to other cities, in the countryside, or in lost places. Others have changed their jobs or changed their lifestyle by deciding to take care of themselves, of others or of their culture. Today, we believe it is authentic the one who can hear their inner voice and refuse to move in a space already lead by others in work or in the political, cultural or religious vision. Existentialism, a philosophical twentieth-century current that has developed since the First World War, has given much importance to this issue. Authentic existence is not only one that takes awareness of conditioning, but it is the one that looks at life from death, considering that life is not endless. It is the man who considers life from his natural fragility and assumes this condition to guide his choices.
Even the psychiatrist Aldo Carotenuto, in the book The Eclipse of the Gaze, believes that the category of authenticity is fundamental: "in the face of death, as well as in the most crucial moments of existence, [man] is forced above all to To ask himself who he is, and to accept limitations and mistakes only if he knows that he has given voice to his inner dimension. " After all, we measure the truth of our experience with this Litmus. You ask at what price can we be authentic. The price is high because - as for what is precious - its value is high.
But the compensation that comes from is the quality of life. To become authentic includes the ability to move away from what we no longer share, in order to listen to your inner voice. It also implies the capacity to sustain the suffering due to the loss of what we believed to sustain life. The theologian Vito Mancuso in “Io e Dio. Una guida dei perplessi” (Garzanti, 2011) ("I and God. A Guide for the Perplexed") proposed this beautiful reflection: "The authenticity of life is measured on the basis of its relationship with the truth, in the sense that authenticity increases The more we are willing to love the truth, even above ourselves and our beliefs, if it is necessary to refute. Instead, this authenticity decreases when as we prefer our beliefs and conveniences to the truth of the experience. " 
Best wishes, 

The granparent’s love 

L'amore dei nonni

Dear professor,
Has love, feeling that seems to characterize all man's existence, changed and changed over the centuries? I think of my grandparents, who now take care of each other with devotion; anyway my grandfather claims to have married his wife because he had to marry at the time and she was in the right age too. For many centuries male chauvinism reigned, and certainly love was different. Another important topic are combined marriages. Can we say that love has changed and today we love more honestly, maybe also knowing better the other half of the apple?
Francesca, IIIA

Dear Francesca,
Experts claim that while in the past people split up because they hated each other, now they most likely split up because they do not love each other enough. Of course, it is true, many times men and women have been together for economic needs, in need for protection, security, social reasons related to the social class they belonged or for other reasons. Today, perhaps, people are less willing to accept justifications for union than are not totally brought by love. They stay together for love and this remains the highest moment of happiness. I wonder about four aspects of your beautiful letter: 1. You're saying your grandfather, "married his wife because he had to marry at the moment and she was in the right age too."
This fact seems to recall an element of computation or coldness in the poetry of love. It becomes difficult to accept it because we often think that making projects is an extraneous element that breaks the charm of falling in love. We do not want to introduce planning elements into what seems distorted if planned. However, as when you want to start an activity you need the tools more than wishes and fantasies, so without substantiality it is not possible to implement a project, and the awareness of the temporal limit of life increases the value we give to time to realize a life path together. You have chosen a beautiful expression to indicate the love of your grandparents: "they take care of each other". 2. I believe taking care of the other is the essential quality of love.
When caring about others we show every day our interest in them, our caring for their needs and our dedication to their lives that slowly change. We also say it in certain expressions: a neglected person, in fact, is abandoned to himself, ignored. And if one is abandoned soon he starts neglecting himself. He loses interest, he lets himself go, he becomes weak and give up to the weight of years and life. Care is a word that also recalls therapy, that is how we intervene to restore someone's health. Yes, because the interest in the person is therapeutic, it allows him to feel alive and to feel loved. And who knows to be loved is stronger, because attention is a powerful medicine of the soul. 3. It is also significant how to report their relationship: with dedication.
The word devotion is halfway between respect and worship. Devotion is made of respect (respicere), the ability to know the other for what he is and for the human dignity he has; because each of them is the only one who knows the experiences of the other, his or her life, his or her story. Only your grandfather, today, brings with himself the story of your grandmother and her life. Your parents came after, and you afterwards. He sees in your grandmother what others no longer see, the time of his youth and many other moments they lived together, her fantasies, her dreams and her past. In devotion there is also something sacred that reminds us of the bond with the divine. In love, in fact, we experience the most important form of relationship among people, and being the highest form of human relationship it is good to say that it is divine.
As the believer goes back thinking of what he loves, so the lover wants to be close to his love. 4. "Do we love more honestly because we know the other half of the apple better ?" The knowledge of the other person can increase our love, but that is not enough. When you love someone you understand him better: two lovers just have to look at each other if there is something wrong. It is from love, therefore, that knowledge increases. The philosopher Umberto Galimberti, in the book "l'ospite inquietante" (the disturbing guest), mentions a phrase by Paul of Tarsus: "One cannot  enter the truth without love (Non intratur in veritate nisi per caritatem)." The ability to understand each other, as you see, passes through love. In fact, it is thanks to love that you can comprehend the nuances of the affection between your grandparents.
Since teenagers are very smart and know how to distinguish in relationships what is authentic about what is artefacts, I think your grandparents are lucky because they have a very careful granddaughter who knows how to read emotional tones. I think that you are even richer, because you have experienced love in the highest form, which is that of testimony and not of idealization. A lived life generate an energy that can persuade people that even the quality of love is also possible.
Best wishes, 

The beauty of art
La bellezza nell'arte

Dear professor,
Sometimes I find myself looking at documentaries regarding art and being fascinated by the magnificence of the masterpieces I see. In addition, recent news shows also the choices made by tourists for these holidays: there has been a boom of visitors to the museum sites. Even me, over the last few years I've visited several museums. But sometimes, a huge doubt comes to my mind and I will briefly explain it to you. Some works of art, such as Michelangelo's "Pietà" or Botticelli's "Birth of Venus", are recognized by everybody as absolute masterpieces of exquisite beauty. Beauty that call fourth great emotions in us, even bringing some people to manifest Stendhal's syndrome, which causes a temporary state of psychic suffering in some individuals who admire the wonders of art, mainly if kept in restricted spaces. It is true, however, that art can have different forms. We can think about the contemporary art, which in many cases divides public opinion: while someone add to its beauty, others deny it. Shortly, while the first current claims that beauty is linked to the masterpiece, the second state that this beauty does not exist at all. It is aroused by the soul of those who observe it. So, what I am asking is, "Is beauty of art an objective or a subjective quality?"
Samuele, 4H

Dear Samuele,
The Polish philosopher Władysław Tatarkiewicz reminds us that ancient aesthetics proposed three theories of the beauty: the mathematical one of the Pythagoreanism, according to whom beauty comes from "measure, proportion, order, and harmony," the subjectivism of the sophists, "From the pleasure of the eye and the ear," and a functionalist theory of Socrates, according to whom "the beauty of things lies in being appropriate in the ends we serve." In the classical era there was the idea that beauty was evident and that it depended on perfect proportions. Harmony, measure and symmetry represented the criterion for judging the work of art. On the other hand, they also thought that beauty could have obeyed to the individual taste, just like choosing a dress to wear, a song or a decor. From this point of view, as we can not achieve the uniformity of taste, according to the ancient saying that "De gustibus non est disputandum", one should be content with recognizing that subjectivity is the key criterion to evaluate something. And since the subject is conditioned by his own sensitivity and his own story, beauty would not be inherent in the masterpiece, but in the peculiar receptive capacities of each one.
In the history of art, beauty has been considered both as a prefect reproduction of an object and a revelation of a subject that expresses its own exclusive way of feeling the world on the canvas. When I think of art as an objective representation, I think about those wonderful disputes between antique painters and told by Pliny in "Natural History" (Book XXXV). At the end of a two-handed paint competition, Zeusi congratulates Parrasio for having painted the grape with such perfection that birds fly around the canvas to catch it. And so, after receiving the compliments of his colleague, Parrasio invites Zeusi to remove the thin veil that covers his work so that he can fully admire it. As soon as he discovers that it is not a real veil, but the illusion produced by painting, Parrasio immediately understands that he has lost the race and recognizes that the other imitation was more convincing, since fool an expert painter like him. If in this case the value of beauty is determined by the degree of resemblance to an object according with reality, from the twentieth century, for example with expressionism, we give more value to the subjectivity of the artist and not to the objectivity of the rest of the world.

The criteria of beauty have changed and all the subsequent currents of contemporary art have further crushed the ancient canons. And that is why many works are more difficult to understand and we often doubt that they are art. So, is beauty objective or subjective? Umberto Eco in the "History of ugliness" recalls that from the fashion of cinema, the beauties that are being proposed today (Brad Pitt or Sharon Stone) are not so different from those of the Renaissance. As if there were common represented in humans. This means that Kant has produced a lesson I believe is still up-to-date. According to his vision of the theory of knowledge, he stated that men possess structures that are activated when they sense order and harmony. When something that lives outside us awakens a sense of order, we tend to define it as beautiful. The beautiful is therefore not a property of the objects, but not even an arbitrary subject evaluation: it is born rather from a relationship of our spirit with reality. The neurobiologist Semir Zeki studying the relationship between brain and art ("The Vision from the Inner Art and Brain" [1999] 2007) has highlighted how the activation of different brain is given using different colours, forms and lines. The aesthetic experience therefore has biological foundations, and Kant had already well understood it by separating the subjective-objective dualism. 
Best wishes, 

A love that saves
Un amore che salva

Dear professor,
It was quite difficult to write this letter ... About two years ago I had a problem I sincerely do not regret to talk about because it's normal to be weak: who in a way, who in another one... Everyone has something that cause him distress. I had a problem of anorexia from which I managed to get out, not thanks to the help of psychologists or doctors, but simply to that of my family and my friends, who became for me a second family, my shelter in case of storm. During that time of pain and hardship, when I was trembling in front of the word, my eyes filled with tears, I reflected a lot. The questions I asked myself were numerous, but what I find most important and for which I have not yet found an answer is not what everyone could imagine, "why did that happen?" But one that might have arisen at the end of the tunnel as a result of others' gestures...
We are all destined to die, who first, who after, and we are all destined to leave this world regardless of what we do, our behaviour, choices or actions. So I wonder: what other people did for me, helping me in that difficult time, will vanish without anyone remembering it? And I, leaving this world, regardless of whether I will reunite with God or I will reincarnate in something else, will I live as if nothing had ever happened? Will I forget all the gestures and the efforts my parents did to save me? All the tears they poured and the prayers they did? Will I never honour their greatness even with the memory and the great love I feel for them? Will there be a trace of that memory at least in me? How can we not be frightened knowing that everything vanishes and dissolves in the greatness of the world and the end of the beat of our heart? For this reason, I am trying to thank all those who have helped me, but always knowing that everything will vanish, I feel weak and that every gesture is useless.
Debora, 4H

Dear Debora,
There are perspectives that make our insignificant actions banal: the perspective of the universe's birth or of the appearance of life on the planet. Any gesture in the weaving of a lifetime, between billions of lives in space and time and placed in a huge time distance, may seem irrelevant. The individual path reveals its ephemeral character, the Earth its marginality, each gesture dissolves. The awareness that everything vanishes can make any unnecessary behaviour appear. But only if viewed from sidereal distances. If everything becomes inconsistent compared to those ranges, it is clear that the units of measurement of our lives must be others. We try, even before we understand it with reason, that there are two kinds of love: one unconditioned and one conditioned. The first is that of parents, which supports us even if we do not have merit. Eric Fromm in "The Art of Love" writes: "There is nothing to do to be loved - maternal love is unconditional.
All I have to do is to be - to be her baby. Motherly love is bliss, peace, no need to be conquered or deserved. " We will then discover that that was the only integral love, because future ones will always be conditioned: by our behaviour, our values, our choices of life. Is there a way to "honour the greatness" of the love we receive? Those who, like you, have been fortunate enough to experience the love of the family know that their debt with them can never be awarded enough. The asymmetry can not be compensated. Only by the passing of years and by putting together the pieces of the story of those who preceded us we can understand the meaning of that being loved. The love we received has allowed us to grow and mature the conviction that our life is important because it interests someone. If we want, it is the first form of salvation: we have been saved as not thrown or abandoned in the world, not stunned by its noises, in the inconsistency of mere natural survival. The strength that did not loosen and did not cease to support you, made you feel an inalienable value when even you did not find value in you and around you.
It's a huge gesture because we know that from an ethical point of view, love can not be commanded. But you can choose. Kant also knew that love can not be an ethical imperative. Some time later, however, Max Scheler will say that starting from that being loved, man's ethics and ability to love are originate. In the work "Formalism in Ethics and the Material Ethics of Values", the author writes that "Love bring the possibility of a good life." Experienced love becomes an original experience that shows that it is possible to learn to love and that the love we receive is a condition of goodness. Life is a mixture of fragility and strength. Your parents have taught you that gestures toward the fragility of life are not useless. We will not have the energy to move the stars or to divert our path, but sometimes we can protect our lives. Beauty is right there: supporting the origin and accompanying the path of a life, gives value to who generates and to whom it is generated. 
Best wishes, 

The past that doesn’t pass
Il passato che non passa

Dear professor,
"The past is the past: it doesn't exist anymore, not physically." Augustinus  has forced me to admit that my relationship with the past perhaps is wrong. The past does not give me a truce or maybe I'm not giving it up. I can not get away from it in any way because, after all, I do not want to. Examples? Many. In June of the third class, the two friends I was linked to were dismissed. For them it was bad, but for me it has been very bad too. After four months of school, I still feel their lack. It is not a lack that "it will pass, it is only the early days" or "it is the fault of my other classmates" as I have been told. Always, at any time, I perceive their absence. I try not to think about it, but it is something that goes beyond my will. Sometimes I hate them for not having studied enough and sometimes I hate myself for not having helped them enough. At school my mind is always elsewhere: with them a year ago. A year ago I left the Conservatory who was my most loyal companion in life for six years.
It was a very thoughtful and painful choice (and even the most wrong, to say the truth!). I spend my days with one million things to do but none of them could match what the Conservatory gave me. Once again my head is somewhere else: sitting on a stool or at the chorus lesson. The experience of the World Youth Day gave me the same effects. I live the present as a mixture of memories, regrets and nostalgia: a fatal cocktail, I would say. "It was better earlier" has become my motto by now. Is it true that the past does not exist anymore? What if I lived in an eternal past? Thanks so much.
Chiara, 4 H 

Dear Chiara,
Augustinus in Chapter XI of the Confessions states that if the past no longer exists, not everything get dissolved because there is, however, the "present of the past", ie the actualization of events through memory. But that would mean that we are always communicating with our story each time we report some facts to our attention, because we try to recompile it or, as you say, to submit it to the court of our judgment, forgiving or condemning it. If newborns live only here and now (hic et nunc), because their brain is still unable to record and recover memories and therefore act for a few years only in a dimension made of immediate needs, beginning from their childhood children live a sort of three-dimensional time. They dive into the past, live the present and anticipate the future. So even the present is not a separate and neutral time.
Attention itself, which is our way of living the present, is conditioned by that "fatal cocktail" of "memories, regrets and nostalgia." Everyone carries within himself his own whole story, the one he lived and the one that is interpreted, the one he chose and the one who is struggling to accept and would reject. Unfortunately, usually not only beautiful memories are significant. Sometimes, painful experiences do not "give us a truce" (the past pursues us whole, says Henri Bergson), they mark our actions more and condition the way we describe the experiences. Not only does the past never extinguish as it constitutes us - actually, we continually assimilate ideas and visions of the world - but it generates values, conditions needs, conquers fantasies and orientates desires. Thanks to your sensitivity you wonder if school events could have had a different outcome and reconsider all the variables: your companions could have studied more, you and your friends could have been involved most and perhaps - I add - the school could have been more focused on potentialities.
What happened has determined a different reality. A spread was created, and the distance now feeds a strong sentimental tearing. If proximity with your friends gave sense to your days, the absence created a physical vacuum and a relational suspension. Classmates live in you and continue to be a silent presence that only you can see. How is it then to live serenely if the past creates such an accentuated curve in our attention and our gaze? First, do not feel responsible for their absence: each person has his time to mature, to understand what is important in one's life and eventually to choose it. You can keep your relationship with your friends out of the classroom, the break, or other areas. Not to live in an "eternal past" you have to consider that interpersonal relationships change, regardless of our intentions. If you focus too much on unrealized possibilities, you will not be able to create new significant ties. So, it is preferable to give your relationship with your classmates value and outwise school to keep cultivating the old friendships. There is an ancient Aphorism of Sanskrit, of the language of classical Indian civilization, which expresses a very wise attitude towards time. He says: "Yesterday is already a dream / And tomorrow is just a vision / but today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope". Living the present well allows us to create good memories and to have confidence in the future, but above all it helps us to accept what does not depend on us without having excessive guilt feelings. 
Best wishes, 

The deep pain
Il dolore profondo

Dear professor,
Can you tell the deep pain? Do not you risk to impart this pain to the person you are telling it? It is not pain too "painful" to be told? Of course, everyone has their own conception of pain, but moral-psychological pain is not the one we can't tell? Is it too complex to talk about it?
Giovanni, 3I

Dear Giovanni,
Young children do not have the words to tell the pain and they are overlooked by bad things. Adults have the words, but there are pains that surpass the words too. A few years ago, during the state exams at Casale Monferrato, I met a student who had translated from Farsi language a book telling the life of an Iranian woman. The book is titled "What I Am" (Garzanti). At the end of the exams I immediately bought the book, read it greedily and after the summer I invited the girl to tell that story to her peers at some assembly halls. I have resumed that work because it narrates the suffering of a woman who has lived in a culture that has extracted her freedom and I have found in that story many faces of deep and silent pain.
After the loss of her brother Ahmad, the young protagonist cried for a week, but then she realized the unusual way of expressing pain of one of her sons Siamak: "He was not in tears, he was like a bomb ready to burst." Even her grandmother was disappointed, because the child had not even cried to her grandfather's burial, but his mother understood instead that the child felt so bad "to hide his own sorrow even to himself." So one day she left his youngest son to a friend and went to his father's grave. The author writes: "We went there, motionless and silent, for a few minutes he was trying to get away from it all, fleeing away with his mind and avoiding my gaze. I made him sit next to me and talked to him of my father's memories of his merits and defects, of his love for us, and I continued until his tears finally ventured out to all the repressed pain.
When Masuud [the youngest son] came home, Siamak was crying again, and they cried together. I let them vent themselves without intervening: they had to pull out the suffering that was gripping their little hearts. " Elie Wiesel, the Jewish writer who survived the Shoah and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, for about ten years after the war wrote nothing and told nobody about his own experience. He published "The Night," the first book in which he tells this horror, only in 1958. For ten years, therefore, he brought within itself an evil that can not be defined or circumscribed by words, and perhaps not even shared. A few years later with Jorge Semprún, another writer who survived the concentration camps, publishes the book "Silent is impossible" (Guanda, 1996). This is a dialogue about the opportunity and about whether or not to tell the dramatic events that have taken place.
At one point the two authors write: "J.s: Sometimes we need to write, but not always. We do not write only about this, neither you nor me, and we write knowing that there are things that are not ... E.W .: ... that can not be said. J.s .: You can not say everything. One can not make imagine, make understand everything. It is clear that it is impossible. E. W .: Silence is forbidden, talking is impossible. " Speaking is impossible, because no word can transmit radical evil, but silence is impossible, because there is a moral duty to make known and to testify. As you can see, evil takes time and even adults are reluctant to rely on the words. Children can be overwhelmed with pain: the pain coming from a violence, the loss of a relative or a loved one, but there are forms of pain that leave even the adults speachless.
However, people may suffer also for a book story or out of a movie after having watched one: they identify themselves in the life of another, even a stranger, because they feel that the pain does not only belong to the person who suffers, but quite to everybody. Yes, pain - like joy - is transmitted to others, so you have to be able to choose the people to whom you can trust and who can accept it. When we listen to someone's confidences, we do not definitively eliminate his affliction, but in the act of sharing, we show that his bitterness is no stranger to us. And since interpersonal dialogue is therapeutic, there are sorrows that certainly find relieve in sharing. There is an ordinary, common sense of sorrow, the one that accompanies us in the experiences of life, small evils, small defeats, that we are used to tell because it does not overwhelm us. But there is also a deeper pain that goes beyond the understanding and the categories with which we try to rationalize life.
An evil that transcends our ability to argue it rationally and emotionally and that is difficult to report. It is important, however, to understand that every man is more and more that his own pain, and therefore he must not be identified with it. If in the life we transmit our joy, we must also have the courage or, as you say, accept the "risk" of communicating sadness. It is part of life too. By learning to accept the suffering of the other, we become more humane as we feel the ephemeral nature that constitutes us.
Best wishes,

Everybody runs too fast
Corriamo tutti troppo

Dear professor, 
I often find myself watching people behind any window. I see people living their life in a frenzy way: they run as if they were always pursued by someone or something. I often find myself running too. I do not enjoy my time because I'm late, because I have something else to do or just because I'm used to it. As a child I did not have these thoughts, I just did things. Now, instead, I started wondering why. Why do we live all our lives in a frenzy way? Why nobody ever stops looking at a landscape? I have just started to think that it is completely meaningless. Do things, do things, do things though knowing that our actions will eventually be erased or forgotten. So why keep running when you can walk and enjoy life more?
Noemi, IE

Dear Noemi,
We may have a little too got used to the "frenzy of life," as you said, just as if we were "pursued by someone or something,". But historians taught us that our rush to be understood must be compared to the biggest engine, the engine that "accelerates history". French historian Daniel Halévy (among other things, classmate of Marcel Proust) in his "essai sur l'accélération de l'histoire" of 1948 showed that an historian of a previous generation, Jules Michelet, in the first half of the nineteenth century had already perfectly understood that history was accelerating both for the concentration of events that took place in a certain period and for their rapid succession. But earlier, and for a long time, history has had more or less the same rhythm: "From Virgil to Proust," writes French philosopher Michel Onfray in Cosmos, "time is more or less the same. The man who wrote the "Bucoliche" and the man who published "In search of lost time" they share the same world [...] In Virgil, the horses pull the carts; In Proust, they pull the imperial buses or the tilbury. However, speed is always the same. " But from a certain point on time the weather has been sliding faster. The story began to accelerate with the industrial revolution (the economic process accelerated) and then with the French Revolution (socio-political transformation accelerated).
To point out that this acceleration hasn't ceased to exist, the historian Eric Hobsbawm called the Twentieth Century "The Short Century", Reinhart Koselleck taught us that the future is so fast that we do not have the time to taste it because it suddently becomes the past ("Future Past"), the philosopher Hans Blumenberg said that the distance between "Time of Life and Time of the World" has enlarged, and sociologist Zygmunt Bauman introduced the concept of "Liquid Modernity". Everybody is now using the acceleration theory to interpret contemporarily. And the feelings about this process are ambivalent. Some of them are positive, because we think that despite the environmental, cultural, social and economic changes, accelerating history is good because it will help reduce food and health lacks or the widespread acquisition of human rights around the planet; others are negatives, resulting from the anticipation of the dangers triggered by this new condition. Michel Onfray, reflecting on the disadvantageous aspect of our urges, compares the acceleration of history to the acceleration of a fallen body. In this case, writes the author, "We live more quickly because the fall of our civilization drags us with it ..." As you can see, our hurry might even be related to "the sunset of the West" itself. Walking and enjoying life seem to be more difficult to achieve, because we resemble the particles of a heat-gas that accelerate their travel and hurt themselves.
So sometimes, we have the impression that life is just a futile ride that does not allow us to fully live the time we have. As the well-known Italian philosopher Diego Fusaro has very well explained in A Time Without Time, the acceleration of production turns out to be "intolerant towards slowness and dead times." But to live well we do not need to be hyperactive: we need a time to measure people and not the technique. The understanding of events and the quality of life follow in fact the inner rhythm and not the productive rhythm. Therefore, the new imperative of our times, which Fusaro has cleverly called "Acceleration, ergo sum" ("accelerated, therefore exists"), does not seem appropriate for a good life. Let us return to your definition: if we feel "chased", we move fast, without a goal, into a continuous flight, dissipating our energies into a generic doing. If we are to "pursue" our goals, then we can impose our own step. If we move toward a goal, following our desire, designing our path, then we move from the generic to doing something specific. "Enjoying life" does not just mean to separate it from the chaos of the world, but to walk in the world following its own pace, its own stride. It's not easy, of course, but it's necessary to live well. Not to live alienated and be sure to be able to govern the helm of your ship. 
Best wishes,

The importance of a meeting 

L'importanza di un incontro

Dear professor, 
Reading the reflections of some guys, I was impressed with what's called "The Link I'm missing" [October 27, 2016] because I suppose it can be significant for anyone who has just finished high school, because it concerns people I've known and with whom I also tied up. Getting to the point, Alexander (the author, ex 5A) puts the emphasis on the importance of the people he met during his journey. We all have more or less profound relationships and any of us will have more or less lasting relationships with classmates and friends... but are not all these connections essentially the result of randomness? Kierkegaard taught us that we feel anguish facing a choice. Obviously, this is because of the infinite possibilities we have, most of them must be discarded and, a priori, we do not know what the consequences of our actions will be or what might have been. But if all this is true, then what value do human relationships have? I mean. Me (and I mean any person) I am very attached to my family, I believe that every element of it is important and has influenced me. But as far as I can please my father or mother, as far as I can feel lucky, grateful, everything would be different if I was born into another family. The same goes for friends. All of our friendships, as far as we can consider them important, as far as we think we wanted them, they are actually the result of randomness. If I ended up in an another class on that first day of school five years ago, I probably would not know or would not have known people who have been or are still extremely important. Everyone knows it, at university very often the classes are ma de of hundreds of people. I've made some friends with some of these and I also feel that they will become relevant to me but what would have happened if that day was late, as usual, and sat a few lines back? A decade ago I decided that it was time have a change and I spent three months in Dublin. I've known people who have become fantastic friends and I know that it is possible I'll never see them again. That is why the departure was painful, because of the awareness of how fragile was everything we built. I came back, I suffered, wept and even partly forgot. I lost something there and I lost something here. But if that day, instead of deciding to leave, I would have decided to stay, how would it have gone? In the end, it was a fairly instinctive and unreasonable choice... With all this, I do not mean I don't have a strong tie with people I know, far from it. I believe that everyone is very important for me, for better and for worse. After all, joining someone means to change ourselves first, and this is what gives our acquaintances something special and unique. But at the same time, my life, even if different, would have gone on even if I had not connected with all of the people I know. This, I think, is what ultimately creates anguish, what keeps us awake at night, which makes us suffer more than so many other things. So what value do human relationships have? Aren't all the people very similar? Are there "unique" people? What was the end of the sentimental ties? How and in which way would we be different if certain insignificant random events had not happened? Thanks for the attention. Giovanni, ex VB
Dear Giovanni,

From casual encounters, more and less significant relationships arise in each person's life. Everyone is "thrown" in life, in a family, and in a historical period that he did not choose, but it is from these conditions that he creates an idea of himself and of what is relevant to his life. Existence is made of casual encounters: the class in which you met your companions, the place of study, work, the city where you decide to live. Literature has told you the feelings, cinema has shown you faces and the progress of suffering, physical separation has made you really experience the pain caused by the breaking of a bond. We suffer because without our bonds our identity does not exist. The rest is always "other generic", pure possibility, until you establishes a relationship with it. There will be time and attendance to push some people away from you or move them away, based on the hierarchy of reference values and the life choices that you will find meaningful. Since you have experienced the strength and beauty of a friendship, you have been warned that every man can be authentic in many ways, in many places and with different people. That life can be spread out in thousands of revolts. However, uniqueness is always linked to conscious and unconscious needs: the person becomes exclusive if you decide to open yourself to him/her, and it will be so if you have the ability to bring out what you can not probe from yourself. Socrates did not learn the things about love by himself. He learned them from a woman, Diotima di Mantinea. We are not self-sufficient and our lives are given by the openings we choose to welcome, and the roads we decide to follow. Others give you the chance, you decide your way to stay in the world. You have experienced the wonder and the excitement of the uniqueness and the fragility of life. The "fear and tremor" of having to decide for yourself.
Best wishes,

The second service station
Il secondo autogrill

Dear Professor,
This summer I was in the car with my father and sister, we were going to Genoa to take the ship to go to Sardinia on holiday. After about half an hour my sister started saying that she needed the bath and that we had to stop as soon as possible. We went past the first service station because we did not notice it in time. We stopped at the next one. My dad and my sister went down and I stayed in the car, while activating the outside lock. When they came back they could not get in and I, from inside, I pretended not to see them, laughed and did not open ... when we got up we left and at the first curve the car in front of us slammed and overturned. My car was a few feet back and stopped in time, so it did not crash. We waited for the arrival of the rescue and when they pulled the woman out of the car we left.
Throughout the travel up to the ferry, I, my dad and sister did not say a word ... we knew we were lucky because nothing had happened and that woman we did not have any more news was probably in a coma. Thinking back in my mind, I realized the luck I had. If my sister did not stop at the service station, if I had not been stupid by preventing her from returning to the car, if we hadn't stopped at the first service station and not the second, if my father wouldn't have slowed down in time, maybe my car would have been overwhelmed with the other and probably we would have never gone on holiday to Sardinia. Is there a destiny, are there any coincidences or is it just luck?
Marianna, 1alfa

Dear Marianna,
The writer Caudio Magris in The infinite travel, comparing the epic to life, writes that "Like life itself, the epic is a carpet, crossing and disposing of destinies like wires of different colours, events, figures and woven characters Dissolved by time, by chance, by God, by inexorable necessities or fortuitous coincidences, also lived, enjoyed and suffered with passion. " Epic and life are compared with large carpets that woven threads, mix colours and produce unrepeatable shapes combining intentionality and fortuitous coincidences. Some wires interrupt the weft, others cross the carpet all way long. How many times we said: if I had not met that person at the University, if I did not go to the sea in July, if I had studied English, if I had learned how to play the violin. But every action taken has fixed a knot in the carpet of life. Sometimes the situations are positive, sometimes negative, but there is no destiny. We do not possess the plot because the plot is generated over time. The thread is made like the spit of a spider, IT crosses the chaos of the world, encounters obstacles, retreats or advances, sometimes tangles and sometimes ruptures. There is no trace of destiny, there are only advantageous or unfavourable circumstances.
When you reflect on the fact that you were fortunate enough to avoid being involved in an accident for a few minutes, consider your behaviour as variable (a possibility) and the unlucky event as inevitable (a necessity). In fact, these are two possibilities that could or should not happen: your family could have stopped or continued the journey, the accident could have happened ot not. Because you consider the accident as a necessity, you report to it according to the time that separated you from danger. But the woman's injury could have occurred sooner or later or it could not even have happened; even the lady could have stopped at the service station and perhaps for longer than you. If it had been too late, for a few minutes you would have been involved in the accident and you would have thought: if we did not make that stop. But the circumstances are random, without intent, depending on how to make and break the wits of life and the complexity of events. I would also like to remind you, however, that there is no inevitable destiny even in our lives. There are inevitably conditioning, sometimes very heavy: from genetics to disease, from the social and family environment to the culture of belonging. But there's nothing that doesn't depend on us. In Liberty, Grace, Fate [1948] (Morcelliana, 2000), the German theologian and writer with Italian origins, Romano Guardini, affirms that there is a way in which we could be harnessed by our nature and that is not to determine our choices.
Referring to the Es, the pulsating part of personality, which for Freud operates according to the principle of pleasure, Guardini writes that: "Destiny is an Es. Indeed it is the Es, simply. When a man involuntarily says He, he intends fate and abandoning that power, who does not know either justice, wisdom, respect, or goodness. " Maybe in this case there is a destiny. If our path is determined by the impulses, then our autonomy is lost. The choices of a mature man go in the opposite direction to the inertia of nature. They deal with the subject's freedom. And responsibility comes from freedom: even the one of making sense of the various events that happen to us.
Best wishes,

What if we forgot everything?
E se si scordasse tutto?

Dear Professor,
Sometimes it happens to be scared of forgetting everything, that all of the good things you have disappear, that you will never be able to return who you were, that it will take only a moment to forget everything. Maybe you will not laugh like a fool thinking about a particular moment, because you will not be able to remember it. That's quite my fear. This is why I take photographs, not to let my own mind the chance to make me forget everything. The question is: how do you not forget things? Perhaps you will never meet me, but you are the only one who read my biggest fear: to forget everything.
Eleonora, 1alfa

Dear Eleonora,
“The existence of forgetting has never been proved: we only know that some things don't come to mind when we want them.” wrote Nietzsche in Aurora. I do not know if progressive oblivion stems from an inadequacy of our reason or arises from a necessity of sorting organisms in a certain way. Perhaps in the future we will no longer be "crazy" for an event that has made us laugh at creeps, but we will not even suffer from seemingly unmanageable wounds. The fact that "not forgetting everything" was nevertheless a useless operation was magnificently exemplified by Jorge Luis Borges in the Universal History of Infamy (Adelphi).
He had imagined an Empire Map that, to be precise, had been created in 1: 1 format. "The Colleges of Cartographers - wrote the author - made a Map of the Empire that had the Immensity of the Empire and perfectly coincided with it." Immediately afterwards he said that the paper was useless and superfluous: "But the Next Generations, less used to studying Cartography, thought that this huge map was useless and left it to the Incas of the Sun and the Winter." Actually it would have been a great problem to remember everything. The first reason is trivial. Who would listen to that inexhaustible reservoir of memories?
In addition, we would need at least another life  - or many - to retrace all the experience we had if we want to interpret events, consider them from different perspectives, imagine what would have happened if we had made different choices. But there is also a deeper reason. Human beings change, and changing they give different importance to different moments of their existence. If when you were a child to have success at school it was enough to memorize the history of Sardinia, growing up it became more important to remember the history of your childhood or your family. Memories are conditioned and modified by our expectations and our values. And since we are living differently in the events, there will be events that will not involve us anymore and others that will be important.
With the flow of time, in fact, we judge the past with new eyes and we usually allow the background to emerge just what has been significant to us. When I think of the desire of not being forgotten, I think of the mathematician, philosopher and Russian priest Pavel Florenskij, who at the end of each letter written from the gulag where he was locked, he always greeted the family members by saying to them: "Do not forget your dad," " Do not forget your dad and be good with your mom. " Rereading his epistle I found this enlightening insight: "Life flies away like a dream, and you do not have time to do anything before you escape the instant of its fullness. It is therefore essential to learn the art of living, the most difficult and the most important of the arts: to fill every moment with a substantial content, know it won't happen again. "
The art of living should teach you to "fill the instant" with a substantial content to give value to the activity you are engaged in, to the relationship you have undertaken, to the people and to things with which you relate. In order not to forget the thoughts, Florenskij provided in a letter these tips: "Do not forget: try to write thoughts and remarks every day, without postponing their registration to the future; they would be soon forgotten and, even if they remain in our memory, they become inexact and pale. From these notes, if you write them, you will accumulate materials for great works. This way of working offers vividness and substance work. The best thing to do would be to always have a notebook with you to be able to take notes on the go and in any situation". You can make a lot of photos, as you already know; You can also shoot with your cell phone, but writing actually has the ability to reveal more aspects of reality: grab a moment and show you the perspective from which you looked at the world at a certain time.
It is no coincidence that the Diaries are so revealing: they reproduce thoughts we caressed and momentary intuitions that have opened our eyes. These days in Cuneo there is a beautiful exhibition regarding the painter Ego Bianchi. In addition to his works, I was enchanted by his Diary, made by the reflections he wrote between 1945 and 1948. Certain of the exposed works speak for him, but his writing opens up a universe of insights and ideas that I could have never imagined from his works of art. It's the intuitions that gave sense to his days. And you too, photograph and write, but do not forget to live and - like this excellent painter - to "fill your moments."
Best wishes,

Today, not tomorrow
Oggi, non domani

Dear Professor,
is it really so important to have an organized, prepared future or a future that makes you feel proud of yourself because you reached a goal stated years earlier? Is it so important to know "what will you do when you get older"? How much money will you earn? How will you pay the mortgage? Or maybe you're staying in a rental house? It's all so banal ... I've always been worried about TOMORROW.
TOMORROW I will write a book, TOMORROW I will get an accommodation in London and still, TOMORROW I will meet my friends living their TOMORROW for a coffee. Anyway, last year I did something that made me think of TODAY. I did not manage to pass the first year of high school. Suddenly friends and relatives began to advise me on new schools, perhaps easier, or to address me towards the work world...
But as they told me "study this for the future," I realized that TODAY I want to go crazy about a version of Greek, that TODAY I want to know the epithets with which Homer described Ulysses. TODAY I like to do this and maybe DOMANI will do the bartender and sometimes I'll write some stories. I want to do TODAY what I like TODAY. Is it really so absurd not to know exactly what I will do TOMORROW?
Matilda, Iα

Dear Matilda,
Your letter impressed me positively, because it shows a profound motivation. By rephrasing your reflection, however, I realize that if I had to answer twice the same question, next time I would say that it is good to think even about your tomorrow. But since I intervene only once, I now strongly support your passion. First, however, I must remind you that even parents have good reasons to say what they say and it is not easy to give advice for them.
Erasmus Roterodamus, great humanist and philosopher from the Netherlands, in Adagi's work has collected hundreds of Latin proverbs and ways of saying; among the many, he recalls that Columella - a Roman writer of agriculture who lived in the I century. A.D. - claimed that among the African peasants this proverb was widespread: "the field must be weaker than those who cultivate it." And something analogous, Virgil said: "Admire vast campaigns, / cultivate a small farm".
In order not to be overwhelmed by the fatigue and to overcome this experience, you'd need to try to do something you can manage. Parents know that when work is not commensurate with the strengths their children possess at some point, failure will result in their sadness and will lower their self-esteem. Since they want to avoid unnecessary suffering to their children, they may have good reasons to worry. But common sense can be turned upside-down by an idea and overturned by motivation, the force that, as both ordinary people and great artists prove, allows to overcome immense obstacles.
Have you ever thought about the FIFA_World_Cup qualification? When they sort out the teams that will have to confront? If a team finds out it has to face a strong opponent it certainly does not give up: it becomes very prepared on training, strategy, and finally on the match. It's a bit like saying, "You got Sparta, do it justice". That means you chose a beautiful and challenging school, prepare for this challenge. After all, the French philosopher François de La Rochefoucauld, in the Sentences and Maximes, wrote "Nothing is impossible; there are ways that lead to everything, and if we had sufficient will we should always have sufficient means." When, as in your case, there is the commitment - that means what comes from the drive of desire - everyone discovers unexpected energies and forces. When you say you do not know exactly what you'll do tomorrow, it does not mean that you are not interested in your future.
Your words express the will to not superficially deal with the engagement you are currently involved in. The determination to confront yourself with a Greek version and to know the stories of Homer is not a sign of myopia or superficiality. In the process of translation, while the darkness thins out between remote sounds and cryptic handwriting, you have discovered the existence of different shades of the world and stories of a distant time. At the same time, you understand that everything about man is somehow close to you and that in the horizon you're focused on, something special is hidden: beauty. And since beauty is an attracting force, to feel that beauty you are willing to devote to your precious time and to struggle. Many students, worried about the future, often do not give enough importance to their work. The school proposes, however, activities not only to prepare good technicians, but above all to help them realize themselves, hoping they find happiness.
By taking full advantage of what we are doing, we choose the way we want to stay in the world and not just the function that we are going to exercise in it. You have perfectly understood that happiness can not be postponed to an indefinite future because you can experience its intensity while living the present. When tomorrow you will meet your friends or write a book, you will certainly have many stories to tell. They will be the ones that have supported the deep meaning of your life. All the teachers and the parents are cheering up for you. Have a great school year, dear Matilda!
Best wishes,

The connection I am missing
Il legame che mi manca 

Dear Professor,
In anyone's life, it often happens to grow fond of "something". This "something" can be an object, an animal, or a person. But true affection, unfortunately, becomes completely clear only when you lose that "something". A concrete example I went through for myself this year has been the abandonment of my companions and professors I suffered after having spent for the last five years a great part of my time with them.
That "something" for me was them, my friends and my teachers, which unfortunately I had to leave. Only now I understand how lucky I was and how much I was tied to them even though I haven't often shown it when I should have (maybe spending a little more time with my friends or studying a bit more for my professors). The lack of that "something" you're fond of leads you to feel empty, to feel a void that is very difficult to fill. A feeling of pain and senselessness immediately fills that void in the human soul.
Memories could be a solution to ease this pain. They will remain in everyone's mind for a while but they will never be up to the feelings you had at the moment. In addition, memories often carry bitterness over the years and, going on with life, they often get forgotten and never recovered. I suppose the pain generated by an affection between people is perhaps the most painful. To create a strong relationship of esteem and confidence between humans is to create wonderful ties.
These kind of ties can reach a formidable harmony that it just takes a look between the two human to understand each other. However, they are easy to break and when this happens they are very painful. But the pain in this case has a tough adversary. This rival, if it finds a great space in someone's heart, considerably reduces the pain caused by absence. This force opposed to pain is hope. Hope that one day you'll meet again your old companions with whom you lived such adventures or that you'll meet your dear teachers that have allowed you to grow and learn how to live. This pain, however, increases considerably when the loss of that "something" is total. The most obvious example is death.
In this case, the gap between the individual and the "something" you're fond of is total. In this case there's no hope, there can't be. The pain crushes and totally oppresses the individual. I strongly believe that the loss of someone you loved and esteemed is one of the greatest pain the human soul has to endure. The inability to talk again with the deceased person and the many senses of guilt that fill your soul, perhaps for opportunities that might have been missed or for things that might haven't been accomplished, make you think about the weaknesses of men and the difficulty of life. On this aspect, humanity has never developed. People, during their development, have always tried to eliminate and erase all that damaged them physically and mentally.
But in case of the love, men never really managed to detach themselves. There are two possible solutions to this kind of pain. The first is living in a complete indifference. In the attitude of detachment and liberation from the passions towards the world, as Montale said in poetry, "I often encountered the evil of life," and do not feel any sense of what you lost, nor affection for anything; the second is to live while holding that pain. The pain that comes back every time the memory of that something comes back into the mind. Personally, I believe that both solutions have defects that lead a man to suffer. But what is the right way? How should man behave in relationships with other individuals, with other living beings (and not) to whom he is attached? A man must detach himself from the world in which he lives and experience complete indifference in relationships or create strong ties with the elements surrounding him, with the elements of the world in the time when he was thrown, but experiencing pain every time a bond breaks?
Alessandro, ex 5A

Dear Alessandro,
If at the end of the fifth year we feel the lack relationships we established with comrades and teachers, it means that the process of maturing, which is nothing other than a process of humanization, has started and has greatly advanced.
However, recognizing that ties between people change does not put us in the impasse between indifference and passion. Being indifferent means also not knowing the differences among those feelings. And that is where the qualitative differences are. Although the pain for the loss of a tie can be destructing, you have to decide whether to live as spectators or to participate in the game.
Living as spectators has its undoubted advantages: you do not suffer because you are not seriously enthusiastic about anything. Participating in the game means accepting to change yourself and your reality, it means knowing that you will be destabilized, but that you will have access to a full and true life. I prefer the lesson of Fedro di Platone: not a reason in lack of emotions, but a passion-guided reason. It is the white horse of good passion that drags us, and because of its strength (despite resistance and defeat) traces a path and allows the reason to illuminate more aspects of reality and to see farther. Moving from emotions to feelings is a great goal. It's the narrow door that makes us become men.
Best wishes,

1. Being someone happiness

Essere la felicità di qualcuno

Dear Professor,
They always told me “live and learn” and now I understand they were right... It is normal to make mistakes while living your life, it happens; it hurts when you realize that you have not done the right thing, that you didn't behave as you should... The truth is thrown in front of you and you are a loss for words. It happened to me... But I learnt how people who love you and who don't forget about you will always support you. I'm talking about my family and my amazing friends... Every day I realize how much my happiness depends on them, as well as on myself. People, sooner or later reveal themselves for what they are, so you have to be very careful about trusting the right people, those who nonetheless will never disappoint you, the ones who want the best for you and are not jealous, the ones who don't diminish you... Actually, we need to get close to people who make us happy. A hug, a word, an unexpected smile, a message that makes you smile... These are the good things in life. My question is: is the true happiness in life to be the happiness of someone?
Carlotta, ID

Dear Carlotta,
We usually ask ourselves what makes us happy and if we can find the key to happiness, if we will be able to manage this wonderful state of mind, and to create it by ourselves. The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, reasoning on the subject, proposed to consider this division: “What one is, [...] what one has, and [...] what one represent (V. in” Parerga and Paralipomena “, “the Aphorisms about the wisdom of life”, 1851). He stated that most of the men are convinced happiness depends on what one owns or on the opinions of others (honours and fame), while according to the author, to be happy above all you must take care of what one is, of the interior qualities of a person (personality, temperament, education). So far, no objections: it is a suggestion on how to conceive the wisdom rooted in the ancient teachings of the Eastern or of the Greek-Roman worlds. I think, though, that you do see another dimension of happiness: that one which arises from a relationship. This is not reducible to self-sufficiency of the stoic and yet it is never entirely in our hands. In fact, this even precedes what we want, and makes it possible. It is very beautiful the idea of “being someone's happiness” because mirrored in the enthusiasm of the other we become happy too, and from the cosy looks we take strength. Which grandson does not rejoice for the enthusiasm of the grandparents, whose loved is conquered by the love of his lover (“the exact same flame burned two hearts', wrote Ovid). A son feels the happiness of his parents, a boy feel the heat of his companions, a teacher who has developed a good relationship with the students is happy to enter the classroom because he feel respected, as well as an enhanced student senses that his own happiness changes from that recognition. Yes, everyone knows that their own happiness “depends” on others as well as on themselves. But is it right to place the barycentre of happiness in the other person and not on ourselves? After all, we should not work with the sole purpose to favour the happiness of others, because we might forget to take care of our needs and to cultivate our projects. We could never become autonomous because we chase external rewards. The ancients have in fact warned us not put our happiness on moods or on the opinions of others. But in what sense do we must get the word “dependent”? If we are going to depend as submissive human beings to the authority of the others or determined by it, then it is clear that happiness will disappear, because we are not the authors of our lives. If for depend we don't mean to suffer but to arise, then we feel that we are no longer a hostage of the other, but that the relationship originates happiness. Your reasoning makes us take a step forward. Did you realize there is no subject without an otherness that triggers it? Do you remember the story of Narcissus and Echo? Narcissus is the young man destined for a long life
(Si se non noverit) “as long as he doesn't meet himself” and Eco, “the voice-made nymph”, is the one who “does not know how to stay silent if someone speaks or to speak first». I find the interpretation of the philosopher Umberto Curi very beautiful and appropriate (Myths of love. Eros Philosophy, Bompiani, 2009), who writes: “While Narcissus is caught in the net of pure identity and it is touched only by his own substance-free reflection, Echo is the mere otherness and at the same time it is only a reflection without substance. He is too possessed by his own self to be able to share it with others, while she does not have her own self that she can share with others.” Later he wrote: “Only by recognizing the other, the identical can express his identity; only keeping his identity, the other can assert their otherness.” If the other is needed to generate the identity, it means that there never is a complete self-sufficiency. Feeling to be someone's happiness enables to mature our identity and to explore the individual potential. We are not happy because we satisfy the expectations of others, but because we are recognized and loved from the other, who can fully understand our needs and follow the trail described by the desire that characterises us.
Best wishes,

2. “On line friendships”

Le amicizie on-line

Dear Professor,
the other day I was walking around in Alba with a friend of mine, when we noticed a 16/17 years old girl sitting in a bar with a girl his age. They both had a mobile in their hands and they weren't looking to each other. Sometimes, one of them showed to the other something on the mobile, while the other one made some distracted comment without looking to her friend. I almost didn't want to believe it. In my opinion, it is better to spend your time at home or going out with someone else than  to spend time like that. When I go out with my friends I can not wait to tell them what has changed since the last time we saw each other, to laugh and joke with them, but apparently this doesn't work for everyone. A part from this, I think mobile phones should be left in the bag when you go out with friends, to avoid to be boring and to get bored. Doing so you could (in my opinion) recover the time not spent with your friends in order not to destroy ties with them. What do you think? Do you think that it doesn't make any sense to be “friend” online or on WhatsApp if you're not able to talk to each other in person, too?
Marta, IC

Dear Marta,
The German philosopher Martin Heidegger considered – in his book Being and Time – even the more elementary relational ways. He also said that even if the “chat” represents the inauthentic existence, it does have no «derogatory meaning». Instead, he said it has to be considered a “positive phenomenon”, because it the way people communicate and comprehend each other in their lives (Being). However, from your description it seems that this situation is steps backwards compared to talk to each other that is, according to the author, a thousand years from the authenticity of the genuine existence. But let's leave Heidegger. The volatility of interpersonal attentions is often a sign of superficiality in relations and of a gradual loss of interest, which connotes the frivolity of the relationship. The friends you described seems to assimilate the confined world in their dumbness. The scene that you saw repeated several times between the two companions represents a passive way to create a relation, to receive the world without processing it. Perhaps it is due to a moment of mutual exhaustion, but if this were a habitual condition of a faint friendship (as you say) in which both girls are distracted spectators and not protagonists of their own lives, then their relationship would reveal a great cognitive affective and relational poverty. It seems they have nothing to tell, but especially nothing to say each other, which means something to tell “about herself”. By doing so, you reveal yourself to someone else, you show your personal way to see the world, to welcome and approach to it, to get thrilled about it or to push away some of its elements, to take part to the emotional, social and political life.
The dialogue (aloud or inner) originates the understanding, that is always an interpretation of what happens. Together with your friends, you share and decode reality, creating a continuous exegesis. It is an exegesis often starting from you and spreading through concentric circles around you, to help you comprehend yourself and your relations with the world. Friends crave to recover the “time you didn’t spend together”, because they claim to feel the tie alive. We can say the condition to feel the intensity of a relation is to feed it with words and feelings. The lack of interpersonal attention, however, is a signal to be reckoned. The German philosopher Wilhelm Schmid helps us to understand why in “Friendship for themselves. Self-care and art of living” (Fazi Editor, 2012). He writes: “as well as the self who learns to live without the attention of others feels underestimated, in the same way, he ceases to recognise himself because he lacks of attention for himself too”. The two forms of lack of attention cited by Schmid are really harmful, on one hand because the loss of the other's interest produces frustration. If we do not feel to be important to someone, if we can't catch up with the look of a friend, we risk to slowly burrow in the silence of apathy and indifference, and eventually disappear. Moreover, there is a second but equally deleterious lack of attention, and that is toward ourselves, because it shows that a person has given up on taking care of himself («The self ceases to recognize»). It is the relationship with a friend that activate a person, his creativity, his memories, his projects. If we get used to live without the attention of others we put in danger our confidence in our ability to attract the people's interest or even to be worthy of attention. Subconsciously we accept that our life is not so important and we cease to cultivate what is essential for us. The faces (from the Latin facies, verb facio, to make) is the part of the body that most models a relation. The faces that do not look to each other remain waterproof and slowly wither in loneliness. Many of your friends suffer, not knowing the causes of their sufferance. Therefore, we must relearn to hold things in their place: the mobile phone in our pocket and the eyes in the other's eyes, because only then our face and our life will recover the right shape.
Best wishes,

3. Attachment to life

Attaccamento alla vita

Dear professor,
During our shorts or lasting lives, everyone does something. Everyone grows, learns, and gets to know things both in positive and negative ways. What I mean is that during our lives, every day, we do many things, but then we die. Why does life exist if it leads to nowhere? Everything we do in our lives, in the end, is worth nothing. Maybe that’s what scares me when I hear the word “death”. Sometimes I think about the fact that everything I do, won’t mean anything. That’s true. Maybe we need to set our targets, I don’t know. Many people are scared about death, thinking about the fact that it can happen any moment. They say they want to do some precise things before dying; they don’t want to lose some occurrences, etc. I don’t get it. When you will be dead, you won’t remember loosing precise occurrences or something else! So I don’t understand, why are we so attached to life?
Gloria, IA

Dear Gloria,
Internet is filled with websites titled “100 places to visit” or “100 things to do before dying”, whose analytical content summarizes the authors’ idea about the value of life and their explanations about its worthiness. They try to provide a rapid guide to unlosable beauties and to life meaning activities. If you try an images research, marvellous places we would never stop staring will come to light. Maybe, we are a less stoic species than a Hollywood-style one, and we need to archive in our memories some images and to write out some confidential lists in which we put some very personal activities or some unavoidable objects we would like to get.
Maybe, you do remember the 21-year-old New Zealander girl, Vivian Waller, affected whit a lungs tumour. In January 2015, she edited a wish list containing the following targets: to get married, to celebrate her birthday and the one of her daughter, and finally to meet Robin Williams. The comprehensive and thoughtful actor sent her a video message. Or, Instead, the Dutch girl affected with a terminal illness who expressed her last wish to the Stiching Abulance Wens. She asked, “Take me to visit the Rijksmuseum Museum in Amsterdam”. When death approaches, we examine ourselves, like an actor who is going to be on the scene in a few minutes. He needs to organise the time he has left: he revises the scrip, he examines his dress, he look himself in the mirror just to convince himself everything’s okay. People need to coordinate their time before dying. Even if it is short, it is still an important part of their lives. It is not random that approaching to death we develop an attachment to it. We have a greater consciousness of what you leave. We feel a double defeat: the defeat of your body, which is knocking down, and the defeat of feeling all your projects dissolving. The cancellation of a life project or of a relationship is more painful than the cancellation of life itself. Accepting death is difficult, but it is less difficult if we have the time to realize ourselves in some ways. There are two ways to confront death: someone gets ready as a man of faith and trusts in God. Instead, someone else act as a stoic not requiring any more time to life and accepting his situation without regretting the past. Emperor Marcus Aurelius (II century BC) wrote in his “Remembers”: «This moment, you have to spend it as nature requires, leave quietly like the oil. Once reached its maturity, oils blesses, falling, the land that produced it and thanks the tree that generated it». But it is not easy to feel full of life. Moreover, like for example people affected with terminal diseases, not everyone is awarded with fair time less to mellow and bless the earth. Someone needs to say good-bye in other ways. You’re certainly right in saying there’s something irrational in some demands, mainly if supported by the idea that life consists in storing moments that are impossible to carry with us after life. Then why do we have this instinct of storing some events? The idea I made up is that what makes you accept the implosion of life it’s the sharing of its plenitude and that the real cure for a person confronting something absurd is not medicine, it is the meaning he or she gives to life. In Italy, there is a popular saying attributed to Goethe «see Naples and die», see something beautiful or live a significant experience. Then, “you can say good-bye, satisfied of the banquet of life”, as Lucretius said. Unfortunately, not everyone wakes up satisfied, but the beauty that is contemplated or the good that you receive allow you to more easily accept the disappearance. The eyes that can be closed have experienced the beauty of a work of art or of nature or enjoyed the good coming from a loving relationship. To contemplate Rembrandt’s work means to participate at the marvellous human adventure, which represents both complexity and fragility. And that is not because we can carry moments somewhere, but because of their fullness, which remember us we took part to the human undertaking, to the mystery of what human can perceive, even if he feel defeated. It is an adventure of our minds and not of the “bios”, that surrenders.
Best wishes,

4. Put Pride Aside

Mettere l'orgoglio da parte

Dear professor,
An event that gave me the "shock" and messed up my head, happened just ten days ago. I returned from vacation and my boyfriend (now ex), left on the same day. It's over, although neither of us had a valid reason, that is, we concluded by saying that neither of us were happy. The basic problem? Two proud people can not find common ground to meet. This situation troubles me a lot. This is the short version of my story (because I would not want to bore you, but it is necessary for you to understand the nature of my concern). In three months of relationship we never went out alone because neither of us wanted to show the other person that we were with, in short, because of resentments, unspoken words and pride we ended up walking away. The problem, however, is this: "Why do people not show, or rather can not and do not want to show what they really feel? Or even, why are they not spontaneous? ". Please, I would like to receive advice on how to behave and hear a new opinion. The question is: "Is it better to be spontaneous, taking the risk of being hurt by someone, or continue to ignore it so as not to give satisfaction to the other person? (In the context in which I'm still interested in the other person, but I'm afraid of rejection and I have doubts about fidelity towards me on his part).

Jessica, 4C

Dear Jessica,
In the fifth canto of Dante’s Inferno he turns to Francesca saying, "Francesca, your relenting pains me to tears (" Francesca, your martyrdoms and weeping make me sad and pious ")." And, after all, every story about love moves us, both stories of a troubled attempt to get closer to each other or those that present the end of a consolidated relationship. Because behind every story you hear the pain or the inability to be delivered from your solitude or to be returned to it again. It says that maybe your story is over even though neither of you had a good reason to break off the relationship, but it ended much earlier, probably because neither of you had a good reason to "create a relationship", ie. to share something exclusive. The group was your protective coating, the place from which you each peeped at the other, but did not gain sufficient confidence to start a new path. You think that proud people can not really meet. I am also convinced of this, because pride establishes hierarchy and asymmetric scaffolding is not an adequate structure to support love. However, it is not always that pride stems from arrogance, as is generally believed; sometimes it germinates on the ground of fear, fear of being manipulated. Once, pride meant proper awareness of your dignity and quality, then it became synonymous with arrogance. However, there is a form of "self-love" that you speak of, which is not born from excessive self-regard, nor from arrogance, but from worry. In falling in love, the defenses are lowered. With reduced defenses you are more vulnerable, but you can trust the other? You can also show your weaknesses, which are nothing but the specific ways of your sensitivity to understand the world and relate to it. And you can freely express beyond the idea that the other has given you. When you are not convinced that the trust is well placed, because the signals on which decisions are made are not unique, then the pride is born as a defense, a little, as modesty, that the fear of being exploited, to become an object in the hands of another person. Openness to the other makes us exposed, and in every relationship we need to first be welcomed and not judged. However, avoiding a personal meeting for three months is not simply postponing an invitation, but wanting the offer to open a new opportunity for mutual growth; although the approach is sometimes difficult, because you are assured of the positive relationship and feelings are not always as clear as ideas. The philosopher Umberto Galimberti reminds us that "Our feelings are not clear and distinct like our ideas are. And our ideas have no power over them to intertwine and cling. To know them is just life with its enthusiasm and its despairs. There is no other way. " Then is it better to be spontaneous, running some risk or brooding inside your own borders? Figuring out who you can trust is not easy, and your sensitivity will only be sharpened by experience to judge this, but for a true original meeting there must be an encroachment of oneself. Paolo and Francesca had found a meeting point in reading the story of Lancelot and Guinevere that united them in their intentions and desires. On that common point they have approached each other. The book served as an intermediary between the two lovers. Their history is therefore a story of overstepped boundaries. The alternative is to walk in their own solitude bowing to the fear of t losing control, on guard from being manipulated or maimed by the other. But the illusion of not being defeated, remaining on the defensive, it causes a more poignant ruin: to never meet each other. And without the other you do not have access to other dimensions of your self.
Best wishes,

 5. Identity and character

Identità e carattere

Dear Professor,
The other day I was looking at some picture of the family I had never seen before.  Some of them were very old, and among them I found a picture of my grandmother; even if I didn't suddenly recognised her. It was just thanks to her facial features and her expression I later realized it was her. However, it felt like I didn't know the portrayed person... A question suddenly came up to my mind, a question I had asked myself many times before. Is it possible that a person changes completely or do we always have to trust the vow: “the leopard cannot change its spots”? Honestly, I haven’t found an answer to this question yet, because any time I think my judgment is oriented toward one between the two, something happens that brings me back to that mental crossroad and my doubts begin to rage in my head all over again...
Mattia, IIA

Dear Mattia,
Is there something that survives the changes, the deepest changes that take place within us during our existences? What do we keep from the child or from the adolescent we were, now that we are adult? And, at the end of our life, where all the various identities that we have gone through will be?
An important contemporary American psychoanalyst named James Hillman (1926-2011), in the book The force of character (Adelphi, 2000), believes that with age and after all, our character is revealed by the irreversible changes our body faces. The author tells a similar story to that of the ship of Theseus; in fact the example is a bit “lower than that mythological, but always effective”.
He tells about the identity of a pair of socks. Hillman writes: “Take, for example, our couple of preferred wool socks. We make a hole in one heel and we darn it. Then we make a hole in the big toe and we darn that, too. We keep mending the sock so in the end there are more darns than what is left from the original tissue, and our beloved sock is made of a completely different wool. Yet, it is always the same sock. Compared to the sock in the other feet, it is still the same sock. The two socks walk together; they are folded together in the drawer. It is the same sock even compared to itself: it always the same sock, even if it is different. “
The entire wool has changed, but its shape has not. The same happens to the body. The author claims: “our body shakes off its cells, it re-changes the fluid, and it grows new bacteria cultures to replace the dead ones. With the passaging of time, the matter our body is made of becomes entirely different, but we are still us, we are still the same. I do not have a visible centimetre skin which is the same as before and not even a gram of bone. Yet, I am not someone else.” Is there something that remains consistent over time and that characterizes our identity? Let's think about organ transplants, about the various types of grafts we practice already and that will be ameliorated through decades. Let's also think to the foreign materials that become part of our body and which are perceived as something belonging to ourselves. Although it is not always the case: the “Corriere della Sera”, a few years ago, reported a famous case of a fifty-year-old New Zealander named Clint Hallam, who was operated in 1998 in Lyon by a team of international doctors, receiving a hand transplant. A short time after surgery, he refused the new hand (“Too large for my arm, it had a different color”) and was therefore re-operated in London in 2001 (“Corriere della Sera”, February 4th, 2001). Sometimes we perceive what is foreign as something that has been assimilated in our body and is part of ourselves, sometimes we don't. What is introduced into our body or in our immune system can become “my hip,” “my cornea ormy heart “, or it can't. Let’s not talk about the multiplicity of nuances with which we are perceived by others (a bit 'as in “One, No One and One Hundred Thousand” by Pirandello). We’re talking about the identity of ourselves we perceive trough years, an identity generated by change and transformation. According to Hillman, then, it is time that reveals our character. It is a kind of order in the way you do things, which would also give shape to our face: as if over time, our face and character amalgamate. Probably, the grandmother has not “changed her spots”, but she has simply outlined the peculiarities of its uniqueness, driven by the strength of his character. Saying that, I don't want anyone to think character is deterministic: living, environment, culture, encounters, change of interests, thoughts and values are too. Therefore, I prefer to say that character find its origins in a characteristic hallmark everyone has. A hallmark, which makes each of us unique in what we do, in the way we leave our own personal style, in the fields we’re engaged. It is a hallmark that changes and it is refined by the endless relationships we developed with the rest of the world and with others, thanks to the opportunities that we have gradually assessed, chosen or discarded during our lives.
Best wishes,


6. The infinite

L'universo e l'infinito

Dear Professor,
I do not have questions strictly about myself to ask you, it is just something that I've asked myself for a long time. Maybe we can't even consider it a question: we can say it's a doubt. When I was young I didn't ask myself these questions, but at the beginning of the middle school I began to think about something great: the universe and the infinite. Here is my question, or rather my doubt: I can't understand the sense of infinity, it seems almost inconceivable that there is something without limits, that a never ending thing can exists. When I thought and reasoned about that, I felt shook. Even today, I can’t imagine something like that. I would like to discuss with you about the notion and the meaning of infinity.
Arianna, IC

Dear Arianna,
Perhaps it is exactly from the middle school that we began to feel displaced by the encounter with the infinite. When we reflected on the infinite number, the irrational numbers like √2, the relationship between the diagonal and the side of the square, or the π, the circumference-diameter ratio of a circle, and we thought about the fact that after the comma we can find infinite numbers. We had the impression to leave not only in an incredibly complex world, but also in a disturbing and vertiginous one. We were probably subjected to the same shock that took the Pythagoreans when they realized that √2 can’t be reduced to a finite value and therefore they tried (in vain) to keep discovering the secret. I remember that, some years ago, the Bolognese mathematician Bruno D'Amore (1946) in the book “Mathematics, wonder and poetry” (Giunti 2009) who reported an accuracy of about 10,000 digits after the 3.14 (see pp.11-17).
Today, we all know that the digits following the comma are reduced to two, usually to facilitate the calculations, but when we browse pages and pages that only containing digits, we remain impressed by the unstoppable sequence and at the same time frightened and bewildered by this manifests truth. Then, Bruno D'Amore reported that in 2006, thanks to fast computers, scientists calculated 200,000,000,000 decimal digits following commas. This operation took 13 days and 14 hours. It seems unlikely that the infinite can hide in such a small part. In short, when we deal with the infinite, it seems we can't understand it. Zeno of Elea in the fifth century BC, admitting that the reality was infinitely divisible, created wonderful paradoxes, including that of Achilles and the tortoise. A century later, however, Aristotle dismantled the apparent impossibility of movement contradictions, distinguishing between infinite “according to the division or according to the extremes” ( “Physics” 233, 25).
That is, as the mathematician Paul Zellini explains in the beautiful book “A Brief History of infinity” (Adelphi, 1993), the difference between “infinite by addition and infinite by division.” To add a length unit to an infinite number for an infinite number of times, leads to compose infinite and not practicable in a finite time distances. On the contrary, as the Italian physicist Carlo Rovelli said, if you divide a rope in an equal number of parts, the sum of all the parts won't create an infinite rope. Instead, this sum is nothing but the rope we had in the beginning with a finite length.
In his book “The reality is not as it appears” (Routledge, 2014), Carlo Rovelli titled one of the chapters “The end of infinity”. There is a limit to the divisibility of matter, and this limit is called PL, that means “Planck length”: “a millionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a centimetre (10-33 centimetres)”. Probably there's also a limit to the extreme greatness. A colleague of mine who teaches Art History, told me that one day during a trip to the beach he said to his daughter: “Look at the endless sea.” And the daughter replied, “Mom, look at the globe. The sea is not infinite. “ The children's insights displace us, because we are accustomed to using the language in a creative way. Sometimes children sense what physicians like Rovelli teach us in a more precise way: “But what we see and, for now, understand about the Universe is not a drowning in the infinite. It is an immense sea, but finite. “
The Zellini’s and Rovelli’s books are very useful to orient ourselves toward the infinite, to reconstruct its history and to connect it to the discoveries of contemporary physics. Nevertheless, if I have to imagine the sense of amazement that some philosophers have tried in front of the concept of infinite, I think about Giordano Bruno and Blaise Pascal. In the book “On the infinitive and worlds” (1584 worlds) written by the Italian author, there is a dialogue between Elpino, which tries to uphold the idea of the finite world, and Philotheus, which supports the idea of the immensity of the worlds. Giordano Bruno is certainly a passionate for the infinite man and his brilliant writing style is full of adjectives that indicate amazement and passion for the universe. Blaise Pascal a few years later also meditates on the meaning of infinite to humans. The “Brochures” and the “Thoughts” contain many considerations both on the geometrical infinite divisibility both on the disorientation felt by the man in front of the immensity of space. Pascal writes: “What's a man in the infinite?”. Investigating the median condition of man, suspended between the infinitely great and the infinitely small, he says that the man “will dismay himself”. Considering himself suspended [...] between these two abysses of infinity and nothingness, he will tremble at the sight of such wonders. I think the man has never abandoned feelings like “dismay”, “trembling” and “wonder” because those are always preconditions that exhort him to investigate.
Best wishes,

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