I have been fine-tuned with my body for a very long time. Body and mind have moulded daily events into a harmonious endless overall framework. This intimate alliance has now drawn to a close. My body is not my spirit’s loyal companion anymore. I feel somewhat envious of the people I see walking, sleep evades me, and even slipping on my shoes has become a challenge. Even the word "endless" has lost the suffix "less” along the way. The awareness that I too am mortal coexists with an acceleration of time that annihilates me. And yet, when I ride my bicycle along the banks of the river, my mind still produces ideas and I keep implementing them.
Hymn to life
Some time back, I found myself holding Franco Tozzi’s third book Inno alla vita (Hymn to life) in my hands. It was written in partnership with the author Fabio Cavallari. I have known Franco for ages. He is an entrepreneur with a positive approach and a rational, "... scientific vision of the reasons that underpin human existence and the world... ". I am, instead, an artist, partly nihilist and partly environmentalist. Well. After reading this long conversation, I can say that the two of us are "ever so different and yet so similar". I agreed with every thought of this book. I read it in three nights, with a short break caused by a boring flu. So, now I shall speak about visions, about what I pictured while reading. Then I shall read the book again, tracing the path of a contemporary leader and his good government.
I first saw a man who stood alone and was, at the same time, connected to everything, "... seeking new initiatives, always looking ahead, beyond the specific individual dimension of my person... ". When I say "alone", I refer to a lay figure that has neither Gods nor a God, one who at the threshold of eighty years retraces his/our time by also designing the unavoidable face of death, " ... but it is this boundless passion for life that strips the thought of death of all fear, and of the power to “switch off” my vitality ... ". In this long and intense conversation, Franco embraces the intricate trajectories of his existence. He studies them and judges them with an ethical vision I approve. And, I doubt I am the only one who agrees with him. While reading, I recall some excerpts of The Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar and Symposium by Plato.
When we relate the story of a life, in this case of one’s own life, it becomes exemplary in some way. We write to either attack or defend a vision of the world, to define a personal method that mirrors a person’s idea of self, of what he wanted to be, and of what he was. Ms. Yourcenar enlarges on the Emperor Hadrian, an old man who describes the events of his public and private life in a long letter to Marcus Aurelius. I know I am a visionary but I found the same impressive moral authoritativeness in Inno alla vita. Their reflections teach us to live and die in different times and ways. I am not a literary critic. I am merely a reader, a rare figure in a world where people read very little or not at all and, as a reader, I would say that the Emperor Hadrian is an armed leader, while Franco is an unarmed leader. But their fate resembles that of certain farmers, everything they plant takes root in the uninterrupted continuation of an action. Moreover, they share the vision of the man "who never renounces, or who renounces here to accept elsewhere". As a leader Franco assesses "all possible scenarios, aided by his own intellectual skills and by individual, cultural and human heritage... ". Hence, he intervenes and changes reality. An example.
I recently visited the photographic exhibition Genesis by Sebastião Salgado at the Museum Complex of San Domenico, in Forlì. There were 245 large black and white photographs showing me the powerful and absolute quality of harmonious relations between mankind and the earth that welcomes it. Standing before the pictures of Madagascar, I said: "Well, this is the origin". And I thought of Franco and his outstanding adventure in that land. He turned the desert into farmland, thus enriching biodiversity. He lit up the streets, brought water where there was none, built a medical clinic and two primary schools. He created 1,500 jobs, respecting and enriching the natural environment. Many things were born of nothing, from the desert, a pure gesture of growth at his own risk and peril. I forgot to mention the bees and pollination, signs of returning life. And when something good and beautiful is created from nothing, you draw close to the myth of Gods and of God, as seen by us, lay people.
Emperor Hadrian believed that, if "Jupiter is the brain of the world, every man appointed to organise and mediate affairs on earth can reasonably consider himself as part of that brain, which rules everything". And, again, " ... Athens was being repopulated, experiencing growth after an extensive period of decline. I doubled its extension... Order had to be restored once again, everything had to be reconstructed... ". These two leaders possess the insight to see the transition from present to future in advance, for collective wellbeing. We are experiencing a night of the soul, and since I am convinced that the core nature of people does not change, I recognise in these two figures common thoughts that concern peace in the world and its good government.
Franco experienced different seasons and behaviours, both as entrepreneur and as a man. His is the time of commitment " ... to encourage the generational shift... Having a company to run obliges me, in some way, to consider what will occur after I am gone... Until a short while ago... I expected everybody to adopt my method and approach. Then, as time went by, I understood that it was the wrong path. Everyone must do his utmost according to his own characteristics, skills and certainties. This remains an unquestionable principle ...". And these were the words of Emperor Hadrian: "Everything has as yet to be done. I want the African properties to become a model of intensive farming. The farmers... are entitled to receive aid after a hard winter. Rich land owners in the Nile valley must, instead, be refused allowances ...". And, again, "My imperial heritage is safe in the hands of pious Antoninus and of stern Marcus Aurelius; and Lucius too will live on in his son. I had organised things quite well... ".
Well. In this wish to personally arrange subsequent events, my thoughts went to Symposium by Plato, to the moment when Socrates tells the story of Love that he was once told by Diotima, a woman from Mantinea who was skilled in this and other things. The pages of the book Inno alla vita are pervaded by a creative spirit. Every action, ruled by powerful thoughts, answers the riddles and questions daily presented by life. These answers generate something that was absent before and, in this regard, Diotima, the Wise, tells Socrates, "You know that the act of creation is complex. Indeed, every transition from not being to being is creation; hence, every action of the single arts or trades is part of the process of creation... ". My IPad says it is 00:00, and I am here, musing over all that has to be said. At midnight topics roam freely in my mind, shedding light on fragments of the book.
Dear Franco, I deeply agree with your praise of hands. I am a member of an association that insistently requests workshops to be organised once again in schools for the skilful use of hands to build knowledge, art and culture. I share your passion for friendship and good cuisine. Friends keep working miracles for me. And I admire your entrepreneurial creativity, your vision of memory and history as a reminder of our roots. Finally, we come to the family, this great composite and pulsating unit that brings all together, and finds us suspended in a passion that far exceeds every other experience. And here too, in the family, I have recently perceived you as a leader. The Wise One.
Translation by Language Service, Ravenna