Conosci te stesso, Γνῶθι σεαυτόν, Nosce te ipsum. Pitagora, Apollo (e Hegel)

Flavia Diva Sanctissima

Flavia at the House of the Vestal Virgins. Photo by MoR. Given to the people

[hard to understand - also for he who is writing - and a notebook draft in both style and content]

Ψ

πρῶτον μὲν εὐχῇ τῇδε πρεσβεύω θεῶν τὴν πρωτόμαντιν Γαῖαν

Flavia è laureata in filosofia della scienza. Visione un po’ matriarcale la sua, un po’ patriarcale la mia, cozziamo spesso ma alla fine ne usciamo diversi.

Dice Flavia ieri:

“Ma tu che dici, ma che dici, ma che diici! Stai sempre a pensare a te stesso!”

Ψ

Dopo aver discusso insieme il post su Radhakrishan ripostato ieri (The most unique is the most universal) ne è venuto fuori questo:

 

“In fondo conoscere noi stessi – nel senso dell’oracolo di Delfi, in senso socratico, nel senso anche di Montaigne: noi stessi, dice il francese, siamo la cavia ‘umana’ che possiamo osservare più da vicino – ci porta ad aprirci anche agli altri”.

“Questo lo vediamo nei grandi classici, come dice Radhakrishan. Kalidasa, Radhakrishan osserva, esattamente come Sofocle, Shakespeare, Platone ecc., è legato alla realtà locale indiana ma più si è profondamente dentro noi stessi (come Montaigne, come Saffo), legati cioè al mondo culturale proprio, sia individuale-locale che collettivo-locale, PIU’ CIOE’ SIAMO NOI COME UNICUM essenzializzato (essenza umana della specie Homo, direbbe Olaf Stapledon; Geist o Mind, direbbe Hegel) E PIU’ SIAMO UNIVERSALI”

“Perché a questo punto il messaggio humanus risuona, son come corde pitagoriche sparse per il mondo che cominciano a vibrare, e vibrano vibrano vibrano vibrano e si crea come una sinfonia, e questo è il superuomo pitagorico collettivo, l’entità collettiva di Olaf Stapledon.

Anche il Leonardo da Vinci di massa di Antonio Gramsci; solo che con Stapledon (Odd John, Star Maker ecc.) e con Pitagora si traversano i cosmi grazie alle reincarnazioni”

Dunque, chiarendo meglio, i vari superuomini si connettono attraversando ere e universi e gli infiniti mondi (di Giordano Bruno anche? Check) … e allora abbiamo, in un caso più ristretto (o forse no?) Pitagora, Orfeo (il grande Musico), Apollo (riprendere quel bel brano di Shakespeare su Orfeo; rileggere Diogene Laerzio – Διογένης Λαέρτιος – dove parla delle reincarnazioni di Pitagora) che a livello di telepatia, di vibrazioni mistiche, si fondono come in un turbine.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Wikipedia. Click for credits and to enlarge

Del resto Hegel lo dice con sinteticità prolissa (Update. Con sinteticità. E’ prolissa la traduzione di William Wallace, Oxford 1894) :

[Philosophie des Geistes (Η φιλοσοφία του πνεύματος) or, Philosophy of Mind (Hegel's introduction, § 377)

 

The knowledge of mind is the highest and hardest,
right for its being the most “concrete” of sciences.

[Die Erkenntnis des Geistes ist die konkreteste, darum höchste und schwerste]

[Ndr. Infatti per i Vorsokratic Eleatici, per Platone, Hegel etc. conta solo l'essenza, l'essere, le idee-mente-Geist, a complex notion and onthology (link1, link2) that goes on and on - getting too wide-ranging, I know - up to Heidegger's Dasein (there-being,) to Quine and to William James]

The significance of that absolute commandment,
Know Thyself,
(whether we look at it in itself, or,
under the historical circumstances of its first utterance)
is not to promote mere self-knowledge in respect of the particular capacities,
character, propensities, and foibles of the single self.

[Erkenne dich selbst, dies absolute Gebot
hat weder an sich noch da, wo es geschichtlich als ausgesprochen vorkommt,
die Bedeutung nur einer Selbsterkenntnis nach den partikulären Fähigkeiten,
Charakter, Neigungen und Schwächen des Individuums
]

The knowledge it commands means that the man’s genuine reality
(of what is essentially and ultimately true and real)
is Mind as the true and essential being.

[from Ancient Roman mens, English Wiki; see wider entry mens in German Wiki; O.Stapledon's novels, incidentally, narrate the bringing into being of the Homo's Mind across the Universe(s): for such splendid narration Darwin is of course there to help him]

[sondern die Bedeutung der Erkenntnis des Wahrhaften des Menschen
wie des Wahrhaften an und für sich, - des Wesens selbst als Geistes
]

Equally little is it the purport of mental philosophy
to teach what is called knowledge of men,
the knowledge whose aim is to detect the peculiarities,
passions, and foibles of other men,
And lay bare what are called the recesses of the human heart.

Information of this kind is, for one thing, meaningless,
Unless on the assumption the we know the universal:
man as man, and, that always must be, as mind.

And for another, being only engaged with casual,
insignificant and untrue aspects of mental life,
It fails to reach the underling essence of them all:
THE MIND ITSELF.

[corsivi e maiuscoli non di Hegel]

 

Sex and the city (of Rome) – or (of Albion?). Season II. 2

Stonehenge

[Draft, incomprehensible perhaps, havin' just fun writing ]

 

Massimo: “Master, am I ready now?”

Giorgio: “Not yet”

Massimo [read about him when much younger Giorgio 'discovered' him (διδάσκαλος btw always hid his capabilities by looking naive: one among many tricks he had / has. Or was / is he really naive?] :

“One thing διδάσκαλε. Why have you skipped the ‘secret of the secrets post’? Will you mean that readers can rest also on Saturday?”

Giorgio, an inscrutable look in his eyes: “This is not important. Do you know who I really am μαθητής?”

In Britannia, oceani insula
cui Albion nomen est …

Manius like a numen from another universe was piercing the scene through the mist of his mind. Much to his surprise he became capable of ‘sensing’ the pupil (μαθητής) giving his Master (διδάσκαλος, Didaskalos) an ancient look that made Britannicus of the Papirii – seasoned soldier of Rome – shudder.

He could also perceive Massimo kneeling on one knee and uttering, gravely:

“O ancient-wisdom philosopher, o supreme mathematician & guide of my troubled life. I am so confused διδάσκαλε. It suddenly turned that …. (he looked kind of embarrassed now) it turned that I was unbeatable, Master, yesterday morning, on the A.S. Roma‘s soccer field. What the hell is going on διδάσκαλε? Doesn’t that reveal I a-m ready???”

 

Massimo being strong willed was no match at all for Giorgio, who ignored him, unemotional, expressionless.

It looked as if he had forgotten his pupil, absorbed as he was in his constant daily writing on his notebooks (he had a full collection of them …)

 A soldier quakes

In another time, another place a strong and iron-willed soldier lost his sight and began to quake as if possessed by demons [καὶ λέγουσιν Δαιμόνιον ἔχει ...] His head was exploding.

With an immense effort – due to the brutal training typical of any Roman army of any time – helped just a little bit by his three timid-but-perfectly-fit slaves (they were strictly forbidden to help: a black man, two female slave musicians) – the soldier of Rome succeeded di stendersi a terra, aspettare che il dolore finisse e poi lentamente, sollevando la testa verso la luna piena, recitare debolmente, ma fermamente, la seguente preghiera, che lo portò alla calma … all’amore divino …

Full moon rising from the ocean. Click for credits

Full moon rising from the ocean. Click for credits

 

Tu Luna,
luce feminea conlustrans cuncta terrarum,
iam nunc extremis subsiste,
et pausam pacem, Regina, tribue.

You Moon,
Who with your female light illuminate all lands,
Please help me in this time of adversity
And grant me, Queen, dulcis peace, and rest.

 

Ancora dolore e poi di nuovo calma e un senso di amore nuovamente a pervaderlo, che però in questa fase buia durava in effetti poco e quindi pregava spesso e ancora più spesso beveva (l’orrenda, densa birra dei barbari anglosassoni).

La vita era schifosa e bella, allegra e triste, lancinante e vibrante. E poi arrivavano quelle visioni, come in una nebbia, che oltre ad ossessionarlo gli facevano letteralmente scoppiare l’encefalo.

Dopo che Cinzia, l’unico vero amore della sua vita (Manius dei Papirii era monogamo, costume forse succhiato dalla poccia materna – parola etrusca – cioè dalla madre, nativa di Roma, madre romana dall’Urbs del mondo intero), da quando cioè Cinzia, beh, il dolore era stato talmente forte che – come Orazio, Virgilio Catullo (i sacri autori) e come soprattutto Cesare, il padre di tutto e facitore della potenza romana – da quando in sostanza Cinzia preferì un semplice retore a un filosofo pitagorico (lui) Manius si era dato agli amori facili con schiave e schiavi.

Altro precetto, oltre la tendenza alla monogamia, di sua madre – donna forte e santa che si concedeva pochi vizi (qualche droga bizantina, qualche massaggio persiano alle terme) – era che la ‘familia’ andava meglio se il paterfamilias era come – e qui giù con espressione ineffabile e Rasna – era come dire un tronco (raffinato termine dal double entendre, altra espressione, questa, dal patois gallico). Un tronco, cioè il pater, che teneva solo la casa eretta in piedi dando gioia a lei (double entendre) e a tutta la maison.

E l’amata sposa, virtuosa e traendo dal tronco forza, ci costruiva – si ripeté per farsi coraggio pensando a Iside – ci costruiva attorno la casa, come aveva fatto Ulisse, un Ulisse femmina (o androgino ermafrodito: concetto complesso esoterico, dai risvolti misticamente vibranti).

Infine, cherry on the pie (stava imparando l’anglosassone?) e altro precetto e aforisma (ne sentirete parecchi) di quella santa donna, tipicamente romano nella sua praticità e eticità al contempo, era che gli schiavi qualunque fosse il loro sesso dovevano innamorarsi del Pater (anzi “andavano acquistati – diceva la donna mentre pregava i Lari – proprio con questa tendenza nel loro Geist (Aenglish?), tendenza d’amore servile ma amore non the less verso il capo sommo e sacerdote supremo familiare.

“Tutto sarebbe andato meglio, better still (Aenglisc ancora dannazione!), veramente meglio” gli aveva ripetuto più volte in un latino quasi ciceroniano (era poliglotta Mutti, parlava una decina di lingue usate in giro per l’impero ivi compresi 3 dialetti gallici appresi ad Augusta Taurinorum prima del divorzio con il provinciale montanaro (suo padre, ma di prische virtù che a Roma, diciamolo pure – pensò Manius – si cercavano con la torcetta).

Precetto, diceva la dolce bella madre ricamando sonoramente sull’idea (aveva la passione della lira e della poesia, e a Torino aveva appreso l’arpa celtica da una schiava gallica con cui amava celebrare, assieme ad altre donne, il culto santo della Dea Bona: Bona, diciamolo, nozione sacra e veramente misterica (oltre che romana) per cui una donna bella a Roma era detta Bona), precetto poi che assicurava (se ne era accorto anche a Roma con il nuovo Pater di sua madre) che le casa funzionasse liscia come l’olio spalmato sul corpo bello, possente e attraente dei gladiatori.

 

ψ

Questo Manius pensava pregando di nuovo in ginocchio la Juno della madre.

Poi scuoteva la testa e pensava:

Ma che ‘familia’ è la mia ormai? Vivo qui, intrappolato in una torre, giocattolo di questi lerci tedeschi di cui si sente il puzzo già a quattro milia passum (e che disprezzo dal profondo dell’inner Geist.)

Perché non lo uccidevano per Bacco? Ne avrebbe portato almeno una ventina con sé nell’Ade (Manius era addestrato come il pitagorico Milone) ma almeno poi avrebbe finito la sua vita fallita e svilita per gemere tra le ombre sotterranee (ancora più infelice, non importa … ma – si chiese angosciato – c’era solo l’Ade o qualcos’altro? Scacciò il pensiero con rabbia, il Magister non lo voleva ricordare poiché anche Cinzia era stata sua allieva e nel giardino della bella domus subalpina di *** si erano dati il primo, dolcissimo, profondo, bacio d’amore.”

Scese dal piano di avvistamento all’aria aperta a quelli inferiori, protetti da occhi indiscreti.

Perfetti, nel corpo e nello spirito

I suoi schiavi erano perfetti, nel corpo e nello spirito, allenati da lui come lui a sua volta era stato allenato (e iniziato) dal Magister, provinciale forse ma di una certa fama ad Augusta Taurinorum, dove viveva ancora suo padre risposatosi con una ricca vedova, di razza celtico ligure (il padre) – un romano provinciale d’altri tempi che gli aveva trasmesso valori d’altri tempi, discendete di quei galli togati del Nord ovest, al confine con la Gallia Grande e un tempo comata (ma ora totalmente romanizzata che però si ostinava scioccamente ad adorare non si sa cosa di mistico in quel bel vulcano del massiccio centrale, il Puy de Dôme, nel territorio degli Arverni, il popolo del valoroso Vercingetorix.

ψ

Depressso, Manius Lentulus chiamato Britannicus scese i rozzi gradini con spiritualmente spossata lentezza.

Voleva una notte d’amore con uno dei servi. Gli altri due sarebbero rimasti in piedi in funzione cubicolare, attorno cioè al giaciglio (se serviva qualche bevanda, un massaggio, se serviva protezione da un attacco improvviso, giaciglio (spartano) dove il paterfamilias – con potere di vita e morte come ai bei tempi della Roma bella sacra santa – cavalcava (o veniva cavalcato, cives ormai allo sbando e senza dignitas), cavalcava, e veniva cavalcato, per tutta le santae ore della notte. Stava lasciandosi andare, lo sapeva, ma non certo gli faceva difetto il vigore, di razza romanao pura, da parte Mutti, e montanara taurina (più tosta, i romani de Roma inesorabilmente decadevano) da parte di Pater.

Ne vigore mancava ai suoi servi, atleti perfetti, come lui …

Manius era in realtà – pensò (ma qualcuno osservandolo inosservabile non era d’accordo) una nullità. Privo ormai della Venus urania si dava come logica conseguenza, quasi teorema spirituale, alla Venus carnalis.

Essere amato teneramente, rifletté con tristezza, era meglio di niente.

Anche se va da sé che non poteva amare degli animali parlanti, ma averne affetto come per un pet o puer, oh questo sì, oh veramente sì, lui lo poteva, eccome se lo poteva, perché era questa la sua familia, non un gran che – i suoi compagni di scuola, pensò, un riso amaro sulle labbra, avrebbero sghignazzato frasi scurrili (compagni in realtà sublimi, ma il sublime e lo scurrile non si fondevano forse in unità superiore, neo platonicamente?)

Platonicamente ma alla romana si intende (questa cosa dello scurrile e del sublime).

Sebbene in crisi profonda Manius Papirius Lentulus era ancora un soldato: amava la cultura greca ma solo se filtrata dall’urbs.

“Perché – l’encefalo esplodendogli, e si trovava misteriosamente, e fisicamente, di fronte ad un uditorio di Augusta – l’atto sublime dell’osanna – disse calcando la voce, la gente lo guardava attonita – alle pompae triumphales dei bei tempi, verso quei condottieri  vincitori osannati e elevati quasi a dio su terra,  andava controbilanciato, per arrivare alla mediocritas – qui la voce si fece sghignazzo possente mistico -  con i l-a-z-z-i della soldatesca!!”

Il pubblico sobrio della città di Torino era esterrefatto.

ψ

Sublime e scurrile, ripeté debolmente.

Giunto nella stanza principale prese la mano di uno dei suoi schiavi.

Il buio del locale appena illuminato da una torcia non fece distinguere se la mano presa con tenerezza (la stessa che provava per i i cani e gli esseri inferiori della natura) fosse di pelle bianca o nera ….

ψ

 

 

Related posts (see also links above) :

Sex and the city (of Rome). Season II. 1

You may like Sex and The city (of Rome.) Season I:

Sex and the City (of Rome). 1
Sex and the city (of Rome) 2

Sex and the city (of Rome) 3
Sex and the city (of Rome) 4
Sex and the city (of Rome). A Conclusion

Also:

Caesar, Great Man (and Don Juan)

Silvestri, Berlusconi and the Emperor Tiberius

The ‘Black Book’ Of Julius Caesar’s Gallic Campaign. Harsher Criticism on Caesar(ism) (4)

19th-century statue of Vercingétorix (by Aimé Millet)

19th-century statue of Vercingétorix (by Aimé Millet) near the village of Alise-Sainte-Reine, Burgundy, France. Wikipedia. Click for source and larger view

Caesar‘s contemporaries were not overly happy about his Gallic campaign – Luciano Canfora observes.

[Luciano Canfora, Giulio Cesare, Mondadori 2010, XV, p. 132; English translation]

“This must be taken into account – he argues – when assessing the long-term effects of the conquest of Gaul, whose ‘inevitability’ is often teleologically overestimated. There is doubtless a risk of adopting a colonialist view.”

“A campaign unprovoked, with no real menace lurking, led to the destruction of the previous civilisation gradually supplanted by Romanisation, a genocide of monstrous proportions according to the convergent testimonies of Pliny the Elder and of Plutarch.”

Sources of a genocide

Let us then have a look at Pliny’s and Plutarch’s words.

Pliny the Elder: [Naturalis Historia; English: 7, 25; Latin: 7,92]

“For, outside (praeter) his victories in the Civil Wars [therefore in his Gallic wars only, MoR] Caesar slew in battle 1,192,000 of his enemies; but this, for my own part, I hold no special glory of his (non equidem in gloria posuerim), considering the great injury so inflicted on Humankind (coactam humani generis iniuriam): and this crime, indeed, he hath himself confessed, by avoiding to set down (non prodendo) the slaughter that occurred during the Civil Wars.”

Pliny’s moral indignation is unambiguous. His accusation, that Caesar hid his figures, harsh (Canfora.)

From the frontispiece of Plutarch's Lives by John Langhorne and William Langhorne. Baltimore: W. & J. Neal, 1836

From the frontispiece of Plutarch’s Lives by John Langhorne and William Langhorne. Baltimore: W. & J. Neal, 1836

Plutarch, Parallel Lives:

“Although it was not full ten years that he waged war in Gaul, Caesar took by storm more than 800 cities, subdued 300 nations, and fought pitched battles at different times with 3 million men, of whom he slew 1 million in hand to hand fighting and took as many more prisoners. (Life of Caesar 15, 5; English; Greek)

In the Life of Cato the younger (51, 1; English; Greek) Plutarch reveals the number of Germani slaughtered by Caesar by treachery and Cato’s proposal ‘to surrender Caesar to those whom he had wronged’:

“When it was believed that Caesar had attacked the Germans even during a truce (σπονδή) and slain 300,000 of them, there was a general demand at Rome that the people should offer sacrifices of good tidings (εὐαγγέλια θύειν; supplicatio, in Latin), but Cato urged them to surrender Caesar to those whom he had wronged (ἐκδιδόναι τὸν Καίσαρα τοῖς παρανομηθεῖσι), and not to turn upon themselves, or allow to fall upon their city (εἰς τὴν πόλιν), the pollution of his crime (τὸ ἄγος).”

Pliny the Elder: an imaginative 19th-century portrait

Pliny the Elder: an imaginative 19th-century portrait. Wikipedia

Pessimism of Aristocrats
defeated by Caesarism

Pliny the Elder was a member of those senatorial aristocrats nostalgic for the Republic and set aside by the new ‘monarchy‘ favoured by Caesar’s course.

Edward Gibbon (Decline and Fall…, vol. I, Chap 3, part 2) seems sympathetic to their ideals:

“The education of Helvidius and Thrasea, of Tacitus and Pliny, was the same as that of Cato and Cicero. From Grecian philosophy, they had imbibed the justest and most liberal notions of the dignity of human nature, and the origin of civil society. The history of their own country had taught them to revere a free, a virtuous, and a victorious commonwealth; to abhor the successful crimes of Caesar and Augustus; and inwardly to despise those tyrants whom they adored with the most abject flattery.”

Which were these ideals?

Ettore Paratore (1907 - 2000) in his studyroom. One of the major scholars of Latin literature

Ettore Paratore (1907 – 2000) in his study-room. He was one of the major scholars of Latin literature after World War II. Courtesy of RAI

According to Ettore Paratore such ideals had been well expressed centuries earlier by the Scipionic circle (Cornelia, Caius Laelius Sapiens, Scipio Aemilianus, Polybius, Panaetius, Lucilius, Terence etc.): a group of eminent people [whose 'structured circle' some scholars now call into question, MoR] open to Greek philosophy and Roman humanitas where power was transfigured as a message of civilization and fraternity, whose spiritual reasons had been sung by Virgil.

[E. Paratore, Profilo della Letteratura Latina, Sansoni, 1964, p. 351.]

According to Tacitus (who “internalized the senatorial ethic as only a newcomer can”: livius.org) the first Roman emperors had not lived up to these ideals because of Tyranny and its gloomy trail of crimes, blood, empty feelings (Paratore.)

[From the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, from the American and French Revolutions to 19th-century romanticism –any 'yearning for liberty' will condemn Caesarism & the Roman Empire and will see in Tacitus - see image below - their historian; MoR]

Tacitus. A modern statue outside the Austrian Parliament Building. Wikipedia. Click for source

Tacitus. A modern statue outside the Austrian Parliament Building. Wikipedia. Click for source

Vercingetorix, national hero
of Gaul (and of France)

Mario: “You got carried away and forgot about Caesar’s conquest of Gaul”.
MoR: “Well, many French will also see in Vercingetorix their national hero, and in Camille Jullian (1859 – 1933) their bard.”

ψ

Camille Jullian is a great historian and a great writer. I very much enjoyed his Vercingétorix (1902), available in French as Gutenberg text.

A coin depicting an idealised Vercingetorix

A coin depicting an idealised Vercingetorix

Here is a patchwork from Jullian’s book (assembled and translated by MoR):

“The Celts had a sense of moral unity and this feeling survived their rivalries. Among them traditions had formed and legends, a spiritual heritage. There were poets, bards, who sang the deeds of the kings and the vast empire they once possessed. Their priests, the Druids, taught that all Gauls were descended from the same god.”

“The Arverni were the people designated to profit from these aspirations. Their land was the ‘navel’ of the Celtic world: the Puy de Dôme, where the powerful god Teutates lived, was at an equal distance from the main frontiers of Gaul. The Arverni were the bravest and the most numerous, they had the richest lands and they obeyed to the god who could speak from the highest peak.

Puy de Dôme, a volcanoe in the region of Massif Central in south-central France Auvergne)

Puy de Dôme, a volcano in the region of Massif Central in south-central France (Auvergne). It served for centuries as an assembly place for spiritual ceremonies. Click for source

We almost see these Arvernian kings thanks to Posidonius, a Greek philosopher who traveled about the country soon after their passing. He was dazzled by the spectacle offered by the person and by the procession of the most powerful king of the West, surprised to find in Gaul the pompous custom of the military monarchies of the East. Luern distributed down from his chariot gold and silver to the crowd. He held for many days banquets of stupendous luxury. The Arverni had a taste for the colossal, Puy de Dôme inspired them to greatness.”

“Even shinier was the vision of the Arvernian king at war, advancing in the halo of his necklace and golden bracelets, on a chariot plated in silver, followed by the bronze boars of the tribes. Not far, the formidable pack of his hunting dogs. Beside him, finally, the poet, a lyre in his hand, singing the glorious feats of arms of the king and his nation. And the men, their senses impregnated with the royal glory, the eyes affected by the gold, the ears by the clamour, the thinking by the verses, they imagined that perhaps they had just seen a god.”

“The Arvernian empire resembled no regular state, made as it was by a league of tribes. The Arverni of Bituit fairly correspond in the history of Gaul to the Romans of Servius Tullius and his Latin league in the history of Rome. But the advantage is all on the side of the Gauls: their gold, light and bright coins were infinitely more precious than this square bronze, dark and massive coin which is the Roman as of the early times, and I don’t think that at the court of Servius one was delighted by the long chansons de geste dear to our ancestors. Gaul debuted merrily into civilized life, and partly according to the Greek rite.”

Coins from Gaul

Coins from ancient Gaul. Coinage had started in Gaul a few centuries BC. Courtesy of ‘Le blog de Lutèce’ (www.e-stoire.net), a good site about the French celts (in French)

[The Arverni were defeated by the Romans in 121 BC and Roman Gallia Narbonensis was established. Called 'Provincia', it later evolved into Provence, MoR.]

A new Arvernian chieftain

“Nearly a century later, Caesar having appeared on the Rhone, it seemed natural that, after numerous bloody battles, a new Arvernian chieftain unified the scattered tribes into a single command. This man was Vercingetorix.”

“The Gallic fatherland, as Vercingetorix imagined it, I believe, was the practice of this community of blood, of this original identity that the Druids had taught.”

“Vercingetorix identified his life with that of the Gallic homeland and with the liberty of its people to the extent that, the day the gods condemned his dream, he thought only to disappear.”

“He had been defeated not only by a man but by the gods. Having begun the war with human sacrifices, he would end it much in the same way, resolved to offer himself as an expiatory victim.”

A Gallic human sacrifice

A Gallic human sacrifice. Courtesy of ‘Le blog de Lutèce’ (www.e-stoire.net)

Ceremony of surrender

“The Romans were admirable directors. They always staged the shows which struck the imagination of both the allied and the vanquished, which at times served as much as a victory to ensure their command. Julius Caesar, the day after his victory, presented to the gods of his country the same king and leader of those he had defeated.”

“Before the camp, within the lines of defense, the high platform of the proconsul had been erected, isolated and preceded by steps, like a sanctuary. On top, Caesar sat on the imperial seat, wearing his purple robe. Around him, the eagles of the legions and the cohorts’ emblems as symbols of the protective deities of the Roman army. In front of him, the mountain that crowned the ramparts of Alesia, its flanks covered with corpses. Spectators of the show, 40,000 legionaries, standing on the terraces and towers that surrounded Caesar as an armed crown. On the horizon, the immense frame of the hills.”

Vercingetorix surrenders to Caesar by Henri Paul Motte

Vercingetorix before Caesar (by Henri Paul Motte, 1886)

“Alone, on horseback, Vercingetorix was the first to exit the gates of the city, no herald preceding his coming. He came down the mountain trails and appeared suddenly before Caesar.”

“He wore his finest weapons, his gold phalerae gleaming on his chest. Straightening his tall figure he got near the platform with the attitude of the proud winner going to triumph. Fierce expression, superb stature, his body sparkling with gold and silver, he must have looked bigger than a human being, and as august as a hero.”

ψ

[The above patchwork in French]

ψ

Previous installments:

Julius Caesar’s Conquest Of Gaul. When North-West Europe & The Mediterranean ‘Embraced’ (1)
Conquest Of Gaul. Debate On Julius Caesar’s Conduct, Motives, Achievements (2)
“Caesar was like the wind. Can we condemn the wind? And yet what scourge can it bring forth!” (3)

See also:

France, Italy and the Legacy of Rome
Stress and Joy. Conquest and Sorrow
Caesar, Great Man and Don Juan

Is America Too Young to Maintain its Cultural Hegemony in the Long Run?

Sarah Palin. Click for credits and to enlarge

This is the end of a series on Antonio Gramsci. I am beginning here where I left in my previous post.

The title and the post are meant to provoke a bit, and I know I risk being considered a snobbish, or a chauvinist, European.

The United States – I was saying – exert today a cultural hegemony over the planet at a high and a popular level of culture [for the high level, suffice it the sheer excellence of their universities in the scientific, technological and humanities fields, not to mention the number of Nobel prizes attained by Americans]

One can speak of a new American Renaissance, with fantastic contributions offered to the world – the Internet, a great revolution, being just one of them.

Which affects both the American culture and those cultures exposed to American influence – basically ALL of them, at diverse degrees.

[By culture I mean both:

1) the set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of a group (the Unesco definition);

2) the general knowledge, values etc. an individual can attain through education (linked to the Ancient concepts of Humanitas & Paideia.)

Also culture quality has to be considered. If I enjoy Shakespeare better than soap operas, I am not a snob, I am simply better educated and my mind is more powerful]

Gramsci, reflecting on the US soon after the 1929 depression, considered America culturally hegemonic already at his time (the 1930s) although to him such world-wide hegemony presented a few cracks for being, the US, too virgin and too young as a nation, with a melting pot of too many ‘cultures’ (see above the meaning 1 of the term.)

Now, following Gramsci’s reasoning – and considering his notions of ‘intellectuals’, ‘cultural hegemony’ and ‘national-popular’ culture (see our posts on Gramsci 1, 2 and 3)– we can ask ourselves:

In our rapidly changing world, with powerful civilisations about to re-surface, is America seductive enough at a world-wide scale [ie 'culturally hegemonic' world-wide]?

I’ll say my opinion right away: the cracks Gramsci was mentioning seem today particularly evident (at least to many Europeans) at a pop culture level [update: whatever the reasons for this.] A civilization doesn’t export its high culture only. It exports the sentiments of its whole people with its books (quality works and blockbusters), films, TV serials etc. and when its tourists, business people, soldiers & the men of the street wander about the planet.

[A Gramscian national-popular notion of culture is where the intellectuals - artists, writers etc. - express at a higher level the elementary sentiments of the common people who thus emotionally and intellectually participate. The examples he indicates of 'national-popular' may clarify this Gramscian crucial concept: the Elisabethan theatre, the Greek tragedy or the Italian opera.]

I mean, when Rome conquered Gaul, Romanization occurred deeply without any organized effort by the Romans. That is, the Roman ‘culture’ was felt as superior and seduced the Gauls who became the French - not only the culture of the ‘intellectuals’ (big politicians, generals, writers etc.) was seducing, but that of the merchants, of the soldiers, of the simple citizens as well.

Do you also think that American world-wide hegemony’s weak point is a low-level and too pervading pop culture (due to consumerism, to making money being what only matters nowadays etc.) and also the “erasure of any high-pop culture distinction”? [see Lichanos' comment on this]

Trekkies at Baycon, 2003. Click for credits

Do you also think that, to quote Andreas Kluth, a ‘high culture’ perceived as snobbish only “is a tragedy” and that – I’d add – the tea parties, the Sarah Palins and US widespread anti-elitism will make America pay a price in the long run in terms, again, of world cultural hegemony?

Finally – be patient, I dislike Star Trek – what do the Indians, the Chinese, the Persians, the rest of the world population – often belonging to ancient civilizations – think of the thousands of Star Trek conventions and clubs that have spread all over the globe? Will it benefit America’s image?

Note. I had discussed ‘West and US Seduction’ with my commentators (among other themes) at the time of Culture, Kultur, Paideia and The Last Days of the Polymath. Those discussions were among the best in this blog in my opinion.

Here just a few ideas from those discussions.

As for culture (in the sense of individual general knowledge & refinement) Lichanos had lamented the erasure of a high-pop culture distinction in the USA. To him more than the ‘youth factor’ a role may be played by America being often “the first to represent trends that are going world-wide”, ie America is just ahead of Europe in mass-culture and consumerism, which explains why a superficial pop culture is so pervasive in the US.

To Andreas Kluth a ‘high culture’ perceived as ‘snobbish only’ is “a tragedy” and due to many factors among which a too widespread anti-elitism (“Sarah Palin and all the rest”).

ψ

Other posts on Gramsci:

American Engineer, German Philosopher & French Politician: Gramsci’s Ideal Blend for the Modern Leonardo da Vinci
Seven Aspects of Antonio Gramsci’s Thought
America, the Greatest Collective Effort Ever existed”. Antonio Gramsci

Related posts:

Democracy, Liberty & the Necessity of a Solid Education of the People
Culture, Kultur, Paideia
The Last Days of the Polymath


Do We Have Balls To Live Withouth Religion? INVICTUS

Inner Bravery and Endurance

The film INVICTUS should be watched by the young and the less young.

It is an inspiring message on the inner bravery we can find in ourselves in order to endure any deep sorrow or big problem life can hurl at us.

Directed by Clint Eastwood, INVICTUS is based on John Carlin‘s book ‘Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Changed a Nation. Invictus‘.

The film is a tribute to Nelson Mandela and to the South African people – blacks and whites alike – and it reveals the complex fragments of the souls of 3 men.

The Victorians, Mandela, the Afrikaans

Nelson Mandela in 2008

N. Mandela in 2008. Click for credits and to enlarge

1) A Victorian poet – William Ernest Henley (1849–1903) we never see in the film – who bravely faced life deprived of his left leg since the age of 12 and who wrote INVICTUS (see below,) an inspired poem on endurance.

2) Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader who spent 27 years imprisoned in a quasi cubicle and who was resilient enough to survive and fight also because inspired by the poem INVICTUS.

3) The South African (Afrikaan) captain of the Springboks‘ – the country’s rugby union team – who, inspired by Mandela in his turn and by that same poem, brings the Springboks to victory, in the 1995 Rugby World Cup hosted by South Africa, by defeating the All Blacks 15-12 in the final.

An event that possibly helped the South African black and white people to better understand each other along the hard path towards a society where racial hate and mistrust may be progressively banned.

Morgan Freeman‘s (starring Mandela, and Mandela’s friend btw); Clint Eastwood; the solid plot-script – these in my opinion the elements that make the film compelling.

I forgot someone. Nelson Mandela.

Invictus

William Ernest Henley (1849 – 1903). R. L. Stevenson’s ‘Long John Silver’ character was inspired by his real-life friend Henley, ‘a glowing, massive-shouldered fellow’

OUT of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade
,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid
.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley, 1875

Note on Man & Religion

So beautiful, inspiring.

Henley’s position on religion seems pre-Christian to me and close to epicureanism and stoicismSir Bertrand Russell had declared:

“My own view on religion is that of Lucretius. I regard it as a disease born of fear and as a source of untold misery to the human race.” [read more ]

Henley’s position is also that of the Renaissance and of humanism, when Western man – a truly reborn dantesque Ulysses – found the guts to build his own destiny again (and regrettably to conquer the rest of the planet destroying other cultures etc.)

“Man can find all the force he needs within his own human soul and reason, within his character and will,” said many Greek and Roman wise men plus several humanists, no god really helping, no religion really helping.

[The italic text in INVICTUS is mine. It is where I believe the poet mostly expresses the said classic attitude.]

Ψ

Now, what do readers think about all this? Can we live without religion, without a help from ‘someone’ up there?

Can we too – the simple men in the street – be the ‘captains of our soul’? Or is it only possible to the master, to the ‘real tough’?

So in the end:

Is religion basically a question of lack of balls? Or is there more than that?

ψ

Related posts:

Religion, Fear, Power
Force & Anger. Ghosts in the Mind (on Magister’s teachings on bravery and inner force)
On Solitude (where the totally self-sufficient Greco-Roman sage is analysed, a quasi-superman, like many Victorians were also)

A final note.

(I know, I’ll lose ALL my readers …)

INVICTUS attitude is classical. It reminds the Greco-Roman sage who has “like unsinkable goods in his soul that can float out of any shipwreck.”

Stilpon (Στίλπων) who according to Seneca lost his family and all his goods, when asked if he had suffered any harm, replied: “No, I haven’t.”

Compare now this classical attitude with a passage from the Old Testament (Psalm 91,9.) [the New Testament is identical in this].

You’ll measure the total overturning of many classical values Christianity carried out.

ψ

Here in fact man totally entrusts himself to God’s divine pro-vidence:

Because thou hast made the LORD,
which is my refuge, even the most High,
thy habitation;
There shall no evil befall thee,
neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

For he shall give his angels charge over thee,
to keep thee in all thy ways.

They shall bear thee up in their hands,
lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.
Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder:
the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.

Because he hath set his love upon me,
therefore will I deliver him:

I will set him on high,
because he hath known my name.

He shall call upon me, and I will answer him:
[exactly what Christ says in the New Testament, MoR]

I will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him,
and honour him.
With long life will I satisfy him,
and shew him my salvation.

The Day Paganism Yielded To Christianity. Has India Anything To Do With It?

Constantine I, the first Christian Roman emperor (272 – 337 AD). Musei capitolini, Roma [Click for credits, GNU Free Docum License, Ver 1.2

I’m preparing 2 posts I hope will help readers to easily learn some ancient Greek and Latin but I need a few more days.

The whole thing is in fact tough and I’m a bit breathless.

Not because of the poems – they are ready (and will be in progress in any case.) It is the cultural context around them that has exhausted – and troubled me – a bit.

I’ll try to explain.

Ψ

Andreas Kluth’s Hannibal blog – a place extraordinaire I stumbled upon months ago – had once presented a fascinating metaphor possibly created by a certain Professor Phillip Cary.

“You can think – Andreas wrote – of “Western culture” as a human body:

[nums by MoR instead of stars].

1. The left leg is ancient Athens and Rome, Socrates and Aristotle;
2. the right leg is Jerusalem and the Bible, Moses and Jesus;
3. the crotch is the end of the Roman empire when the two “legs” met ;
4. the torso is the Middle Ages, when the two traditions became one [Dante, MoR];

[etc etc up to the rest of the body that can be pondered over at the Hannibal blog, *here* and *there*; MoR]

Ψ

Ok. The left leg (1) – the Classical – has been THE main topic of this blog so far.

The research around my Greek and Latin classes though caused the other leg (2) – the Judeo-Christian – to more or less pound on my head.

Ouch what a blow my dear readers!  – and later I might tell you why.

Constantine's dream of a sign from the Christian God

Mario: A blow? Why TH do you care? Just go ahead with the left leg, you always were a leftist ah ah ah!

MoR: You moron, MY problem is the ancient languages classes Mario! Now it turns that, while the classical texts are hard (leg 1), the Judeo-Christian ones (leg 2) are often that easy – Old and New Testament alike – that even a baby can read them, for reasons fascinating not the place here to discuss.

[I know there are comics, that there are web sites plus the Latin and Greek Wikipedia- which I adore. But I always prefer the best literature for language learning: ie starting with what is matchless]

Extropian: MoR is right. Wanna get into mountain climbing? Forget the Everest and start with simple (tho captivating) hills.

MoR: Ok ok Extropian, but you 2 didn’t get the MAIN point.
I’m not only facing here the daunting task of presenting the context of the greatest spiritual revolution the West ever hadthe switch from Paganism to Christianity. And btw I’m a guy who, revering the Classical as much as I do, is not exactly excited to see the DEATH of it  …

Extropian: “Num 3, the crotch?

MoR:
The crotch, yes. Problem being: there’s a lot more, and a lot earlier.

Extropian: Urghhh!
A LOT earlier??

Serapis, an Hellenistic-Egyptian god in Antiquity (since the III century BC)

MoR: Yyyeees! While trying to figure out the spiritual context of the poems, much to my horror (and fascination) did I realise that the (Judeo)-Christian leg was part of bigger – much more ancient  – streams originating from Egypt and from the East (both Middle and Far East.)

To be more precise – and in a reversed order: from Egypt, Thrace, Anatolia, Palestine (the Jews, naturally, crucial,) Mesopotamia, Persia AND India.

Mario: India??? Oh oh oh oh ….India AGAIN???

Extropian
[*getting more attentive*]

MoR: I’ll repeat it! The Greco-Romans had already encountered A LOT EARLIER that much wider oriental humus – of which the Judeo-Christian leg was just a part – much earlier I mean than when we finally get to the darn crotch – ie the switching to Christianity and soon after that cataclysm, ie the horrible end of the Roman empire.

Extropian: [*lost in reflection, eyes gleaming*] Mmmm, how MUCH earlier

MoR: 800-850 years earlier, more or less. I’ll check better but I’d bet on it.

Ψ

Long pause. Pauses are important. The sun begins to shine through the clouds folds over the eternal city  … We drink strong coffee.

Ψ

MoR: Which led me to reconsider the Judeo-Christian tradition as being NOT TOTALLY EXTRANEOUS to the Classical World (!) as I first had thought.

A kind of a BLOW, plus a troubling one because I got fascinated by it.

I told Lichanos over at his blog – his posts inspired me as for the Jewish heritage: “I feel the need of coming to terms with both traditions or legs – I said – AND, should I get back to Christianity, I will SUE you …”  :-)

Ψ

The silence in my study-room is now disturbed only by Mario che smadonna piano piano … My friends love me and they are worried. I am just excited.

This was happening yesterday in an apartment in Rome.

On another area of the planet 70 million Hindus plus 40,000 Indian politicians were /are about to gather near the banks of the Ganges. The water is cold. It is flowing to the plains directly from the Himalayas. The water is also dirty.

Indian crowds over the Ganges to purify themselves. Click for credits and to enlarge

Not that the Indians will care – about the cold or the dirtiness. All they care about – the poor and the low caste, the rich and the high caste – is this sacred water purifying them from their sins and helping them with better reincarnations.

The Kumbh Mela hindu festival might though be special this year. The convergence of the 12-yearly Kumbh Mela with the longest solar eclipse of the millennium – it is believed - could guarantee an end to the reincarnation cycle.

Note. Sin. Purified by sacred water. ‘Souls’ and ‘bodies’ separated but incessantly reuniting in a reincarnation cycle of life and death.

Ah what a marvellous introduction to what we are about to narrate!

The Last Days of the Polymath

An earlier post kicked off an interesting conversation on the meaning of the word ‘culture’.

Dev, Lichanos, Andreas Kluth, the Commentator, Paul Costopoulos, sledpress, Rosaria, zeusiswatching – all were so nice to participate.

Being ‘cultured’ – we discussed – does it make any sense today? Why does it call up “stuffy, out-of-date rich people in drawing rooms?” in the English-speaking countries (Lichanos,) while it is still (a bit) appreciated in Italy France or Germany?

Apart from any possible European snobbery, elitism – being a ‘man of culture’ is not bad in my view and it is not elitist in that it can now be extended to the great number, this great number now watching realities – while they could buy a library only kings could afford in the past: something like a failure to me, not many doubts about it.

Only less than a century ago the Marxists, in their utopian folly, desired the totally developed man for everybody, which Antonio Gramsci adapted with his mass Leonardo da Vinci concept, that I always found fascinating.

The problem now is that a modern (mass or non mass) Leonardo is less viable because we know a lot more in so many more fields.

So the big gurus or maîtres à penser, providing the big picture people are so hungry for, are disappearing. Void is advancing and people, more and more confused, fall into the hands of organizations like Scientology and similar.

However, is this trend really inevitable, one may wonder?

Here is a conversation over at Lichanos’ – Journey to Perplexity.

It is about the death of the polymath and it started around Lichanos’ excellent review of “2001 a Space Odyssey” by Stanley Kubrick.

Lichanos. Dev, thanks for the kind words, and I am very happy that you find my reviews interesting! I am a civil engineer – no connection to the film industry at all, but I came to my profession by way of studying philosophy and art history, so I am not, so I am told, a “typical” engineer.

Such a background used to be unremarkable for engineers, say, 60 or 100 years ago, but today, at least in the USA, it is unusual.

Dev. I know what you mean. I think that’s unusual every where in the world nowadays. Even considering the fact that all science and engineering had it’s foundation in philosophy earlier. I mean many scientists in the earlier times were originally philosophers.
But, I’m sure you are a very good civil engineer too.
Should I tell you that I studied Electronics Engineering in my undergrad too. :)
But I never worked as an engineer..
Anyways, I look forward to go through many of your earlier posts -especially the film/literature related ones- in the coming days.

Man of Roma. Lichanos, you are definitely not a ‘typical’ engineer. Dev, I don’t know you enough to say something.

We are shifting from Kubrick, but you are both evoking the polymath, he who knows a lot about a lot. This essay The Last Days of the Polymath is a good read (though Western-centric) and describes how the polymath is disappearing.

We Europeans had always the impression that this prevalence of specialization is due to America and her big influence. Although it may be simply necessary, with a corpus of knowledge so greatly expanding.

It seems clear, Dev, that by today’s standards many scientists of the past were polymaths.

Polymath is an English term. In Italy we say ‘tuttologo’ etc. Polymathy is still a bit ingrained in the Latin countries curricula. The ‘Liceo classico’ in Italy still educates the young in this way, probably because the universal-man ideal, the ‘homo universalis’, was developed during the Italian Renaissance – one example, I like to think, where being provincial could be an advantage.

ψ

I was hit in fact some time ago by a review on a book, Genes, Peoples, and Languages by Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza. The review was written by Jared Diamond, an American I think. Cavalli-Sforza is an Italian who started at Stanford a revolution in human genetics from the 1960s onward and basically proved that ‘races’ do not exist.

“It would be a slight exaggeration – argues Jared Diamond – to say that L.L. Cavalli-Sforza studies everything about everybody, because actually he is ‘only’ interested in what genes, languages, archaeology, and culture can teach us about the history and migrations of everybody for the last several hundred thousand years.”

The Indians should be naturally born polymaths, due to their holistic approach, although today, with the speed of their economic development, they seem somewhat obliged to imitate the Westerners and be monomaths as well. But there are so many polymaths over there!

Man of Roma. My comment was not a paean to my country. It was a paean to the Greek Paideia and the Roman Humanitas, where the Renaissance man comes from.

Polymathy as a tendency is also dangerous, it encourages flitting around, dabbling, people who cannot stick at anything (I know it too well), Giacomo Casanova (mentioned in the essay) being a high-level example of it: he was good in mathematics, in philosophy and theology, but not too good.

A metaphor in the said essay that I liked: flirting, promiscuity – they are no good. It’s the real polygamy, the numerous & deeply lived marriages that make a real polymath.

I digressed. I’ll then add Kubrick was a genius and had a tendency towards polymathy, as the amazing variety of his films attests – Spartacus, Lolita, Dr. Strangelove, 2001, A Clockwork Orange etc. – as well as his passion for music, photography, he also being a great producer & marketing man (I heard at the radio he used to commercialize all the gadgets of his movies by himself, the heart-shaped glasses Sue Lyon wore, for example.)

Lichanos. Dev, MoR: No need to apologize for digressing here! If not here, where can we let our minds and conversation wander?

I love that word tuttologo!! Better than polymath, which sounds so dry to my ear. As for being spread too thinly, comme une dilettante, in English there is a saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none…” Still, the culture of the amateur and the dilettante are attractive to me as long as there is not too much superficiality.

I recall reading a critique of Voltaire once, I forget by whom, that railed against him: “The man has opinions on everything!” The implication was that he was flippant and felt the need to pronounce on all topics, even if he was formulaic. The size of his collected works was presented as evidence. Perhaps something there, but he was quite deep enough of the time to redeem himself, perhaps.

Regarding the engineering profession, I must say, 1st: I never could understand electrical circuits beyond the most basic. I understand water systems, and everyone says that they are similar, but not for me! 2nd: My father, retired, is an electrical engineer. He once drove me past an old industrial building in downtown Brooklyn where he said he worked at one of his first jobs after WWII. They build a computer there and had to knock down an exterior wall to get it out!

Louvre Pyramid, Paris, by architect I. M. Pei. Click to enlarge and for credits

In the pre-WWII days, “patrician” familes were happy to send their sons to engineering school. Now they only become lawyers or MBAs. It was a status profession. Some say that the dominance of corporate industry after WWII succeeded in capturing the educational institutions and molding them to its own ends, i.e., the production of ready-made technicians in large supply to keep wages lower. There is something to it. Within my sort of engineering, there is still a sort of envy of doctors and lawyers who used to be seen as gods, and are still, on TV at least, seen as worthy of celebrity and dramatic presentation. They tend to earn a lot more too! On the other hand, architects, a definite prestige profession here, get paid much less than engineers and always cut each other’s throats competing for business. I think the solution to this economic, status “problem” is to make it harder to become an engineer, to require additional liberal arts training in addition to the technical curriculum. This would restrict supply, but this is not popular position. Thus, the griping about “low status” and complaints that “nobody really knows what engineers do,” go on.

I conclude with a favorite quote of mine from volume I of the Gulag Archipelago:

An engineer? I had grown up among engineers,and I could remember the engineers of the
twenties very well indeed: their open shining intellects, their free and gentle humor, their
agility and breadth of thought, the ease with which they shifted from one engineering field
to another, and, for that matter, from technology to social concerns and art. Then,
too, they personified good manners and delicacy of taste; well-bred speech that flowed evenly
and was free of uncultured words; one of them might play a musical instrument, another dabble
in painting; and their faces always bore a spiritual imprint.

Dev. MoR and Lichanos, wow, what a discussion and exchange of thoughts going on!

MoR: Thanks for sharing your views on polymaths. I agree with you that for most people trying to be polymaths is not a good idea. I mean one life is hardly long enough to do one thing properly, so dabbling in various things is never easy. But then, the best of the people have been, in some ways, polymaths. You are very right that Kubrick was in a sense a polymath. Each of his films were so different from each other in terms of genre, treatment etc. What made him special was that he was a chameleon. Nobody could really guess what to expect from his films. He was an excellent photographer and editor too. Plus, as you mentioned, he took great interest in the marketing of his films, even designing the promos and posters.

Lichanos: Nice to read your views. My father is a civil engineer and was a good one. Well, understanding circuits was never easy for me either. I guess I concluded it years back when I finished my engineering that most people are not ready to become an engineer at the tender age of 18. I somehow finished my degree in time and tried to get away from the engineering side of things as soon I got an opportunity. Not because I looked down at engineering, rather I thought it deserved so much respect and discipline that I’m not ready for it. Sadly, most engineering schools across the world just make assembly line engineers who can get decent jobs and raise a family. But, not really nurturing questioning/scientific minds.

Similar to what you quoted in the end, even when my father graduated in the late 60’s in India, they used to be proud of their engineering degrees; even more than the doctors or even the bureaucrats of those times. This is not really true anymore.

Man of Roma. Dev and Lichanos: you both then confirm that engineers are declining socially. Damn. My youngest daughter is graduating in civil engineering! ;-)

Lichanos. Dev: On Engineers – yes, I think you hit it right on the head. BTW, I didn’t go to school to get an engineering degree until I was 23 or so. I NEVER could have made it at 18, even if I’d wanted to!!
MoR: I’m sure your daughter will do just fine. Everyone wants things built right! If she works in the field, on-site, it’s very much in demand, but a very demanding job! I could not stand it, I’m sure. I look out my window at the World Trade Center site and think, “How the HELL do they get everything to come together on time?” I’d have a nervous breakdown.

Capitoline She-Wolf. Rome, Musei Capitolini. Public domain

Previous installment:

Culture, Kultur, Paideia

Related posts:

American Engineer, German Philosopher & French Politician: Gramsci’s Ideal Blend for the Modern Leonardo da Vinci
Democracy, Liberty & the Necessity of a Solid Education of the People

Culture, Kultur, Paideia

Days ago I was revising my blog’s categories. I realized how lazy I had been.

‘Culture’ for example indicated both:

  1. the set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of a society or group  (it’s the Unesco definition)  and
  2. the general knowledge and refinement a person can attain through education.

The former, anthropological, relates to groups, while the latter, humanistic, relates to individuals. So my category ‘culture’ has been split in two: culture and knowledge & refinement.

I’ll tell you, my impression is that ‘culture’ in English has progressively lost meaning num 2, which was instead well alive in the past if we have to believe J. C. Shairp, a Scottish man of letters, who wrote in the 19th century:

“What the Greeks expressed by their paideia, the Romans by their humanitas, we less happily try to express by the more artificial word culture.”

Well, if paideia and humanitas were better, culture is better than nothing in any case.

Of course European cultures (anthropological) are very much interrelated. In countries such as France Italy and Germany, for example, people continue to refer to culture also as personal, individual refinement: we have ‘cultura’ in Italian, ‘culture’ in French and ‘Kultur’ in German, which the German Duden dictionary explains with Bildung and verfeinerte Lebensart (refined way of life.)

I’m wondering why the English-speaking countries have retained only the anthropological use of culture. Don’t they like gli uomini di cultura generale any more?

According to my friend jurist cultura was a high culture ideal that mirrored social elitism, so the English-speaking countries, basically more pluralistic, bit by bit moved on. Very good point, but I’m not entirely convinced, there must be something else too.

This thing being more complicated than it seems, I am now asking my readers for insight.

In the meanwhile, I’ll soon post a nice discussion occurred a few days ago where some kind of replies have surfaced: a dialogue among a civil engineer from NYC, an Indian Canadian from Quebec – about to start a career in the film industry – and MoR.

Arrivederci a presto dunque.

ψ

See next installment:

The Last Days of the Polymath

Related posts:

American Engineer, German Philosopher & French Politician: Gramsci’s Ideal Blend for the Modern Leonardo da Vinci
Democracy, Liberty & the Necessity of a Solid Education of the People

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