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Category Archives: Thinking

Locking Horns with a Young Roman

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Originally posted on Man of Roma:

Locking Horns. Fair use

In an earlier post we had said that our writings are finding free inspiration in the technique of dialectics which involves a dialogue we carry out 1) within our mind, 2) among minds (mostly through books) and 3) with readers.

As far as point 2) since we are not important persons, hence not in a position to recreate at our place a circle with top intellectuals, this virtualSymposium is what is left to us.

Which involves a certain number of virtual guests, a virtual guest being “a quotation or just a reference to a book passage“. The ideas of an author, dead or alive, participate in the discussion thanks to the greatest invention of all time: writing.

ψ

I was trying to explain this whole “Virtual Symposium & Writing” concept to this young (and uncouth) Roman, some time ago.

We locked horns a bit, like…

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Obsessive Engines. How Manias Help Us Shape Our Own Worldviews

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Originally posted on Man of Roma:

Constantine's Roman Basilica in Trier, Germany

The huge Constantine’s Roman Basilica in Trier, Germany, used today as a Protestant church (courtesy of Dulcevisa). Click for source

Spontaneous philosophy

We have said in a previous post that all men are philosophers since everyone in the course of his/her life keeps building a constantly evolving grid of interrelated concepts that shape his/her unique conception of the world.

Therefore ‘philosophy’ is not such a weird thing that pertains only to a specialized category of professionals. It is on the contrary a natural feature of our species, exactly like talking or walking on two legs.

Inner motives help

There is another element I want to point out (since we mentioned it just briefly in the past.)

These concepts and their linking seem (at least to me) related to inner motives each of us keeps inside, unconsciously or not. Such motives, often of biographical origin, are like filters that…

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Man of Roma. Un bilancio (assessment)

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Man of Roma a piazza Navona

MoR in Piazza Navona. Click for a larger view. Pic taken by Devinder Singh with my brand new Galaxy Tablet. Dev, an Indian blogger, was in Rome last May. He had presented a short (and great) film at Cannes. See 2 links on Piazza Navona at the foot of the post

[Per i lettori italiani.

Un nuovo blog, Pagine del Man of Roma, in cui sto mettendo brani significativi del MoR in italiano.

La soap sull’antica Britannia la sto scrivendo anche in italiano]

ψ

Thus said, cercando di non fare i tronfioni e di essere obiettivi (English translation in progress) il 9 settembre 2007 cominciai un blog in inglese perché:

1) era difficile

2) dopo 16 anni di IT volevo riprendere gli studi umanistici

3) la lingua di Shakespeare, meravigliosa, speravo aprisse a una varietà di interlocutori eccitante

4) volevo praticare la dialettica, mito della mia generazione ma di valore universale

5) volevo focalizzare il lavoro sulla romanness, verificando eventuali nessi, di qualsiasi tipo, tra i romani dell’antichità e i romani – italiani (e oltre) – di oggi (la romanitas si dispiegò infatti su un impero vasto).

Piazza Navona today. Via Wikipedia. Click for a larger view

Piazza Navona, Rome, former Circus of Emperor Domitian located to the north of the Campus Martius. Via Wikipedia. Click for a larger view

Come è andata?

Io credo bene. In modo non sistematico:

214 scritti (non tantissimi forse nell’arco di quasi 4 anni ma molti sono saggi ben sudati), 5.281 commenti (tanti, molti dei quali più lunghi del post che li aveva stimolati). Praticamente, tra articoli e commenti, “un librone di diverse migliaia di pagine” in cui gli interventi (al 99% in inglese) sono spesso più elevati degli scritti stessi. Ci sono anche i miei commenti e, wel well, i miei lettori sanno che sono un bel chiacchierone (chatter-box).

Estrema varietà degli interlocutori. Eccitante dicevo. In ordine alfabetico:

America, Australia, Austria, Brasile, Canada, China, Francia, Germania, Gran Bretagna, India, Irlanda, Italia, Messico, Nuova Zelanda e Svezia.

Bust of Roman Emperor Domitian who reigned from 81 to 96 CE. Roma, Musei Capitolini

Viaggio di esplorazione. Questo per me e spero per i lettori è stato il Man of Roma:

Un girovagare imparando cose belle insieme, un dialogo continuo (estenuante a volte), uno studio tosto da parte di chi scrive (fa bene, ok, ma ‘na faticaccia …).
Nel fondo ero e rimango un insegnantefiero del mestiere che ho fatto per più di 30 anni, un dare e soprattutto un ricevere che riscalda il cuore prima della mente.

Verifica dello strumento dialettico. La tecnica dialettica – inventata forse da Socrate e Platone 2400 anni fa (ma esistono dialettiche orientali efficacissime, vedi il link subito sopra) – per come la vedo io è:

A. dialogo con noi stessi sui temi che ci appassionano

B. Dialogo con libri testi e pagine (anche web) validi (non si cresce senza dialogare con menti migliori della nostra).

Consiglio lo studio attento di scritti frammentari o zibaldoni (l’efficacia dell’esempio vivo!) poiché il pensiero in progress ci fa teste pensanti (thinking people) per naturale imitazione, piccole teste o grandi chissenefrega (who the hell cares),  l’importante è pensare con la nostra testa, diritto sancito da ogni costituzione democratica.

Domitian's Stadium, built in 86 CE conceived for Greek athletics that the Romans considered immoral (nakedness etc.). Later become 'Circus Agonalis' the population watched there agones (games, from αγών: any contest), whence 'agone', which possibly merged into 'navone' (big ship), whence Navona. Voilà, Piazza Navona! Click for credits

Personalmente ho imparato tantissimo dallo Zibaldone di Leopardi, dai saggi di Montaigne e soprattutto dai Quaderni del carcere di Antonio Gramsci, autore oggi riscoperto a livello globale (dalla destra e dalla sinistra americana, in India, in Inghilterra ecc.) non per il suo essere marxista (il marxismo è morto, pace all’anima sua) ma per il suo essere pensatore geniale, utilissimo.

Presto vorrei meglio approcciare gli essais (1rst & 2nd series) & lectures di Ralph Waldo Emerson, forse il più grande intellettuale americano che, for some weird reason, è a me molto affine.

[Anche la poesia, attenzione, di ogni genere e popolo, è strumento -cognitivo e artistico- micidiale]

C. Dialogo con gente in carne ed ossa, dovunque è possibile (amici, caffè, strada). I blog? Per loro natura dilatano il dialogo e naturalmente con l’uso di una lingua franca il livello di tale dilatazione è potenzialmente altissimo.

Piazza Navona, air view. Click for credits

Infine, ‘romanità’ ieri e oggi. E qui concludo perché credo che l’audience del blog (not too far from half a million hits, specie considerando argomenti non proprio semplici direi) sia dovuta proprio a questo:

al meraviglioso mondo di Roma raccontato da un ‘uomo medio’ in tutte le salse possibili. Da uno cioè nato e vissuto quaggiù, ie a witness from right there.

ψ

Ringrazio con affetto tutti quelli che mi hanno seguito e che ho seguito nei loro blog.

THIS IS NOT A FAREWELL, IT’S A NEW BEGINNING! [had to add this since a few readers were worried: see comments below].

That the journey continue! I do love you ALL (and you know it damn!)

Yours.

Man of Roma

Nota. Per piazza Navona vedi queste notizie storico-archeologiche in italiano e in inglese.

ψ

Post correlati (bilanci, audience e temi, man mano che il blog cresceva):

[Related posts (assessment, audience & themes as the blog progressed in time]

Are We Going Anywhere?

This Blog’s First Birthday

Post sul Metodo (see the English original of this, well, wild post)

100 Posts. I’ll Celebrate My Own Way. 1

100 Posts. I’ll Celebrate My Own Way. 2

Merry Saturnalia! And a Roman New Blog

Locking Horns with a Young Roman

Themes from Man of Roma: a site map

Why Taking Showers Can Be Good for Mental Health

Man taking a shower. Click for attribution and to enlarge

While I was taking my shower at 8 this morning a simple truth suddenly hit me.

So after breakfast (fruits, honey, Soya milk and a very strong espresso) and after getting dressed (I usually dress very well when I need to pull myself together) I went into my library and searched for an old worn-out book, The Conquest of Happiness, London, George Allen & Unwin, 1930.

I read aloud the very well known passage I was looking for:

“One of the symptoms of approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important, and that to take a holiday would bring all kinds of disaster”.

[Bertrand Russell, 1930]

Well, I won’t take a holiday because I’m having too much fun, but I’ll slow down a bit and start yoga.

Scrivere come antidoto alla mente bollita

Rewriting a bit in my mother tongue. After more than three years of blogging in English I am starting to look for words when I speak in Italian. You may use an automatic translator if you will.

ψ

Cominciai questo blog partendo da pensieri come questi:

“Vorrei riprendere a scrivere soprattutto come antidoto alla mente bollita. Scrivere in fondo è studiare, almeno per come lo concepisco io, e quindi è un ottimo sistema di autodifesa contro il pericolo di abbrutimento intellettuale che viene, almeno a me, dal lavoro di ingegneria dei sistemi informatici”.

Ora dopo tre anni di scrittura posso dire che la cosa ha funzionato. La mente è più agile e quella di tenere un blog di pensieri, ricerche e annotazioni è una cosa che consiglierei a tutti. E’ così facile abbrutirsi oggi, e a tutte le età.

Semmai nel caso mio particolare c’è un po’ di pena, ma nemmeno tanto, per l’uso continuo della lingua straniera e per quel poco di isolamento in più che un’attività del genere comporta, complice anche il retirement dal lavoro.

Is the Human Mind like a Museum?

As for the human mind, I’ve often thought about the metaphor of the museum.

Our mind, one of the functions of our brain ‘and other parts of our body’ (Sledpress’ objection I found interesting,) contains and allows that we manifest the infinite traces of our past (past conceptions, language, behaviours) from Stone Age or earlier onwards. Evolution enters the equation, but we will leave it alone for now.

Whatever world region we are from, we should be concerned about probing such repository I believe, that is our roots or cultural ID.

Language is an important portion of this ID. What a great digging tool for example etymology is, ie history of words (shown a bit in our previous post, see a good on-line tool) although lots of things are there well beyond words (see points I and IV below.)

Ψ

A few examples, to better understand.

(Italian-mind related, but they could hopefully work as a method example to different minds as well)

I. The Greek fear in gods’ envy, yet present in South Italy and Greece:

“Not long ago my friend Mario took me for a drive on his stupendous vintage 1960 Lancia Flavia (see image below.) Mario is from Naples, a South Italian city founded by the Greeks in the 8th cent. BCE.

On the way back I exclaimed merrily: ‘Diavolo, this car is a gem, it has rolled as smoothly as olive oil!’

Mario snapped with a worried look: “Hush! hush! Don’t you say that!”

I well knew what he meant:

“Oh please you shut the hell up! Do you want the car to break down or anything bad to happen to us?” as if the mere utterance of happiness would attract ill luck or the envy from someone … Well, the envy from whom?

(read more).

The ancient classical Greeks (V cent. BCE) believed their gods lived an eternal blissful life and envied men too prosperous that dared to get close to their happiness. They then humbled and punished them. That ‘too prosperous’ means it was excess and arrogance (ὕβρις) that was basically abhorred by the Olympian gods, which made people afraid of showing their happiness, or of being arrogant. It was like a socio-religious regulation valve, plus a factor without a doubt of the mostly upper-class (tho not exclusively) marvellous ‘5th cent. BC’ Greek perfect equilibrium.

Polycrates tyrant of Samos (where Pythagoras was born by the way) led a too prosperous and arrogant life. Horrible was then his death, Herodotus notes

Now, 2400 years later (!) people in Southern Italy and Greece are still afraid of expressing satisfaction when things are going WELL, lest ‘something’ might spot them and whack them.

Such a great item in their museum mind allow me to say!!

(read more)


II.
Phrases and the Wheel related to the Roman Goddess Fortuna:

  • A personification of Goddess Fortuna (“they invoked their fortune”) seen as something capricious (“the tricks of fortune”) is deeply impressed in modern Western minds and language;
  • The wheel of fortune also used in many popular TV shows is a survival of the goddess, often represented with a wheel at her side (read more)

Spectacular remnants of the Sanctuary to the goddess Fortuna Primigenia in Palestrina (ancient Praeneste), located just a few miles from Rome

III. When we say ‘deep in my heartor ‘she / he broke my heart’ we refer to a scientific superseded idea that the heart, and not the brain, is the seat of emotions. The Stoics saw in the heart the seat of the soul, Aristotle the seat of reason and emotion, the Roman physician Galenus the seat of emotions etc.


IV.
The Roman laughter

“Flavia’s ancient Roman laughter is heard in the room. It is loud, slightly crass, as it should be and as I hope it will ever ever be in the future, somewhat like a sympathetic, warm BIG HUG to the world.”
(from How To Learn Greek and Latin (2). Some Inspiration From Penates etc)

Another great mind item this laughter – I must record it some day – that belongs to the modern Roman mind, certainly not to the Greek one, modern or non modern.

Update
. Here is a sample of such laughter. Click on these words to listen to it: Marina’s (and MoR’s) laughter.

In short, before more details if you will

The γνῶθι σεαυτόν aphorism adapted to our 'museum' concept

There’s like a huge messy archive in our head so stuffed with things that just beg to be organized a bit and come to light.

Let’s get it all out dear readers. With meditation, concentration and fertile idea-exchanging let us make that inventory my good old Mentor used to mention us when we were so young.

As for my own cultural ID, I am trying to dig a bit with the present blog.

Ψ

[see in-depth details from our posts. Skip the first section – similar to the above writing – and start reading from Socrates’ T-shirt big face onwards – like the one above]

Related posts:

Fighting with Grandpa’s tomes. My Parents’ Marriage & the Roman Laughter

A Discussion on Romanness Past and Present (1) The Roman Jews

A view of Rome by Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1729-1778)

A view of Rome. Etching by Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1729-1778). Click for credits and larger picture

The previous post on the Roman Jews had kicked off an interesting conversation with readers and especially with Lichanos on a theme central in this blog: Romanness past and present.

Huge topic, I know.

Lichanos’ energizing comments have though compelled me to clarify and integrate what I had in mind. I really thank ALL my readers for their contribution. Discussion helps to clarify and enrich lumpy mind stuff still at an intuition stage (see my method post.)

My friend Mario has told me recently: “You are exploiting your commentatori”.

Roman-like, and using polite words in my translation, I told him he better shut his helluva mouth up.

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

MoR
So what Davide Limentani said is probably true: the Roman Jews are the most ancient Romans surviving. The origin of their roman-ness appears to be prior to the era of the Flavian Emperors. Actually Jews have lived in Rome for over 2,000 years!

Lichanos
I don’t understand why you say the Jews are the most ancient Romans. What about non-Jews whose families have been in Rome just as long? Or are there none, what with migration, free movement, and the currents of history? Are you saying that the ghetto and the social restrictions on Jews kept their community intact all that time while others dissolved? THAT would be quite an irony!

MoR
Yes, the ghetto, the social restrictions and the tenacious interrelation ethnicity / religion / nationality typical of the Jews helped them to remain sort of intact compared to other Romans, I believe.

Are they Roman, Jewish or both? Both in my view. And their Roman side is very ancient, there’s a lot of evidence: their cooking, their behaviours, their vernacular sooo Roman and archaic to our ears. I mean, why shouldn’t they be Roman? After living in Rome and beholding the Tiber for 2,000 years …

An irony? Romanness has nothing to do with an ethnic group. It’s cultural transmission, like at the (multi-ethnic) times of the Empire.

Lichanos
Touché! The stereotype inverted! I was thinking it was ironic because Jews are usually thought of as the “other – not us” group, so it seemed ironic that they would be the most Roman. Of course the Jews are the most Roman, stands to reason given their history there…

MoR
Jews … usually thought of as the “other – not us” group
A bit being due to elements of the Jewish culture, people who see the Jews as aliens are either racist, stupid or narrow-minded (I’ll bypass the religious fanatics). Variety is what makes life interesting! Plus they are usually very intelligent, which is not bad these days.

Ψ

My personal take on Romanness has been pruned from the above conversation for the sake of readability. See the upcoming post for it. The Roman Jews (2) writing will soon follow.

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