Magister

Italian translation

My ideas started fermenting the day I encountered Magister, il mio maestro, 35 years ago.

It was a rainy day. Rome is so smelly when it rains. I went to a place where he delivered lectures, close to the Tiber, the sacred river of Rome. He was already very old, with long white hair and beard, eyes penetrating. Italy was all a huge debate in the roaring 1970′s (I am listening to Pink Floyd‘s Dark Side of the Moon to relive the feel of those days.)

Magister talked softly most of the time, the silence of the audience being absolute, even embarrassing at times. When he though got angry his voice was like thunder almost, eyes flashing.

I will never forget him. I was an ugly duckling when I met him. Not that he made a swan out of me, lol, but he taught me a lot, basically by having me understand that I had the means to be a free man by just making use of my mind and will.

I do not know if I was a good pupil.

I left family to find my fortune. Unfortunate are the young who never find maestri.

I won’t reveal his identity – not that he would mind, he being no more, his ashes scattered somewhere in this eternal city he loved so much. I adored him and I was not the only one to cry over his ashes. There are reasons for not revealing his identity.

What I can say is just repeating this: to him I really owe a lot.

Last but not least this love for knowledge, this curiosity or craving, I don’t know how to phrase it.

I mean, this cultural hedonism which tends to auto-organization and which in defiance of age is constantly growing instead of abandoning my soul (cultural = related to knowledge, as people in France, Germany or Italy mean it).

Plus, of course, I owe him this dialectic method and the notion of the writing-thinking connection.

Writing. Low res. Fair use

Writing and Thinking

Writing, thinking, clarifying,
striving to sort out thoughts
in ways so “clear and ordinate”
and comprehensible.

This, many years ago, Magister counselled
for the good education of the mind.
Beloved Magister,
writer, philosopher, educator…

Published on April 20, 2008 at 1:29 pm  Comments (28)  

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  1. [...] were captured (and which kept us reading) was the fact that a similar list was handed over to us by Magister since the very first days of our encounter (above you can see ‘The Death of Socrates’ [...]

  2. [...] Magister said we should make such an inventory. To criticise our mind – he said – is to make such an inventory, and knowing thyself, a Socratic principle, is still valid today. Published in: [...]

  3. [...] Magister said one has to avoid going around with a lantern in search of traces of the Roman and Italian civilization in the world. How silly and mean it would be! – he remarked. [...]

  4. [...] Magister kept saying we need to fight against any anti-social impulse that we have in us. I can agree, but loads of things can be achieved only if we retire to our own shell: writing, reading, composing music, meditating etc. And these are things on whose positiveness everyone agrees. [...]

  5. [...] second element I derived from Magister is the importance of discussion and feedback to reach a better knowledge (dialectics.) I’m happy [...]

  6. [...] Magister would certainly exclaim: “This is the classical attitude of the spineless bohemian. Discipline is everything!” [...]

  7. You feel the same way toward Magister, “Master”, that I feel toward my mentors.

    Here’s to our gurus.

    • To them Andreas! To those who made us the way we are, whatever we are.

      *MoR holding a glass of red wine in his hand and toasting*

  8. [...] Fear, Power Humanitas (& humanism) Force & Anger. Ghosts in the Mind (on Magister’s teachings on bravery and inner force) On Solitude (where the totally self-sufficient Greco-Roman [...]

  9. [...] [Magister and Gramsci were the mentors who have saved me from being a savage - read here if you will.] [...]

  10. The men and women who turned me onto literature, philosophy, the arts, a few of them taught me to unite myself, to a certain extent with these things. They are not ends in themselves, but these mentors taught me to live these things, to use these things to grow in love of beauty, and the ultimate author of beauty. Such are true mentors, they teach us to love.

    • a few of them taught me to unite myself ….true mentors, they teach us to love

      It is exactly, dear Zeus, what this man did to me and the rest of his pupils. He taught us ‘to grow in love of beauty’, as you say, (ie literature, philosophy, the arts etc tho not music, music I had already when I met him).

      Moreover he showed us – with living example most importantly – that such things are 1) not only beautiful (he taught me to appreciate poetry for ex) but 2) pertaining to concrete, rich-with-problems-to-solve daily life.

      In other words we didn’t fall into this common piège or trap – arts & knowledge as snobbish frill or feathers one ‘wears’ socially – but made us understand with living example, again, that ‘knowledge & refinement’ far from being ‘classy’ (he was of peasant origin btw) are a tool (a big one) to better understand ourselves, the people and the world around us.

      This is why the MoR’s blog is dedicated to him.

  11. You say that Magister was “……….very old, with long white hair and beard, eyes penetrating……….”.

    You might be describing an Old Testament patriarch, a God-like figure. Was Magister a guru for you? Whether or not he was, he sounds as if he enriched your life greatly.

    Sometimes, though, having a guru may not be a good thing. Jiddu Krishnamurti, who the Theosophists had set up as a World Teacher (a guru) at the head of “The Order of the Star in the East”, later became aware of the ingrained religious instinct of the human, and the consequent human predilection to worship gurus.

    So Krishnamurti summarily dissolved the Order and dismissed all his thousands of followers world-wide, saying, *”The moment you follow someone you cease to follow the Truth”.*

    If it is true that the religious instinct is ingrained in the human psyche, it may explain why we in the west, who are either atheist or monotheist, worship gurus, and have on our mantlepieces in our sitting rooms the busts of long-dead philosophers and long-dead musical composers, who we have made into de-facto gods.

    You, yourself, have pointed out that all those thousands of patron saints in Roman Catholicism are de facto deities. Think of the moves afoot to make Pope John-Paul II a saint – thereby creating yet another deity.

    Think also of those secular figures of authority who their followers (disciples) worshipped – Marx, Lenin, Hitler, Jung, Freud, Mao etc. All that these secular gods wrote was also treated as Holy Writ.

    The human propensity to worship would appear limitless.

  12. Fascinating comment, Phil. I will reply tomorrow I guess. Now it is time to go to bed here. Ciao e grazie amico.

    Update. We had friends in our home for three days. We ate and drank too much for 3 long days, so i am late in everything. I’ll get to you dear Phil.

    • @Philippe

      Here we are Philippe.

      Was Magister a guru for you?

      Yes he was and he enriched my life greatly. I understand that there may be drawbacks in any form of ‘myth’, ‘worship’, dependency of some sort, but in this I am sorry I do not agree with excellent Krishnamurti.

      I think that 1) pedagogy is an important element in the relationship between humans (everybody teaches and is taught back: old & young, friends & friends, parents & children, gender & gender etc.) but also, as you seem to suggest, that 2) everybody that actually enlightens others is often seen to possess like a charm or ‘aura’ not very far from what is ‘mythical’, religious & similar. We though sometimes have pathological cases of ‘Masters’ that take advantage of weak personalities etc., but that is not the point here.

      Magister had this ‘charm’, but it worked for me, and I don’t see what’s wrong with it [*here* I better explain this to a Tuscan woman, though in Italian]

      So I agree with you: the rational, cognitive, secular mind should include in its conceptions the religious sphere as well – for many reasons, last but not least for the fact that the world of humans (history included) cannot be understood if we ban “the religious instinct [probably] ingrained in the human psyche” (your idea, which I personally consider true).

      Take the the ancient Greco-Romans, the ancient British: how can we hope understand them if we don’t try to grasp bits of their religious experience?

      Which sort of contradicts what I wrote in my very first post in sept 2007, ie that he who is writing and the religious sphere have absolutely no contact. They have, although I don’t know what it is :-)

  13. My Epiphany came from a book “Le Matin des Magiciens” (see my blog for June 6 2010) written by the two most unlikely partners in the world, Jacques Bergier a French-Jewish socialist journalist and Louis Pauwels a French rightist philosopher. They eventually parted ways but they left their mark in that book and the “Planète” movement that lasted until their separation.
    That book really liberated me and sent me on my way. I must say, however, that they never inspired in me the veneration that you, MoR, seem to have kept for suo magister.
    I have seen his head somwhere but I have not retraced where…yet.

  14. I have or had no, sigh, cultural or intellectualy mentor. No one to slap me off the side of the head. What you see (in this case, read) is what you get. It’s all self-taught. Which should explain a lot.

    Pink Floyd: Wish you were here.

    • ‘Wish you were here’ came out in 1975. The ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ in 1972 or 1973. I met Magister around ’71-’72, so I needed DSOTM when I wrote this, to relive those days. I like both though.

      I think men need fathers in the broad sense (and women mothers possibly). When your father(s) are not up to the task – Magister said – one has to look elsewhere, also to foreigners, to books, classics etc. You, Canadian, have chosen Americans as your ‘fathers’ since you possibly found in them what was lacking in the milieu around you, I got no idea I’m just guessing.

      You are extremely intelligent, Alex. And you write in a terrific way. I really mean that, and I always told you this since years.

      All you need – imho, since a teacher is a humble not-much-valued-socially figure here – is to focus on some research on any theme that passionates you. America? Ok, but you have to choose some aspects of it. You write on too many topics. Choose what you really like – one, two or three things that are related – , and you might gradually become an expert on such stuff you like so much. But you have to study hard. Read all the good books about those themes, chase the darn experts wherever they darn are.

      Both your writing and mind will greatly profit from solid-research blogging, I am sure of that. Magister only showed me a path I had to walk myself. He was old, but inspiring. But also good books are inspiring. The Italians of the Renaissance had no mentor either: thus they turned to the Latin classics and created a ‘new learning’ open to the future.

      PS
      Hope we meet in Canada in coming July. We should be there from the 12th of July (Toronto) and then reach Montreal by car on the 16th or 17th. Ciao!

      • Too boring to focus on one path or topic. I like too many things. I have the blogging version of ADHD. That being said, I thought I more or less narrowed down the main over-arching theme of the blog: Individual freedom with a humorous twist. I still can’t figure out for the life of me how people freely choose to live vicariously through the state.

        Anyway, I just figured out that script writing is something I like best.

        Yes, we WILL meet. I know it’s hard to reach me these days – I’m at my daycare seven days a week plus I’ve been doing massive yard work at home. I have a nice tan and ripped muscles to show for it. Next year, we tackle the exterior of the house.

        Chiami fro poco, va bene?

        • fra poco…

        • ADHD: ‘attention deficit disorder in which hyperactivity is present’ ya mean?

          My, you New World people and your acronyms, u drive us crazy!

          Individual freedom with a humorous twist … can’t figure out how people freely choose to live vicariously through the state. Seems a very good theme, only, I’m wondering if you were right to choose Quebec instead of the US ah ah ah.

          I missed the appointment! Man, I really desire to speak to you. We just had a brief conversation on Skype and your voice and its timbre are printed in my auditive memory.

          The only way to solve your absolute unavailability I guess are emails with clear appointments.

          I’ll try to see to that man. Ciao

          • Quebec or America both are fine by me. Each chip away at liberties in their own way. I talk about both – and Quebec includes Canada.

            We’ll keep trying. Have to go pick up my mother’s lasagne she made for my daycare. Yup, my kids get home made food.

  15. [...] mie idee [vedi l'originale in inglese] cominciarono a fermentare 38 anni fa, quando mi imbattei nella persona che nel blog del [...]

  16. By the way, for me it’s not a “Quebecois” or “Canadian” or “American” or “European” thing. It’s less about nationalities and more of a mindset that grips the West as a whole. It’s a subtle coercive one that blankets the entire west.

    We HAVE lost our sense of individualism and sense of community. We have passed that responsibility off to the state.

  17. T.C. is somewhat right, we do tend to lean upon the state a bit too much. However we must be careful not to go all the way to the other end of the spectrum: each man for himself and damn the others. Our friend has a tendency toward the latter. Survival of the fittest is fine among animals but humans must be, well, human.

    • Paul, I always agreed with you on this (not only on this). But I respect T.C.’s (whatever this new acronym means) position and he has some points.

  18. I believe in what you guys believe in. Only I want it to come freey from the private citizens and not coerced by a massive welfare state. Cooperative “socialism” in a free society is possible in my view. I don’t wish to see the dystopian vision Paul mentioned.

    Socialism as a state backed ideology has been destructive, corrupt and murderous. And it’s worse than anything capitalism has done because it claims to do so in the name of good.

  19. […] Uomo e donna, complementarietà discordante, sopravvivono meglio in perenne dissonanza. Magister-διδάσκαλος […]


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