Country Philosopher has been mentioned often in our blog so it is time to introduce him to our readers. His name is Dario Bernazza and what amazed us the day we read one of his books is the fact that he makes use of reason in the way the Ancients did, as if later thought almost didn’t exist.
Free from doubt, he has total faith in the absolute power of rationality and his philosophical manner is natural and naïve. He applies his ancient-like method to both big issues – the existence of God or how we can reach happiness – (see Vivere alla massima espressione) – and everyday problems, in an effort to provide answers to our contemporary void by making use of techniques similar to those utilized by Epicurean and Stoic thinkers 2000 years ago (see his image below, the best I could find so far.)
Therefore, with all due respect to professional philosophers like Fernando Savater (who will probably be invited to our Symposium,) Bernazza will be present as well though with caution, having a few flaws in our opinion, last but not least the tendency to morally subjugate the reader.
The Jap Soldier in the Jungle
Bizarre example of philosophical genuineness – and cultural isolation as well, which kind of preserved him – Country Philosopher is the Japanese soldier who keeps on fighting in the jungle since thousands of years, having no other weapon than his argumentation and being almost unaware that the world of Socrates, Plato or Zeno of Citium has disappeared. He is like a survivor of the classical world.
That all this could happen is both romantic & tragic. And perhaps in no place other than in the countryside around Rome, (Priverno, Latina) – or in South Italy – a person like him could have been raised.
Living Fossils of Antiquity
How many are the Italian country intellectuals? Sparse over the territory they publish their works with their own money by using small local publishing houses and having no great entourage of devoted readers (the Web didn’t exist at the time of our CP.)
This phenomenon is not exclusively Italian, even though here 1) historical layers are extremely rich and 2) an important part of the classical world originated here thus allowing us to legitimately speak of living fossils of Antiquity. In some way, in the central and especially South regions of this country, many of us are more or less fossils, with all the inadequacies towards modernity that this can imply (corrupt patronage systems, amoral familism, clientelism etc.). We retain good qualities as well, which are not dried up yet, I do hope.
The better part of our tradition should be revalued. In the present crisis of the West, due to a great uncertainty regarding our fundamental values, cultural elements of the classical world – such as philosophy replacing religion to provide full meanings in life etc. – should be re-examined and updated.
We need to achieve – at a high culture level – what has already been done with peasants’ cultures or folklore (for example in Latium and Campania, whose ancient folk dances and tunes, recently rediscovered and re-performed, reveal fascinating residues of the rites of Dionysus, among the rest. See this Tammurriata dance from the South of Italy, of Greek descent probably.)
A type of research which is actually on the way. The Festival of philosophy in Modena for example (see picture below) has been a great success with 120 thousand presences in only 3 days last year and a seventh successful 3-days edition which ended this last 16th September 2007. This formula, thanks to contributions of the European Community, has been exported to both France and the Czech Republic.
As a conclusion, the great philosophers of all times can certainly guide us towards a more meaningful life, beyond any doubt. Nonetheless, these living fossils surving in niches of a forgotten sea – of lesser value and possibly deteriorated like prehistoric sequences of DNA – they are survivals of a past that keeps on talking to us.
They preserve the fascination of our knotty olive wood, of our scented myrtle, or of the yellow, so bright, of our ginestras.
And they mean something to us which, in spite of all, we cannot but be proud of.