Caro amico mio, sono passati circa vent’anni dall’ultima volta che ci siamo abbracciati. Poi quel…
It might be the most shocking year so far in life for many of my generation, which has not experienced war or famine, nor has been largely deprived of their right of choice before.
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Today is probably the warmest day since the spring arrived this year. After I came to live in the Piedmont region four years ago, every spring has been passed with happy memories of pleasant countryside walks, alone or in the company of dear friends. I used to pick up unnameable wild flowers from the fields, bringing some fresh life and colours home with me and conserving them in some pictures taken casually with smartphone or seriously with the photo camera. I remember in particular those walks at the end of the afternoon, when the sun slowly sank to the distant border of the horizon, the fields of young crops, capricious grasses and innocent flowers began to be enveloped in a kind of magical liquid-like air, with small mosquitos and insects lazily floating in it. I remember the almost surreal and delicate colours of the air, a mixture of light blue, pale pink, lilac purple, brown grey and soft golden, like a far prolonged music note on the violin, breathing and vibrating across the atmosphere. The hillside behind would appear to be slightly plumped up in its three dimensions as if observed through a special lens. Grabbing my heart tight with this sweetness, on my way back home I was often joyfully surprised by – even though awaiting for secretly – the new rising moon and its candid curiosity.
Tonight the moon will be full, really full. I checked on it yesterday night. But instead, I am not able to go out to welcome it with open arms; I can only greet it bitterly from the window of my bedroom. This afternoon I went out to buy some fruit and vegetables at the grocery store near home. While waiting in line keeping at least 1-meter distance from others, with the surgery mask continuingly making my glasses foggy at each breath, I caught a glimpse of the snow-covered mountains topping out at the end of the street. They are still there, solemnly in silence, not happier, not sadder.
They are not missing us. Nor the fields, nor the moon, nor the mountains, nor the nature itself. I often ask myself, if there were no humans to observe the beauty that nature offers to our eyes, would this be a great pity and waste? So many human creations in forms of poems, songs, films and scientific researches have been dedicated to this great beauty, and so many businesses – backpack trips, family travels, organized voyages, luxury travel packages, and the at-the-trend influencer-led business around the theme of globetrotting – are all based on the humanly will to discover the nature. The truth is, however, we need nature much more than it needs us.
Yesterday I watched a documentary about the golden eagles and bearded vultures living in the French Alps and Gran Paradiso Natural Park. The beauty and the cruelty of wild animals and their predators that must survive the very difficult weather and geographic conditions in the high mountains have so much fascinated me. Animals they know how to comply with the rules of nature. Only humans ignore these rules and are capable of destroying the harmony established by the nature, putting not only themselves but also the whole planet in danger.
Why are humans so dangerous? They do not intend to be so, I think, at least for most of the time. They are just selfish but in a much larger scale than in the animal world. There is one biggest distinction between humans and animals, from a social and psychological point of view, it is the power of desire. To desire is to project oneself in the future and imagine what condition could make him/her happy, and this condition becomes then the objective of his/her desire at the present status. People can desire because they have the notion of different time dimensions; they can distinguish the past, the present and the future, which are the very origins of many troublesome feelings such as desire, regret, worry, disappointment and despair. Animals do not have desire or such strong feelings because they do not really distinguish the time dimensions due to the undeveloped status of their brain (if they have one); they only have the primitive survival instinct and the current biological needs. Once they have got what they need to survive and reproduce, they are at total peace with their own lives.
It is not evil to procure some happiness to oneself from time to time, but a happiness based on continuing satisfying one’s unextinctionable desires will only lead to deep unhappiness if not disasters. Even though it is arguable that it is exactly due to this unique capacity of desire that humans have made so much progress which allows them to fly to the moon and submerge in the deepest ocean, to invent all the mouth-watering recipes that no animals can imagine and all the financial tools that no animals know how to use, to create such a babel of languages and such varieties of methods of communication (song, letter, telegraph, phone, email, broadband, satellite, 5G, virtual reality), and all the complexities of modes, trends, ideologies, unicorns, hashtags, blockchain, AI…
As humans invent and modernize, their desires and needs keep growing, which in return require always more resources from the nature. We are too drunk with our own progress and blinded by the fulfillment of our selfish desires to see that we are in fact destroying the future of our species.
I am not saying that this devastating COVID-19 is a revenge of the nature. It seems too simple and too naïve. But I truly think it is a good opportunity for everyone to reflect on our current status of life, before making any new plan for the future.
Don’t you feel that during this tedious forced lockdown, your life has actually become simpler? Putting aside the hours that you are deeply disturbed and saddened by the news of increasing positive cases or the number of new defunct, you might gradually realize that you actually pay more attention to the details of everyday life, an advice that many have given before but nobody has really followed until now. Going to the supermarket for your weekly food necessity becomes a kind of physical and spiritual challenge, as somewhere outside some micro virus could be floating around and you need to be really very careful and take all the precautious measures to protect yourself and your family. And be brave and mentally stable. Have you ever felt so happy and rich when you bring home that food stock and think that you and your family are totally safe for the coming week as you don’t need to risk your life going out again? Aren’t you talking much more frequently to your distant family and friends, even about trivial issues like what meals you are eating every day, while also picking up some old friends lost in other continents or social circles? And I have never seen so many people declaring on Facebook their heavenly joy to find a bag of flour or some yeast forgotten in some corner. While for those who live by doing shopping offline and online, as there is little chance to go out in their new clothes, I hope that they have found some time to do things more meaningful.
Another thing is, for me who work majorly as a freelancer, the lockdown represents a particular situation in which I and the others who are usually very busy working in the office five days a week, not even talking about the “996” life style in China, are all staying at home. No more apparent differences. Maybe I still work less than those who have a fixed job and are doing smart-working from home, as my workload has also shrunk due to the correlative business crisis, but at least my previous almost omnipresent unconscious guilty of staying at home – even though working intensively during some period – has almost vanished as a miracle. I have also unintentionally reduced my time passing over Facebook, WeChat, WhatsApp, Telegram, Instagram, etc., if no urgent messages from family, friends or work. As many around the globe are staying at home, there is little novelty in lives around and less distractions to see who have done what.
Through the one month of lockdown, I realize that many of our dissatisfactions with life and with ourselves actually come from the impulse to compare ourselves constantly with others, to want the same thing, the same experience, the same success, or better thing, better experience, better success. Our desire in this continued competition becomes destructive and origin of unhappiness. Even worse is that if everyone follows this vicious circle, the world would be spurred into a spiral that goes faster and faster until an inevitable final breakdown or explosion.
Maybe the COVID-19 is a mysterious call from the unknown to us to slow down and to regenerate. This call is made at the heavy price of deaths and bloods, through punishments and sacrifices. Not everyone of us is asked to fight at the frontline. What we can do at least is to work on ourselves. This difficult period will finally prove that we really do not need so much to feel happy. On the contrary, we need to stop filling our minds with so many unnecessary desires. And we need to stop putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves to get what is considered by others the success, because it is not necessary what makes us happy and truly powerful. We need to stay closer to what are really important to human society and to the world around it: family, friendship, care, courage, goodness, honesty, respect, and gratitude.
As for myself, I have taken up online learning of the Japanese, read some really good books and improved my cooking skills. And it is a wonderful moment to spend the first hour of the morning, when the sunlight is still soft and tender, drinking coffee and eating breakfast in couple, with some beautiful music around and a book in each one’s hand.
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