Practicing beauty

I’m not a big fan of Roberto Vecchioni’s music, but I find a disconcerting beauty in the few songs of his that I do like. I don’t support Inter, so I can’t comment on Luci a San Siro”, but – in this our darkest hour, to quote Churchill – I often find myself singing Sogna Ragazzo Sogna”.

November can be beautiful. Even November 2020, at the height of the second wave of the pandemic, with its social, economic and, yes, health issues. November 2020 has just begun, a month of dreaded lockdowns, elaborate governmental guidelines (known as DPCM, emergency decrees issued by the Prime Minister), mouth-to-mouth distance between students and ingenious school desks with wheels, the paucisymptomatic, a health minister called Speranza (“hope” ironically), lactoferrin, and politicians who fight among themselves – the characters weren’t even this bad in Pirandello’s novels. There’s fear, desperation and darkness.

Yesterday I spent the day in a field. In the morning, the fog saddened the scenery, as seen in the dark and sanguineous colors, already necrotized by the imminent winter. I thinned out my artichokes, whose leaves had been picked at by the snails: you can obtain other stems from the main one and plant them later… I dug the soil, stirring plenty of earthworms to rise up to the surface. I pruned and thinned out a couple of olive trees and a fig tree. I couldn’t help noticing how love and death are so closely linked in nature, as in life: we cut for growth, we ruin for rebirth, we remove to grow more, we induce suffering to obtain sweeter fruit. All this is an oxymoron, one harmonious contrast after another. Or, as Roberto Vecchioni described it in Sogna Ragazzo Sogna”, Life is so great that when you’re on the brink of dying, you plant an olive tree, still convinced that you will see it flower.” There’s great beauty in this contradiction. The closer you get to the end of a season, story and even life, the more intense the colors and flavors become. Have you ever sunk your teeth into an overly ripe persimmon? 

Practicing beauty might seem like a dumb piece of advice, especially in November 2020, when problems anchor you to the complicated present. I understand. But beauty can help us, not only to solve our problems, but also to feed the mind, enabling us to accept the situation better and live with it. Let’s focus our attention on a song, perhaps the one we love the most, savoring the words; let’s buy a plant and take care of it; toast some bread and drizzle it with new olive oil; let’s draw, or call a friend who we haven’t heard from for a while; with the excuse of taking our kids to the playground, let’s return to the swings and embrace a breathless return to our childhood…

The virus will still be there. But it won’t be there forever. In the meantime, we will have adorned a moment, assuaged our fears, set aside our concerns and sweetened our bitterness. We only get one life, so we have to live the one we have because “Life is so strong that it passes through walls to reveal itself / Life is so real that it seems impossible that we have to leave it.”