Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Eat~Pray~Love--- On The Italian Culture

Elizabeth Gilbert summarizes Luigi Barzini, in his 1964 masterpiece, The Italians, that was written when he'd finally grown tired of foreigners writing about Italy and either loving it or hating it too much. He tried to set the record straight on his own culture. He tried to answer the question of why the Italians have produced the greatest artistic, political, and scientific minds of the ages, but have still never become a world power? Why are they the planet's masters of verbal diplomacy, but still so inept at home government? Why are they so individually valiant, and yet so unsuccessful as an army? How can they be such shrewd merchants on the personal level, yet such insufficient capitalists as a nation?

He said it had much to do with a sad Italian history of corruption by local leaders and exploitation by foreign dominators, all of which has generally led Italians to draw the seemingly accurate conclusion that nobody and nothing in the world can be trusted. Because the world is so corrupted, misspoken, unstable, exaggerated and unfair, one should trust only what one can experience with one's own senses and this makes the senses very strong, in fact they are stronger in Italy, than in all of Europe. This is why, Brazini says, Italians will tolerate hideously incompetent generals, presidents, tyrants, professors, bureaucrats, journalist and captains of industry, but will never tolerate incompetent 'opera singers, conductors, ballerinas, courtesans, actors, film directors, cooks, tailors...' In a world of disorder and disaster and fraud, sometimes only beauty can be trusted. Only artistic excellence is incorruptible. Pleasures cannot be bargained down. And sometimes the meal is the only currency that is real. (This is a thought worth some reflection.)

The Pieta~Michelangleo

To devote yourself to the creation and enjoyment of beauty, then, can be a serious business---not always necessarily a means of escaping reality, but sometimes a means of holding on to the real when everything else is flaking away."

I really found this so interesting and it struck a cord with me that I don't fully understand but I want to ponder. I find some truth in it in relationship to my profession as a decorator, how my senses can be trusted to find the beauty in the chaos. It is all rather worth some serious thought and reflection for me.

Luciano Pavarotti


laura.elizabeth said...

You will love your time in Italy this spring as all of those things are evident in the way people live here. There is a great emphasis on pleasure and beauty and it really impacts EVERYTHING- from how they spend their time and money to what they will and will not stand up for. I can also see how there is an underlying mistrust of people. Yet in many ways they are much more open and (and what we might call trusting) than most Americans I have met. They live a close knit life by virtue of their tiny, stacked homes, access to only local stores and use of public transport. So their sense of friend or foe is very strong. I am convinced that there is no better association in life than an Italian friend (he would literally do ANYTHING for you) and nothing quite so scary as an Italian enemy. Anyway, it is an interesting place, I will be interested to hear what you think once you have spent some time here.

Miss Jen said... am I going to manage to get over there?? I've got to figure it out!