Average reading time: 4 minutes
Curated by Alberto Morandi – Laveno Mombello
the eighth edition of the “Opening Evening” of the classical high school took place on the evening of May 6 to understand the current significance of classical studies, so that after the severe pandemic that has hit us so hard both in the health sector and in economic and social sphere, life can also proceed thanks to the immortal culture, which, although despised by many in the “modern” society, as it would provide no economic and material gain, always represents the possibility of uniting people and people and overcoming social and social human divisions through art, thought, and knowledge. As Giacomo Leopardi wrote to Pietro Giordani about the so-called “bourgeois”, for whom art and artistic beauty can only have economic benefit and generate profit, “I begin to stomach the unique contempt that is proclaimed here for every beauty and possibly literature”.
In the “globalized” society based more and more on immediate economic profit, classical and humanistic culture is considered useless and old because it would not serve to find work compared to the digital “network” and technology. In recent years, the simplification of studies, the training aimed only at practical work, the continuous reduction of hours and study subjects, the elevation of English and computer science with only one purpose of commercial enterprise, are among the sinister reasons that destroy the public school and our culture.
As for the alleged practical futility of classical and humanistic studies, many do not know that Euclidean geometry originated from the study of Greek-Alexandrian mathematicians in the 3rd century BC, as in the same century the mathematician and astronomer Eratosthenes of Cyrene first once measured the terrestrial meridian, the astronomer and mathematician Aristarchus of Samos first introduced the theory that the Sun and the stars are motionless, while the Earth rotates around the Sun in a circumference, and that all modern scientific and medical terms come from the Greek and Latin languages .
Professor Ivano Dionigi, former rector of the Alma Mater Studiorum in Bologna, wrote a letter to the children of the Internet age about the relevance of studying the classics in order to discover ourselves. Today we speak ill of an increasingly hurried and empty communication; Latin and Greek allow us to trace the original meaning of our words. Classical culture teaches us the value of community at a time when individual selfishness dominates the concept of collectivity, civil coexistence, and politics conducted with ethical values for the public and common good.
Umberto Eco argued that even in the world of technology, the future belongs to those who know how to reason, and Antonio Gramsci confirmed in “The Notebooks from Prison” that you do not learn Latin and Greek to speak them, but to know the civilization of the great peoples, if life is the basis of world culture, the study must be selfless, not have immediate practical purposes, but must be formative, that a process of progressive degeneration takes place in the school since the professional school dealing with an immediate practical interest takes over immediately disinterested “formative” school.
Classical culture is a dimension of understanding that the civilian achievements of mankind are not definitive, but that it is necessary to always monitor and analyze what we have achieved over the course of history in order to grow and form ourselves as citizens with a critical spirit. The study of history and classical culture opens the mind, learns to reason with its own intelligence and to consider the mistakes made in the past, and probably this critical doctrine against political and economic power must be eliminated.
From classical culture we learn the institutions, the political-philosophical thoughts that are the basis of our civilization. If the Greek and Roman political and economic systems were based on slavery and on the right to conquer the power of the strongest, certainly the search for beauty, art, philosophy, social justice and ethical virtue in a time of corruption and social injustices like ours , the elevation of the law to the common good, when many contemporary citizens no longer believe in the state and in public and democratic institutions, are values expressed by the classical world that can help modern men to improve the modern world.
It is therefore not empty scholastic rhetoric to recall what Bernard of Chartres confirmed in the twelfth century that we are like dwarves on the shoulders of giants so that we can see more of them and further away, not by our sharp sight or by the height of our body, but because we are lifted high by the stature of the giants that preceded us. In the desert of economic profit, a minister in our republic even stated that one does not live with culture; certainly “licet know sine pumpa, sine envy” (Seneca), but we want to confirm with the power of thought and “mens cogitans” in the humanistic sense that “Man will not live on bread alone”!
In the arid contemporary society to increase and enrich our critical thinking, “Qui non intelligit non perfecte vivit” (Tommaso D’Aquino), we still need to study the great lesson of civilization of classical thinkers reminiscent of the immortals verse expressed by Dante in the XXVI song of hell, today more relevant than ever: “Think of your offspring: you were not created to live as deer, but to follow virtue and knowledge”.
With the hope that the modern and empty “homo oeconomicus” will not definitively triumph over “civis” and “sapiens” in a society that is more and more selfish and more and more indifferent to “others”, still poorer and more and more emptied of light for culture. and Knowledge, I take this opportunity to express my best regards.