Dear Diary, on page 30 of one of his books I Love Most, The Strength of Character, James Hillman writes that “Old faces are characterized by character, their beauty reveals character and their enduring strength as images of intelligence, authority , tragedy, courage and depth of the soul are due to the character “; here, what you need to know before I start telling this new story is that the face of Mr. Giovanni, the main character in this little story, is just like that.
I think I have already told you that in the afternoon I like to spend some time in the square at Urmu, which happens more frequently in the “beautiful” months for many reasons. I write a few lines, drink a cup of coffee, chat with friends, watch the kids play and the boys do stunts with bikes, I take care of the thoughts that go through my head, in short, simple things that make me feel me well, in the end here lies my meaning, the “juice,” as my father called it, in simplicity, in friendship, in the pleasure of being at peace with myself and with others.
When that happens, I like to talk about a lot of things with Mr Giovanni. Cases of character. Things that have to do with the intelligence, authority, courage, and depth of the soul that Hillman is talking about. Things that have to do with the curiosity, desire to understand, discretion and honesty of an 85-year-old man who has his opinions as firm as a glass of good red wine and yet is not in a hurry to say his opinion, he can really well like to ask questions, maybe he tells you what he is thinking and when he does, you can be sure he gets to the point.
How to Tell Friend Diary? Of course I will tell you how I met him, thanks to his children, my friends Luciano and Patrizio Fiscina. I had the first talk with him over lunch at their house, only after some time in the square, a little at intervals, I told you when it happens, but in the last few weeks it has happened more often and I’m really happy that. Most of the time it is me who addresses, Mr. Giovanni is a very discreet person, if he sees me fiddling on the keyboard, for example, he just greets me, it is me who closes the mac and approaches me, after which I attacks with “what should I say Mr. Giovanni”, he replies with “what can I tell you professor”, we sit down on a bench and start chatting.
Yes, we are talking about many things. Of our health conditions, as you know how it works, the more we go on over the years and the more it becomes a recurring theme. Let’s talk about politics, for example the day after Ciriaco De Mita’s funeral we took a nice dive into the past, where he talked about debates and meetings in Salerno, and I responded with Enrico Berlinguer’s speeches in Piazza Plebiscito. I do not deny it, we have not been able to avoid a pinch of nostalgia, but I think it is understandable; our politics along with the distortions that were many even then, even though everyone only saw them in the opposite field, also had values, leaders, ideas that today for many reasons, subjective and objective, are much harder to recognize and make their own . We’re talking about working in the countryside, in the sense that Mr Giovanni is telling, and I know new things about the skills and techniques needed to bring a good bottle of oil or a good glass of wine to the table. And of course we also talk about memories, which is the part I like best, the one where Mr. Giovanni gives me pieces of memory and wisdom, pieces of life that have a value beyond time, from here to eternity it comes to me .. to say, that’s at least what I think.
Last week, for example, he told me that as a child, in school, for the reasons that at that time brought together so many children from all over our country, including those in the cities, he had made up for third grade. However, he wanted to learn to read and write, and in short, he had gone to evening school a few years later, and in the end, thanks to a priest, he had received a 1st or 2nd grade certificate for participation, he did not remember it well, but it does not matter, it is not the important aspect. At this point he stopped, turned a little more to my side and said ‘Professor, now I must tell you what happened to me when I then joined the military. One morning, in the dormitory, I hear myself called, ‘Fiscina!’, To the corporal of the day, I answer ‘be present,’ and he says I must go to the quartermaster’s office, and the sergeant will talk to me. I had a good conscience, I knew I had not done anything wrong, but I did not know what he wanted from me, maybe I could have done something wrong, and I had not noticed. At least I’m going to the quartermaster’s office and signing up. ‘Fiscina’, the marshal says to me, ‘from today you are responsible for sorting the mail, when it comes, you choose the one who goes to command, the one who goes to the soldiers and so on’. I felt genuinely a little embarrassed, and I said very politely to the marshal that I thanked him, but that I had no trouble performing the regular service, that there might be someone more suitable than me to perform it. task, but he interrupted me and I he said that among the 100 or more soldiers who were there, I was the only one who had the middle school certificate, in practice I was the only one who could read and write decently, and therefore I had to do it. Can I explain what I mean? “Maybe going to school today seems like a normal thing, but it’s not a normal thing, it’s important to know things, just as it’s important to know how to do things.”
A few days ago, however, I asked him about the house where he lived at the Palazzo for so many years, I thought Patrizio was born there, but I was wrong, and then Mr. Giovanni told me with old sweetness and a veil of melancholy of his beloved wife Margherita, who for the whole Fiscina family is and will forever be Grandmother Margherita, even the house is now named in her honor. Stories about children and kitchen garden, stories about bread and pizza, ‘a fucazza, stories about neighborhood, education and respect.
Yes, education and respect, values that go strong in the Fiscina family, I also wrote about it in one of my stories, read here, it is Patrizio who speaks, even though I for the occasion gave him another name: “Will you have to know what is most important to me among all those I have told you? Education, respect.Without these two things you can not go anywhere here.Our parents taught us this when we were little: First of all there may be education and respect.It may happen that a person does not meet them for ten years, but when you see them again, if you have shown respect and education at that time, you will find respect and education again, the two things are there always. Immediately after, there is passion and commitment, but immediately after, for education and respect come first. “
Yesterday it was finally her grandmother’s turn, Teresa Crispo, like many others with a life behind her consisting of victims and emigration, although at one point things turned around and got much better.
“Professor,” Mr. Giovanni said to me in his low voice, “when I was little and I visited her, my grandmother told me many things, perhaps in simple words, but they were very valid, not only then, even in For example, he once told me that most problems could be avoided, in a family, in a community, but maybe even in a large country, I say, if people instead of fighting with each other and going head to head, instead of having this constantly measure himself to determine who is the strongest, had the ability to make a small shift, a small movement to the side. ‘That’s how it works Giovanni,’ he said to me, ‘just a little shift, and people, instead of going head to head, embrace each other and everything ends well ‘. That was what my grandmother told me. Now tell the truth, you have studied, you are a professor, but how many small and big wars would be avoided if even one of the candidates was so intelligent to make a small shift where many more hugs and how many fewer broken heads would we have? In the end, if you do well, good returns, but unfortunately we do not want to understand it, we humans like to go head to head, and this is it. “
How do you say Dear Diary? “We humans like to go head to head” is a phrase from The Little Prince? I agree it would look good on it and it would also look good in Tao Te Ching or I Ching. Folk wisdom is, after all, like a dense forest of trees that have ancient roots and branches and leaves that last over time thanks to the thoughts and words of simple and true people, people like Mr. Giovanni who are happy to have told you a little. Until next time.