05 August 2009
03 August 2009
My trip to Porto Fino was on the other side of ‘get up and go’ coin. The town is about an hour’s boat ride north of Sestri and the boat trip is supposed to include a 45-minute stop at the town on the other side of peninsula from Porto Fino, called San Fruttuoso. San Fruttuoso is home to “Il Cristo degli Abissi” or “The Christ of the Abyss.” The story is that over a century ago a boat that was trying to dock in San Fruttuoso’s small bay crashed and sank. The statue of Jesus was part of the cargo, but instead of fishing it out of the bay, the residents left it as it was.* It’s not possible to see the statue from the boat, but it apparently can be easily seen if you swim out and dive down a little. There is a festival every year celebrating “Il Cristo degli Abissi” the last Sunday of every July. Alas, I could not attend.
Turns out I should have taken a clue from the fate of the ship in the story. I didn’t find this out until later, but if the sea is anything but completely calm, the boat won’t make the stop in San Fruttuoso. All we did was go around the peninsula and look at the bay from the boat. I also got to hear the captain announce, “San Fruttuoso: il interno degli Cristo degli Abissi.” Thanks. Because I wasn’t aware of that when I bought the ticket.
My hopes to see a crazy Jesus statue dashed, I was excited to get more than the allotted hour’s time to walk around Porto Fino. “It’s beautiful,” my employers told me, “You could look at the yachts all day if you wanted.” Porto Fino is where the ultra-rich go to vacation. And not just rich Italians. Everything there was translated into German, French and English as well as Italian (I was told George Clooney has a house and a yacht there? I don’t know if this is true). So at the very least I figured I was in for some pretty architecture and good views. The rich have to want those things right?
There’s a scene in Pride and Prejudice in which Lizzy is traveling with her aunt and uncle and they want to go to Pemberly to which Lizzy objects. In reality, she wishes to avoid Pemberly because she wishes to avoid Mr. Darcy, but as she cannot explain the situation to her relatives, her stated reason for disliking Mr. Darcy (and therefore his estate) is because “he’s so . . . rich.” I am Lizzy Bennett without the loved-but-rejected suitor behind my words. I should have known Porto Fino would annoy me. The first yacht I saw looked as if it could have crossed the Atlantic unscathed and its owner had christened it Limitless. Oh, I thought, so he thinks he’s God. There was also the more crude option, but I’ll leave that in case any of my readers are naïve enough not to think of it.
It didn’t get much better once we got to port. I had an hour and a half to explore, but it was far too long. You see, as a traveling philosopher-nanny, I’m quite poor. I like to go places to see what else there is in this world, not to buy things. There was really nothing but the latter option in Porto Fino. Lots and lots of shops where I could drop a month’s rent without batting an eye. No, I’d prefer to have a roof over my head for thirty days rather than have this nice shirt. Thanks for the option though.
But, as this is OVRP, I should be able to at least write about the town’s church, correct? I mean, this is why I’m generally drawn to churches – unless it’s a huge cathedral, entrance is free, and it’s where most of the best art (at least in Italy) is anyway. One of the only perks about getting off Sundays, on which most things in Italy are closed, is that the churches are open all day long. It seems, however, the ultra-rich don’t care much for mass. There was only one parish (which for Italy is insignificant), and the church was not open. I noticed there was only one mass per Sunday.
My last resort was to get some gelato. I paid €4 for a small cone, which is a bit outrageous. It wasn’t even good.
Lest you think I’m complaining about my terrible life in Italy where I get to ride boats to mountains and stay on the beach, I’ll just say that compared to the week before (and the weeks after) the Porto Fino trip was a bust. The bad traveler got her comeuppance.
*This story is false. It's just what the residents like to say what happened. They actually put the statue there themselves in 1954. Not as fun though, right?
28 July 2009
There is a kiddie-ride here in Sestri that I think is the bane of most parents’ existence; it is called il Bruco Gnam. If that means something, I don’t know the translation, but the ride is familiar to anyone who has been to carnivals – it’s a child version of a roller coaster, with only three little hills and usually the cars are decorated to be some kind of animal; I’ve seen dragons most of the time, but here it’s a caterpillar. Very route, but the kids here go crazy for the ride because of an addition I’d never seen before – there is a small lion with a detachable tail hanging above them that this guy who runs the ride pulls up and down while the kids try and get it. It’s rigged—he tries to be very democratic about which child wins—but if the children know it, they don’t care because their main goal in life at that point is to catch the coda and win a free ride.
It’s not the ride that interests me so much, but the guy who runs it. This isn’t like a carnival where employees hired by the bigger company run the ride – no, I’m almost positive this guy, who my employers lovingly call Signor Bruco, owns the ride and this is his living.
Signor Bruco looks to be in his mid-fifties and he sits in the small controller box all day long chain-smoking, with sunglasses on no matter what time of day it is. He is the man who controls the fate of the children and whether or not they will be able to win this time around. As I stated above, Signor Bruco is very fair so no complaints there, but while he’s pulling the rope that controls the lion, he always adds comments. The comments themselves are relatively harmless, “occhio” (look), “prendilo” (grab it), “sedute” (sit down, for all those children about to kill themselves trying to get the coda), are his favorites. It’s just the way Signor Bruco says these things that weirds me out a bit. You’d think the delivery would be along the same lines of carnival workers—like the really annoying moms at U8 soccer games—but no, Signor Bruco’s diction is like that of Barry White. I doubt he has much control over his deep voice, but “occhio” doesn’t have to be pronounced as if he’s about to sex up his girlfriend. Prendilo is the worst of the bunch, not only because he draws it out the longest (PRENdiiiilooooooo), but because I know what he’s saying.
Perhaps I am just over-sensitive, or my American prudishness is coming out. That may be, but I have more reasons to be strangely fascinated by Signor Bruco, and that is the music that is playing at his ride. Rather, the diversity of music. One of the first times I noticed the music at the ride, the album Slow Train Coming by Bob Dylan was blazing out of the speakers. Delighted as I was, I couldn’t help thinking huh, strange choice for a kiddie ride. Still, I shrugged it off and figured that if I was stuck doing this all day every day, I would play whatever I wanted too.
And play whatever he wants he does. I now wish I had been keeping a more thorough list along the way, but the strangest ones have stuck with me. I have heard techno, Snoop D-O-double G, Maroon 5, some jazz that I’m pretty sure was Miles Davis, and, I shit you not, KC and the Sunshine Band’s Greatest Hits.
I can only formulate questions. What? How does one person like all of these genres enough to listen to them for entire days? And how does a middle-aged Italian man even know of Snoop Dogg, let alone play the music at a kiddie-ride?
I’m afraid my question will go unanswered. I’m too nervous to strike up a conversation, for fear of him saying to me, “PRENdiloooooo”.
22 July 2009
20 July 2009
17 July 2009
One step up the metaphysical chain we have animals, which in addition to needing things, also want. "Animals might overeat because they enjoy eating, but plants do not overindulge . . . they have no motivation to do so."
Then there are human beings, who have a trait besides needing and wanting. Sokolowski states,
Of course like plants and animals, human beings do need some things--food, shelter, company, assistance--and like animals they also consciously want some things, but their wanting can give rise to new forms of desire. Besides needing and wanting, human beings can wish for certain things. Wanting is conscious desire, but wishing is intelligent desire.
Sokolowski distinguishes between wishing and wanting through the category of distance; "if we could achieve [the wished for action] immediately," he asserts, " we would not wish for it, we would just do it." Deliberation, then, is the material of a wish. Sokolowski clarifies with an example: "if my ear itches, I raise my hand and scratch it. There is no distinction between means and purposes in this performance." In contrast, a full-scale wish--for example, the wish to get in shape--requires the deliberation and then insertion of something between the purpose and myself--to continue the example, lifting weights, running, etc.
As I was reading, although agreeing for the most part, I found myself raising a few objections. First of all, Sokolowski asserts that there is nothing analogous to needs, wants and wishes in nonliving matter; "atoms and molecules as such do not try and maintain their identities", and again, "when an atom emits a particle, nothing has really been lost. Nonliving things are indifferent to such changes."
Perhaps my countless lab hours in undergrad have caused me to anthropomorphize atoms, molecules and compounds, but I don't think I fully agree with this. Atoms tend toward lowest energy states; it's how molecules and ions--and thus most structures of complexity--are formed. And when an atom emits a particle, something is definitively lost, that is, energy. As this chapter is located in the section of the book entitled "The Body and Human Action", the first chapter of which is dedicated to explaining how the different types of energy in the world impress upon us and cause us to percieve, react, and concept, I have to believe that the emitting of a particle is pretty big deal for all parties involved. In any case, I have to think more about this (and probably consult a chemist and/or physicist).
My other objection is more vague; less an argument against than a feeling of discomfort with the idea. I very much liked the first statement Sokolowski makes about us, that is, "human beings go beyond both needing and wanting" (emphasis mine), but then he seems to backtrack a bit on this when he draws out the distinction between a want and a wish in humans. The categories of needing, wanting and wishing seem to fit nicely with Thomas Aquinas' explanation of different souls: the vegetative, the sensitive, and the rational. But the sensitive soul is not merely the vegetative soul + 1, and more to the point, that rational soul is not the vegetative soul + the sensitive soul + 1. Rather, each higher step takes up the previous and forms something wholly new--albeit with the powers of the former type. It seems to me the activity of wishing would take up within it and transform needing and wanting, because humans do not need and want the same way plants and animals do. Do we not always do something freely because we wish it? Where does a sensory-act in response to a want end and a logical-deliberation-act in reponse to a wish begin? Ultimately, I suspect Sokolowski is right, and that I need to go back, reread and reflect, but right now, it's not clear.
Yesterday, though, as I was feeding infant Samuel, my ear started to itch. With one hand supporting the infant and the other holding his needed source of nourishment, my inner response was only this: I really fucking wish I could scratch my ear.
And just in case you're interested:
Phenomenology of the Human Person, Robert Sokolowski. Cambridge University Press, (New York, 2008).
15 July 2009
I replied that I rather did not enjoy being cat-called while walking down the street, no matter in what country.
My esteemed professor then told me that Italian men compliment women differently than American men; Italian men are complimenting beauty while not being sexual, and I could not appreciate it because (and with this, I whole-heartedly agree) "All Americans are prudes."
However, concerning her main point:
I remain unconvinced.