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Ode to R+


Ode to R+

I hereby copy and paste a tribute in prose that I jotted down on a whim during my last night at Tenute Al Bano, in mid-October, where one of the most inspiring meetings I have attended during all my life took place. I have had the privilege to meet there some of the most inspiring and interesting people I have ever found stacked in one single place during my whole life.

What I have written won’t be immediately clear to neither people who have not taken part in the meeting, because I am using the style of the consciousness flow, where I am the reader/listener of myself, nor to those who have not been following attentively the happenings of the Ukrainian conflict, which I have been looking at for months and which unceasingly have me appalled, not so much because of the conflict in itself, rather because of the stance that we, as Europeans, are taking.
In the event that some reader were interested in better understanding me, a less introspective description of the meeting was provided in another article on this blog, available both in English and in Italian.

Another tribute (in beautiful verses) has been voiced by Justin Bold and published here on this blog, also in a version featuring my Italian translation.

It’s Sunday, October 16th 2022, 4:00 am.
I just stood up from my bed, I cannot sleep. I was really tired when I went to bed, but my rest has been hijacked by an anguish of sorts.
I have not been able to sleep again, so I have stayed a bit with the anguish and I have let it sink in. It was not so hard, because it is not an anguish of dire desperation, and I quickly realised that I am simply being overwhelmed by a mixture of all the impressions I have been struck by all through this unbelievable week and the awareness of the speed they went by, embroidering the gratitude I feel for all this with a background grey hue of the sense of my own mortality: there is so much more than I can handle and it all seems so precious that my ability to digest it all will easily teeter. What is life, if so few memories will stay from such an inspiring time?
Digesting it all will take discipline and time, but so the best thing I can do now is to acknowledge that I need to vent emotionally and, inspired by Justin’s magisterial poem, which almost had me cry when I heard it the night it was written, I am drafting these lines, waiting for a better moment to share them with you all, when the sun will have set on this final day of ours and we all will be back home.

I am no poet at all, so I’ll go with my prose.

The last day of my PPP+PP round was February 24th, a day in which Europe has found itself plunged into a crisis which has ultimately reminded all of us that we are not done with the disgregation of the former Soviet Union and we’d better be careful messing with it further, because the pride of the Russian spirit is a diehard and, as bloody as the consequences of its confrontation with the people running the present world order can be -by means of the Ukrainian proxy- and despite the varied opinions we may have about the ultimately contingent individuals playing in the show, our future as a civilization is at stake.

It is the privilege of the people whose relatives’ and own blood is not on the front line to be able to take a high level look at and philosophize about such tragical matters, as these unfold into the fabric of history. Therefore, decency demands from such a privilege enough sobriety, composure and respect for the human lives that are being taken from both sides, so I’ll be brief.

As much as the devil lingers upon us, showing his most ominous face as a spectre of nuclear war, while we are reminded that we are not done with the Russian empire, I find it but unavoidable that the new world order will not be able to emerge, if a world will still have to exist for my children, from an angry and stubborn refusal of its reassembled pieces. A newly met Lebanese friend’s words about empires, echo in my mind as I ponder this fact and they effortlessly flow into the acknowledgement of a simple rule of life: much like it is impossible for any individual to come to terms with its past by just looking away from it, we will not have the human race as we know it still thrive, if we subscribe to the narrative that the past has to be annihilated, instead of being given its proper space into the present and, consequently, the future.
On the symbolic level through which I help myself making sense of events, which may sound odd to the ears of people conditioned to look at the world exclusively through the delusional invincibility of natural sciences, as if the mythic and symbolic dimension of human existence were an accidental character of contemptible pre-scientific peoples, I see a great deal of irony in that what we are being taken away by this predicament, as a society, are the very resources coming from the depths of the earth. As technologically advanced as we like thinking we are, the digital age desperately needs basic raw materials to be in their place for it to function properly. What is ultimately taking it away from us is our connection from the past and its present consequences, the very telltale symptom of neurosis.

So I find it relieving to attend events featuring lectures by a mathematician who has studied with Vladimir Arnold and claims that he has never been able to come out of underneath Kolmogorov’s umbrella, while bewaring us of infinite predictive power by drawing an analogy with a rolling beheaded skull in a novel set in Moscow by one of the greatest sons of Kiev and featuring the Devil Himself.
As I prepare to resume my second reading of Karamazov Brothers and a brilliant presenter with a heavy French accent reminds me that our society cannot function without insurance, I take notice that the acknowledgement that systemic risks cannot properly be hedged against is, indeed, part of our business culture, though we seem to fail to abide by an existential awareness of this. This has me wonder if Ivan Karamazov’s cynic spirit will ultimately prevail in us and we’ll nudge the killing of the ancestor who has generated us, letting others being blamed for it.

A fresh look at the methods of Artificial Intelligence and Data science, again delivered with quite a nice accent by a passionate Frenchman with no smartphone, a remarkable look at blockchain-based finance and art investments by a Slovak hacker and an Italian fellow, reload my enthusiasm batteries, setting me ready to finally come back to these long neglected topics. Now that my working season is over, the trees undress and swimming in the hotel’s pool is at the brink in between pleasant and chilly, these wonders of human inventiveness rekindle in me the naïve, Alësa-style enthusiasm for the world I fell in love with 17 years ago, as the youngster I no longer am.

As a wise man opens my eyes on Chinese costumes, he ultimately contemplates with me, over a glass of wine, the paradox that, after going to a monastery to experience a different kind of life, you might decide to stay for good…the ultimately nice way to make yourself (but not your self) really blow up, but with a serene smile in your hearth and in peace with the world, the kind of peace I have been missing for so long and that I crave for, despite a great fellow from my very antipodes reminds me of all my optionality and hugs me goodbye with the most emotional of poems.

Apparently, optionality works only so much: you’ve got to be in peace with your trajectory so far, first.

Path dependence has to exact its toll and thou shall call it your destiny.
Amor fati is the ultimate virtue of the man who cultivates a healthy respect of his own mortality.

Thanks to my fate for bringing you all here. It was a honor and a privilege to be at the service of all this !

Mirko Serino

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