Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Meno 1: epigraphs, epitaphs and chronograms

Well, another year has passed and today I turned 48. It was a good day overall, though the past year was tough for me. My dad got me a very tasty birthday cake, which said "Meno 1" (minus one) on it. Despite the flawed arithmetic (vis a vis my 50th birthday), I found the sign appropriate. There is one person missing from my life this year and I felt it. I also took it as a "memento mori", reminding me of how at any moment I could be one breath away from the aldilĂ . I also will use this as a mantra to catch myself thinking too much about the next thing to do, and to consciously take one step back from the future and return to the now.
Living in the now, as I am fond of doing, makes both past and future less significant and possibly less real. Nevertheless, it is hard to ignore the passing of time when the day of your birth cycles around the sun one more time. It's an infinitesimal tick in the humongous clock of the universe, but somehow it feels important in my world... That's how self-referential and special we make ourselves out to be, knowing full well that we are but brief manifestations of some underlying vital energy that makes us all really quite identical in the face of our epheMeral existenCe, which in the end will be aptly suMmarized by a smalL dash (an "em-dash" perhaps) separating the years or birth and death on our epitaph.
Thankfully, I have two more years available to make a legitimate contribution to the 40Xvenezia, before I mIgrate to the yet-to-be-created spinoff, the "Cinquanta per"... but I also have many decades ahead to contribute to Venice and the world before I catch up with my friend Bruno Nogara, who was born on the 28th of July, just one day before me, in 1920. I take solace in seeing him walking and talking and working still at the age of 89, after having been a scuba-diving paratrooper in WWII and a rugby champion, occupations that are almost as physically punishing as being a tour guide in Venice, as he still is to this day... It was good to have a celebratory spritz with him to remind myself of the possibilities ahead.
Later in the evening, after Kseniya Hewitt gave my mom (Wilma) a present to thank her for giving birth to me (a really touching Russian custom), I ran into an old friend of mine from my Sant'Elena youth, Geto (Giorgio) Rampazzo. Having experienced one of the greatest upheavals in my life this year, I could really empathize with my old buddy when he told me the heart-wrenching story of how his mate died in her sleep right next to him... The unimaginable pain he must have felt, made me realize how fortunate Nick and I are to be able to still talk and joke with Jackie, even though we do not live together any more. It's hard to fathom a harder blow, yet Geto lives on, in sadness, visiting her grave every week. As ephemeral and un-special as we are, it's impossible for us to be detached when momentous events affect us or those we love. It's inevitable (and necessary) to be human some time, and accept all our vulnerabilities and fears.
And so, Bruno, Geto, Cino, Wilma, Jackie, Nick and I continue to live on, moment by moment, in the now, which is still where it has always been, just minus one steps before the future that we are always so hopeful and fearful about...
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