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The Age of Reason

Giarre, Italy

What to do when lazy afternoons develop into pensive and long hours? Today I decided to “read away”. There might be a common expression in English that describes it, but I made up “to read away” as in reading something outside either studying or procrastinating. It’s the well-deserved time one should allocate to the activity of reading. Just like running, working out, eating or sleeping, reading is necessary.

I wanted to avoid myself and my thought of what’s to be done in many of my life’s facets… and here I fall again. Reading Jean-Paul Sartre could have lead to this. I knew it, but I took the risk. While my eyes were jumping on the slightly depressing environment JPS describes in his book “The Age of Reason” (1947), I stumbled upon a sentence that very well describes myself and my current feelings. I should set the scene before quoting it: the sentence is directed from a French lawyer to his brother, Mathieu, who is in trouble. Mathieu praises freedom. Living free makes life worthwile to him. The trouble he is caught in renders him “not free”. The solutions that the others (another dear theme for JPS) offer is to finally surrender to living “not free” like everybody else. My life doesn’t fit in the above description, fortunately. But here are the words that made me jump up from bed with the need to type my thoughts:

… your life is an incessant compromise between an ultimately slight inclination towards revolt and anarchy and your deeper impulses that direct you towards order, moral health, and I might almost say routine. The result is that you are still, at your age, an irresponsible student…

Reading these lines had me realize that this is the twist that our society makes appetible. In a “free country” you can say anything you want, therefore, there’s no need for a struggle for free speech. This doesn’t mean that saying things makes them happen. The status quo remains immutable, but the fact that one can say “it’s unjust” makes us free to say so, therefore it all falls in the comfortable side of our conscience.

As I write these lines, I recall what day is today. Nineteen years ago, the news didn’t allow for the usual lunch at home and I remember debris and ashes being shown on the TV in the kitchen. Silverware stopped moving as the reporters gave us more details on the event. During the peak of the brutal season, the mafia had killed another man. A special man, a judge, a man of the state. Paolo Borsellino, with whom I share all the letters in first and last name, had been and was going to be a hero for us, the non-mafia society.

As of today, thanks to my childhood experiences like the one that is remembered today and thanks to how I developed my vision of the world in general, I should fight for equality and the end of injustices every day. But I don’t do it. Routine comes very handy sometimes. I can’t start a revolution today, because tomorrow I’ll have a book delivered in the mail (or “I should shave first”…)

I wonder what it takes to be courageous enough to be useful to the world. It’s not oneself’s freedom that is worth defending. It’s a struggle for giving everybody a chance to live better and peacefully. Hopefully somebody will send me a message on Facebook about it when it starts. Because now I have to go eat dinner.

Thank you Paolo Borsellino, because you showed us the way to be useful.


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