Spirit of the real Rome in a Street Philosopher

I met Massimiliano Massimi again on FB after many years away, so many that we did not know anything of what direction our lives had taken. I was attracted by some of his “wise” phrases on how to approach life.

We re-contacted each other finding a new wife/husband, children and a common passion to go deeper into the ultimate meaning of life. It seems to me we have traveled parallel mental paths albeit from different starting points. And now we live on parallel hills in Paliano .

Massimiliano was a young politician who was lucky enough to be in an innovative administration that loved art and architecture and was trying to bring them in Paliano. The courage to appoint the architect Massimiliano Fuksas, at that time not so famous, to design a “de-structured” gym. It was scandalous and outrageous and now it is in all the books of architecture (in fact Fuksas got married in the Gym of Paliano considering this building as his international launch pad).

Massimiliano Massimi  graduated in cognitive science and become an important manager. Then the crisis came and freedom beckoned. I heard him say to young people during a course of philosophical orientation.

“When you have nothing to lose because everything around you is changing it is when you are free to return to dream and commit yourself to do what you really like”

Massimiliano teaches philosophy courses for managers and for boys at a crossroad. But he is something more: he is the true and authentic representative of the “Roman spirit”, a direct descendant of the poet and thinker Gioacchino Belli.

I often accompany friends, from Italy and from abroad, to visit Rome, and they are always searching for the glories of the ancient empire in the spirit of the local people. They are invariably disappointed by the lack of pride and courage of the present Romans and I have to explain to them that after the emperors there were centuries of Popes and everyone knew that “after a dead pope there will be another one” so there was no chance to escape their fate.

Romans are used to serve the weaknesses of the powerful and they know how atrocious powerful people can be. For us it is normal to know that many Popes had mistresses, children and families, and that these families were at war with each other. In the capital there was no San Francesco and the church of the poor but the sale of indulgences to complete the construction of St Peters and to win on earth.

Romans have tolerated all this for centuries with sarcasm. They are so accustomed to human weaknesses that they accept them and are indifferent to abuse of office, not outraged but laughing, “je rimbarzano” (life bounces off them). And in this they are unique and great. I always feel sad watching Alberto Sordi and I try not to use the Roman cadence but if I have to look at something from a distance and not get emotionally involved in some unpleasant circumstance, the Roman slang states it “is liberating.”

Massimiliano is this, the best among the new Roman dialect poets. He enchants you with his guitar intertwining great music with sarcastic comments about life. Then he says,

“but why do I have to follow some recent guru of communication if the greatest orator of all time is just a few kilometers from my house? I learn from Cicero, re-read his lessons with the eyes of our times and I explain them to entrepreneurs”.

Then he surprises you when he explains that no salesman has ever been as great as St. Augustine who was a lawyer who was trying to convince people to convert to Catholicism. His book “De catechizandis rudibus”, on the instructions for catechists so that they learn the most persuasive artistry, is the best treatise on psychology of sales ever written.

Why Rome? The Popes were also original in their cruel kingdom and sometimes they tolerate some forms of satire. In Rome the “talking statues” are famous and in particular that of Pasquino where everyone could go and put up satirical writings against those in power. The only real Roman dialect poets – Belli and Trilussa – are both written with scant disrespect of the power and arrogance. Massimiliano is their best heir. And I do not want to miss his Street Philosophy lessons.