As if we were catapulted into Hogwarts castle, let’s imagine entering a dark room and, candelabra in hand, illuminate all the scenes of this year one by one. Perhaps for some we deserve a slap (not a slap, not even Boniface VIII). But for others, we couldn’t help but give ourselves a caress.
There will be points we haven’t reached and which, in this room, will necessarily remain dark. Perhaps in 2022 we will be able to shed even more light on ourselves, perhaps by summoning lateral thinking more often: this is a bit what we have tried to do with “Imaginarea Daily” in these 365 moons.
Therefore, the gauntlet for 2022 is drawn. Meanwhile, for tonight, happy New Year’s Eve and happy New Year’s Eve!
San Silvestro I, Pope
In “The Jungle Book” Mowgli is saved by Kaa the snake who frees him from a tribe of apes by hypnotising them. Some specialists trace our ancestral fear of this reptile back to that felt by primates from whom, non-coincidentally, we are said to descend. The fact is that snakes do hypnotise us: it happened to Eve, as well as to those ill-fated mortals who looked at Medusa a split-second before being turned to stone….
Apart from the two interlocked serpents who have become the symbols of doctors and pharmacists, “The Jungle Book” is one of those rare cases in which this animal is presented in a positive light: he’s something of a helper, maybe deaf initially but when he gets going he’s a source of memory. His function will change from the Disney cartoon onwards where he’s a lacklustre character and a secondary enemy (the main one being the tiger).
In spite of these deletions, we prefer the version that is closest to the novel. Zoos (iconographic or semantic ones included) are also beautiful because they are so varied.
St Felix I, Pope
The jazz musician Gil Evans used to say that all art should be an experiment, and that masterpieces were successful experiments. In 1839 Charles Goodyear accidentally dropped some India rubber (compounded with sulphur) onto a hot stove and discovered that this caused the rubber to vulcanize.
After that moment, transport would never be the same again, although Goodyear’s own life did not roll along quite as smoothly: much fighting ensued over his patents and he even landed in prison in Paris on account of the heavy debts resulting thereof.
Art was our starting point because rubber tyres have always been able to conjure up interesting scenarios: just try counting the number of novels, books or films that have been inspired by motorbikes (to limit ourselves to two-wheelers). Small masterpieces, some of them, the result of a very successful experiment indeed.
St Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury
Luigi Meneghello is one of the least-known Italian writers, yet also one of the most brilliant of his times. He was born in a rural town in the Venetia region but moved to England after the War. There, far from his homeland, he devoted himself to Italian Studies and the teaching of Italian. This was more or less the same period in which Giuseppe Guareschi began to publish his “Don Camillo and Peppone” stories on a weekly magazine called “Candido, settimanale del sabato”. The backdrop against which these well-known characters are continually at loggerheads with one another was also that of a rural Italian town.
These characters are always so strongly in the limelight that few bother to look at the setting, which is in fact very similar to that depicted by the painter Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo. So let us, for once, look at his paintings without a heavy heart. Luigi Meneghello describes the people there with the word “need”, used in relation to sundry things: their many basic needs, their obligations (“one needs to work”), not forgetting their moral philosophy (“one needs to be good”).
And yet, when all was said and done, what need was there for anything more than what they already had? These people would go cycling along the banks of the River Po, they would merrily celebrate their town’s patron saint, and the innkeeper’s wine was always of the best. There’s no doubt that these simple characters needed to tighten their belts now and then, but they also knew how to sit tall in their saddles.
Feast of the Holy Innocents
In “Peter Pan” a crocodile has swallowed Captain Hook’s clock. That’s not going to happen to our clock, so let’s give ourselves five minutes to take a quick trip to “Neverland”…
Time has certainly ticked by since J.M. Barrie’s play debuted at the Duke of York’s Theatre in London: a huge success that stretched way beyond its niche (Edwardian children’s literature) and gave its name to a condition that is often mentioned in books on psychology, conversations between friends or arguments between lovers: the Peter Pan Syndrome.
Yet, we don’t feel we can stigmatise the syndrome entirely seeing that, as was the case for Wendy, it constitutes an ingredient for making up fairy stories. Even though in the end the young lady concluded that growing up wasn’t so bad after all, and consequently decided to leave Neverland, she took with her a bottle of something similar to pixie dust: imagination. To be sprinkled generously to ensure that one continues to believe in fairies.
St John the Apostle
Holidays often mean outings and so, should you go visiting churches and museums, you might well come across images of St Stephen: you’ll know it’s him because he’ll be holding a stone. He is venerated as the protomartyr of Christianity, and on the day when we often need to beef up the leftovers of yesterday’s dinner, it’s quite amazing to discover that he used to work distributing food to the poor from the kitchens of Jerusalem. So, if yesterday’s light came to fill the hearts of people, this young man was the first to roll up his sleeves to keep that light burning.
Alas, it’s a story that doesn’t have a happy ending. Yet at the Poldi Pezzoli Museum in Milan we came across a painting where Stephen is holding a palm, symbolising his martyrdom, from which the bud of a new fruit seems to be sprouting. Whether one is a believer or not, the message inherent to this image is quite clear. As for us, we can always use some delicious ‘first fruits’ for our Christmas decorations.