Harmonia

A Forum for and the Background of the Mediation of Dialogue in Ancient and Modern Academies

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Between Spring and Summer 2017

An excellent Tosca performance and an - as ever - inspirational - to say the least - Eifman's ballet, Red Giselle, in Toronto as the home for international avant-garde.

A very fruitful workshop on Plato's Gorgias in UCD (on my side of the ocean, Davis CA, not Dublin).

Now back to finishing business on an accepted piece.

Then a Plato workshop in Paris, in a Europe that gives me delight every time I visit (determined to spend a week in the Louvre this time; last visit was exclusively devoted to Rodin's Museum), and makes me numb whenever I hear about how and into what it is being transformed.

Then Greece and other pieces to finish, and Pindar, Papadiamantis and perhaps Lanthimos, to whom a student of mine turned my attention before he became famous in the cinematic world, and the early Angelopoulos for the evenings: some among the chosen Greeks for this summer. Ernest Hemingway's language proved to be slightly disappointing, compared with the raised expectations, and so I decided to return to some Greeks, as far as literature breaks are concerned, not because of their being Greek, but because of the familiarity with the joy I take in their language.

Mere parataxis: no time for adding verbs, no time for formulating sentences, at least not on this blog; no time or soul to waste on imposing interpretations on the present moments: let the latter complete themselves in due time, a time we cannot force to emerge according to our whims and whose emergence we are bound not to miss. The Ascension of Christ is about to be welcomed in our time progression.

PS: It is only after the performances at the COC that I listen to Maria Callas. The same again with Tosca. Such an abysmal fragility in this superb voice; so much lurking egocentrism at the same time: or, is that combination surprising?



Olga Spessivtseva, the extraordinary Russian ballerina, is the focus of Eifman's Red Giselle.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

On Chrysippus' and Marcus Aurelius' Cylinders and Other Images

The Marcus Aurelius' seminar was the second best I have ever given. Pure pleasure of learning was mixed with pure pleasure of teaching. Particularly interesting sessions, if I have to choose only two among them, were the ones devoted to the metaphor of the cylinder, as applied by Chrysippus and Marcus Aurelius, and the one on the notion of time and the present moment in early Stoa (the subtle work on the meta-physics of time and grammar) and the primacy of the present moment in Marcus Aurelius.

Classes came to an end and a marvellous interdisciplinary conference on psychotherapy took place in Glasgow. On the way back and over the ocean, I was enjoying reading Scottish Folk and Fairy Tales, Sir Conan Doyle, Alasdair MacLean and Joseph Jacobs. Some stories float like bubbles that are carried away by the evening breeze. Some others, like the Scottish, root in the earth instead, haunted by the past narratives and pregnant with the future retellings.

Time has been unraveling like a spring flower whose scent anticipates Easter.


Bellini's Madonna in Kelvingrove Art Gallery (Glasgow).
One of those blues that one would like to gaze at in all eternity

PS: It was possible to say goodbye to Europe and return to London Ontario after Glasgow. Things might prove to be slightly more difficult with Paris later this year.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Varley's Portrays and Wagner's Götterdämmerung (COC 2017)




"Art is not merely recording surface life: incidents, emotions. The Artist divines the causes beneath which create the outward result." F.H.Varley



Another discovery, another painter among "the Seven", one of the finest: Varley the portraitist. Everything he has painted is a portrait: sometimes humans, crowds of immigrants or his life companion, sometimes suns and trees or mountains, and once Ferdinand the Bull under a tree (or did Ferdinand transform into the tree? Hard to tell...). His British finesse in discovering landscapes in faces and the way he portrayed landscapes was embraced by the Canadian "Group of Seven", and Sheffield's painter co-defined Canadian painting.




The last part of Wagner's Ring at the COC had a terrible staging and great voices. The first and last scenes were excellent, but the way that what happened in between was staged was not that harmonious with the lines of the text: businessmen on a large office desk singing about sacrificing oxen...and Brunnhilde sitting on an office chair while rolling down the hill of her passion...Really? Oh how unbearable that was. Why not choose Gogol, whom I particularly like, instead, and leave aside Wagner if one wishes to highlight the struggle of classes? Oh how I miss Germany sometimes. That said, so far there have been only good experiences with Wagner in Toronto, namely, with Walkuere and Siegfried.



Friday, 2 September 2016

Beginning of the New Academic Year 2016/17

Verum gaudium res severa est.

Preserving some fond memories of stimulating philosophical discussions in Marco Zingano's circle in São Paulo (on Plato's immortality in the Phaedo and the tripartition of the soul in the Republic), I am back in London's fall. I have been enjoying taking care of the last paper on Marcus while also setting up the WT upper level class on my beloved Stoic philosopher and emperor, with the focus on plasticity of mind and time.

For now I am having a great time in the class and out of it. For our Phaedo bit, I have been asking my students to come up with their explanation of why Socrates' friends are saddened and fall into despair after the two objections that Simmers and Cebes raise, whereas Socrates himself is not depressed when his expectations are not met by Anaxagoras. We are reading the Phaedo as a dialogue that makes a fuss, and rightly so, about the right attitude toward pleasure and the bodily realm, and toward arguments. No surprise that the piece on the pure pleasures of learning in the Phaedo is being expanded.

Step by step, I am preparing myself for the last session and the metaphor of the cylinder and the problem of determinism and compatibilism in Stoicism: both Chrysippus' and Marcus Aurelius' cylinders. It is a pleasure to get some good help on this.



PS: My attention was lately drawn to the poem "Golden Anniversary", composed by the Polish poet, who was awarded with the Nobel prize in literature 1996, Wislawa Szymborska. The original is in Polish. The beauty radiates in the English translation, and amazingly so. Some of Alice Munro's short stories from her "Runaway", on three of which Almodóvar based his last film, and which I had wished to read, have been back-burnered.

PPS: I am very happy that I will be presenting on Marcus Aurelius, the experience of time and the cure of affective disorders at an interdisciplinary conference in Glasgow next year, a venue that is devoted to psychotherapy. This I call the delight of 2016. I wish the good trends of collaboration between mental health people and philosophers, among others, would spread in North America. UK is blazing a trail. Let's learn how to follow.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Poets and Painters Defining the Language and the Light of a Land


Carlos Drummond de Andrade and his poem A Mesa
(in which I encounter "the Brazilian"as he constructs it, 
and which was considered to be his best by Elizabeth Bishop)


José Ferraz de Almeida Junior
Study for the Flight of the Holy Family to Egypt
Pinacoteca de São Paulo.


Saturday, 16 July 2016

Another World: International Plato Society Conference at Brasília, and São Paulo

The IPS conference that took place at Brasília was impressively well organised, so we all thanked Gabriele Cornelli and his team for this. There were many opportunities to discuss the work of young people and equally many opportunities to enjoy the work, with which one is familiar with, of people we highly appreciate and deeply cherish. I was in the pleasure session, together with Richard Parry and Dino de Sanctis, arguing for the thesis that there is a special joy that accompanies the philosopher, in any case Socrates, that is undisturbed by any impediments and twists in the learning adventures. Satochi made a very fine-grained remark, fine as he is, in one of the following chats, which had a life of their own, it seemed to me, that my argument reminded him of Socrates' remark about the swans. They may appear to be sad at the end of their lives, but they are not. David came up with a new model about the aporia as preceding the pleasure of getting to know as a neutral state. Paulo and Michal pressed me on the pleasures related to the myth, whereas Arnaud asked both me and Richard about the philosopher's pleasure and its purity of pain. Francisco put his finger on the lines related to the necessitation and pain in the case of bodily pleasures. The pure pleasures of learning are a title to live up to. This was my tone and the music of stimulating dialogues followed. Der Ton macht die Musik, und das war ein Musik-Fest. And there were many more chats, of course, and much more music than that.

The city of Brasília is a bone of contention. I am so happy to marvel at and follow ideal constructions and experimentations when they are put on canvas. I am thinking of Kandinsky, for instance, but when it comes to cities...should they not be lived in and constructed so as to be lived in? Those tropical trees and birds outweighed everything that could cast a shadow. I had never heard such a joyful bird singing in my life so far. Or, is it rather that they only appear to be joyful, but they are not, in contrast to the swans of the Phaedo?

Roots in the Air (Brasília Palace Hotel). Angels in the Air (The Cathedral of Brasília. Of course one notices that it has been constructed by an atheist).


Now I am in São Paulo, a Latin American city to be lived in, in comparison to Brasília. The meeting with this very interesting city has begun and is evolving. In some of its parts, it very strangely feels at home, and I mean at home in Athens. Shostakovich' strange Lady Macbeth unexpectedly added to our feeling of being at home and the opera building satisfied some of our quest for beauty, to be sure. So does working at the Biblioteca Mário de Andrade do. Agreements about dealing with the debate between reductionism and anti-reductionism, and the opening up of further paths, not yet considered nor imagined, fourth and fifth ones, contributes a special touch to beauty. The article on Malabou and Marcus has been elaborated on, and some things are being improved in the Philebus piece. I am ending the summer with the second piece on Marcus. 


The Opera of São Paulo behind some palm trees that intend to grow out of their species


That said: this is a new world to me. New World, inhabited by a new language and new rhythms. How can one prepare herself to encounter a new world?

Am I Greek enough? Are we Greek enough? Can we be Greek enough?
And how can one share beauty? Does one chop the animal in its natural joints? And if so, where is the divine knife to lead the way?

In the meantime - for, who can foresee what the will and whims of divine knives will be! - here are some verses by Odysseas Elutis (from his poem Ο Ήλιος ο Ηλιάτορας, 1971), verses I read here for the first time, just before the celebration of the Prophet Elias, July 20. The sun is talking as follows in this poetic theatre play:


Μέσα μου ρίχνει ο χρόνος ασταμάτητα
του κόσμου όλα τα βρόμικα και τ' άπλυτα

Κι όσον καιρό κρεμιέμαι πάνω απ' τα νερά
κι όσον περνώ στα μακρινά τα Τάρταρα

Τυραγνίες ζηλοφθονίες φόνους παιδεμούς
τ' αλέθω για τους χρόνους τους μελλούμενους

Τ' αλέθω τα γυρίζω και τα πάω στη γη
που 'δωσε το σκοτάδι φως για να το πιει

Κουράγιο περιστέρες και ανεμώνες μου
Οι ωραίες κι οι συντροφιαστές κι οι μόνες μου

Όπου μαυρίλα κλώθεται και γνέθεται
Ήλιοι μικροί γενείτε κι όλο αλέθετε

Σ' ευλογημένη μέρα βγάζει το κακό
σε δημοσιά πλατιά το στενοσόκακο

Κι είναι στη σκοτεινιά και στην ερήμωση
όπου ριζώνει κι ευωδιάζει η θύμηση


PS: After a while, I realise that I have to put aside Greek poetry and think of new devices in order to face this new and unfamiliar world. Even the moon is so... wrong! It smiles in São Paulo. I had never experienced a smiling moon so far! What's wrong with everything: the light, the moon, the rhythms? Suchlike question marks are spontaneously arising. And the moon's smile, in reply, ever deepens. Not in the language, how can one participate and share in this world? And if so, how is one to deal with otherness, when currently not having time to learn the language? One dives. But how? One entertains another attitude than that one usually has nurtured toward studying languages with all the required seriousness before making any steps. One dives with a skill that is on its way to be acquired. Deep breath and wide openness, and here we go, accompanied by lots of humour and playfulness. This is the right time and place to read Rashomon and to experience Russian opera and watch a fine Almodovar with Portuguese supertitles or subtitles, in the breaks. Therefore, beyond work, at which I feel so at home anywhere and as ever, I provoke encounters with utmost otherness and extreme alienation. 

like with the Degas one stumbles upon in the MASP. I had never loved a Degas so deeply. 
A Degas, or, is it not a Degas?

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Homeland 2016

Why did it feel so at home to be in Greece this time, as if for the first time in the fullest sense?

Was it because of a wonderful and wondrous Aristotle Congress in Thessaloniki? Was it because of our so smoothly passing through time and through so many appropriations of cultures in the blessed city? Was it because it seemed that our past became, all of a sudden, it seemed, part of these beautiful and holy byzantine churches, as it had ever been? A capital, perhaps the one we pointed to in St. Dimitrios' Church: stemming from ancient temples and smelling sacrifices of fled guests, dressed in thyme and fear? So at the right place and, at the same time, out of place, like a good metaphor that carries and smells its origin, while well-integrated in the new context?

The Rotonda (or Church of St. George) in Thessaloniki, in which we had the honor and joy to attend a concert. Among the music chosen was one part of Theodorakis on Elytis' Axion Esti, and Theodorakis, again, on Sepheris' I held My Life. And the breaths were held captives. And the bodies were filled with Aegean Sea, on which the eyes surfaced, like dreaming stars, landing on the shores of Greek islands.

Was it because we were singing Elytis' Axion Esti every morning and evening over the Aegean Sea, and held our lives together with Sepheris' poem at noon in order to mix some moderation in our wine, and protect ourselves from the ruthlessly burning Greek sun, while shuddering and shivering? Was it Sepheris's lines, or Theodorakis' music that made us shudder and shiver, and what about that stuttering? Was it the love for myths that held our tongues back, and held us back on following logic? While a cloud crossed our skies, and a question mark overcast our minds: whose Greek do we love more: Sepheris' or Marcus Aurelius', both of which share the same language of Greek and the same content of holding one's entire life in one's hands? Oh why can one, especially if an only child, not choose, but want both, and all beauty?

Was it because we rolled down in this language, and felt to the bone how one it has always been, a common vessel for Aristotle, Simplicius, Palamas, Papadiamantis, Elytis and Gatsos, and we could not stop marvelling, nor forgetting to breath out because of marvel? Was it because we could not but share our tears for this common language and for the weight of this homeland in our chests, our chests that could not cease opening up? We did not dare to accommodate the question: for what?



Παναγία η Καρδιώτισσα, painted by Angelos Akotantos (15th century, Byzantine Museum, Athens; if I had to choose only one icon from the entire collection, this would be it: just a small footnote that Andrei Roublev's Ascension of Christ, temporarily in the exhibition, is out of competition; the same goes for the early El Greco in the neighbourhood...)

PS: How can such a diving into the Greek language not prepare you for...the world?
At night, one is covered by the blue itself (well, what else but Bellini's blue? I am sure, Plato would have agreed, had he known, yes: known, this blue).

Bellini's Virgin with the Standing Child, Embracing his Mother (São Paulo Museum of Art)


Another of Bellini's Madonna and another shade of Bellini's blue in Glasgow (Kelvingrove Art Gallery)