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Sunday, November 21, 2021

Rome, at Castel Sant’Angelo

 

On the way to Vatican, we saw a huge round building that looked like a cholate tart, on the bank of the river Tiber. It is Castel Sant’Angelo, affectionately nicknamed ‘The Wedding Cake’ by locals due to its appearance. It is now a museum and has a long history which dates back to ancient Rome. Started as an ancient imperial tomb of Emperor Hadrian in the year 138, turned into fortress in the year 401, then functioning also as prison for many centuries.  Among the prisoners were the sculptor Benvenuto Cellini, charged with crime of sodomy; the philosopher Giordano Bruno, sentenced to death as a hardline heretic; Giuseppe Balsamo, known as a conman sorcerer; Beatrice Cenci, a noblewoman sentenced to death accused for having killed her abusive father. The prison was also the drama setting for the third act opera of Giacomo Puccini's Tosca.  In this tragic scene, Tosca, overwhelmed by the death of her lover, jumps to death to escape capture by her enemies from the wall of the prison.

 On top of the castle we can see a statue of an angel holding a sword but not in a brandishing way, rather the angel is depicted to lower his sword to return it to the sheath. Why is it like that?  According to legend, at the end of the sixth century AD, a terrible plague fell upon the city,  named as the Justinian plague, with thousands falling ill and the bodies of the dead choking the street. The disease spread as far north as Denmark and west to Ireland, then further to Africa, the Middle East and Asia Minor. 

Pope Gregory then led a procession through the city, praying to God to spare those who still lived. Looking up to the old mausoleum of Emperor Hadrian, long fallen into disuse and ruin, Pope Gregory had a vision of a radiant figure high atop the massive tomb. It was the Archangel Michael, his outstretched wings, glowing brightly and holding a bloody sword and then lowering it to return it back in the sheath. The Pope saw this as a sign of the end of the plague that had been raging for about 50 years. Indeed, after this vision, the plague ended, therefore the Castle was named as Castel Sant Angelo – Castle of the Holy Angel. The current bronze statue of Archangel Michael on top of the building was created in 1748 by Peter Anton von Verschaffelt, a Flemish sculptor, to replace the marble statue damaged by time.


Photo: Wikimedia

Castel Sant’Angelo was slowly turned into a fortress and in 1277 it was acquired by the papacy. Popes used the castle as a refuge in this fortified structure in times of danger. Living conditions inside the fortress were probably not very comfortable, so Pope Paulus III decorated many of the rooms inside the Castel with beautiful frescoes, mostly done by Perino del Vaga. The most beautiful room is undoubtedly the Sala Paolina, with its lavishly decorated walls and ceiling. In the beginning of the 14th century, the Castle became the summer castle for the Pope. In 1901 it was converted to become a national museum, named the Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo.

THE END

 Sources:

https://www.romawonder.com/castel-santangelo-facts-history/

https://corvinus.nl/2016/06/01/rome-castel-santangelo/

  





Saturday, November 6, 2021

Rome, at the Spanish Steps

 

Walking for about 1 km from Fontana di Trevi, we will reach the Spanish Steps. The walk is only around 15 minutes, however in this place, we can find many interesting buildings in every turn, so it may take longer if you wish to ‘sight-seeing’ too.

 The giant stone Spanish Steps starts from Piazza di Spagna (the Spanish Square) up to the Trinità dei Monti church. The 135 steps staircase, built in 1725 and designed by Alessandro Specki and Francesco De Santis, is a favourite spot among tourists to sit, relax and enjoy the views of Piazza di Spagna at the bottom. Piazza di Spagna itself was the location of the Spanish Embassy for Vatican in the seventeenth century. So the Spanish name was extended to the square and the steps as well.

 As I climbed the Spanish Steps in a spring afternoon, in a moment I remembered the song “Credo” by the rock group Refugee: 

I believe in constant pauses

Like a Roman holiday

And I often stop for air

As I climb the Spanish stairs


Indeed I often stopped for air, and near the top of the steps I also stopped and looked down to the Piazza di Spagna. This square is an important way to connect to the historic centre of the city and a famous gathering place for locals and foreigners. Some of the city’s most iconic streets branch off the square, such as Via del Condotti, Via del Babuino, Via della Propaganda and Via Sistina.

 At the centre of the square lies the Fontana della Barcaccia, a fountain featuring a half-shrunk stone ship sculpted by Pietro Bernini,  father of Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The name Fontana della Barkaca means “Fountain of the Old Boat” as it has the form of a sinking ship based upon a folk legend. According to the legend, as the River Tiber flooded in 1598, water carried a small boat into the Piazza di Spagna. When the water receded, the boat was deposited in the center of the square, and it was this boat that inspired Bernini's creation.

 

THE END






Sunday, October 3, 2021

An Interview with Martin

 

Photo: Wikimedia

I had the pleasure visiting Martin's hut, often referred to as “die Hütte", at Todtnauberg, on the edge of the Black Forest, southern Germany. He considered the seclusion provided by the forest to be the best environment in which to engage in his philosophical thought, and here was where he wrote his most famous book Being and Time. 

It is a small ski hut measuring six meters by seven, the low hanging roof covers three rooms: the kitchen which is also the living room, a bedroom and a study. Scattered at wide intervals throughout the narrow base of the valley and on the equally steep slope opposite, lie farmhouses with their large over-hanging roofs. Higher up the slope the meadows and pasture lands lead to the woods with its dark fir-tress, old and towering…This is his work world. 

That day he hiked the way up mountain, then ski back down, he is an avid hiker and an accomplished skier.  I greeted him at the hut front door this short and stout professor with dark piercing eyes, his sun tan face gleaming. We sat at the coffee table, ready to discuss ‘Being and Time’. 


I said:

“According to Plato truth is determined by how it relates to the world and whether it accurately corresponds with that world, true beliefs and true statements correspond to the facts. What is truth according to you?”

 

Martin, talking slowly and deliberately:

“For Plato, and those that followed, truth meant correctness, a correspondence between knowledge, judgement, and the object.  This view of truth implies that the experience of truth is structured in terms of the relationship between a subject and an object. There is an essential difference between viewing truth as correctness, and truth as unconcealment , Aletheia. Truth as correctness has ignored the experience of truth as an opening that lets unconcealment occur. In unconcealment, truth lies not only in a judgement, but in the human existence itself. To draw real things from concealedness to unconcealedness, Aletheia, requires a certain 'light'. This light is the existence of Being (Dasein) itself, its being-in-the-world. Because of Dasein’s open-stance, which involves engagement to the world as a whole, it is able to unconceal, opening up its world for itself. “

 

I said:

“You reportedly saw the painting of Van Gogh “A pair of shoes” on an exhibition in Amsterdam  and you were impressed by it. Tell us about your insight on the painting.”


Photo: Wikimedia

Martin, smiling:

“As long as we only imagine a pair of shoes in general, or simply look at the empty, unused shoes as they merely stand there in the picture, we shall never discover what the equipmental being of the equipment in truth is. From Van Gogh’s painting we cannot even tell where these shoes stand. There is nothing surrounding this pair of peasant shoes in or to which they might belong — only an undefined space. There are not even clods of soil from the field or the field-path sticking to them, which would at least hint at their use. A pair of peasant shoes and nothing more. And yet. 

From the dark opening of the worn insides of the shoes the toilsome tread of the worker stares forth. In the stiffly rugged heaviness of the shoes there is the accumulated tenacity of her slow trudge through the far-spreading and ever-uniform furrows of the field swept by a raw wind. On the leather lie the dampness and richness of the soil. Under the soles slides the loneliness of the field-path as evening falls. In the shoes vibrate the silent call of the earth, its quiet gift of the ripening grain and its unexplained self-refusal in the fallow desolation of the wintry field."

 

I said:

“Your insight on this painting of rugged old shoes is very interesting, it unconceals both the being of the shoes and the peasant women’s world to us.  The painting lets us know what the shoes are in truth, and   it is not separable from the entities in the world, including the one who unconceals the entities and also oneself, Dasein. According to your book Being and Time this is authentic Dasein, authentic Being-in-the world, Dasein’s understanding about the truth”.

 

Martin:

“Unconcealment can occur authentically, without a set of predispositions. Entities are initially manifest but nevertheless concealed in what they most authentically are. Authenticity by contrast, consists in Dasein learning to “uncover the world in its own way … this uncovering of the ‘world’ is … always accomplished as a clearing away of concealments and obscurities, as a breaking up of the disguises with which Dasein bars its own way.”

 

I said:

“You further described that authentic Dasein means being something of its own, not someone else, the Dasein that does not bow to assertion of the mass, the public, which you call as ‘das Man’, or the ‘they’. The authentic Dasein does not choose to follow tastes, interests, fashions, pop culture that are made as consumer goods. Authentic Dasein is thereby opposed to inauthentic, public Dasein, which is what Dasein is when submitting to the control of a not-oneself, the public, the ‘they’, das Man. Authentic Dasein chooses its own possibilities and acts on them, shutting out the voice of das Man and with it the public understanding of the world.”

 

Martin:
“Yes, Dasein is authentically itself only to the extent that, as concernful Being-alongside and solicitous Being-with, it projects itself upon its ownmost potentiality-for-Being rather than upon the possibility of das Man. Becoming authentic requires a process of self-assertion and self-initiated liberation from the temptations of inauthentic understanding. In its normal, everyday way of living in the world, Dasein is under the dominion of inauthentic understanding. Dasein has a tendency to become absorbed in the concerns and possibilities that the world presents to it as valuable. 

Das Man comforts Dasein by hiding the truth from it, an act that Dasein is complicit with. As a result, the particular Dasein in its everydayness is disburdened by das Man. Not only that; by thus disburdening it of its Being, das Man accommodates Dasein if Dasein has any tendency to take things easily and make them easy. And because das Man constantly accommodates the particular Dasein by disburdening it of its Being, das Man retains and enhances its stubborn dominion. Inauthenticity is a “tranquilizing” way of existing.”

 

I said:

“What do you mean inauthencity is “tranquilizing” way of existing?”

 

Martin:

“In utilizing public means of transport and in making use of information services such as the newspaper, every Other is like the next . . . . We take pleasure and enjoy ourselves as they, de Man, take pleasure; we read, see, and judge about literature and art as they see and judge; likewise we shrink back from the ‘great mass’ as they shrink back; we find ‘shocking’ what they find shocking.”

  

I said:

“In ‘The Question Concerning Technology’ you viewed technology negatively. Technology, despite its contribution to humankind in this modern era, you described it as a major threat to the authentic Dasein.”

 

Martin:

“The coming to presence of technology threatens revealing, threatens it with the possibility that all revealing will be consumed in ordering and that everything will present itself only in the unconcealedness of standing-reserve. Human activity can never directly counter this danger. Human achievement alone can never banish it. But human reflection can ponder the fact that all saving power must be of a higher essence than what is endangered, though at the same time kindred to it.”

 

I said:

“In what way does technology is dangerous to human existence?”

 

Martin:

“Our current modern age is the epoch of technology which manifests a specific way of understanding and interpreting the world, machination, just as das Man manifested the public understanding of the world.

 Machination, as technology’s mode of understanding, is a “swaying of being”. Machination expands its sway as coercive force. By securing power, this coercive force develops as the immediately eruptible and always transformable capability for subjugation . .. . To the extent that in the epoch of machination that is empowered to its unbounded coercive force man also grasps himself as animal living-being, the only thing that remains for man himself . . . is the appearance of self-assertion vis a vis beings. 

But ‘the epoch of technology’ is far more than the control or enslaving of man by technology. The dominant understanding of reality in the epoch of technology is largely encompassed by the term ‘calculability,’ meaning that everything that is real is understood in terms of discrete, calculable, orderable units, of what can be produced or used for production. 

Machination fosters in advance the completely surveyable calculability of the subjugating empowering of beings to an accessible arrangement. Machination fosters in advance a particular understanding of beings such that they are accessible because calculable. Access to beings is defined by calculability; to grasp what a being is, one must be able to understand it in a calculable manner. Reality is organized, ordered, something counted and assembled from parts. 

What it is to exist, according to the epoch of technology, is to be calculable; the world is understood as calculable, goals and purposes are understood in terms of calculability and producibility, i.e., as discrete entities consisting of potential forces that can be harnessed for ends.”

 

I said:

“That being said, if anything, can one do? “

 

Martin:

“Wherever man opens his eyes and ears, unlocks his heart, and gives himself over to meditating and striving, shaping and working, entreating and thanking, he finds himself everywhere already brought into the unconcealed.

 Man’s proper stance is to slow down, take a breath, and observe the world around. Man is always in a world full of meanings that come from beyond him, and the most important step to realizing that, by drawing away from the modern rush and allowing the world itself to show itself as it is, without trying to master it.”

 

I said:

In ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’ you said that the nature of art is poetry and the nature of poetry, in turn, is the founding of truth. A work of art has the ability to set up a world. World is a self-opening openness of the broad paths of simple and essential decisions in the destiny of a historical people. Art creates meaning by allowing letting truth arise, by means of which Being becomes comprehensible. The meaning of a work of art cannot be considered separately from the conversation that the work initiates and which the artist anticipates. Can you explain this please.”

 

Martin:

“What poetry, as illuminating projection, unfolds of unconcealedness and projects ahead into the design of the figure, is the open which poetry lets happen, and indeed in such a way that only now, in the midst of beings, the open brings beings to shine and ring out.

 

I like to cite the poem ‘Autumn’ by Friedrich Hölderlin:

 

Nature’s gleaming is higher revealing,

Where with many joys the day draws to an end,

It is the year that completes itself in resplendence,

Where fruit come together with beaming radiance.

 

Earth’s orb is thus adorned, and rarely clamours

Sound through the open field, the sun warms

The day of autumn mildly, the fields lie

As a great wide view, the breezes blow

 

Through boughs and branches, rustling gladly,

When then already to emptiness the fields give way.

The whole meaning of this bright image lives

As an image, golden splendour hovering all about

 

This poem of Hölderlin is capable of awakening us the ‘astonishing’ and to the wonder of the ‘extraordinary’ in ‘the ordinary’.  We think of the images of the landscape which are resplendent. Yet the landscape is not yet nature itself, ‘being’ (sein) is not ‘Being’ (Dasein) itself. Nature lets shine forth everything that belongs to the landscape. In the look of landscape, which nature grants, the gleaming of nature is higher revealing, that is to say, of divine essence. “

 

 THE END

 

This is an imaginary interview in memory of Martin Heidegger

 

Sources:

Derek R. O’Connell- Heidegger’s Authenticity

https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/158301888.pdf

 

MJ Geertsema - Heidegger’s onto-poetology: the poetic projection of Being

https://www.e-publicacoes.uerj.br › download

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Heidegger








Rome, at Fontana di Trevi

 

Wherever we go, grandeur monuments are usually located in a spacious popular plaza to enhance the monument’s grandeur presence and importance. We can easily navigate these monuments as the location must have been popular and we can see the place from a distance. But this monument that we are going to visit is different, it is stuck in a narrow square surrounded by buildings, restaurants, shops in the middle of the city. There are many streets leading to this place, they are narrow streets passing through ancient buildings, restaurants, shops. Surrounded by building, while walking we cannot see what is a head of us in a distance. Thus, coming from via del Lavatore, as we turned the corner, the suddenly monument emerged in front of our eyes with its grandeur, with a distinct sound of gushing water. Statues of ancient Greek mythological figures stand out in the fountain, presenting a drama in the green water. The crowd admire the monument from the side of the fountain, and trying to figure out what the display is telling us.

It is Fontana di Trevi, the grand fountain depicting Oceanus, the Sea God, the divine personification of the ocean, standing in a shell chariot to tame the water.  The shell chariot is drawn by winged horses led by Tritons, one Triton struggles with a wild horse whilst the other Triton hold a tamed one. The theme “Taming of the Waters” is presented in grandiose baroque style at the backdrop of Palazzo Poli. Designed by Italian architect Nicola Salvi in 1732 and completed by Giuseppe Panini in 1762 after the death of Nicola Salvi, and was decorated by artists from Bernini School.  Its facade and reef were constructed using Travertine, an elegant natural stone formed by hot springs near Tivoli.

In ancient Rome, water was worshipped as divine substance and the availability of huge water supplies was considered a symbol of opulence and therefore an expression of power. The Fontana di Trevi water is supplied by the Aqua Virgo duct, an aqueduct originally completed in 19 BC by Marcus Agrippa.  Aqueducts serve to transport freshwater from water source in highland about 13 kms away through ducts on top of arcades and underground. Gravity alone was utilized to transport enough water for most of the civilization, yet the aqueducts had very small gradients to do so. The design and construction to create aqueducts transporting high volume of water over long distances and varying terrains demonstrates the wealth of the civilization constructing it.  In this context, the theme “Taming of the Waters” portrays in dramatic way the Greek Sea God Oceanus taming the waters, like the way the ancient Roman aqueduct arranged the water and the civilization’s amazing ability to control and manipulate water.

The 11 aqueducts of ancient Rome ensured enough water supply into the city to provide for more than a million inhabitants, but the Aqua Virgo duct terminating at Fontana di Trevi is the only aqueduct still being used in modern times as it mostly ran underground. Today, most of the water is recycled for environmental reasons, but the source is still from the ancient Aqua Virgo duct.

In the crowd we can see some people throw coin into the fountain over his opposite shoulder. This habit  root back thousands of years BC, whereby valuable items were tossed into water sources to keep the water gods happy. In modern times, we still do that with a wish to return to Rome. Around 3,000 Euro is tossed into the fountain every day, the money is collected each night and given to a charity that supports the needy.

Fontana di Trevi is really a dramatic fountain that scathed an wonderful memory of Rome, so when we leave Rome this time saying “Arrivederci Roma”, Goodbye Rome, we wish to hear “Bentornato a Roma”, Welcome back to Rome, the next time…..

 

THE END

Sources:

http://engineeringrome.org/roman-water-displays-as-a-sign-of-status/

https://www.hisour.com/famous-fountains-discover-flow-water-rome-italian-youth-committee-unesco-16424/