“The future is uncertain because it is unforeseeable by definition… Uncertain are the people who pretend to be certain, but who now grope in the dark, attempting to solve problems using the very same system that created the problems in the first place.” Carlo Petrini, Terra Madre, 2009
“Leave your home each morning expecting to have a good day. Plan for it.” Chris Michaels, Science of the Mind, April 2011
One week into classes, our group of 25 had the privilege of meeting with Carlo Petrini, the founder and president of Slow Food and my university. His words to a live audience are as personable, romantic, ideal, and practical as his writing. I had admired this bright light of an Italian man from afar for the past several months, and continue to be inspired by his approach to life and our current state of food affairs.
The first piece of advice Carlo gave to us newcomers, as we sat attentively wearing our upside down ear buds, listening to an eloquent female translator turn Carlo’s words into spools of gold, is that we should plan to be more confused when we leave Italy than when we arrived. Naturally. Not only was this advice preparing us for the mind-boggling Italian style of, well, everything, but to remind us that being in a university with 350 students from 53 countries (14 represented in my class alone), leaves many, many opportunities for new inspiration, causing us to shed preconceived notions and reevaluate what we thought we knew. It was oddly comforting, as the ways in which these upcoming experiences have been presented are totally up for interpretation, and I’m still looking for my pocket translator.
Having arrived one week ago, after an uneventful flight and smooth arrival in my new town and apartment, my mind is still on overdrive; processing things not only when I’m awake but asleep (free entertainment!). The overarching feelings are ones of comfort, intrigue, and excitement, but also those of naiveté and uncertainty. I sincerely feel like I am in the right place, but I am still not entirely sure why. While these feelings would have bothered me in the past, I’m not worried.
As Carlo reminded us this morning, the word crisis comes from the Greek word for transition. It is completely normal and even healthy to do everything from furrow your eyebrows to full on brown-bag-breathing panic when faced with a crisis, and these customs of processing don’t necessarily mean something negative. Who knows that what lies beneath whatever is falling apart isn’t even better than the protective shell that previously covered it? While these shells do serve a purpose in the time and place they are meant to protect and foundation, they must eventually crack in order to give birth to new ideas. Something has to fall apart.
Thinking on eggs, it is only appropriate that this month our group will begin to practice for Spring’s Cantè J’èuv, which means “singing of the eggs”. The ancient rite involves “walking with the moon”, singing from a special song book, and drinking lots of wine. The tradition celebrates “the regenerative Spring and the importance of eggs, once a precious good, and well as conviviality, happiness, genuineness and release of ancient feelings”; an appropriate way, in my opinion, to welcome newness, give thanks, and celebrate – with vino! – the possibilities that lie ahead for all of us.
Experiences like these (along with truffle hunting – I asked if you get your own pig – you don’t), are things I never imagined experiencing. That’s actually how I felt about moving to Italy; I never had a desire to do so, but the situation presented itself, it felt good, there was a pull to try something new, so why not? I am trying not to dictate what the “new things” are. So this uncertainty that I’m currently experiencing in my first days in a new place is not frightening, but rather intriguing, and is what will transport me into a new phase and new ways of experiencing joy in the various aspects of my life.
Back to Carlo. When discussing solutions to crises facing our gorgeous planet and the people on it, he spoke not of policies, budgets, and rigidity…but of intelligence of the heart – beautifully put as “affective intelligence” – increased fraternity, and revolution. The world is complex, he said, and a rigid structure will not suffice.
I suppose the more rigid the egg, the harder it is to crack, and many of our world’s structures – financial, environmental, social, governmental, physical, individual – are withstanding some pretty harsh attempts at breaking through. Each attempt from the universe to crack the egg is perceived as a crisis, when in reality it may just be forcing us to seek new inspiration, bringing us closer to the miracles that are in front of us at all times, and the softer, more accepting, inclusive, connected arrangement that is waiting for us underneath the shell.