Labor in the future: humans or robots?

A fascinating question to reflect on is: who will work in the future, humans or robots?

Will robots take charge of almost all the jobs? And in this case, what else will humans do during the day, with all the free time available? Or the scenario will not change much: even if in a more robotized society, humans will continue to work most of the time anyway?

The two different scenarios correspond to the change, or the persistence, of the very concept of job that exists today, and of some structures, in particular the monetary system and the production of energy. Easy to understand that if the necessity to earn money vanishes, and if the necessity to pay the energy vanishes, more easily also the necessity to work vanishes.

I want to try to analyze the two possibilities. On the first one I can offer a personal point of view, considering that I’m living with it already: I don’t have a job and I have a lot of free time. In this case, it must be evaluated what will happen if the percentage of people that live like me, today a minority, will grow in the future. However I prefer to start from the scenario that is more familiar and therefore easy to imagine: the one in which humans will continue to work most of the time.

Humans will continue to work

It seems obvious to me that technology will keep on being developed, so inevitably the trend that has been going on for awhile now will continue: i.e. humans will continue to be gradually replaced by robots in their jobs, since the robots in most cases are more precise and efficient.

For many people that tried to predict the future, this argument meant automatically that will come the day when humanity will be freed from labor. But I’m not sure of sharing this optimism. To me instead, it seems better not to underestimate the possibility that, as human jobs will switch to robots, more and more fake jobs will be invented to keep the humans busy.

With fake jobs I mean unproductive jobs, that don’t generate concrete resources, or superfluous jobs, that generate resources in excess that later are thrown away. Actually many jobs of both types exist already now, and keep the humanity busy already now. So what I’m talking about is nothing else than a continuation of the phenomenon already in progress, that could survive and get amplified.

Today very evident examples of unproductive jobs are seen in the banking sector and in politics, while of the superflous jobs the evidence has become internet, that by now is definitely ultra-saturated, because it’s flooded every day with new contents created by armies of journalists and authors, contents that however reach an audience that is more and more microscopic. Even many of today’s schools are factories for superfluous jobs, dedicated to provide the students with a lot of knowledge that they will never use -so they’ll throw it away– in adult age.

It’s plausible that the future will present a picture in which, even if in the context of a great abundance of resources generated by robots even more advanced and efficient than the current ones, humans will continue to have very little free time, because they’ll be very busy with jobs invented… exactly with the purpose of keeping them busy.

Someone could ask: jobs invented by whom? A conspiracy theorist would probably answer “by the estabilishment”, and there’s definitely no doubt that the estabilishment gets benefits from having the majority of people busy working, with little free time. In this way there’s a more ignorant and tired mass, easy to manipulate. However I believe that in large part it’s people themselves that tend toward these useless jobs, with no much need of some “secret agenda” to push them.

To understand the reason it’s sufficient to observe how people behave when they have free time: the majority, actually, is not at all at ease with free time.

Free time is a trigger that can cause an increased level of consciousness, and a high level of consciousness often is hard to sustain: questions hard to be answered appear, a lot of uncertainties appear. It’s for this reason that often people, when they’re not working, do a systematic job to actually lower the level of consciousness: eating junk food, watching television, going shopping, drinking alcohol.

In addition to this spontanous tendency, as anticipated above, two determinant factors are money and energy. If a financial system similar to the current one persists, many humans will continue to find themselves in a situation with great abundance of resources (abundance that will probably become more extreme thanks to the robots), but they will be able to access those resources only through money, that they will try to earn by working. Similarly for energy: if it will not become abundant and easily accessible for everybody, humans will continue to work to pay for it.

Also, a whole series of new artificial needs could arise, to which many new artificial jobs would reply. Here a number of more or less distopyan scenarios can be imagined, for example a planet where despite robots will have solved the problem of producing the essential resources, humans will be absorbed anyway by a gigantic industry of entertainment, made of virtual realities and videogames, inside of which they will continue to work many hours per week.

The idea sounds rather disquieting, but actually it wouldn’t be anything else than the acutization of what happens today. In this sense we could say that the future is already now. The only difference would be that, if today the percentage real jobs vs artificial jobs is something like 30% vs 70%, in the future it could lean even more toward the artificial jobs, and become something like 5% vs 95%. Within the small percentage of real jobs that will survive in the future, probably there will only be jobs in which the “human factor” (imagination, creativity, emotions) is an advantage not challenge-able by robotic efficiency.

So as a quick recap, in this first scenario many humans would continue to work also in the future, either to escape from free time or because they would continue to believe that they have to work. This implies that they would continue to adopt the concept of job that exists now (it’s “job” if it’s compensated with money), and implies that they would continue not to realize that by working for money, in a financial system similar to the existing one, they basically play a poker game rigged to their disadvantage.

It’s the scenario I’m less attracted to, because it involves a very unaware future humanity, but it still holds some positive aspects, especially for that minority of people that will decide not to work. In fact, since everybody else will be busy with their jobs, for those who will have more free time there will be more opportunities available, less competition, less traffic, less lines, and so on.

Humans will stop working

The second possibility comes from a more radical transformation of consciousness, and I believe that it’s also the most likely scenario. In fact, I would tend to give for a fact that we will go toward this scenario in the future, if it wasn’t that the question “but then why it didn’t happen already?” makes me cautios. My impression is that a transformation will take place, but much more slowly than some people predict.

In this vision, people will abandon in mass the things that today are considered jobs. Willingly or not, unemployment will come for nearly everyone: some will abandon their jobs consciously and voluntarily, others instead will be pushed into unemployment by the robots, by profound changes in money (maybe from fiat to cryptocurrency), by entrepreneurs that will make energy abundant and accessible, by smaller and more efficient governments.

Those that will be pushed into unemployment, probably, will try more than the others to keep alive a market of fake jobs, that unlikely will disappear completely. The others however will have finally surrendered to the obviousness: in a world that is highly technological and abundant of goods and services, easily produced by the robots and accessible to everyone, the old concept of job doesn’t make sense anymore: its motivation to exist, simply, disappeared.

So all these people will find themselves in front of the same question that I faced already few years ago, when I quit my job: what do I do during the day? Until today, for many people this question would probably sound as threatening: they would associate it immediately to the question how would I avoid boredom? It’s from here, in fact, that begins the search for distractions, for activities that “keep us busy” (as many existing jobs are, at this point).

But what will happen in the future, if people will look inside this boredom, instead of trying to avoid it with entertainment? In fact, if fake jobs will have lost any credibility as option of partial time-fillers, extending the television fictions and the videogames to the whole time could feel as unsatisfactory for many people. Even traveling in the real world, an activity that many fantasize to do “if it wasn’t for the job”, if done constantly could not dissipate the feeling of a lack of purpose.

What do I do with my time? is a difficult question -even existential– since inevitably it originates other questions in chain: what do I do with my life? and so what is the meaning of life? In front of this last question a huge number of people could land in the future, a lot more than today. And from the great variety of answers that will come, the planet and the society could really be transformed in unpredictable ways.

It’s possible that, after several reflections, many people will reach a conclusion similar to the one that I reached: unless we decide to live life waiting for the manifestation of some “divinity” or “superior authority” to reveal to us a universal meaning of life, valid for the whole humanity (something that maybe, probably, will never happen) it makes sense that we assign it by ourselves, individually, a meaning to our life. The meaning we choose is exactly the meaning of life, the “right” one.

This choice will be crucial to decide if even in the future we humans will continue to do something during the day, rather than becoming an almost completely inactive species, fed by robots. Those who will take the time to decide how to use their life, will have the motivation to act.

But at this point, these actions will be part of a totally new concept of labor, profoundly different from the previous, just because the motivation that generates it will be profoundly different. The motivation will not be anymore obtaining the “old” goods and services, at this point redundant and not really interesting, but it will be an impulse coming mostly from the inside, and not anymore from the outside.

To such a substantial change in the motivation that will generate labor, probably a substantial change in the fields toward which labor will be addressed will follow. Hard to imagine, in fact, that in a scenario where labor will be highly optional and humans will decide to work following a process of introspection, the efforts will be employed to produce souvenirs or irrelevant education. Possibly those that will get a strong momentum will be new fields like genetic experimentation, space exploration, and in particular the research on how the mind works.

So, the one I’m describing here is a scenario in which humans would stop working -but for what is the old concept of work-. However many of them could stay active by adopting a new philosophy, and according to it they could more often start to feel to want to “work”.

My journey

I’ve been lucky enough to reach the question what do I do with my time? well prepared. Unemployment is something that I searched for and that I wanted strongly. The reason for my determination came in fact from having taken the time to decide what was the meaning of life, for what I wanted to use mine.

The answer that I found, that went through refinement with time anyway and that is still being refined, is that the meaning of life is love: the love that we give and the love that we receive. Secondly, the meaning of life consists also in exploring and understading better the universe, enjoying the beautiful things that exist, and producing new beautiful things.

This type of vision had effects in many areas of my life, and obviously also on my practical concept of job. The concept I had before became obsolete and not proposable anymore. Working has become adding something beautiful to the world, and having high quality. To me favoring quality over quantity seems necessary at this point, considering the degree of saturation reached by the human production in many many areas, both of material and immaterial products.

I find that for me it works well, to keep this general principle in mind: in fact whatever is the specific project I decide to work on (be it writing an article, producing a documentary, building a house…), it always reminds me why I’m doing it and how to do it. This doesn’t imply certainty of good results, but I find that it motivates me to act. It’s a principle that created and creates with ease activities to insert in my time, when I feel that I want to “work”. To be honest it’s difficult at this point to label it as working time or free time, as the boundary between the two has inevitably become very blurry.

Picking up a paper in the street is work? Taking care of the garden is work? Even when people ask me what is your job? I’m not really sure what to answer, even if lately I solve the doubt by using the quick and elegant answer “entrepreneur”.

About how much to work, in these latest years I felt like working on my projects just few hours per day, a small amount of time that anyway made me obtain several results that seem good to me. The reason why I didn’t work more are essentially two: the first one is that, actually, I don’t want to miss all the beautiful things “out there” in the universe (there are so many) working most of the time.

The second reason comes from one of my biggest internal conflicts, explained well by the famous allegory of the cave by Plato. In short, I have the impression that some of the most valuable things I have to give to the world (e.g. the useful information I found) often are not of any interest for the world, so spending many hours working on them maybe doesn’t make sense. At the same time, I’m not sure I want to work a lot on something for which there is more interest, but that I don’t “feel” is my strength. This is a doubt I haven’t solved yet, but anyway I believe that it belongs to many other people, so I don’t feel lonely in the conflict 🙂

Actually, I believe that is right through this type of internal “journeys” (introspection, as I wrote above) that the redefinition of labor could pass in the future. If jobs will survive taking a new form, abandoning the current one -often grotesque- of fake jobs, such form could be influenced by processes like the one of disidentification by humans with their job role. So here we’re talking of “reviewing” the relationship with the ego, a relationship not easy… at all.

Notes: While fascinating, this topic is to say the least theoretical and philosophical. The article could have some contradictions, however I believe that it contains several useful points.

Related: The function of labor, What is your work ethic?

Trolled by the Balkans

I have spent most of the last two months traveling, of which some weeks in the Balkans, that I’ve decided to describe in this article. The two friends I was traveling with and I were curious about this part of Europe, that we expected to be the most authentic and “different” compared to the Europe we’re familiar with.

We were certainly not disappointed: the result has been a very interesting trip, even if frankly I’ve seen some of the most absurd places of my life. In fact often during the trip we joked saying that we were constantly trolled by the Balkans, that were presenting in front of our eyes some scenarios that were so weird and inexplicable that we were left uncertain and with the feeling “what the heck are we seeing?”.

This is the video that I produced, that contains some of the things seen in the countries I’ve been to: Albania, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia.

General impressions I had during the trip

There is an impressive amount of unused land in these countries, that is not farmed or used for pasture. It’s surprising to think that many people kill each other to live in arid areas of the middle East, while here in the Balkans there is so much fertile land that no one uses. The little agricolture and animal farming often are translated into food with quality that varies from “ok” to “dreadful”.

I perceived a general vibration of obliviousness and sleepiness, mixed to a certain disinterestedness for the environment and the people around, that especially in the inland Balkans produce insanely irregular neighborhoods, chaotic traffic, rows of street vendors and shops that offer all the same products (empty, and I don’t know how they carry on).

Even if here and there there are churches with delightful proportions, and some of them appear in this video, the sense of aesthetics and art is missing a lot. The difference for me, coming from Italy, is really dramatic. I’ve seen entire cities where apparently the idea of decorating a neighborhood with a fountain or a garden has never been taken into consideration.

In return people seemed rather friendly everywhere, and all these places gave me the impression of being safe, where street crimes and robberies are not common events. Also, even if currently I would definitely prefer not to live there stably, I’ve seen a lot of potential in the Balkans: who knows how they will transform in the future?

Specific impressions on the individual countries

Albania: a very, very strange country. The most inexplicable thing are the thousands (many thousands) of unfinished buildings scattered everywhere, built without any criterion. I don’t think that the concept of urban plan exists in Albania. You see a thirty floor skyscraper without windows -abandoned- next to a gas station -abandoned- next to a series of five multicolor condos in ruins -abandoned- next to a roman empire style villa without windows -abandoned-.

There are mosques scattered here and there in the industrial areas, in the countryside, on the mountains, that is hard to imagine they’re ever reached by anyone. In the countryside you see cement bunkers, skeletons of houses that could be inhabited, but with toys and puppets hanging on a rope from the balconies. In the rural areas donkeys are used a lot to transport materials, small ones, like mini-donkeys. In the cities, surprisingly, cars are rather high level, in fact I think I’ve seen many more suvs in Durres and Tirana than in Rome.

Among the best trolls by Albania: seeing two men playing cards on an improvised table, at the side of a highway and under the sun, in the absolute middle of nowhere and very far from any town or city, that make you wonder: a) how did they manage to get there since they don’t seem to have a car b) why there c) why are they playing cards few feet away from the border of the highway, at risk of being hit by a truck. At least go a little bit further and in the shade!

Greece: in this trip we only visited the north part of Greece, that seemed to me depopulated and with a rather dry ladscape. The cities I’ve been to, for example Ioannina and Kastoria, left me the impression of sleepiness I was mentioning above, of not having charisma. Thessaloniki, much bigger, is without any doubt more animated, but too touristy and chaotic for my taste.

One thing that surprised me a bit is that everywhere, especially in the lesser known and more isolated towns, it seems like there are no ancient buildings. I’m used to the picturesque towns of Italy, full of castles, towers, stony buildings and with a medieval appearance. In the north of Greece instead I haven’t seen any town that would suggest a long history. Many small towns are simply groups of houses with the aspect that I would define “normal”: with facades in cement, built recently. And the ancient houses, where have they gone?

Surprisingly, at least for what I was expecting considering the previous trips to Athens, it wasn’t easy to find quality food in the north of Greece. In the supermarkets there was a predominance of processed foods, and little fresh fish. Even finding a restaurant where to eat a real meal has been difficult. In Ioannina for example it seems like there is only a plethora of coffee-bars, where they serve drinks and snacks, but very few restaurants.

Misteries: in the countryside we noticed here and there small fields of tobacco and cotton. What do they do with such small harvests? The tobacco maybe is smuggled, but the cotton? Another mistery is the exaggerated number of pharmacies. In a small town with very small population we counted five, almost one next to the other.

Macedonia: after the break of “normality” in the north of Greece, close anyway to the Europe I’m familiar with, the trolling took off in Macedonia. It’s here that I’ve seen some of the weirdest scenes of the Balkans.

The absurd way of routing the electric wires to the buildings, of which I already had a taste in Albania anyway: large tangles of wires hanging on top of the poles, from which webs depart in all directions. I wonder: if there is a damage at one of the wires, how does the repairman find it in that mess? Again I’ve seen many unfinished and unused buildings (but not as many as in Albania) and an architecture with a style “slightly” inhomogeneous.

One bizarre thing is that several times I observed people trying to find what were the typical traits of people from Macedonia, and I didn’t succeed at all. In Albania, for example, I had found a certain recurrent scheme in the facial structures. In Macedonia instead I’ve been to a couple of cities where, no matter how hard I tried, there was no way, until I surrendered to the evidence: everybody seemed to be completely different from everybody.

In Macedonia I’ve seen one of the highest levels of obliviousness regarding aesthetics (the historical visit to an art gallery containing “artistic” posters that I commented -even if with arrogance- of being able to scribble with a pen myself, maybe while I’m chatting on the phone) and regarding the “concept” of food. The quality of fruits and vegetables seemed ok to me, the problem was to find protein: lack of fresh fish everywhere (anyway forgivable for a inland country) and especially good quality meat (there’s a lot of processed meat and predominantly pork). I’ve never noticed organic food in the supermarkets I’ve been to.

Serbia: I’ve seen very little of Serbia, we just did a raid of few hours with the car, in the south, passing some tiny villages on the road and until we reached Vranje, a town that has very vaguely the appearance of a town on the mountains of north Italy. I haven’t seen enough anyway to notice particular differences from the other countries of the Balkans nearby.

Kosovo: we entered from the south of the country and drove along all the big road that leads to the capital, Pristina. Initially Kosovo fooled us with a landscape full of green and nature, but the scenery changed quickly: the sides of the road gradually started to become crowded with large shops: car dealers, distributors of construction materials, restaurants. An uninterrupted chain of businesses, until the capital, that definitely slows down traffic. All these shops anyway gave me the idea that they had absolutely no customers, and yet they were there: open.

The scene repeated in the city, at Pristina, an impressive quantity of shops of every type, from beauty centers to electronic stores, that seemed open and most of them without customers. I couldn’t understand why they opened those stores and how they were carrying on.

Pristina itself has a wild architecture: skyscrapers mixed with mosques mixed with cement barracks. Here too the tangles of electric wires camp everywhere. It was interesting to discover that the center is patroled by american soldiers, most of them twenty years old unaware guys and with the attitude “we’re saving the world”. Actually, from the little I know about the history of the country, I deduce that they’re kept there walking aroung by America as a warning, after Kosovo has been taken away from Serbia.

To notice, again about businesses, a particular obsession for car washes, seen everywhere, even in the most lonely countryside, but many abandoned long time ago. Also in Kosovo I’ve seen many unfinished and unused buildings. Food situation similar to Macedonia: fruits and vegetables ok and cheap, but a lot of processed food, zero fresh fish and meat mostly industrial. General level of trolling, anyway: extremely high.

Montenegro: according to the statistics the people of Montenegro are among the tallest in the world. Interestingly, as soon as we arrived in the first town in the more internal and mountainous area, we found that everybody did seem taller. We had a confirmation of it even later, looking around in the capital (Podgorica) and on the coast: for some reason montenegrin people are definitely tall.

After the extreme trolling we had by Albania, Macedonia and Kosovo, the feeling I had entering Montenegro has been of a -partial- return to normality. Even if actually I could have suspected it from the name, or do a minimum of research before, I found that Montenegro is almost entirely mountainous, and mountains that are very high. It’s already on the mountains that the quality of the food took a little step forward: in the supermarkets healthy products started to appear, until we reached the coast where finally also some fresh fish appeared (even if less frequently and less cheap that I was hoping).

There are beautiful places on the coast, obviously not those already spoiled by mass tourism like Kotor and Budva, but in general they gave me the impression of lacking character and being a bit “off”. Montenegro is another of those places that transmitted to me a general vibration of sleepiness.

Bosnia-Herzegovina: also in this country we just did a raid in the car of few hours. The area we drove through is one of those that particularly made me have the thought “look how much free land”. I’ve seen entire plateaus without the minimum trace of human presence.

Outside the towns, once again, I noticed the almost total absence of agricolture and animal farming. In the few fields that were farmed I’ve seen basically just tobacco, that I had noticed also in Greece.

Croatia: Croatia became a very popular touristic destination approximately twenty years ago, as it was cheap and with a beautiful sea. The impression I had from this trip is that the situation has changed a bit: the coast is still beautiful, but I fear that tourism eroded the charm of several places.

It’s in Dubrovnik, despite the gorgeous view that I took in my video, that I’ve seen the final phase, and the most extreme, of the effects of mass tourism: rows of clubs, restaurants “for tourists”, souvenir shops, and sleepwalker tourists wandering in the middle. Very far from my desire of seeing authentic places, but definitely interesting from an “anthropological” point of view, as commented by one of my friends.

From the few days I’ve spent there during this trip, Croatia transmitted to me a vibration similar to the one of Montenegro: beautiful, very beautiful in some places, but skimmed of the touristic buzz a little bit off, and lacking charisma.

Notes: I learned that the puppets hanging from the balconies of Albania are “dordolec” (scarecrows), that according to the popular belief protect the house, the family and the animals from evil eye and envy. -Article originally published in italian on October 31, 2016, this is its translation to english.-

Trollati dai Balcani

Ho passato buona parte degli ultimi due mesi in viaggio, di cui alcune settimane nei Balcani, che ho deciso di raccontare in questo articolo. A me e ai due amici con cui viaggiavo incuriosiva questa parte di Europa, che ci aspettavamo essere la più autentica e “diversa” rispetto all’ Europa con cui siamo familiari.

Non siamo certo rimasti insoddisfatti: il risultato è stato un viaggio molto interessante, anche se francamente ho visto alcuni tra i posti più assurdi della mia vita. In effetti spesso durante il viaggio scherzavamo dicendo di subire continuamente un trolling da parte dei Balcani, che ci presentavano davanti agli occhi degli scenari così strani e inspiegabili che rimanevamo incerti e con la sensazione “che cosa cavolo stiamo vedendo?”.

Questo è il video che ho prodotto, che contiene alcune delle cose viste nei paesi in cui sono stato: Albania, Grecia, Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Bosnia-Erzegovina, Croazia.

Impressioni generali avute durante il viaggio

C’è una quantità impressionante di terreni inutilizzati in questi paesi, che non vengono coltivati né dati al pascolo. È sorprendente pensare che molte persone si uccidono per vivere in aree aride del medio oriente, mentre qui nei Balcani c’è così tanta terra fertile che nessuno utilizza. La poca agricoltura e pastorizia spesso si traducono in cibo di qualità che va da “ok” a “agghiacciante”.

Ho percepito una vibrazione generale di oblio e assopimento, mischiati a un certo disinteresse per l’ambiente e le persone intorno, che specie nei Balcani dell’entroterra producono quartieri pazzescamente disordinati, traffico caotico, file venditori di strada e di negozi che offrono tutti gli stessi prodotti (vuoti, e che non so come vadano avanti).

Nonostante qua e là ci siano delle chiese dalle proporzioni deliziose, alcune delle quali appaiono in questo video, manca tantissimo il senso dell’ estetica e dell’arte. La differenza, per me che vengo dall’Italia, è davvero drammatica. Ho visto intere città in cui l’idea di abbellire un quartiere con una fontana o un giardino sembra non essere mai stata presa in considerazione.

In compenso le persone mi sono sembrate ovunque piuttosto amichevoli, e tutti questi paesi mi hanno dato l’impressione di essere sicuri, in cui crimini di strada e rapine sono eventi poco comuni. Inoltre, anche se attualmente proprio non vorrei viverci stabilmente, nei Balcani ci ho visto tanto potenziale: chissà come si trasformeranno in futuro?

Impressioni specifiche sui singoli paesi

Albania: un paese tanto, ma tanto strano. La cosa più inspiegabile sono le migliaia (tante migliaia) di edifici incompiuti sparsi ovunque, costruiti senza alcun criterio. Non credo esista il concetto di piano regolatore in Albania. Vedi un grattacielo di trenta piani senza finestre -abbandonato- accanto a un distributore di benzina -abbandonato- accanto a cinque palazzetti multicolor a schiera diroccati -abbandonati-, accanto a una villa stile impero romano senza finestre -abbandonata-.

Ci sono moschee sparse qua e là nelle aree industriali, nelle campagne, sui monti, che è difficile immaginare che vengano mai raggiunte da qualcuno. Nelle campagne vedi bunker di cemento, scheletri di case che potrebbero essere abitate, ma con pupazzi di stoffa impiccati a una corda e penzolanti dai balconi. Nelle aree rurali si utilizzano molto gli asini per trasportare i materiali, di taglia piccola, come mini-asini. Nelle città, a sorpresa, le automobili sono piuttosto di alto livello, credo infatti di aver visto molti più suv a Durazzo e Tirana che a Roma.

Tra i migliori troll subiti dall’Albania: vedere due uomini giocare a carte su un tavolino improvvisato, vicino al bordo di un’autostrada e sotto il sole, nel mezzo assoluto del nulla e lontanissimi da qualunque paese o città, che ti chiedi: a) come hanno fatto ad arrivare lì che non sembrano avere la macchina b) ma perché sono lì c) perché stanno giocando a carte a un metro dal bordo strada, a rischio di essere travolti da un camion. Almeno mettetevi un po’ più scostati e all’ombra!

Grecia: in questo viaggio abbiamo visitato solo la parte nord della Grecia, che mi è sembrata depopolata e con un paesaggio piuttosto asciutto. Le città in cui sono stato, ad esempio Ioannina e Kastoria, mi hanno lasciato l’impressione di assopimento di cui scrivevo sopra, di non possedere carisma. Salonicco, molto più grande, è senz’altro più animata, ma troppo turistica e caotica per i miei gusti.

Una cosa che mi ha un po’ sorpreso è che dovunque, soprattutto nei paesini meno conosciuti e più isolati, non sembrano esserci edifici antichi. Io sono abituato ai paesini pittoreschi dell’Italia, pieni di castelli, torri, costruzioni in pietra e dall’aspetto medievale. Nel nord della Grecia invece non ho visto nessun paese che tradisse una lunga storia. Molti piccoli paesi sono semplicemente gruppi di case dall’aspetto che definirei “normale”: con facciate in cemento, costruiti di recente. E le case antiche dove sono andate a finire?

Sorprendentemente, almeno per quanto mi aspettavo considerando i precedenti viaggi ad Atene, non è stato facile trovare cibo di qualità nel nord della Grecia. Nei supermercati c’era una predominanza di alimenti processati, e poco pesce fresco. Anche trovare un ristorante dove consumare un vero pasto è stato difficile. Ad Ioannina ad esempio sembra esserci solo una marea di caffè-bar, dove servono bevande e snack, ma pochissimi ristoranti.

Misteri: nelle campagne abbiamo notato qua e là piccoli campi di tabacco e di cotone. Che senso ha avere produzioni così piccole? Il tabacco magari viene rivenduto di contrabbando, ma il cotone? Un altro mistero è il numero esagerato di farmacie. In un paesino con piccolissima popolazione ne abbiamo contate cinque, quasi una accanto all’altra.

Macedonia: dopo l’intervallo di “normalità” nel nord della Grecia, che è comunque vicina all’Europa con cui sono familiare, il trolling è entrato nel vivo in Macedonia. È qui che ho visto alcune tra le scene più strane dei Balcani.

La maniera assurda di indirizzare i cavi elettrici negli edifici, di cui avevo comunque avuto già un assaggio in Albania: grossi grumi di cavi appesi in cima ai pali, da cui partono ragnatele in tutte le direzioni. Mi chiedo: se c’è un guasto ad uno dei cavi, come fa l’operaio a individuarlo in quel casino? Di nuovo ho visto tanti edifici incompiuti ed inutilizzati (ma non tanti quanti in Albania) e un’architettura dallo stile incredibilmente disomogeneo.

Una cosa curiosa è che più volte ho osservato le persone cercando di individuare quali fossero i tratti tipici della gente della Macedonia, e non ci sono riuscito affatto. In Albania, ad esempio, avevo trovato un certo schema ricorrente nelle strutture facciali. In Macedonia invece sono stato in un paio di città in cui, per quanto mi sforzassi, non c’è stato verso, finché mi sono dovuto arrendere all’evidenza: tutti sembravano avere tratti completamente diversi da tutti.

In Macedonia ho visto uno dei livelli più alti di oblio rispetto all’estetica (rimarrà alla storia la visita in una galleria d’arte contenente poster “artistici” che ho commentato -pure con arroganza- di poter scarabocchiare anch’io con la penna, magari mentre sono al telefono a chiacchierare) e al “concetto” di cibo. La qualità di frutta e verdura mi è sembrata ok, il problema è stato reperire le proteine: mancanza di pesce fresco ovunque (comunque giustificabile per un paese dell’entroterra) e soprattutto di carne di buona qualità (c’è tantissima carne processata e prevalentemente di maiale). Non ho mai notato cibo biologico nei supermercati in cui sono entrato.

Serbia: della Serbia ho visto pochissimo, abbiamo appena fatto un’incursione di qualche ora in macchina, nel sud, incontrando qualche villaggio piccolissimo sulla strada e fino a raggiungere la cittadina di Vranje, che ha molto vagamente l’aspetto di una cittadina di montagna del nord Italia. Non ho visto abbastanza comunque per poter notare particolari differenze rispetto ai paesi confinanti dei Balcani.

Kosovo: siamo entrati dal sud del paese e abbiamo guidato lungo tutto lo stradone che conduce alla capitale, Pristina. Inizialmente il Kosovo ci ha illusi con un paesaggio pieno di verde e natura, ma lo scenario si è velocemente trasformato: i bordi della strada hanno cominciato a popolarsi di negozi di grandi dimensioni: rivenditori di automobili, rivenditori di materiale edile, ristoranti. Una catena ininterrotta di attività commerciali, fino alla capitale, che rallenta decisamente il traffico. Tutti questi negozi mi davano comunque l’idea di non avere assolutamente clienti, eppure erano lì: aperti.

La scena si è ripetuta in città, a Pristina: una quantità impressionante di negozi di qualunque tipo, da centri estetici a rivenditori di elettronica, che sembravano sempre e per la maggior parte senza clienti. Non mi spiegavo perché li avessero aperti e come andassero avanti.

Pristina stessa ha un’architettura selvaggia: grattacieli mischiati a moschee mischiate a caserme di cemento. Anche qui i grumi di cavi elettrici campeggiano ovunque. È stato interessante scoprire che il centro è pattugliato da soldati americani, per lo più ragazzi ventenni inconsapevoli e con l’attitudine “stiamo salvando il mondo”. In realtà, dal poco che so della storia del paese, deduco che vengano tenuti lì a passeggiare dall’America come monito, dopo che il Kosovo è stato sottratto alla Serbia.

Da segnalare, ancora riguardo le attività commerciali, una particolare ossessione per gli autolavaggi, visti ovunque, anche nelle campagne più sperdute, ma di cui molti abbandonati da tempo. Anche in Kosovo ho visto molti edifici incompiuti e inutilizzati. Situazione cibo simile alla Macedonia: frutta e verdura ok ed economiche, ma tantissimo cibo processato, zero pesce fresco e carne per lo più industriale. Livello di trolling generale, comunque: altissimo.

Montenegro: secondo le statistiche la popolazione del Montenegro è tra le più alte del mondo. Curiosamente, appena arrivati nel primo paesino della zona più interna e montagnosa, abbiamo constatato subito che davvero tutti sembravano più alti. Ne abbiamo avuto conferma anche in seguito, guardandoci intorno nella capitale (Podgorica) e nelle zone costiere: per qualche motivo la popolazione montenegrina è decisamente alta.

Dopo il trolling estremo subito da Albania, Macedonia e Kosovo, la sensazione che ho avuto entrando in Montenegro è stata di un -parziale- ritorno alla normalità. Anche se in effetti avrei potuto sospettarlo dal nome, o fare un minimo di ricerca prima, ho scoperto che il Montenegro è quasi totalmente montagnoso, e montagne anche molto alte. È gia sulle montagne che la qualità del cibo ha fatto un piccolo passo avanti: nei supermercati si cominciavano a trovare prodotti salutari, fino ad arrivare alle coste dove è finalmente apparso un po’ di pesce fresco (seppure meno di frequente e meno economico di quanto si sperava).

Ci sono dei bei posti sulla costa, ovviamente non quelli ormai già rovinati dal turismo di massa come Cattaro e Budua, ma in generale mi hanno dato la sensazione di mancare carattere e di essere un po’ “spenti”. Il Montenegro è un’altro di quei posti che mi ha trasmesso una vibrazione generale di assopimento.

Bosnia-Erzegovina: anche in questo paese abbiamo fatto solo un’incursione in macchina di qualche ora. L’area che abbiamo attraversato è proprio una di quelle che maggiormente mi ha fatto venire il pensiero “guarda quanta terra libera”. Ho visto interi altipiani senza la minima traccia di presenza umana.

Fuori dalle cittadine, ancora una volta, ho notato la quasi totale assenza di agricoltura e pastorizia. Nei pochi campi coltivati ho visto più che altro il tabacco, che avevo notato spesso anche in Grecia.

Croazia: la Croazia era diventata una destinazione turistica molto popolare circa venti anni fa, perché economica e con un mare molto bello. L’impressione che ho avuto in questo viaggio è che la situazione sia un po’ cambiata: la costa è ancora bellissima, ma temo che il turismo abbia eroso il fascino di diversi posti.

È a Ragusa, nonostante il bellissimo panorama che ho ripreso nel mio video, che ho visto la fase finale, e più estrema, degli effetti del turismo di massa: file di club, ristoranti “per turisti”, negozi di souvenir, e turisti sonnambuli a girovagare nel mezzo. Ben distante dal mio desiderio di vedere luoghi autentici, ma decisamente interessante da vedere dal punto di vista “antropologico”, come ha commentato uno dei miei amici.

Dai pochi giorni che ci ho trascorso in questo viaggio, la Croazia mi ha trasmesso una vibrazione simile a quella del Montenegro: bella, bellissima in alcuni punti, ma al netto del ronzio turistico un pochino spenta, e carente carisma.

Note: ho appreso che i pupazzi appesi ai balconi dell’Albania sono dei “dordolec” (spaventapasseri), che secondo la credenza popolare servono a proteggere la casa, la famiglia e gli animali dal malocchio e dall’invidia.


I find that vicarious is a very interesting word, especially because it describes the behavior of a huge number of people.

Living life vicariously means living it not in person, directly, but in a participatory way: through someone else. To the life experiences of this “someone else” the vicarious participates by staying few steps behind -at safety distance- but still close enough to be able to observe his adventures.

A very widespread example are the parents who live life vicariously through their children. It’s very easy to identify them on the social networks because often as profile picture they use -instead of a picture of themselves- a picture of themselves with their children, or worse, of their children only. They don’t see themselves as separate entities anymore: they identify completely with the children. If in a conversation you ask them “how are you doing” or “is there anything new”, they rapidly switch to telling you how their children are doing, or what their children are doing. The joys, the worries, the more meaningful experiences of life are about the children, from whom all the satisfactions and the unsatisfactions are derived.

This behavior of transferring every project on the children as soon as they are born, and at the same time ceasing to try to realize any own project, is so widespread that it’s almost considered “normal”. But unfortunately this concept of parenting, as parasitizing the life of children, is the perfect recipe for unhappiness: both of the children and of the parents.

A second example of vicarious behavior which is extremely relevant are those who watch a lot of movies and tv series. Creating interesting situations in real life often requires a certain amount of work, so they prefer to feel the excitement of a treasure hunt from the comfort of a movie theater, or participate to the flirt between two attractive actors from the sofa at home, maybe without having to care too much about staying in shape.

The approach and the motivation are exactly the same of the previous case: the vicarious parents send the children ahead so then they can be spectators, in this case the actors are sent ahead and of these, even more properly, people become spectators.

It took me awhile to have clear why many people who are into personal development -both the “gurus” and the “practitioners”- don not convince me, and this despite the ideas that they discuss often are actually very valuable.

The reason is that in my view they focus too much on the methods, for example “how to stay in shape” or “how to generate passive income”, so much that they lose sight that these methods are only useful to create the means to reach a goal, but they’re not the goal themselves.

While many enthusiasts of personal development focus for ever on how to stay in shape, how to reach financial freedom, how to develop creativity, there are people that already apply in “autopilot” the methods for staying in shape, having financial freedom, developing creativity, without talking too much about it or almost without even remembering that they do, but then they also take the next step: they use the staying in shape, the financial freedom and the creativity to produce things in the job they do.

For example, browsing the Wikipedia page of many successful people, actors, athletes, musicians, entrepreneurs, often there is some recurrent information that comes out: they pay a lot of attention to the diet, they exercise regularly, they do yoga or meditation, they don’t spend 40 hours in an office for a salary but instead, even if they work in particular sectors (for example the actors), often they have entrepreneurial activities “beside”, and so on.

And yet in the interviews they rarely waste too much time discussing these practices, for them they only represent necessary routines, that they do to put themselves in the conditions to do a good job -in whatever sector they work-.

This to say that even if I appreciate a lot the attitude and the ideas of many people in the sector of personal development, more and more often I tend to take as reference not them, but directly those successful people who already channel the results of their personal development work in the job. So, not the guru who is expert of staying in shape, as much as the athlete who uses his shape in the sport. Not the guru who “talks” about creativity, as much as the director who puts the creativity in his movies. And so on.

I noticed that for many adult people learning insistently new things, without a precise project, represents an escape from doing.

I realized it for the first time at the end of the university, noticing among the other students -who like me just got their degree- the tendency to insist, of wanting to study more. PHD, MBA, various specialization courses. Some were even starting all over again, to take a second university degree. It seemed to me that only few of those guys were doing that following a precise strategy, to become academic teachers. The others simply seemed to want to maintain the status of “students” as long as possible, to delay the moment of doing.

Many years have passed, but I still see this tendency of wanting to stay “students” among many adults: same age as me (35), but even adults well over 40 and 50.

A very common case that I notice today, for example, is learning a foreign language. Several friends and acquaintances come to my mind who, in this period, are learning languages like french, spanish, chinese, german. Almost none of them has a concrete project related to that: “I study french because I want to export products in France”, but has the vague motivation “it’s a good additional knowledge” and “you never know it could be useful someday”.

This phylosophy doesn’t make any sense to me -since to study you spend resources (time and effort) why spending them on something that probably will never have practical effects on life?- but even more importantly it seems suspicious: I think that often people use the learning insistently new things, when adult, as an excuse to tell themselves that they’re making progress in life… while they’re actually stuck at the same place. Learning is an easy escape, because it’s an activity that has good reputation in the society, and it’s generally seen as important and commendable.

I think that there comes a moment in life, when we become adult, when it’s time to “reverse the flow”: to stop to focus on absorbing constantly new notions, decide what we want to do in life, and do it.

Doing it often means very different things that just having fun learning notions. It means to put in practice what we already know. It means finding the courage to leave the job we hate to start doing the other job we know is the right one. For a writer it can mean the discipline of staying every day at the computer writing for some hours, without being distracted by social networks. For an athlete it can mean the discipline of training in the gym every day, and repeat every day the choice of giving up the processed food in favor of the healthy food.

In fact maybe these are the only two things, that we should really learn when adult: courage and discipline.

It took me a long time to understand what meditation consist of, but finally I think I got it.

Actually I think that on this topic there is a lot of confusion, so many people “think” that they’re meditating, while they’re actually doing something else. After having made several unsuccessful attempts in the past myself, today I think I’ve understood enough to be able to provide my interpretation.

Meditating means being here and now, a concept that is rather famous today. The problem with the here and now is that it’s a damn difficult status to sustain. I used to see it in my attempts of meditation in the past. I used to free my mind from useless thoughts and finally I would start to absorb the reality around: the green of the plants, the buzz of the insect flying behind me, the noise of a distant car. But time few seconds and I was lost in thoughts again: what do I eat later for dinner? …tomorrow I have to write to the accountant… And so on.

Each time, when I returned to here and now realizing that I just got lost in my thoughts, I would take it as a defeat, and I would give up for the frustration. Until I realized that, instead, this is exactly the practical mechanism of meditation.

Getting lost in thoughts is inevitable for an untrained mind. And the mind is always at work projecting useless thoughts: ruminations of past events, anticipations of future events, putting labels to everything we see.

But the real game is, once we get lost in these thoughts, to awaken and return here and now. Get lost and return here and now. Get lost and return here and now. Get lost and return here and now. Many times, in a similar way to when we train our muscles at the gym. I heard the journalist Dan Harris make this comparison, and it seemed very appropriate to me.

At the gym we train the muscles, by doing several repetitions lifting weights. In meditation we train the mind, returning several times here and now after we get lost in thoughts. Today I see meditation this way, and this is how I practice it, with the same spirit I adopt when I go to the gym.

Again about the mind, some time ago I was discussing “spiritual” topics with a friend, and I asked him the following question: what do you think is the difference between consciousness and mind?

Even if in that period I was starting to be rather familiar with the two concepts, I had the tendency to confuse them, that’s why I asked his opinion. His answer was simple: he said that in his view the mind is a creation of consciousness. I reflected on these words several times later, and yes, now it seems obvious to me that this is exactly the difference.

So according to this view, consciousness is a “greater” concept and the mind a “smaller” concept. Consciousness created the mind as a tool and gave it us to use it, similarly to the physical body, but with the difference that the mind is impalpable.

Even if for many this revelation may be a banality, I think that for me it’s been very useful to see this triangular structure: cosciousness above, body and mind below as tools to be used.

It’s very useful especially in relation with the mind, since I’ve often forgot its presence in the past (and I still forget): for the fact that it’s impalpable, for the type of education I received, and for the type of society I live in.

Remembering that the mind is there made me want to study it and search for information about it, and this helped me reach interesting concepts, for example the idea that not only an individual mind exists, but also a collective mind. On a more practical level instead it made me want to train it, from here the interest in meditation.

Needless to say, after a certain amount of training, today my mind is still a mess (I suspect that it’s a mess for many people however), but I am confident that it will also get some abs sooner or later.

Notes: The book to read to understand the concept of here and now is The power of now by Eckhart Tolle. This article was originally published on July 7, 2016 in italian, this is its translation in english.


Trovo che vicario sia una parola molto interessante, soprattutto perché descrive il comportamento di un numero enorme di persone.

Vivere la vita vicariamente significa viverla non in prima persona, direttamente, bensì in maniera partecipata: tramite qualcun altro. Alle esperienze di vita di questo “qualcun altro” il vicario partecipa tenendosi qualche passo indietro -a distanza di sicurezza- ma comunque abbastanza vicino da poterne osservare le avventure.

Un esempio straordinariamente diffuso sono i genitori che vivono la vita vicariamente tramite i propri figli. E’ facilissimo individuarli sui social network perché spesso come foto del profilo personale impostano -anziché una foto di se stessi- una foto di se stessi assieme ai figli, o addirittura dei figli soltanto. Non vedono nemmeno più se stessi come entità separate: si identificano completamente con i figli. Se in una conversazione chiedi loro “come va” o “ci sono novità”, passano velocemente a raccontarti di come stanno i figli, o di cosa stanno facendo i figli. Le gioie, le preoccupazioni, le esperienze più significative della vita riguardano i figli, dai quali vengono ricavate tutte le soddisfazioni e le insoddisfazioni.

Questo comportamento, cioè al momento in cui si fanno figli trasferire su di essi ogni progetto e contemporaneamente smettere di provare a realizzare qualunque progetto proprio, è talmente diffuso che è quasi considerato “normale”. Ma purtroppo questa concezione della genitorialità, come parassitaggio della vita dei figli, è la ricetta perfetta per l’infelicità: sia dei figli che dei genitori.

Un secondo esempio di comportamento vicario estremamente rilevante è dato da chi guarda molti film e serie televisive. Creare situazioni interessanti nella vita vera spesso richiede una certa dose di lavoro, per cui si preferisce provare l’eccitazione di una caccia al tesoro dal comfort di una sala cinematografica, o partecipare al flirt tra due attori attraenti dal divano di casa, magari senza doversi preoccupare troppo di tenersi in forma.

L’approccio e la motivazione sono esattamente gli stessi del caso precedente: i genitori vicari mandano avanti i figli per poi farne da spettatori, in questo caso si mandano avanti gli attori e di questi, ancora più propriamente, si fa da spettatori.

Ci ho messo un po’ ad avere chiaro perché molti adepti dello sviluppo personale -sia i “guru” che i “praticanti”- non mi convincono, e questo nonostante le idee che discutono spesso sono effettivamente molto valide.

Il motivo è che mi sembra che si concentrino troppo sui metodi, ad esempio “come stare in forma” o “come generare reddito passivo”, così tanto da perdere di vista che questi metodi servono soltanto a creare i mezzi per raggiungere uno scopo, ma non sono essi stessi lo scopo.

Mentre molti appassionati di sviluppo personale si concentrano in eterno su come stare in forma, come raggiungere l’indipendenza economica, come sviluppare la creatività, c’è gente che i metodi per stare in forma, avere libertà economica, sviluppare la creatività li applica già in modalità “pilota automatico”, senza né discuterne tanto né quasi ricordarsene, ma poi fa anche il passo successivo: utilizza lo stare in forma, la libertà economica e la creatività per produrre cose nel lavoro che fa.

Ad esempio, spulciando la pagina Wikipedia di molte persone di successo, attori, atleti, musicisti, imprenditori, saltano spesso fuori certe informazioni ricorrenti: prestano molta attenzione alla dieta, fanno esercizio fisico regolarmente, praticano yoga o meditazione, non spendono 40 ore in ufficio in cambio di uno stipendio ma al contrario, anche se lavorano in settori particolari (ad esempio gli attori), spesso hanno attività imprenditoriali “di lato”, e via dicendo.

Eppure raramente nelle interviste perdono troppo tempo a parlare di queste pratiche, per loro non rappresentano altro che routine necessarie, che fanno per mettersi nelle condizioni di fare un buon lavoro -in qualunque settore essi lavorino-.

Questo per dire che anche se apprezzo molto l’attitudine e le idee di parecchie persone nel settore dello sviluppo personale (settore in cui io “sguazzo” parecchio) più vado avanti e più tendo a prendere come riferimento non loro, bensì direttamente quelle persone di successo che già canalizzano i risultati del loro sviluppo personale nel lavoro. Quindi non tanto il guru della forma fisica, quanto l’atleta che usa la forma fisica nello sport. Non tanto il guru che “parla” di creatività, quanto il regista che la creatività la mette nei suoi film. E così via.

Ho notato che per molti adulti imparare a oltranza cose nuove, senza uno progetto preciso, costituisce una scappatoia rispetto a fare.

Me ne accorsi la prima volta al termine dell’università, notando tra i colleghi studenti -che come me si erano appena laureati- la tendenza a insistere, a voler studiare ancora. Dottorato, master, esami di stato, corsi di specializzazione. Alcuni addirittura ricominciavano tutto, per prendere una seconda laurea. Mi sembrava che solo pochi di quei ragazzi lo facessero seguendo una strategia precisa, per diventare docenti accademici. Gli altri parevano semplicemente voler mantenere lo status di “studenti” il più a lungo possibile, rimandando il momento del fare.

Sono passati molti anni, eppure questa tendenza a voler restare “studenti” la vedo ancora tra moltissimi adulti: coetani 35 enni, ma anche adulti ben sopra i 40 e 50 anni.

Un caso molto comune che noto oggi, ad esempio, è quello di imparare una lingua straniera. Mi vengono in mente diversi amici e conoscenti adulti che in questo periodo stanno studiando chi il francese, chi lo spagnolo, chi il cinese, chi il tedesco. Quasi nessuno di loro ha effettivamente un progetto a riguardo: “studio il francese perché voglio esportare prodotti in Francia”, ma ha la vaga motivazione “è pur sempre una conoscenza in più” e “non si sa mai potrebbe tornare utile”.

Questa filosofia mi sembra insensata -visto che per studiare si spendono risorse (tempo e impegno) che senso ha spenderle per sapere qualcosa che probabilmente non avrà mai effetti pratici sulla vita?- e soprattutto mi sembra sospetta: temo che si utilizzi l’imparare a oltranza, da adulti, come scappatoia per raccontarsi che si stiano facendo dei progressi nella vita… mentre in realtà si resta fermi nello stesso punto. Imparare è una scappatoia facile, perché è un’attività che gode di una buona reputazione nella società, è generalmente vista come importante e raccomandabile.

Io credo che arrivi il momento, da adulti, in cui è ora di “invertire il flusso”: smettere di concentrarsi ad assorbire continuamente nozioni nuove, decidere cosa si vuole fare nella vita, e farlo.

Farlo spesso significa ben altre cose che trastullarsi a imparare nozioni. Significa mettere in pratica quello che si sa già. Significa trovare il coraggio di lasciare il lavoro che si odia per iniziare a fare l’altro che si sa essere quello giusto. Per uno scrittore può significare la disciplina di mettersi ogni giorno al computer tot ore a lavorare, senza distrarsi coi social network. Per un atleta può significare la disciplina di allenarsi in palestra quotidianamente, e ripetere ogni giorno la scelta di rinunciare al cibo processato a favore di quello salutare.

In effetti forse sono solo queste due, le cose che davvero ci farebbe bene imparare da adulti: il coraggio e la disciplina.

Ci ho messo tanto tempo a capire in cosa consiste la meditazione, ma finalmente credo di esserci arrivato.

In effetti penso che sull’argomento ci sia molta confusione, cosicché molte persone “credono” di meditare, mentre in realtà stanno facendo altro. Dopo aver fatto anch’io parecchi tentativi maldestri in passato, oggi credo di averne capito abbastanza da poter fornire la mia interpretazione.

Meditare significa essere qui e adesso, un concetto che ormai è piuttosto famoso. Il problema con il qui e adesso è che è uno stato dannatamente difficile da sostenere. Lo vedevo nei miei tentativi di meditazione in passato. Sgombravo la mente da pensieri inutili e finalmente iniziavo ad assorbire la realtà intorno: il verde delle piante, il rumore dell’insetto che volava dietro di me, il rombo di un’automobile lontana. Ma tempo pochi secondi e mi ero già perso nei pensieri un’altra volta: che cosa mangio stasera a cena? …domani devo scrivere al commercialista… E così via.

Ogni volta, quando ritornavo qui e adesso accorgendomi che mi ero appena perso a fare una scampagnata tra i pensieri, la prendevo come una sconfitta, e lasciavo perdere per la frustrazione. Finché ho capito che invece è proprio questo il meccanismo pratico della meditazione.

Perdersi spesso nei pensieri è inevitabile per una mente poco allenata. E la mente è sempre all’opera a proeittarci pensieri inutili: ruminamenti di eventi passati, anticipazioni di eventi futuri, appiccicare etichette a qualunque cosa vediamo.

Ma il gioco è proprio, una volta che ci si è persi in questi pensieri, accorgersene e ritornare qui e adesso. Perdersi e ritornare qui e adesso. Perdersi e ritornare qui e adesso. Perdersi e ritornare qui e adesso. Tante volte, in modo simile a quando alleniamo i muscoli in palestra. Ho sentito fare questo paragone al giornalista Dan Harris, e mi è sembrato azzeccatissimo.

In palestra alleniamo i muscoli, facendo tot ripezioni sollevando i pesi. Nella meditazione alleniamo la mente, ritornando tot volte qui e adesso dopo esserci persi nei pensieri. Io oggi la meditazione la intendo e la pratico così, con lo stesso spirito con cui vado in palestra.

Sempre a proposito di mente, qualche tempo fa discutevo di temi “spirituali” con un amico, al quale ho fatto la seguente domanda: secondo te qual’è la differenza tra coscienza e mente?

Anche se in quel periodo cominciavo ad essere abbastanza familiare con i due concetti, tendevo ancora a confonderli, per questo gli chiesi un parere. La sua risposta fu semplice: secondo lui la mente è una creazione della coscienza. Su queste sue parole ho poi riflettuto diverse volte, e in effetti adesso mi sembra ovvio che sia proprio questa la differenza.

Secondo questa concezione quindi, la coscienza è un concetto “più grande” e la mente un concetto “più piccolo”. La coscienza ha creato la mente come uno strumento che ci ha messo a disposizione, un po’ come il corpo fisico, con la differenza però che la mente è impalpabile.

Anche se forse per molti questa rivelazione è una banalità, credo che per me sia stato molto utile vedere questa struttura triangolare: coscienza sopra, corpo e mente sotto, come strumenti “parimerito” a disposizione.

Mi è molto utile soprattutto per quanto riguarda la mente, della cui presenza mi sono spesso scordato in passato (e mi scordo ancora): sia per il fatto che è impalpabile, sia per il tipo di educazione che ho ricevuto, sia per il tipo di società in cui vivo.

Ricordandomi che la mente c’è mi ha fatto venire voglia di studiarla e informarmi su di essa, e questo mi ha fatto arrivare a concetti interessanti, ad esempio l’idea che esista una mente individuale ma anche una mente collettiva. All’atto pratico invece mi ha fatto venire voglia di allenarla, da qui appunto l’avvicinamento alla meditazione.

Manco a dirlo, dopo una certa quantità di allenamento, ad oggi la mia mente è ancora un bel casino (ho il sospetto che lo sia per molti però), ma sono fiducioso che anche lei metterà su qualche addominale prima o poi.

Note: Il libro da leggere per capire il concetto di qui e adesso è Il potere di adesso di Eckhart Tolle.