The formula to live forever (179)
Originally, I published “The formula to live forever” in Spanish the 10/11/2021 on Facebook. Today, 28/06/2023, I share it again on my website. I did some updates to improve readability, added more pictures, and this English version for reaching a wider audience as my daily post 179.
With this text, I celebrated 8 years living in Europe. It is the first chapter that I am transcribing to my website, although I have a series of similar texts from previous anniversaries that I would like to bring here as well. I hope to continue this series in the coming years, and to get them all on the same page.
In “The formula to live forever” I speak about some experiences with life and death.
I hope you’ll enjoy it reading as much as I enjoyed writing it.
The formula to live forever
An Alitalia plane landed in Rome exactly 8 years ago. It had taken off from Ezeiza, Buenos Aires on September 11, 2013. In one of the many seats there was me, with many dreams and little luggage. I had brought my watercolours and my water-brush, gifts from Italian friends, with every intention of using them… and I did it, and I still do.
I also went through immigration control at Fiumicino Airport in Rome. Then I bought a coffee and savoured it as if I had never had coffee before in my life. Next, I took a domestic flight to Naples, and at Capodichino Salvatore and Simona were waiting for me. These two lovely souls had taken the time to come and pick me up, even though it was Sunday.
Before heading towards Fisciano (where I would stay to study), we made a technical stop at Decathlon. There, I bought the same shoes that Salvatore bought. I did it trusting his judgement, as I have done so many times before and I will undoubtedly continue to do. I paid 7 € for them, and they are probably still the same price today… You might probably still find the same model and colour on the same shelf. That didn’t change, but in my life… What hasn’t changed in my life since then?
Getting to know death
Each year that passed has been more and more intense. The emotional charge of these years taught me to value every moment of LIFE. Something painful and very intense of these last years was having to sit so often to have coffee with death.
I had last greeted Nono Héctor back in 2002. I still remember that his stillness and my mind could not agree: I could see him breathing… but no, he was not breathing.
In 2008, a little girl in the family left us when she was just a few months old, leaving us with an immense amount of things to rethink and re-signify.
In 2010, it was a little different with my nona Ilda… Perhaps… Maybe because she had spoken to us so much and so calmly about death that I took it more naturally. It wasn’t a wound, it was a kind of previously agreed change of state.
In 2012 it was Nancy’s turn, and I still listen to her voice, and see her travelling and having fun.
Since then, and despite the fact that la parca siempre viene detrás (the reaper always comes behind), the bony woman has not been near me. However, this lady retaliated with a rather intense series:
In 2019, the reaper came for a person who was key during my first years in Italy: Vito Cardone. She took Vito out with no misgivings, without haste or pause, only after Vito got tired of giving lectures on drawing, politics, literature and many, many other things.
Luckily, Vito didn’t live through the pandemic, he didn’t have to learn how to use Zoom or to give lectures with surgical masks. He did not have the pathetic 21st century (in)Shakespearian dilemma of “vax or not vax”.
Vito… He gave me the opportunity to tell my stories for the first time at a talk in the university of Salerno in 2012. Moreover, he asked me for two drawings as soon as I arrived in Italy in 2013, one of Villa Rufolo and the other of the Niemeyer auditorium. Then he published both drawings in his book Viaggiatori d’architettura in Italia (Architectural travellers in Italy). With that same Vito I shared books, stories, and lots of amazing moments between Naples, Rome and Salerno.
Vito. A very hard blow that I did not speak openly to anyone. Nor did anyone ask me, perhaps because very few had any idea of what Vito represented in my life. The only person who knows it in depth had your own share of pain too. Maybe it was a kind of “mutual understanding”.
I didn’t want to see Vito at his funeral. I wanted to keep him in my memory alive. And indeed there he still is, writing e-mails until 9 p.m. at the Fisciano campus… Or eating in some tavern in Naples… He is still there, sharing congresses in Spain and Italy, giving lectures on the life and work of Gaspard Monge and the Grand Tour. There he is, alive.
To inaugurate 2021, the grim reaper showed me his most unpredictable side with the most intense episode I have experienced so far. I hope she’s had enough, but no, she is insatiable…
This lady of bones and cloth played a special trick on me. She caught me unawares, with my guard down, or with my attention very much on the other side. Dante explains it perfectly: it is in gardens that we are most vulnerable because we relax more and let our guard down. On 01/01/2021, the reaper had the idea of smoking a cigarette with none other than Damaris.
Damaris. That skinny Swiss girl that I loved intensely and who gave me everything and more… That person who learned to free the demons of others like a sorceress, and who tried until the last moment to free herself from her own traumas… but she couldn’t.
Damaris. Damaris died… Or in a way, she ended up dying, because when I met her she was already a jumble of broken crystals, perhaps impossible to reunite. And I don’t say this to free myself from guilt in this issue where everyone carries their own burden. No, I say it because sometimes the body goes by inertia and can take much longer to shut down than the mind and soul.
After I had found out, after a lot of running around, financial hardship, covid tests and calls to my psychologist, on 08/01/2020 I was in Brussels, shivering to the bone from the cold of winter and the grim reaper.
I was trembling and weeping disconsolately, looking at that white box full of flowers among a few people admitted to the rite. After 10 years I was back in a church. My body shook violently, as if my soul wanted to leave my body so as not to be there any more.
With some later reflections, I understood that a part of me died with Damaris. A Lucas who had got that far, who had been able to cope with certain things up to that point, but could no longer do it.
Yohana Godoy Talacchia
Also in 2021, although a little more recently, the bony one took another person I loved: a companion in travels, in projects, in my studies… and a lover too, Yohana.
Because of Yohana I even hypothesised about returning to Argentina in 2015, after I graduated in Salerno. But when I went to Córdoba in 2016 to receive my degree, Yohana – maybe already knowing her short life span – raised a full perimetral wall of protection and told me to stop there.
I understood, I think, and although I didn’t like what I experienced at the time or the way she did it, it all helped me to understand that it wasn’t that way…. And no, it wasn’t that way.
With Yohana cycling in Amsterdam, 2015, and by the end of the Graphic Caravan with Frank Ching in La Plata, Argentine, 2012
Marcus Aurelius: death and taxes
My reflections recalling my anniversaries in Europe are usually “much more lively”, recounting and reviewing the frenzy I experienced in those days and since.
Today, because of the subject matter of the message, it may not seem so joyful, but it is important to understand that this reflection is also one of life and joy. Just as my nona Ilda did, we must speak and be aware that death will accompany us all our lives, there is no reason to deny it or to insist that it will not touch us.
The effect of these episodes, at least in my case, has been the resignification, the rethinking, the living more focused on the things that truly make us real, like the sun on my face at this moment as I write… Marcus Aurelius used to say that two things were certain in life: death and taxes, and as he did not have to pay taxes because he was the head of the Roman Empire itself, then he worried about death.
You see, a breathing body does not guarantee that a person is alive. Nor does an inert body guarantee that a person is dead…
Algorithms of you
When someone dies, it means that they stop creating memories in the first person… but what happens while the person is alive, is that an algorithm is gradually implanted in our heads: this algorithm activates the same voice, the same eyes and the same presence…
Thus, the person continues to live, but inside us, who can’t anticipate a certain reaction from a loved one by “seeing” their face or “hearing” their voice to express their emotion? We even say “Uh, I can just imagine the look on his face”.
References to Borges and Berkeley come to me with the Esse rerum est percipi or perceptibility is the being of things: things only exist insofar as they are noticed (J.L. Borges, “La Encrucijada de Berkeley”, Borges Esencial, Ed. La Real Academia Española, 2017, p. 252).
That algorithm that the person leaves us manifests itself through dreams, through songs, through tastes in ice cream, through the colours of clothes and through the mountains that one crosses when one goes on a journey.
Travelling and loving
But be careful: one has to remember those who were and will be part of one’s life, of course, but not to live from and for that memory, and to lose one’s life before the body dies. One has to go on living one’s life, inside and out.
This attempt to hold on to the past is as futile and vain as any kind of holding in this life. It makes no sense whatsoever to want to go back to the way you were when you were with that person. Perhaps, it is healthier to let the “I, who I was with the other”, to die with the other. This way, we can allow LIFE to create “other me’s” within us with those who still are and with those who are to come. So… living a thousand lives in one… is not the formula to live forever?
DO TRAVEL my dear reader. One day we will all be dead, but until that day we will be ALIVE. TRAVEL, discover horizons, landscapes, colours, flavours, music, cultures, expressions… Go to places that were and were not on your list of priorities, discover people who have a different vision of life, learn languages, take risks, try to do what you love the most and if it doesn’t work out, try again until it does. Fill yourselves with first-person experiences and leave a little bit of other people’s Instagram stories for later.
I love you
Tell those next to you how much you love them. Say out loud “I LOVE YOU”. Again: “I LOVE YOU”. You see? Is not that hard, is it? Hug, kiss, have nights of passion and debauchery, but with condoms, have a good glass of wine with that memory, but please, in the name of all of us who are alive: KEEP LIVING.
Today, 10/11/2021, 8 years after my arrival in Europe, I am celebrating with you from Berlin, on a sunny autumn day, and those who know me, they will know how much all of this means.
But tell me dear reader…
Have you seen that life has no character like the grim reaper?
What is your story with death?
Have a good night 💀☀️
These daily posts written during 2023 are part of a collection aimed to celebrate my 10th year’s anniversary in Europe. I write these posts to share things that happened since 2010 when I was in Argentina, a small story during my travels in Europe, details of those moments of my life that brought me until here… You can check the full collection here.