Holy gods

Publish date 26-03-2024

by Mauro Tabasso

Do you have a pair of sturdy and comfortable boots for walking? Well, then follow me up to the three thousand meters of Mount Olympus, home of the divinities of Ancient Greece.

Too tiring? The laziest among you can easily reach Palazzo Te, in Mantua, where the "group photo" of these curious divinities hangs, depicted by the sixteenth-century painter Giulio Romano. Each deity had its own "ministry". Aphrodite, a rather cheerful goddess, managed "the mail of the heart", specialized as she was in matters of love, Ares was instead the god of war, Athena, "the nerd" of the group, dealt with science, while Zeus - thunderbolt in hand – managed the kingdom of heaven, the most prestigious sector of all; Poseidon was the minister of the sea, Hades - since he was equipped with a disturbing scythe - presided over the underworld. Dionysus, for his friends Bacchus, was the tipsiest of all, due to professional deformation we could say, being the god of the vine and wine (how could you not feel sympathy for him?).

But the deity that most intrigues me of all is certainly Apollo, god of music! He is often depicted together with the Muses (lucky him...), of whom he conducted sounds and dances, accompanying them with his lyre, made from the empty shell of a turtle. Apollo, in addition to delighting men and gods with his music, was also (and not surprisingly) the god of medicine. For the ancient Greeks, the soul was located in the diaphragm, the muscle of the respiratory system that we use to sing or play a wind instrument.

The Greeks were the ancestors of modern music therapy, having discovered the healing power of music, a language capable of healing the human soul. The basis of education for Plato, medicine for the soul according to Aristotle, music was even compared to mathematics and astronomy by Pythagoras. Music teaching allowed young people to achieve moderation and self-control, therefore to manage their emotions, leading a life of harmony.

And in this moment, in which we are all a bit victims of Sanremo Festival social-media fever, remembering my classical studies, I can't help but - in addition to turning off the television - asking myself where we took the wrong turn, at which intersection we got lost, which fog enveloped us, which pole we crashed into, only to then realize that we probably didn't hit hard enough to learn the lesson. And again, damn him, I wonder why I'm not like Apollo too and I don't have the Muses around... The only Muse I know is my niece's car. I feel rather like Lucio Dalla who beautifully expresses the human condition in his song Siamo Dei (1980). «One moment, one moment, I have some arguments too…». In short, I may be aging faster than Barbaresco (and I might even barricade myself, if you know what I mean...), but in these evenings during which Amadeus looms, I bless myself with having many books, many beautiful old records, a cat and a beautiful wife ( at least for me she is a Muse...) to keep me company.

Real music neither feeds nor quenches thirst, but nourishes our spirit, cures it by offering it the possibility of flying higher than the difficulties of everyday life, breathing the clear and pure air of beauty. Maybe it won't be exactly Olympus, but a nice glass of Nebbiolo is much better than the nauseating Ambrosia (Bacchus was thought to be an idiot but he knew it well), especially if you don't care about becoming immortal.

Mauro Tabasso
NP February 2024

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