Sunday, August 21, 2011

Down with the cyborgs!

Mr. Carlo, citizen of the village of "Santa Brigida", in the hills North of Florence, returning from his daily pilgrimage to the sanctuary of the "Madonna del Sasso" (Our Lady of the Rock). Note that he has walked the path barefoot, holding his shoes in his hands. It is a completely different philosophy than the one that has that you should walk along forest trails wearing shoes that look like miniature battle tanks.

A few days ago, a friend showed me her new sunglasses. A wonder of high tech: the lenses would darken when sensing strong light. I wasn't so impressed, though. I was tempted to tell her something like, "What is wrong with the eyes you have? They are the result of hundreds of millions of years of evolution just to cope with the sun of this planet! Are you a cyborg that you need artificial irises?"

I didn't say that, out of diplomatic skills; but these hi-tech glasses came back to my mind today, when I took a walk in the hills to the sanctuary of the "Madonna del Sasso" not far from where I live. There, I met Mr. Carlo, whom I had met many times before. He is a regular visitor to the sanctuary and you can often see him walking up or down the path that goes there. How old is he? I am not sure, but I think he is well in his 70s. Apparently, going up and down the hill does him some good, for he always seem to be in perfect physical shape.

This time, he told me that he had walked barefoot all the way. Well, I told myself, if Carlo can do that; I should try. So I tried. And here I am, walking the path barefoot. I almost arrived all the way to the top; then I was defeated by the gravel of the last stretch of the path. But I figure that, with a little exercise, that, too, could be done. I am going to try again.

It is a curious feeling that of walking barefoot on stones and pine needles; mainly, you have to pay attention to where you place your foot. You also need a different kind of gait - it seems that you need to take shorter steps than the usual. But, if you do that, walking barefoot on the trail is painless and you get this feeling that you are doing it right; that this is the way you are supposed to walk. It is, of course, a philosophy completely opposite to the one which suggests the use of those "trail shoes;" which often look like miniature battle tanks. Maybe we are all trying to become cyborgs? I don't know what is your impression; mine was that Carlo walking barefoot was a much more likely image of what the future will be than my friend with her hi-tech sunglasses.

I am not sure if this little experience of mine can add something to the ongoing trend of walking and running barefoot, but I thought you might find it interesting; perhaps even amusing. So I wrote it down just after getting back home. If you are curious about the sanctuary, here are a few pictures:

The sanctuary of the Madonna del Sasso, near Santa Brigida, Italy. Brigida is said to to have come from Scotland long ago and to have established her sanctuary in a grotto in the town that today takes her name. There has been a real historical St. Brigit of Kildare, who lived in Ireland during the 5th century AD. It is not reported that she ever traveled to Italy, so, her italian namesake must be someone else, perhaps coming from Ireland as well.

This is the view from the sanctuary of our lady of the rock, these places are usually built in areas where you have this kind of breathtaking view.

And this is the "Rock", or what is left of it, now visible only in the basement of the sanctuary building. It is here that the Virgin Mary appeared to sheperds, during the 15th century.

Curiously, this place is almost non-existing on the Internet, surely not in English. You may find it, however, at these coordinates

 43°51'42.54"N  11°22'59.72"E


Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)