We received through a Brother a cartoon, really nice, which clearly expresses a certain way of thinking, inspired by the current public health situation, and which openly takes a position – even political – in favor of “common sense”, normality, and current and dominant mentality.
For the purposes of these considerations, it does not matter what is the right or wrong behavior, ethically dutiful or sensationally antisocial, stupidly individualistic rather than obtusely conformist: it is an intellectual question and worldview, which concerns the construction of one’s own thought.
There are few lines, very concise and expressive that deserve to be analyzed. The title, first: ‘Chronicles from the aquarium of civil coexistence’, very centered, and which perhaps goes beyond the intentions of the author. Then, two goldfish look at one of their mates – who jumped out of the tank – evidently dead from “too much oxygen” and, while one wonders “why did he come out?”, The other does not give an explanation, but without understanding it, testifies that he shouted “freedom, freedom”. Each of these small elements is a real – perhaps involuntary – brushstroke of an artist.
That civil coexistence is an aquarium rather than a place of nature, is very true; however, it remains to be demonstrated that it – in its current conventions – is really a prevailing value over all the rest. A world with glass walls, completely dependent on the outside for survival, is a faithful image of many environments in which man thrives today: a world of goldfish, in fact. We speak, rightly or wrongly, of goldfishes’ very short memory, but we would rather think of their lack of intelligence: no consciousness of themselves and their state of captivity in a false monad, insufficient in itself.
Proof of this is the “dialogue” between the two conformist fishes, who candidly declare that they have not understood anything of what happened and do not even try to find an explanation. They do not understand that a mate of them, unexpectedly, had perceived a different need: to be free and to get out of the bubble, thus demonstrating the possibility of an alternative thought, as well as – we would say – the existence of a vocation.
It is also truly remarkable that the obtuse goldfish is unable to give any meaning to the word “freedom”, which remains suspended in its meaning, like all those words that need to be embodied in man to be present in the world. Evidently, passing through the conformism of behaviors – specifically requested – we pass to the conformism of thought, as a justification of the behaviors themselves.
We sincerely hope that we all Freemasons, observing this cartoon, sympathize sadly for the little fish that screams “freedom, freedom” and that his sad fate does not make us fearfully think that all in all, a life as a goldfish is preferable to following one’s vocation and taking the relative risks.
Italian Freemasonry often cites the Risorgimento (the 19th century struggle for the unification of Italy), the ideals that animated it and the men who witnessed it, to a large extent Masons themselves; it would indeed be an interesting experiment to observe their reactions in front of this simple, emblematic cartoon, but we doubt that their reactions would correspond to those prevailing nowadays. Freedom of identity and of politics was at that time – and for over a century – deserving of the highest sacrifices, while today it is hardly perceived and even takes on negative traits: a change that we cannot ignore, a detachment in feeling and acting that no longer legitimizes the banal claim of an ideal continuity. This applies to civil society and to the prevailing opinion, but if it concerned the men of the institutions too, we should meditate on it seriously.
The need for freedom is irrepressible in those who grasp its value, while for everyone else it is totally incomprehensible, even frightening, like looking out over an abyss. Likewise, just saying the word freedom disturbs the certainties of tyrants and profiteers, who will always explain to us, paternalistically, that freedom is dangerous, and we have too much of it.
Obviously, the aquarium is not the only place where life is possible; the difficulty lies in finding a way to move from it to a different and better environment. However, at the cost of drowning, the initiate should wish to swim in the widest sea, not to flounder ‘happily’ in a puddle.