Public Lives/Private Lives
I believe that one of the most problematic and fascinating conflicts of our time is the relationship between our intimate beliefs and our public life.
How do our convictions give shape to our external appearance? Where is the limit between our ideals and the compromising reality of daily life? And, consequentially, where does the line begin between diplomacy and hypocrisy, opportunity and opportunism?
It is a conflict that lies inextricably at the foundation of all of my intellectual and artistic research.
In my book Do You Believe?, I tried to investigate how religion gave shape to the existence of eighteen major American personalities, starting from a simple, but fundamental question: “Do you believe in God?” Personally, I am convinced that whatever the response to that question—and I am not referring only to the people that I have interviewed for the book—every subsequent choice is consequential.
This research continued in my most recent book, a novel entitled Assoluzione, which narrates the end of a friendship between two men sharing the same ideals.
Is it possible to keep alive our ideals while pursuing the dream of success? How is morality affected by ambition? Is truth more important than friendship, according to Aristotle’s “Amicus Plato sed magis amica veritas”? Or, vice versa, is the passionate feeling for a friend holier than what we feel for a never certain entity?
And how does all of this affect the way in which we live our public life?
We live in a world where appearance, public success, and external gratification seem to acquire more and more importance. Is there still space for St. Augustine’s words: “Noli foras ire, in te ipsum redi. In interiore homine habitat veritas”? (Do not desire to go outside. Return in yourself. The truth dwells inside your consciousness.) And, is there something—a faith, a law, a commandment—that commands a sincere interior research? Or, instead, should everyone define his or her own moral? Where is the limit between freedom and religion, relativism and orthodoxy?
And finally, if we agree with St. Augustine’s statement, are we ready to follow his consequent and logical teaching: “Et si tuam naturam mutabilem inveneris, transcende et te ipsum”? (And, if you find that your nature is volatile, transcend even yourself.)