The people of the sea

The European continent is a landmass, but European culture was born out of the Middle Sea, rising from its depths like a Greek goddess or an ancient sea monster, at once beautiful and monstruous. We are the heirs of a crashing wave, not of a patch of land. To claim a territorial right is a misplaced desire, since our patrimony is circumscribed by the shifting shorelines of the Mare Nostrum.

The Sea has always been there, but it’s never been the same. Nothing is more changing than the waters stirred by the gods, the melting pot of molten dreams, fluid loves and endless mythologies, metamorphing into everything and anything.

The ancient European myth is more concerned with water than with land. In the Odyssey, there is far more treacherous sea than reassuring land. The waters claim more lives than the worms of the earth are able to consume.

At the edge of the sea, the sea begins, our destinies are sealed, the hero is dissolved, the stranger becomes familiar and the familiar breaks down.

The sea is a circle, shaping our notions of time and space, the eternal return to a point we’ve always known but never grasped. We walk on the surface of the water, millions of messiahs in search of a home, of truth and redemption. Like Ovid’s Glaucus, we leave the earthly tent of human companionship to join the eternal realm of the deep, having been made, like Dante, consorto in mar de li altri dèi, a companion of the other sea gods (Paradiso 1).

Finally, we swim, rather than walk, through history, bathed by the life-giving water of our common Sea, crushed by its senseless violence, but never undone.

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