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Between dinosaurs and ice cream

Di Antonio Caneva, 15 giugno 2017

I recently read a book – “Mio fratello rincorre i dinosauri” (“My brother runs after dinosaurs”) published by Einaudi – written with great perceptivity by Giacomo Mazzariol, where the author recounts his experience following the birth of his brother Giovanni, who was born with Down’s syndrome. It is a book you read in one breath; it reveals the greater awareness and human growth that originate from such a condition, where even the most critical aspects may turn into exciting experiences.
Towards the end of the book, the author tells the story of his brother coming home from school with a drawing he made during the art lesson. He shows it with pride; the assigned theme of the drawing was “Illustrate war” and the grade he received was ten out of ten. The drawing’s title: Girl sitting on a bench eating an ice cream, alone.
Happy for his brother’s success, Giacomo cannot comprehend why – being requested to draw something about war – Giovanni has sketched a girl with an ice cream in her hand, and got a ten.
The explanation is in the descriptive evaluation the teacher has written in Giovanni’s diary.
“Requested to illustrate war, all the students in the class have depicted guns, missiles, bombs, dead people. All but one: Mazzariol chose to portray war in his own way: the girl is the sweetheart of a soldier who has gone to war. Now, she has to go to buy ice cream – which, to Giovanni, is the greatest thing in the world – by herself. This, too, is war: going for ice cream on one’s own. (The explanation was supplied by himself, and we have phrased it together). Congratulations, Mazzariol!”

To be able to see beyond the obvious, you need to have disenchanted eyes. Just like war can be not only weapons, guns and dead people, but also a girl sitting on a bench while eating an ice cream, in working life, too, there may be values that are not so obvious to detect. We generally focus on remuneration, closeness to the place of work, or – possibly – career opportunities. Why not also consider other intangible values, such as human growth in relation to the job, the sense of fulfilment of working for a company where you feel at home, the possibility, if you accept the challenge, to go abroad and get acquainted with new ways of living, learn other languages, and so forth. These are all intangible values which, adding to the tangible ones, can fill our lives and make work a friend, not a tyrant.

P.S. I didn’t know whether I should publish these reflections or not, being unsure of the relevance of the initial topic, but then I thought it would be a way to talk about this book, which I strongly recommend; reading it, many will feel moved, and some will recognise themselves.

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