In Favor of Eccentrics (Notes from the Casale Street)

U prilog ekscentricima (Zapisi iz ulice Casale)

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“They broke me, put me in a vase and they say they love me,” Rovinj painter Slobodan Vuličević said about himself. That is a quote which today, six years after his death, is in the collection of his thoughts published in the book Notes from the Casale street. The records were created during the fifty years of Vuličević’s life, with no intention of ever being published. It is obvious that it is not their purpose to be for “the others,” but that is part of them. Vuličević argues with himself and like Marcus Aurelius when he writes his Meditaions, reminds himself of the fundamental truths of life, returning the lost sense, the search for peace and regaining freedom that he so cherishes, but that is constantly leaking out of his hands. As if it were Vuličević’s battle’s ironic melody, Branko Miljkovic’s verses, “Will freedom ever be able to sing, as the slaves were singing about her?” follow his battle for freedom through the book.

One who looks for the conventional and who is content with that which is usual and standard will not find something for himself in this book. The book is also not for those looking for an elaborate system of thought, those who will cling to the word, and will not search for that from which the words originate. It is too easy to be offended with Vuličević’s paradoxes and contradictions. In the documentary which summarizes the painter’s life, Man of northern deciduous woods,  he said: “Every thing is absurd, everything is contradictory and to me that is a normal part of life.” In another scene, he tears apart his own pictures and says that the genius is closer to the cow than to the intellectual. How, then, would the average mind refer to Vuličević, apart from eccentric, or weirdo?

Vuličević himself says that he is completely alienated person, the man of the northern deciduous woods. In the Notes, therefore, everyone who is considered estranged, eccentric, or introvert will find something for himself. The book organizes fifty years of wisdom into nine thematic units, the first of which is titled “The Secret”. The first sentence of the book is its manifesto: “Know Reality! Realize the magnificence of what it is!” This sentence shows the spirit of the whole book and illustrates that Vuličević’s eccentricity and paradox are not superficial and banal, but stem from the knowledge that goes beyond that which is presupposed and considered obvious: “I speak in contradictions, that’s fine, those are various versions of the same uncertainties. It is important that it is clear to a man that it is not clear.”

Although sometimes painfully realistic, Vuličević is not dark or depressing. The chapter, “Love” is lined with uplifting thoughts: “I think the pursuit of happiness is ineffective anywhere except in love and kindness,” “Everything which is not love, is hard,” “The power is not in the strengths, but in goodness.” Many insights radiate with quality humor: “Even the headache is cured with love,” “When someone hurts you, give him a flower,” “Severe disease is the love of a woman, I said to myself ‘no more’, and I did it again,” and, “After death I’ll calmly go to God and tell him: ‘I loved my loved one more than you,’ and he will be happy.”

The whole book exudes with the author’s openness to transcendence, which was first born, as he says in the documentary, in a mystical experience which he had when he was six years old and that undoubtedly determined his whole life. At this time, he discovered that life has a meaning, which is for him completely compatible with paradox. After that, he spent his life improving his spiritual senses, and searching for that which surpasses him. In 1953, he said that all that is not spiritual life is lost; the year after that, he said that one can not know God and have a fulfilled life; and before his death, he said that in the intercommunication with the divine, we develop ourselves.

Despite his keen sense of the transcendence, Vuličević was not religious; though he was inspired by the different spiritual traditions, he does not adhere to any one specifically. On the subject of God he says he is not imagining anything, but seeks to experience what is possible; he believes that the meaning of life is getting to know the Absolute. He is not a man of spiritual or philosophical systems because he believes that they lead to the alienation and estrangement from ourselves and from that what is primordial in us. He considers this one of our major diseases, and believes that he also suffers from that disease. This is reflected in his statement, “To treat your soul is a job for life.” After thirty years of writing down his thoughts he says that he’s still speaking the same things. In the chapter entitled “About the self,” he says that all life is bearable where man is allowed to be alone, reaffirming his desire for solitude. However, his goal is not to be alone, but to be alone with himself, because “when a person is alone, God approaches him.”

“Against conventional thought one should not fight with conventional means,” he asserts in the chapter “Knowledge,” and with a number of insights encourages the reader to awake himself, to be authentic. When he says “Be different! Be yourself, bright as a clear river,” this is not the superficial incentive for false freedoms, which is so typical for our times. The incentive is that which is permeated with an awareness that our “suffering fills us as the most magnificent spirituality,” that, “fear and hopelessness lead in prayer,” that, “freedom is the abandonment of everything that is not,” and, “loyalty to what we know is the greatest good.”

This is the book for those who are willing to be shocked and to learn by being shocked, for those who are open to search for meaning in the strangest paradoxes and sentences, for those who want to recognize the beauty of all that surrounds us. Like Vuličević, these persons are often at odds with the world, and this book can serve them as a refuge or shelter where those who say that they love them, break them and put them in a vase. Its 258 pages of thoughts are too big for a review, and one thought from the Notes is sufficient to open the doors to a completely new and different world.

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„Slomili su me, stavili u vazu i kažu da me vole“ rekao je za sebe rovinjski slikar Slobodan Vuličević. Uzdah je to koji se danas, šest godina nakon autorove smrti, nalazi u zbirci njegovih misli objavljenih u knjizi Zapisi iz ulice Casale. Nastajali su Zapisi tokom pedeset godina autorova života, bez namjere da ikada budu objavljeni. Vidljivo je da nije njihova namjena bila da budu „za druge“, već da se u njima Vuličević razračunava takoreći sam sa sobom te poput Marka Aurelija kad piše Samome sebi, sam sebe podsjeća na temeljne istine života, na povratak izgubljenom smislu, na traženje mira i ponovno stjecanje slobode koju toliko cijeni, ali mu ona neprestano istječe iz ruku. Prateći kroz knjigu Vuličevićeve bitke za slobodu, kao da neku ironičnu borbenu melodiju predstavljaju stihovi Branka Miljkovića „Hoće li sloboda umjeti da pjeva kao što su sužnji pjevali o njoj?“

Neće u ovoj knjizi pronaći ništa za sebe onaj koji traži konvencionalno i koji se zadovoljava s uobičajenim i standardnim, naprotiv. Nije knjiga ni za one koji traže razrađen misaoni sustav, one koji će se hvatati za riječi, a neće tragati za onim neizrecivim iz kojeg one izviru. Jer odviše se lako sablazniti Vuličevićevom paradoksalnošću, štoviše, kontradiktornošću. U dokumentarcu Čovjek sjevernih listopadnih šuma koji sabire slikarov život, reći će: „Sve je u apsurdu, sve je kontradiktorno i meni je to normalni dio života“, dok ćemo ga u drugoj sceni gledati kako pali vlastite slike ili kaže kako je genij bliži kravi, nego intelektualcu. Kako bi stoga prosječni um drukčije nazvao Vuličevića nego ekscentrikom, čudakom?

I neka mu bude, Vuličević sam za sebe kaže da je potpuno otuđena osoba, da je čovjek sjevernih listopadnih šuma. U Zapisima će stoga pronaći (nešto za) sebe svaki onaj tko se smatra otuđenim, ekscentrikom, introvertom. Pedeset godina zapisane mudrosti u knjizi je podijeljeno na devet tematskih jedinica, od kojih prva nosi naslov „Tajna“. I možda se već u prvoj rečenici knjige nalazi njezin manifest: „Spoznaj Stvarnost! Shvati veličanstvenost onoga što jest!“ Već se iz nje može okusiti duh cijele knjige i uvidjeti da Vuličevićeva ekscentričnost i paradoksalnost nisu površni i banalni, nego izviru iz spoznaje koja ide onkraj samorazumljivog i pretpostavljenog: „Govorim u kontradikcijama, to je uredu, to su razne verzije iste nejasnoće. Važno je da je čovjeku jasno da je nejasno.“

No, iako ponekad bolno realističan, Vuličević nije mračan ili depresivan. U poglavlju „Ljubav“ nižu se misli: „Mislim da je suvišno traženje sreće bilo gdje, osim u ljubavi i dobroti“, „Sve je teško što nije ljubav“, „Nije snaga u snazi, već u dobroti“. Na doista mnogo mjesta uvidi zrače kvalitetnim humorom: „I glavobolja se liječi ljubavlju“, „Kad te netko povrijedi, odnesi mu cvijet“, „Teška je bolest ljubav prema ženi, rekao sam sebi ‘nećeš više’, i opet sam to učinio“ ili „Smireno smrću odlazim k Bogu i reći ću mu: ‘Više sam volio voljenu ženu no tebe’ i on će biti sretan.“

Cijela knjiga odiše autorovom otvorenošću za transcendenciju koja se prvi puta rodila, kako sam govori u spomenutom dokumentarcu, jednim mističnim iskustvom koje je imao kada mu je bilo šest godina i koje je nedvojbeno odredilo cijeli njegov daljnji život. Dapače, otkrilo mu je da život ima smisla, smisla koji je eto kod njega potpuno spojiv s paradoksom. Nakon toga je cijeli život izoštravao svoja duhovna osjetila i tragao za onim što ga nadilazi, 1953. rekao da sve što nije duhovni život je izgubljeno, godinu poslije da se ne može ne poznavati Boga i imati ispunjen život, a pred smrt da se u interkomunikaciji s božanskim mi razvijamo.

No, iako izoštrenog smisla za nadnaravno, Vuličević nije bio religiozan, iako inspiriran različitim duhovnim tradicijama, ipak se nijednoj izričito ne priklanja. Pod pojmom Boga kaže da ništa ne zamišlja, već nastoji doživjeti moguće, a za smisao života kaže da je spoznavanje Apsoluta. Nije čovjek duhovnih ili filozofskih sustava jer smatra da oni vode otuđenju, a otuđenje od samih sebe i onoga što je iskonsko u nama smatra jednom od naših najvećih bolesti. Boluje i on od te bolesti i toga je svjestan („Liječiti dušu to je posao za cijeli život“) pa sam za sebe kaže da nakon trideset godina zapisivanja misli još uvijek govori jedne te iste stvari. U poglavlju koje nosi naziv „O sebi“ reći će da je svaki život podnošljiv, gdje se čovjeku dozvoljava da bude sam i tako još jednom potvrditi svoju čežnju za samoćom u kojoj mu cilj nije biti sam, nego biti sam sa sobom. A „kad je čovjek u samoći, Bog mu prilazi“.

„Protiv konvencionalnog ne bori se konvencionalnim“ ustvrđuje u poglavlju „Spoznaja“ te nizom uvida potiče čitatelja na buđenje, na autentičnost, na izvornost. I ne, kada Vuličević kaže „Budi drugačiji! Budi ono što jesi, izvoran kao bistra rijeka“, nije to onaj površni poticaj za lažnim slobodama svojstven današnjem vremenu. Poticaj je to koji je prožet sviješću da nas „patnja ispunja kao najveličanstvenija duhovnost“, da „strah i beznađe vode u molitvu“ te da je „sloboda napuštanje svega što nije“ i „odanost onome što spoznajemo kao najveće dobro“.

Knjiga je ovo za sve one koji su spremni biti šokirani i iz toga učiti, za sve one otvorene traženju smisla u paradoksima i najčudnijim rečenicama, za one koji žude za prepoznavanjem ljepote svega što nas okružuje. Kao i Vuličević, takvi su često u neskladu sa svijetom pa im ova knjiga može poslužiti kao utočište ili zaklon kad ih slome i stave u vazu oni koji kažu da ih vole. Ne stane njenih 258 stranica misli u jedan osvrt, a opet, i jedna misao iz Zapisa dovoljna je da nam otvori vrata nekog posve novog i drugačijeg svijeta.

 

Written by Hrvoje Vargić,  a member of our WYA Croatia Chapter.

Solobodan Vuličević is a contemporary Croatian painter from the city of Rovinj and one of the most prominant figures of Croatian art in 20th century. Besides his work as a painter, he made a contribution through the collection of his thoughts, which he was writing throughout his life. “Notes from the Casale Street” is one of such collections in which the author reflects on the core topics of human existence, such as freedom, suffering, happiness, love, beauty, truth and brings many valuable insights for a man’s search for meaning.