Notes: Calvino, Six Memos,#1- Lightness

  1. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
  2. Metamorphoses by OvidThe Metamorphoses (Latin: Metamorphōseōn librī: “Books of Transformations”) is a Latin narrative poem by the Roman poet Ovid, considered his magnum opus. Comprising fifteen books and over 250 myths, the poem chronicles the history of the world from its creation to the deification of Julius Caesar within a loose mythico-historical framework.

    Although meeting the criteria for an epic, the poem defies simple genre classification by its use of varying themes and tones. Ovid took inspiration from the genre of metamorphosis poetry, and some of the Metamorphoses derives from earlier treatment of the same myths; however, he diverged significantly from all of his models.

    One of the most influential works in Western culture, the Metamorphoses has inspired such authors as Dante Alighieri, Giovanni Boccaccio, Geoffrey Chaucer, and William Shakespeare. Numerous episodes from the poem have been depicted in acclaimed works of sculpture, painting, and music. Although interest in Ovid faded after the Renaissance, there was a resurgence of attention to his work towards the end of the 20th century; today, the Metamorphoses continues to inspire and be retold through various media. The work has been the subject of numerous translations into English, the first by William Caxton in 1480.[2]

    Publius Ovidius Naso (Classical Latin: [ˈpʊ.blɪ.ʊs ɔˈwɪ.dɪ.ʊs ˈnaː.soː]; 20 March 43 BC – AD 17/18), known as Ovid(/ˈɒvɪd/)[1] in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who lived during the reign of Augustus. He was a contemporary of the older Virgil and Horace, with whom he is often ranked as one of the three canonical poets of Latin literature. The Imperial scholar Quintilian considered him the last of the Latin love elegists.[2] He enjoyed enormous popularity, but, in one of the mysteries of literary history, was sent by Augustus into exile in a remote province on the Black Sea, where he remained until his death. Ovid himself attributes his exile to carmen et error, “a poem and a mistake”, but his discretion in discussing the causes has resulted in much speculation among scholars.

    The first major Roman poet to begin his career during the reign of Augustus,[3] Ovid is today best known for the Metamorphoses, a 15-book continuous mythological narrative written in the meter of epic, and for collections of love poetry in elegiac couplets, especially the Amores (“Love Affairs”) and Ars Amatoria (“The Art of Love”). His poetry was much imitated during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, and greatly influenced Western art and literature. The Metamorphoses remains one of the most important sources of classical mythology.[4]

  3. De rerum natura by Lucretius

    De rerum natura (Latin: [deː ˈreːrũː naːˈtuːraː]On the Nature of Things) is a first-century BC didactic poem by the Roman poetand philosopher Lucretius (c. 99 BC – c. 55 BC) with the goal of explaining Epicurean philosophy to a Roman audience. The poem, written in some 7,400 dactylic hexameters, is divided into six untitled books, and explores Epicurean physics through richly poetic language and metaphors.[1]

    Lucretius presents the principles of atomism; the nature of the mind and soul; explanations of sensation and thought; the development of the world and its phenomena; and explains a variety of celestial and terrestrial phenomena. The universedescribed in the poem operates according to these physical principles, guided by fortuna, “chance,” and not the divine intervention of the traditional Roman deities.[2]

    Titus Lucretius Carus (/ˈttəs lʊˈkrʃəs/c. 15 October 99 BC – c. 55 BC) was a Roman poet and philosopher. His only known work is the didactic philosophical poem De rerum natura about the tenets and philosophy of Epicureanism, and which is usually translated into English as On the Nature of Things. Lucretius has been credited with originating the concept of the three-age system which was formalised from 1834 by C. J. Thomsen.

    Very little is known about Lucretius’s life; the only certain fact is that he was either a friend or client of Gaius Memmius, to whom the poem was addressed and dedicated.[1]

    De rerum natura was a considerable influence on the Augustan poets, particularly Virgil (in his Aeneid and Georgics, and to a lesser extent on the Eclogues) and Horace.[2] The work virtually disappeared during the Middle Ages but was rediscovered in 1417 in a monastery in Germany[3] by Poggio Bracciolini, and it played an important role both in the development of atomism (Lucretius was an important influence on Pierre Gassendi[4]) and the efforts of various figures of the Enlightenment era to construct a new Christian humanism.

  4. Doctrines of Epicurus for Lucretius, Doctrines of Pythagoras for Ovid
  5. Ovid depicts Pythagoras in a manner closely resembling Buddha
  6. Epicureanism,Epicureanism is a system of philosophy based upon the teachings of the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, founded around 307 BC. Epicurus was an atomic materialist, following in the steps of Democritus. His materialism led him to a general attack on superstition and divine intervention. Following Aristippus—about whom very little is known—Epicurus believed that what he called “pleasure” was the greatest good, but that the way to attain such pleasure was to live modestly, to gain knowledge of the workings of the world, and to limit one’s desires. This would lead one to attain a state of tranquility (ataraxia) and freedom from fear as well as an absence of bodily pain (aponia). The combination of these two states constitutes happiness in its highest form. Although Epicureanism is a form of hedonism insofar as it declares pleasure to be its sole intrinsic goal, the concept that the absence of pain and fear constitutes the greatest pleasure, and its advocacy of a simple life, make it very different from “hedonism” as it is colloquially understood.

    Epicureanism was originally a challenge to Platonism, though later it became the main opponent of Stoicism. Epicurus and his followers shunned politics. After the death of Epicurus, his school was headed by Hermarchus; later many Epicurean societies flourished in the Late Hellenistic era and during the Roman era (such as those in AntiochiaAlexandriaRhodes, and Ercolano). Its best-known Roman proponent was the poet Lucretius. By the end of the Roman Empire, being opposed by philosophies (mainly Neo-Platonism) that were now in the ascendant, Epicureanism had all but died out, and would be resurrected in the 17th century by the atomist Pierre Gassendi, who adapted it to the Christian doctrine.

    Some writings by Epicurus have survived. Some scholars consider the epic poem On the Nature of Things by Lucretiusto present in one unified work the core arguments and theories of Epicureanism. Many of the papyrus scrolls unearthed at the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum are Epicurean texts. At least some are thought to have belonged to the Epicurean Philodemus.



The idea of moving from solid to lightness; from larger solid objects to tiny bits and particles; from heaviness to lightness. This is the same concept as being explored and proven by quantum mechanics.

Quote P9 paragraph 2

Today every branch of science seems intent on demonstrating that the world rests upon the most minute of entities: DNA messages, the pulses of neurons, quarks and neutrinos that have wandered through space since the beginning of time…

Quote P9 p3

The second industrial revolution doesn’t present us, as the first did, with overwhelming images of rolling mills or molten steel, but rather with bits of information that flow, as electrical impulses, through circuits. We still have machines made of steel, but they now obey bits that are weightless.

Quote P9 p4

Lucretius’s De rerum natura is the first great poetic work in which knowledge of the world leads to a dissolution of worlds solidity and to a perception of that which is infinitely small and nimble and light. Lucretius wants to write the poem of matter, but he warns us from the start that the reality of matter is that it’s made of invisible particles. He is the poet of physical space concreteness, seen in its permanent, unchanging substance, but he begins by telling us that empty space is just as concrete as solid bodies.

Quote P11 p1

If Lucretius’s world is composed of unalterable atoms, Ovid’s is composed of the qualities, attributes, and forms that reveal the distinctiveness of every object and plant and animal and person but that are merely thin sheaths over a common substance which-when stirred by profound emotion-an change itself into radically different forms. (Interesting idea Ovid, kpSF) See transformation paragraph that follows P11,p2

Quote P32 p4

In response to the precariousness of tribal existence-drought, sickness, evil forces-a shaman would nullify the weight of his body and fly to another world, another level of perception, where he might find the strength to alter reality. In centuries and civilizations closer to our own, in villages where women bore most of the weight of a restricted life, witches flew by night on broomsticks and on even lighter contraptions, such as wheat-ears or pieces of straw. Before being codified by the Inquisition, these visions formed part of the popular imagination, and we might even say of actual experience. I consider it an anthropological constant, this nexus between the levitation desired and the deprivation suffered. it’s this anthropological mechanism that literature perpetuates-especially oral literature. In folktales the flight to another world is a common occurrence. It is one of the “functions” catalogued by Vladimir Propp in his Morphology of the Folktale, 1928, one of the methods of “transference of the hero.” It is defined as follows: “Usually the object of the search is found in ‘another’ or ‘different realm, which may be located very far away horizontally or at a great vertical height or depth.” Propp goes on to list various instances in which “the hero flies through the air”: on the back of a house or bird, taking the form of a bird, on a flying ship, on a flying carpet, on the back of a giant or spirit, in the carriage of the devil, and so on.




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