An Introduction to Friendliness: from Picture to Cover!
Updated: Oct 15, 2022
In the beginning, it was just a word document with a few notes, excerpts and comments. It should have been a bit more than an annotated handout, possibly less than 10.000 words. But then it started growing by its own. And after almost two years, it became a relatively thick book, which is now available for download as a free open access publication (or, if you like the hard copy, it is possible to order it on demand).
I thought that this Introduction could have been a support for teaching (actually, for teaching a course that did not exist yet, neither in the curriculum, nor in my mind), but it became also a sort of diary, a place where to let reflections sediment, and practice mature. Many parts have been written and rewritten, and some are perhaps still provisional.
But one of the first ideas that came to mind when it was clear that the Introduction was taking the shape of a book, was the cover picture. There is a painting hanging in front of the desk where most of the Introduction has been written. The author of the painting is anonymous, but the canvas is dated 1793, as it can also be guessed from the style of the clothes. Nobody knows who the lady is, but we always called her 'Amelia', since the place where the painting was found (in pretty bad conditions, among other abandoned and ruined things) was in the deposit of an old farm, called 'Villa Amelia'.
She has been looking at me while I was writing, and while meditating, offering her branch of roses. That particular kind of rose, by the way, is also a bit of a mystery, since it is difficult to identify precisely which variety it is (it is probably a variety of Gallic rose, or perhaps a Damask rose, or more probably some hybrid between the two, a hybrid that must be as old as the painting at least, and that I never saw elsewhere). The same variety of rose was seemingly growing in the farm, and it always followed me and my mom when we moved away (it now grows in Groningen too, brought there straight from Italy!).
That branch of rose, or better the gesture of Amelia in how she handles it, seemed to be the best image to convey what friendliness means: life is beautiful, but vulnerable, and potentially painful. All that matters is to handle it gently enough to appreciate its grace and fragrance, despite its fragility, and without being harmed.
(Rose 'Amelia' - now growing in Groningen)