19 February 2007.
The poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti has a section of practical advice in his book San Francisco Poems. I can’t recall the exact words, but he wrote something about the importance of working at a frontier, a city or a place with a creative culture. Work that involves using your mind in new and experimental ways is not possible if not supported by a culture of creativity. The image of an individual genius working alone is romantic rather than realistic, and in reality creative thinking is teamwork. The context for Ferlinghetti is that he laments that San Francisco is no longer the haven for artists and poets that it once was. (Virginia Postrel elaborates on the same idea in her book The Future and Its Enemies.)
It is no secret that I have been thinking a lot about staying in Florence for a longer time. If I find a job here, who knows? But is this town a frontier? It was. And it was not just a frontier, but the model for all future frontiers. But the Renaissance was five hundred years ago. I am not saying that there is no creativity here; I am sure there is, although as a newcomer I don’t really know of it all. But the question for me to think about during the next months is if the city is moving ahead or looking back. Furthermore, is Helsinki a frontier? And if not, where are the frontiers of today? If you know, let me know too!
I moved to the larger room I have been dreaming about for the last couple of weeks. The location of this apartment is perhaps a bit better too, and the new roomies all seem nice. And someone in the vicinity has been, depending on how you look at it, thoughtful or thoughtless enough to leave his wireless network unprotected, which means that I can now get to the Internet from my very own room! Even if there are times I cannot access the network, I am happy.
My classes began on Monday. I am taking a bit of philosophy and a bit of Italian literature. I have no need to pass any exams here, so I have no stress about my studies. However, things look good. Obviously I cannot understand every word a professor says, but it seems that they speak pretty understandable Italian. One professor already told me that I speak pretty good Italian; even though it was more of a compliment than a realistic judgment, it made me feel pretty good.