Giacomo Poretti (Photo: Serena Serrani).

Giacomo Poretti: "Let us learn to accept the unexpected”

He fell ill and experienced fear and uncertainty. The famous Italian actor talks about his personal journey and the challenges posed in the ebook "Reawakening Our Humanity.” Faith? "It must be conquered every day. It is an experiment in love."
Paolo Perego

"The virus has gone, banging here and there on doors, drunk on paracetamol." The irony of Italian actor and comedian Giacomo Poretti cannot be missed. He is also stuck at home, with theatres closed. "I was sick, as was my wife, in March. And I was scared, really scared," he says today. We chatted online about Julián Carrón's ebook, Reawakening Our Humanity, which came out a few weeks ago. "I have been following some of Carrón’s messages in recent weeks. These pages really identified with me.” Starting from what is now a common and established thought: "We will emerge from all this as changed people.”

What change are you talking about?
Carrón hints at the fact that, in moments of difficulty, we tend to forget what has happened. And maybe this is also true for this tragedy. However, he asks the question of what will remain of this time. I think that there will be something left in me. And not just in me. I got sick, it happened to me. For several days, weeks, I feared for my safety and for that of my family. I thought about death. What would happen to my son?

A dramatic experience...
I was struck by a recent expression by philosopher Silvano Petrosino, about this time, when he talks about the "scandal of the unpredictable." As if an earthquake had shaken the building in which I lived, comfortable, with my things, my life, my contradictions. Where, of course, drama and death existed, but, ultimately, they only concerned others, something that had to be kept at a distance. That is the bubble Carrón talks about. This unpredictability has put things back in place. Not as a punishment, though.

What do you mean?
It has allowed reality to come into focus. In these past few weeks, there was the real possibility that my life would end. And, sooner or later, it will end. CL is often referred to as "bringing reality back into focus." That is right, it is about returning to the meaning of life, of everything.

Because of fear of death?
No. I am not talking about the cliché that on the point of death one repents and so on. The virus has gone from my house. And yet that shadow has remained; inside me, inside the house. Not that I had not thought about it before. But it is different now. And so many friends tell me the same thing.

And what is that?
For instance, these two months have made me think about the superfluous things we have at home. Some people have thrown away old clothes, books, bits and bobs: “my wife has taken the boxes." It sounds like spring cleaning, but it is actually much more than that. It is the need to get to the essential. It is as though the virus is saying, "What do you really need?" Maybe we will forget about it, and we will just go back to buying like before. But this has marked us. Faith out of fear? I guess, when you are sick, you have to hold onto something. But what matters is the next step.

So, what is faith?
For me, faith is something to be conquered every day. It is never a certainty. I imagine it thus, as an experiment in love. As in life with your wife, with your children, with your friends. You have to fight every day.

What about your work? Now that it has halted, how does this change and the faith you are talking about affect it?
After fear, you also think about your work with this perspective. We are all in trouble, except Mr. Zoom and Mr. Amazon. Along with Luca Doninelli and Gabriele Allevi, I had just opened a theatre in October. At first it was difficult, we did not know what to say. But then we began online projects, like many others. When it is possible to reopen, we will resume the performance that I have already done a few times, and that should have been repeated this season, about hospital and nurses, with an additional section about what has been happening in recent months.

But you said that it will not be the same as before…
As in my private life, one of my main interests in my work, if not the main one, has become the discovery of the meaning of life and its mystery. This is linked to Him, to God. Many people, especially in areas of faith, have spoken about this: if the presupposition of everything is this bond, then man is not made for his own projects, but to love and be loved.

What does that mean?
It may seem the extreme synthesis of an absurd, incomprehensible thought. But it is as if, with what has happened, we find ourselves at a crossroads with signs pointing towards more roads. Like in the movies: New York over there, Los Angeles over there, then Boston... Now the arrows say "personal achievement", "charm", "work". And then there is one that says: "You are made to love and be loved." And you go that way, you do not know where it leads, maybe you grope around, but you know it is the right way.

And the other roads?
They are a little less, hey are the bubble. Sandro Veronesi, in a comment he made a few days ago, underlined, in a nutshell, that Catholic culture is showing itself to be ahead of secular culture. I do not really like this, it is as if he is saying: "They are winning, but now we will recover". The fact is that we all feel, with a minimum of sensitivity, that this crisis, this scandal of unpredictability has upset everything. But there is no evil God who wants to punish us, who has created a world at the mercy of chance. No, He created a world where there is freedom, where even a virus can exist. It is inside this, within this freedom, that we have to find out what resounds so mysteriously beautiful.

Read also - Maurizio Maggiani: Life changes

Is unpredictability an opportunity, therefore?
I think there are things we have experienced and conquered that are unlikely to give way to oblivion. They will stay there, and they will come back. For example, the rosary every night with some friend; it is difficult to talk about it, but that friendship, which seems small and which lasts for the forty minutes that Zoom allows, took me back to the days when I was a child and I stayed with my grandmothers who, I thought then, inexplicably, every night, cooked, tidied up or sewed whilst saying the Hail Mary. It remained within me and today I perceive its meaning a little better. Saying it now has the same meaning. Just as the presence of real friends, who wrote or called me everyday whilst I was sick, will remain indelibly with me. This is not intellectualism: they are small gestures, but they are also enormous. It seems absurd to say that everything is going well, but it can be said by someone who accepts what happens, the unexpected. The Christian position is to say yes to life under any circumstances, whatever happens. Even in drama. Actually, there is a different gaze towards it. The man who has faith says yes because he recognizes that life - everything, even this situation - has been given to him, is not his own. You live a gift, but it is not free: it depends on you too, you have to understand that. You cannot just keep it and say "beautiful" or "ugly".

Hence, a path...
Life must be understood to enjoy it. That is how I live it. Sometimes we do not know what this gift is. We treat it like a poisoned meatball. Or we try to adapt it the way we want. That sign, that arrow that would make us say, "Come on, what are you saying?" But there it is: "You are made to love and be loved." It has everything within it in order to participate, to enjoy the gift even more.