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THURSDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2019 www.italoamericano.org L'Italo-Americano 2 L et's begin from an assumption. Or, to say it better, from the Greek panta rei, which means "everything flows." It's a famous aphorism attributed to Heraclitus of Ephesus who, between the 5th and the 4th century BC, influenced profoundly the history of philosophy with his idea of "becoming," kept alive in the thought of Plato and Aristotle, all the way to Nietzsche and Heidegger. Tradition places Heraclitus' thought in opposition to Parmenides' philosophy of "being." In On Nature, he maintains that the variety of this world is only an illusion: what truly exists is immutable, immortal, one, homogenous, stable, eternal. Heraclitus, on the other hand, tells us that everything changes. Even what seems static to our senses is, in fact, dynamic and is never the same, thus the idea of panta rei, of everything changing and flowing. That's where the famous water metaphor comes from, too: "you never bathe in the same river twice." The panta rei of the migration experience and Italian Heritage Month From the director According to Heraclitus, it's impossible to bathe in the same river because, after the first time, both the river (with its perennial flowing) and the person (in his or her perennial becoming) are no longer the same as before. When emigrants leave their native land to embrace a new one, they metaphorically cross a river. They change and the world changes around them. All their intellectual, cultural and social baggage undergoes a transformation. They learn, little by little, to adapt to their new reality; even if they don't lose their initial characteristics, they adapt, bend, they change skin, just like they change language and way of thinking. "Those bathing in the same river, are always touched by different waters:" panta rei, with its "everything changes around" also makes changes inside us. When emigrants go back home — where they feel, think, believe to have their roots, the place they left and they long for in their dreams — they often find it profoundly different. Beside the natural evolution of things, beside the aging of those they left behind, it's them to have changed. They realize they no longer belong to that context. It's theirs by heritage, by genetics, but at the same time it seems distant from their condition of today. "We do bathe and do not bathe in the same river, we are and we are not." That panta rei, that continuous flowing turned their world upside down. Every migrant's experience is different and personal, but the common point among them all is this very aspect, this crossing of the river, this change that takes place both outside and inside the person. Heraclitus thought harmony came from continuous change and from the contrast of opposites. Probably, what really makes a difference is the ability to adapt to changes: that's what makes us live in harmony with the world around us. October is an important month for our community. The Italian Heritage Month, which this year will reach its climax with the visit of Italian President Sergio Mattarella, became a moment to reflect upon ourselves, upon our Italian, Italian-American and migrants' identity. This is a very personal experience which also has a very social dimension. There's a whole community thinking about its essence and its nature, about how cohesive it is and how it has been changing. Mario B. Mignone left us a very useful book in this respect. It's a tale about migration from Italy to the US as he experienced it in the second half of the 20th century, when you'd get to America by plane and no longer by boat. An experience certainly closer to us (and this isn't the only empathizing element) than that of the people who founded the first Little Italies. Mignone makes of his life a demonstration of Heraclitus' panta rei, offering the opportunity to think about what today's Italian-American society is and wants to be. Born in San Leucio del Sannio, and raised near Benevento, professor emeritus at SUNY Stony Brook in Long Island, founder and director of the Center of Italian Studies and Cavaliere al Merito della Repubblica Italiana, member of several academic institutions on both sides of the Atlantic, director of the Forum Italicum magazine and of the Filibrary book series, with several publications about the theme of migration and its history under his belt, his work invites to reflect on our "frontier identity." For this edition, that comes out at the very beginning of a month when we are invited to think about our cultural more than ethnic essence, we had decided to dedicate L'Italo-Americano's front page to professor Mignone's The Story of My People - From Rural Southern Italy to Mainstream America, L'America e la Mia Gente, in Italian. Mignone passed away shortly after giving us this interview, an incredible, coast to coast loss that touches all our community. He leaves us, however, a precious parable of Italo-Americanità, of our two worlds, of that flowing and ever-changing "river." He leaves us the private and public experience of being a migrant, an experience reminding us how the identity of a people is recognizable and strong in its collective memory and not in sterile diatribes about Columbus Day. Simone Schiavinato, Director NEWS & FEATURES TOP STORIES PEOPLE EVENTS

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