When we interviewed in Fuorisoglia Stefano Gregoretti, at some point we realized that we had arrived at a moment that we will remember for a lifetime. Stefano was talking about a certain Pino, a friend who died 15 years ago, as we would later find out, and was much older than him.
Pino was not a runner. Pino was a man who ended up in a concentration camp during World War II. A man who managed to return home from that camp, walking hundreds of miles, resting where he could and eating what some good soul gave him on his long, slow journey. Pino was already very old when Stefano met him and was only moving with a walker. Yet he always claimed his independence and did not want to be helped by anyone in his movements. When someone offered to give him support to move even a few meters–those that his age allowed–he flatly refused, saying that he had walked home alone from a concentration camp, and that even if it was a very short move he wanted to do it by himself.
Stefano was telling his story to point out two things: that determination is ageless and also that the goals we set for ourselves vary with the age of life. For him it is hundreds of kilometers in the cold or heat, for Pino it was being able to walk a few meters, to reiterate every time that it was just willpower. But the thing that had struck Stephen most about this man was the light in his eyes. To better explain how powerful and contagious he was-how vital and happy-Stefano changed the hierarchy of importance of training, or proposed a different and unprecedented one: in addition to the body you have to train that look, those eyes. Eyes that are not only physical but are mostly metaphorical, made of the thirst for knowledge, the curiosity that keeps us alive and the ability to be amazed, every day.
The goal we set, we said, changes with the moments of life, along with the body. As we age, performance decreases and with it the goals we set. Yet one thing remains unchanged because it has no measuring scale: the satisfaction of being able to say and think that everything depends on us. Even 10 meters to go to the kitchen to get a glass of water, especially when that journey is the maximum distance our bodies are capable of doing.
What never changes is the defiant will to not give in, to try to make it through. That will is visible not only in the act we perform but especially in the light that emanates from our eyes. Eyes are said to be the mirror of the soul, and the dimension of happiness is that of succeeding in accomplishing something that challenges us and that we want to conquer. A distance, a project, a goal: the strength to try and the joy of succeeding are visible in that crystal clear and pure gaze, the same gaze Pino had even in his old age.
A special training
What Stefano Gregoretti is talking about is a kind of training that has little to do with the body but rather with the predisposition to always want to try to do with our own strength what we did not think possible in the first place. To start running, to make a race, to predict an unknown real or existential road, to see if one is capable of walking it.
Everything is relative, distances especially. And then it comes down to mental lengths and distances to our goals that are not measured in meters or kilometers but only in willingness to try to make it.
Stefano talks about the light of the eyes that shone from Pino’s soul and that we must never loose. It is life burning inside and coming out in flashes of happiness.
You can listen to the Fuorisoglia episode here.