News & Notes 828:Remembering Paolo
Just a few years ago, when he was already in his mid-80’s, I went with Paolo, who rode on the back of the scooter of his closest friend of the last years, Pad, down to the end of the Pondicherry harbor where a local fishing boat with a motor was waiting for us. We embarked around the rocks of the harbor mouth and headed south to a deserted part of beach that Paolo had discovered. Arriving at our destination, the boat lay anchor about a hundred meters from shore. Paolo stripped naked and got into the water, swimming to the abandoned beach and then laying in the sun for an hour before our return. It was a marvel for me; while we live stuck in a certain ordinary routine, he was able to find beauty within the mundane chaos. This ritual of individuality was like a throwback from another time. He had a deep and lifelong connection with the ocean. “The sea, it’s the source of everything” he would say, and tell me how the local fisherman, “They understand this… it is the Mother of all!” (his hands were always expressive, moving in growing circles or punctuating some truth with two fingers.)
“Knowledge. Without knowledge, we are nothing.” Paolo lived his life within a spiritual mythology – an evolving spiritual mythology. At the center of which were The Mother and Sri Aurobindo. He was a man whose synthesis of living; whose everyday life, was in dialogue with what the Mother had written, or perhaps a line from Savitri, and these lines would come alive not only in his art, but in an evolutive way in how he wanted to be alive and embrace life. “Life, it’s a great mystery. It’s a gift.”
Paolo’s father died in Mauthausen when he was 14. “The same concentration camp as Satprem”. How this effected his character I do not know, but he seemed to be drawn back toward this event as he grew older, and perhaps it formed in him part of this distrust or disassociation with groups. He had close and deep connections with people, but never belonged. He would come and go, he was an outsider. He had a house lent to him by the Ashram for 40 years, but he was not an Ashramite. He built a house in Auroville which he never lived in. I think in the way of the artist who is only the translator of divine symbols – of what is above, or what comes out of nature – into our human sphere, this was a necessity. Not be entangled or dragged down into a repetition of the ordinary.
When The Mother began to work on what was to become the Matrimandir, his ideas were brought to her of a sphere rising out of earth, a cosmic egg. I asked him “Why the circle? The sphere?“ (for years he only painted golden orange circles on horizons of blue). “Ah…” he said, his eyes looking up from the white table filled with books, pencil marks on his readings, a vase with roses, an ashtray, and looked out the window to find a point in the ocean. After a long pause - “It is the totality.”