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D'Amore si Vive: A Retrospective of Childhood as the Climax of Intelligence

Still from D’amore si vive (Silvano Agosti – Director, 1984)

One lives by love.

This first sentence cannot but suggest the interest of the viewer on what is presented, perhaps it fascinates him, or at least provokes some excitement. The discovery of this documentary has been enlightening. It is like something that shines in the background and catches our attention: a work that, by either its content or its appearance, seems to stand out from all of the rest. In this case, what appears to be an innocent 9-year-old boy talking about life but whom, nevertheless, denotes a wisdom far deeper than that of some of the most magnificent intellectuals.

The fragment belongs to the work of Silvano Agosti, a testimonial documentary that gathers opinions and theories about life, beauty, love or kindness, from different people from Parma (Italy) and which was filmed back in 1984. What a coincidence, wouldn't Agosti be a hidden crony of some allegorical reincarnation of George Orwell himself? I mean, for the utterly subversive utopia that the child craves as opposed to the dystopia of the Big Brother. In a way, the very subtle and tender desires that are raised in the documentary fragment are so strange to our worldly conception that they could well be categorised as a disruption of reality in the same way that Orwell's London was. In this case, it is a child, not an adult, who opens our eyes to values and judgements that whether they seem true or not, are real and vanish as we grow up. Although these words may sound somewhat accusatory, what it is being said here transcends the political sphere of personal development and goes beyond it: we are talking about neurophysiological change, the evolution of the subject as a particular individual.

It turns out that a child's brain undergoes an extraordinary functioning that is far more complete and complex than that of an adult. In the stage from birth to 10-12 years of age or the entry into puberty, there is a hyper-experiencing of the environment that, despite having all of us experienced it, is later forgotten. This is due to what is known as the "pruning stage". Moreover, it is scientifically proven that the greatest neuronal development after that produced as a baby occurs during teenager hood. This huge development is determined, paradoxically, by a process of readjustment and elimination of neuronal connections which, being a unitary and global event, ends up establishing the identity of the adult subject, his self-concept and, consequently, the adoption of his role in the community. As the personality of the individual is created during these adolescent years, behaviours of self-censorship are adopted that end up becoming tangible paths in the neurological map of the brain. That is, the morality that is adopted is not only a social fact, but also and above all, a neurophysiological event.