This slim volume of epigrams uses the cosmos, technology, and nature to probe the limits of human imagination, stimulate thought, and aim for profundity.
Following an introduction that defines proverbs as short, “meaningful meditations that express a truth, most of the time of a practical nature or a philosophical tenet,” and then tracing their appearance across ancient Chinese, Hebraic, and Roman literature, Pietro di Vietri orders his collection under the section headings of “Principles and Purposes,” “Science and Technology,” “Well-being and Happiness,” “Robotics,” “Nature,” and “Cosmic.” In practice, his short, precise sentences roam across and beyond these borders, in groups of three or four per page, leaving room for rumination in the white space.
The proverbs range from speculation (“There is more life in space than on earth”) to life advice (“Moving with purpose avoids going adrift”); from familiar axioms (“Everything good is worth the effort”); to adages, with an occasional reflection that feels personal and tender (“If the stars did not speak, men would live in darkness”), usually approached when the author is contemplating vastness.
The voice flexes between the fanciful and witty to the lofty—sometimes all on the same page. Overall, the speaker seems educated, deliberate, and occasionally amused.
The persona is appealing, but free of context or interpretation, the weight these little utterances have will depend entirely on the reader’s receptiveness. The author’s contemplations are sometimes self-evident and cliché (“The years cannot be extended, but quality of life can”; “Technology can free or enslave us”). And the proverbs, as a whole, are unlikely to shake loose any real original thought, or upset established paradigms. Still, readers who share the author’s interests and long perspective will find themselves appreciating many of these pithy statements.
In all, di Vietri’s experiment succeeds in outlining how little we actually know about the world around us and offering readers myriad ideas to consider in short bursts.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.