In ancient times it was believed that the heart was the center of life, the source of human wisdom, the seat of love, compassion and forgiveness. The heart was a symbol of intuition, guidance and superior intelligence. Engraved at the entrance to the temple of Delphi, in the ancient Greece, was this phrase, “Oh, man, know yourself and you will know the Universe and the Gods,” words that indicate the way of moving inward, to awaken the intelligence of the heart and access the awareness, that silencing the buzz of the world, helps to understand who we are, listening to the wise whisper of the heart intuition, an oasis where to dive when we need rest, advice and inspiration.
One could endlessly cite many of such deep ancient phrases that invite reflection and change and I wondered, especially in this last period, which I would call the entrance to a new era of humanity, how much today we are aware of ourselves and how equipped we are to make choices beyond what we see or if instead we are trapped in limiting ideas and beliefs. If we walk through the lanes of a supermarket in any city and if, just for a moment, we stop to observe with different eyes what is proposed to us, we could understand something about our world and perhaps feel the desire to change. What wonders we find in that place, from mango to avocado, from peaches to strawberries.
Each product is available in our hands in all seasons of the year. We are wrapped in sparkling colors, while we are accompanied in our purchases by a background music, whose sounds are transformed from sweet melodies to dance rhythms. In those lanes we get lost, choosing from a thousand of envelopes, boxes and packages, in an apparent quiet order. It may happen, however, that we suddenly understand that what we want is not present in the various lanes. We realize that we want more, maybe a precious gem, that certainly “at the supermarket of the planned lanes” is not present. So, from that place we must necessarily go out to find it, along other paths, changing habits, way of thinking, becoming aware of who we are, perhaps remembering the balance, sobriety and simple wisdom of the shops of the past
The supermarket is a metaphor, one of the many possible mirrors of our society, where everything is already packaged and proposed, while we need to listen to the intelligence of the heart and not be enchanted by the illusion of strawberry to see more. But what does that have to do with vegetable-tanned leather? We’re getting there
When I was a little girl in a little Veneto village, where I still live, my mother used to put some money in my hands and give me the task of shopping with my sister in the small shop of a greengrocer. For us, these were important moments of growth and responsibility. I remember very well wooden boxes everywhere that contained only and strictly seasonal fruits and vegetables. It was among those boxes that I began to recognize the scents and understand that peaches are summer, apples are autumn, oranges are winter and that strawberries are spring. As a child I had clear ideas, while entering now the supermarket, which has replaced almost everywhere the small shop, I find strawberries all year round.
I wonder then if I have learned well, but isn’t the strawberry only spring and doesn’t nature give man its fruits for centuries following the rhythm of the seasons? So what has happened in these years? Perhaps we have been enchanted by what can be called the illusion of strawberry, which can be applied to every aspect of life.
The fact that we no longer follow nature, respecting its cyclical nature, leads us to believe that strawberries are always natural and that perhaps we too can be strawberries eternally, while if instead we start to regain possession of seasonal foods, we would accept with grace, ease and lightness that our skin can become a bit pumpkin and a bit ginger. Just like vegetable-tanned leather that changes over time and represents the perfect harmony with our territory changing landscape, with the color of leaves and flowers in the eternal perpetuation of the seasons. In this context of understanding seasonality, it is perhaps easier to understand that what is proposed to us does not necessarily reflect what is really natural. Is a strawberry in January a real product of the earth? No, it’s an illusion. Of course I can buy it, but I have to be aware that it has nothing to do with the original rhythm of nature and its defense. Protecting nature means being part of it and accepting its transformations.
But what does it mean today to love and be friends with nature? Never before have environmental movements highlighted the lack of love for the earth that has been polluted by the mankind for years. Unfortunately, we are all aware of this and we know very well how necessary it is to make choices about changing behavior. But to be a transmuter, the necessary value is knowledge. This path requires courage and is not immune to difficulties and obstacles, because it is here that we should use the intelligence of the heart, which I initially mentioned, which allows with its energy to maintain the focus not on the external elements, easily manipulated and altered, but on the awareness of finding that place within ourselves, that opens up the possibility of associating a clear intention to a high emotion and that leads us to make choices allowing to leave our mark in this world to make it not worse than that we found but better.
Now if we understand that the omnipresent strawberry is the perfect representation of the great confusion about what is really natural today, both in food, in fashion and in lifestyle, and that the intelligence of the heart opens to the knowledge, not obvious, but deepened of who we are, what we eat, and not only materially, and what we want to offer the world, it is clear that just the value of returning to balance and respect for what nature gives us and what the earth gives us, is the way for humanity to protect our planet.
And it is in this vision that vegetable-tanned leather fits perfectly into this path of protection. Choosing a product made with this leather involves many factors that make it a purchase that I call eco-responsible choice and “humanity – sustainable”, precisely because of the value of ancient tradition that represents in the symbiosis with nature and man. We could make a long list, but that is not my intention, as many specific articles have been exhaustively and completely written on the topic. But I would like to highlight some of these elements. The first fundamental, which few know, is that for vegetable tanning, animals are not killed to use their leathers for this purpose, on the contrary, only and exclusively those of animals already passed through the food chain are chosen which, if not tanned, would produce pollutant material for the environment. We have forgotten over the centuries that man has a symbiotic relationship with nature. Our ancestors hunted, fished and cultivated, by drawing sustenance from nature itself, considering it part of themselves and of the whole. In ancient times, the animal was sacred and every part of it, after hunting, was used for the perpetuation of human life and it is in this perspective that the vegetable-tanned leather takes up the concept of hunting, not as a hobby, but as a source of life in respect of the animal. Another issue would be to understand how many animals need to be killed today in order to feed our western society. A saying from my part of the world says “Your eyes are bigger than the belly” and I invite everyone to reflect on it.
Returning to the leather, another substantial element, which is also little known, is the use of tannin, the powder from the bark of trees, a natural substance that is used in the tanning process. Of course, some might point out that trees are felled to obtain tannins, but it is essential to know that all companies producing this natural substance are committed to the constant protection of the heritage of the woods with a continuous and careful reforestation policy
In this regard, I would like to cite an example taking inspiration from reportage articles of The Vision magazine, to let better understand how sometimes, what is believed natural and now also called ethical, is misleading. By freely choosing to buy a quinoa burger, we are most likely sure not to harm the environment. If, on the other hand, we go beyond the illusion of strawberry, that is, that not everything is as it seems, and listen to the intelligence of the heart, that is, we dispel the fog of convictions, we would be amazed to know, for example, that in Peru and Bolivia, where quinoa is mainly cultivated, “after 5 thousand years of unchanged habits, the poor farmers of these places have been forced to modify their diet in such a way as to be able to sell all the “precious” quinoa produced. And that in a few years, the biological diversity of those territories, now destined for monoculture, has been compromised.
And we would also know that avocado cultivation in California and Mexico is causing water reserves to dry up in both countries, resulting in drought and devastating fires, and that, especially in Mexico, “avocado has caused immense damage, such as 700 hectares of forests destroyed every year and replaced by orchards, water reserves polluted by pesticides and fertilizers, and the risk of extinction for many animal species”. We can always choose what to do, but as the philosopher Bacon said, “to know is to be able“. I asked myself a question that I also ask you, my readers: how many products are now advertised as friends of the earth, of nature and of animals, and how many friends of the humanity? How can one be a friend of the Earth if, first of all, one does not love and is not a friend of humanity? Shouldn’t a product first of all be a friend of the humanity?
We do not save the world by not eating meat and by not buying products that use animal leather, the future of man and the earth does not depend on this, but on the demand that everyone should make. What can I do to move from a state of collective unawareness of survival to a state of prosperity for the human beings that would lead to taking care of each other and consequently of the Earth which we have the privilege of living in? Only by starting from the phrase of the oracle of Delphi, which for centuries has been inviting us to understand who we really are and to take responsibility for our thoughts, our emotions and our choices, can we understand that we are co-creators of everything and therefore of the world in which we live.
Taking this reflection back to everyday life when we choose our purchases, I would like to recall a phrase “buy less, choose well and make it last“, which sums up the importance of each of us as a consumer. I believe that one of the possible ways to improve the planet is to avoid opening up the wallet, which should possibly be vegetable-tanned leather, for useless and not quality purchases, made of products that today with the rampant fast fashion, cause of environmental pollution and exploitation of people, have invaded the world like barbaric hordes. How many items do you need to own to be happy? A phrase by Edward Norton in the film Fight club “We buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have to make an impression on people we don’t like” makes us understand that if people were really happy, I mean inner happiness, which is not the projection of what we own, they would consume less, they would be more aware of being and not having and they would choose quality products with ease, without getting lost in expenses that harm humanity and consequently the planet. The economy based on this kind of “fast” consumption is only apparently synonymous with economic development, whereas it brings an enormous human, social and environmental cost with it.
But this teaches us, if we manage to get out of the millions of bits of information per second that reach our brain from everywhere, to rediscover the value of objects durable over time and with a story to tell, just like those made with vegetable-tanned leather that lives and transforms itself and with its unique scent will remind us, like the Madeleines sweets of the “Recherche du temps perdu” by Proust, some moments of our lives..
I end these reflections, remembering that we depend on nature, which speaks to us with its subtle sounds like raindrops, the rustle of the wind among the leaves or the hum of a bee. Nature that whispers to us in silence and reminds us, even through the touch of our hand on an object of vegetable-tanned leather, that respecting and protecting it are consequent actions and proportional only to our love for humanity.