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Albert Einstein to Charlie Chaplin: “What I most admire in your art is its univerality. Don’t say a word and yet whole world understands you”.

That it takes cues from the cinema is not a big news, at least for those who have already read something written by me on this blog.

Some recent or less recent events reminded me of the great artist Charlie Chaplin and his silent cinema.

Certainly my work, in which I often find myself in front of people with language problems, has contributed to making me draw some parallels. Just last week while explaining to a patient of mine that perhaps the words would not return due to the specific brain damage he had, I uttered phrases like “intentionality and communication skills” and that must be where the image of Chaplin came to mind. that even without subtitles he managed to communicate in a poetically effective and clear way.

Words are important and must always be chosen and used with great care, especially when they must and can be used. However, it is also true that if we intend to convey a message, a content, they could prove to be superfluous or not in harmony with what we feel deep down or with what we really want to communicate.

Thus I explained, during the speech therapy treatment, that the most important thing (since the lesion does not allow the oral or written production of words) was that he first of all had the intention to communicate and that we would then find together the most direct method, such as gestures, facial expressions or the use of aids, communication tables … I don’t want to get lost in technicalities about my work and not even risk trivializing what is a difficult and tiring path for those involved. But I must admit that in this patient of mine (and in many others) I found much of that Chaplin’s poem. The poem that perhaps today makes my patient (whose name I do not specify only for the protection of privacy) capable of making himself understood even without using verbal language, (I have also explored this in depth on the topic in the article “Language. An inner world”)

Chaplin didn’t come to my mind just for this; I must have thought about it even when I reflected on the conditions to which some workers are subjected and of those who are forced to do something they have not chosen. In his most important and award-winning film “Modern Times” written in 1936, Chaplin, offers us a more than current photograph of our times where the inhuman rhythms, the repetitiveness in an assembly line style and the pressure that have as their only interest “the useful “risk making people’s quality of life very difficult.

The director explains well the difficulty that comes with not feeling in the right place; in the film, Chaplin constantly changes jobs because he commits a daring series of mistakes and feels cramped in hostile spaces. It critically describes, ridiculing what the American dream was (definitely worsened over the years). The final scene ends with him hand in hand with a girl who venture towards something they do not know but that makes them free and without fear of the future.

To this discourse we can also connect what is a topic often debated at the end of middle school on the choice of the next didactic path that seems to be necessarily linked to the work that the children will then have to carry out; But do kids have to know what they want to do when they grow up? Is it really their spontaneous need? I hope that all the teachers who spend important and crucial years with these young people will answer me.

For my part, I hope to see them move away from behind and without fear of the future, like Chaplin. And this would already be a beautiful achievement, right?

At that age I fell in love with silent cinema, with Chaplin’s ability to express a feeling only with the movement of the body and the expression of the face. That poem that enables human beings to understand each other even if they do not speak for organic problems, they do not speak the same language, they do not have the same culture or religion, they do not think the same way.

Is this perhaps what binds what I have told you in this article?

Is it perhaps this poem that the human being cannot and must not do without in order to walk free in the world and without fear? Must he possess this profound intention to communicate and be able to understand himself and others clearly even when the message is not conveyed by words? And if not … understand the profound meaning of words that apparently say something else? It’s about sensitivity. Who knows if Chaplin and Einstein thought about this in the famous exchange commenting on their respective genius. Einstein said what you can read under the photo of this article and Chaplin replied: “It is true, but your glory is even greater: the whole world admires you even if no one understands you.”

Valeria Verna


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Albert Einstein to Charlie Chaplin: “What I most admire in your art is its univerality. Don’t say a word and yet whole world understands you”.