In the Short Film Gisbert: Paradisola a Man Goes on Holiday, Digs a Cave, Turns it into Life

Ours is a cul­ture dri­ven by, and to, extremes, and by ours I mean West­ern Demo­c­ra­t­ic Cap­i­tal­ism broadly—Euro-America, one might say. But much of the world also resem­bles this mod­el. Extremes of wealth and pover­ty. Extreme amounts of work and extreme amounts of unem­ploy­ment. Even the word most asso­ci­at­ed with the cri­sis of mar­kets con­jures an extrem­ism of an ear­li­er, medieval age: Aus­ter­i­ties. To get away from it all, we take vaca­tions (more often these days stay­ca­tions). Vaca­tions from our lives. Or as the Euro­peans call it, hol­i­day. And who hasn’t once asked them­selves, why isn’t life the hol­i­day? And the painful “aus­ter­i­ties” tem­po­rary incon­ve­niences? I sup­pose it’s a naïve ques­tion, or just a thought exper­i­ment. Every­one seems to have some sophis­ti­cat­ed answer or oth­er. But every­one still feels the need to escape the exhaus­tion.

Gis­bert, the man in the short film above, felt such a need. So 42 years ago he trav­eled to the town of Fil­icu­di in the Aeo­lian Islands, Sici­ly. He dug a cave into the hill­side with his bare hands, rein­forced it with cement and lime, and he’s been liv­ing there ever since in what he calls, in his coinage, Par­adis­o­la, or, most­ly just Par­adis­e­land.  Gis­bert is a stu­dent of his­to­ry, phi­los­o­phy, physics… he’s no Rousseauean noble sav­age, igno­rant of the ways of mod­ern man. Maybe Thore­au in his Walden, but even Thore­au was an anx­ious char­ac­ter, always eager to explain him­self. No, Gis­bert has sim­ply found peace where he is, and he offers no elab­o­rate jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for it. In his own words: “When you start a career, you have to respect every­thing, because you are respon­si­ble. So I thought I could enjoy a vaca­tion, to do what­ev­er I like. And I keep doing so.” Is he “irre­spon­si­ble” for choos­ing a life of what­ev­er he likes over a career? This is one ques­tion film com­pa­ny We Cross the Line asks us to pon­der. Gis­bert: Par­adis­o­la makes no judg­ments and offers no answers. It sim­ply shows us the life of a man who made his own choic­es and lives with them con­tent­ed­ly.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Man Who Quit Mon­ey — and Lived to Tell About It

Josh Jones is a doc­tor­al can­di­date in Eng­lish at Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty and a co-founder and for­mer man­ag­ing edi­tor of Guer­ni­ca / A Mag­a­zine of Arts and Pol­i­tics.


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  • A won­der­ful video. And an inter­est­ing text. I feel like the man offers no answers because there’s no need to ask any ques­tions. Per­haps free­dom needs no expla­na­tion. Per­haps it’s the same with all the life in this world. For as long as it stays nat­ur­al and true to its basic, sin­cere nature.
    Very inspir­ing. Big thanks for post­ing this! :)

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