Alessandro Gattafoni: Life in the sea
Be found alive from death.
“Free man, you will always love the sea!“: It is a life and destiny principle, an existential imperative, in the verses of Charles Baudelaire. The free man is indomitable at heart in the open sea, fearless in the splash, fears no wars of race or fate; the ruthless disposition of the privateer is in Alessandro Gattafoni, 36 years old from Marche, cystic fibrosis diagnosed at four months old and a life shaped by the care and attention the body demands. In the age of nihilism disguised as resilience, his story is one of boldness and willfulness, of sport as a willingness to transcend the limits, fears and conditioning that nature imposes.
Through sport, Alessandro nourishes that vital breath that fibrosis could weaken to the point of suffocation: it turns it into a spirited breath, a yearning for life. And to think that he he could not have exercised outdoors. As a child, doctors warned him that inclement weather could affect his health; The only activities allowed are indoors, such as the gym (which is not a sport) or swimming. Tired of having to put up with boundaries he couldn’t understand, Alessandro decided at the age of 14 against the dictates and fears of doctors and parents to take up football; Three years later, through an internet search, he finds out that the life expectancy for people like him is thirty years.
The time available is limited, he realizes that he “must do more”, that he wants to “bite life”, so he adds other activities: kickboxing, boxing, Spartan Race and for a year kayakwith which he launched the initiative 125 miles for one breath, the Adriatic Sea Crossing (Civitanova-Croatia) for awareness and charity purposes. He, who had never resorted to rowing, decided to do it in 2021 to reach the other side of the Adriatic: 21 consecutive hours of paddling, 125 miles of navigation for this idea of tenacious freedom that is his life.
Alessandro, who has a son and is about to get married, he wants to set an example through sport for those in his same situation and for his family, so that the son can keep in mind the values that moved his father: hunger for life, strength of spirit, authentic freedom. Alessandro Gattafoni’s deeds are exemplary, as are his words, which, simply and deliberately, immediately offer a lesson that, as will be realized later, one cannot do without.
Alessandro, the sea as destiny, sport as a spiritual value?
Generally, for me it was a revenge, to myself and to a life that was beginning to bind me: in the circles where I am, I do not talk to anyone about my pathology because I have always spoken out against favoritism and protection. I’ve always been very resolute and combative, so even as a boy it annoyed me to receive special care and attention because I didn’t feel inferior and didn’t want to compete without discounts.
That’s why I decided to go kayaking in February 2021; I had never rowed or any other similar sport, but I was fascinated by the fact that there are no barriers, borders or patronage at sea; The sea is the seaShe doesn’t look anyone in the face, is very inconsiderate in that regard, and that’s what I wanted openly challenge all limits, without anyone giving me special treatment. From a personal challenge was then born “125 miles for one breath‘, the initiative aimed at raising awareness and educating as many people as possible about cystic fibrosis.
You tattooed Leonidas “Molon Labe”, you gave your son the name Jonah: the first is addressed to an oracle, the second to God.Who is Alexander addressing?
Let’s start with a premise: I am an atheist as I struggle to accept my condition from an existential perspective. As strong-willed and energetic as I am, I sometimes feel like I cannot be content with this “temporary” life: I have a wonderful son and partner, the idea of not being able to guarantee them a stable presence reminds me of the famous phrase for what “if God exists, he will have to apologize to me”. Because whether there is a spirit that moves things or not I owe what I am today to my stubbornness, the will to overcome myself and to overcome a condition that of fatally illwhat I couldn’t accept: I had to avoid being dead at all costs before I diedto come to terms with the disease and surrender to a life that could not be defined as such.
The pandemic has set limits and fear of death, while depression reigns among young people who are increasingly turning to psychotropic drugs or even committing suicide: How do you live with death and therefore with life?
Obviously this subject is very close to my heart: at the age of thirty I went through a serious crisis, gave up sport and I don’t deny having considered all the possibilities; In these cases, you need a reason to live and move on. The moment I lost mine, it arrived jonahthat lifted me out of the depression and it gave me a reason to start over. However, I share the Eastern peoples’ graceful handling of self-imposed death; As I made the crossing I was wearing the jacket of a dear friend who, after a moment of crisis, decided to end it all.
I also dedicated the crossing to him to honor his memory and death. Also, it often occurs to me spontaneously to look at death with a defeatist attitude, since I’ve already crossed the “threshold” of thirty years; then I cheer myself up, because what matters, as classical philosophy also teaches, is to find oneself fully and morally ready by living and dying practice and by example. “I want death to find me alive‘ says Alex Bellini, and there’s no way I want to be found dead and handed over to life.
The idea of resilience, of helpless and passive survival, is becoming more and more widespread: How do you overcome your limits and this pathological idea of resignation?
My condition inevitably leads to having to endure, to be “resilient”. Nine months a year I’m sick: my knee is broken, my wrist is plagued by arthritis, not to mention the usual breathing difficulties and the often incorrect tests. This week I’ve been training three times for four hours with spirometry values of 79% and saturation of 90%, more than enough conditions to stay calm with antibiotics and various medications. However, everything is done why you have to do it: If it is necessary to accept the limits, submitting to them can be deadly. This sick notion of passivity gives me the power to react.
In every word, Alessandro proves to be life’s corsair with a soul fixated on new landings. He has the spirit of the seafarer, his destiny is in the waves, unpredictable and absolute. Roadstead is not a possibility, and when life is necessarily tied to the finitude of the earthly, one can attain the eternal fullness of existence through feelings and actions. AND the teaching of Alessandro Gattafoni: living embodiment of the fact that actually you don’t have to live, you have to navigate.