Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
Defying the Law of Gravity
Conference on Saturday, November 3th 1990 (*)
Recollection, silence, and isolation have always been distinctive characteristics of the Carthusian Order, founded by Saint Bruno in the eleventh century.
A modern man would view the Carthusians as antiquated souls, lacking impulse, vitality, or any other type of dynamism.
Nevertheless, two splendid accomplishments of these religious, strongly contrasting yet harmonious, belie that false impression: They are the creators of the internationally renowned Chartreuse liqueurs and of the splendid Carthusian horses. The reader may contemplate a magnificent example of this breed in the picture above.
Under the Spanish sky of Andalusia, a horseman, in flight over a flat and open field on a beautiful sunny morning, and radiant with the spirit of victory and glory, accomplishes one of the most beautiful and expressive manifestations of human courage: the strength to dare and to advance.
There is an undeniable beauty in contemplating a man who sails over the uncertainties of the seas toward a distant destination. Likewise, we cannot deny the beauty of this rider, who seems to navigate through the air under circumstances far superior to any airplane pilot: he is not flying a machine, but rather a living being, whose vitality and volatility he governs with superiority. Admirable is the force with which the horse, so well guided, manages to conquer the force of gravity and raise itself in the air.
Moreover, one perceives a type of psychological dominion that the rider exercises over the horse, in such a way that his courage is reflected in it as in a mirror. It is only one courage, only one élan, only one flight!
The manner in which the light illuminates the horse emphasizes the strength and muscularity of its body and transforms it into a type of living aircraft that cleaves the air. This is manifested in a way far superior to any artist's rendition.
The movement of the rider's bandana adds a great deal to the perfection of the scene. The wind lifts the bandana with an ease like that with which it gives flight to the horse and rider. There is in this bandana something of the imponderable palpitation of the victory and the glory, attained by the rider in his complete mastery of the situation.
Similarly, there is a beauty in the horse's mane, flowing in the wind, that one would call picture-perfect. Although like a sculpted flame, it is yet full of movement. The horse's gaze seems to devour the danger; and its mouth consumes the peril. Nevertheless, advancing confidently under the dominion of its guide, even its front hooves suggest an elegant repose. It displays a spirited equilibrium, perfect flexibility and obedience.
We are in the presence, properly speaking, of a beautiful expression of authentic human heroism, which does not consist so much in the power of destroying but in confronting danger. The pragmatic, security-minded, and often vile man of our days has almost completely, if not entirely, lost this notion of things. What a splendorous scene to serve as a lesson and example for us!
(*) The preceding article has been translated and adapted for publication without the author's revision. –Ed. American TFP.