Knowing Breath by its Absence: Umberto Pelizzari

umberto pelizzari diver fetal

Holder of various free dive records, including an 8 minute Static Dive… (that’s holding his breath for 8 minutes…  eight…) Umberto Pelizzari is an impressive athlete who speaks of the sea and his soul.  It is a particular challenge to push yourself in such solitude, inside the sea… In Mr. Pelizzari’s words:

“From the depth of 100 meters and more, headlong in the abyss, the heartbeat gets slower, the body disappears, and all the feelings take a new form. The only thing that remains in us is the soul. We take a long jump into the soul, which seems to absorb the universe. Every time I ascend, I am making a choice: it is me who is re-discovering myself in my human dimensions, meter by meter, to come up to see the light again. It often happens that I am asked what is there to see deep down in the sea? Maybe the only possible answer is that one does not descend this way to look around, but to look into Himself. In the deep I look for myself. This is a mystical experience bordering on the divine. So deep down, I am immensely alone but inside it feels as if all humanity is with me. It is by being human that I surpass the limits we set for ourselves and diving makes us one with the sea and its surroundings. It is here that I become one with the sea and discover my true self.”

Read much more on his home website:

So he was a nice choice for the European Environmental Agency’s thoughtful advert to raise awareness of pollution …

Umberto Pelizzari under water

Here is the video:

To go 8 minutes without breath is amazing (terrifying) and rare.  We can’t help but have an emotional reaction to that information as we try to visualize doing it ourselves.  Everyone has a relationship to breath… robust and strong… labored and insufficient… taken utterly for granted… contemplative, smooth and subtle.  We can go weeks without food.  Days without water.  But (much!) less than 8 minutes without a breath.

Umberto Pelizzari Diver dolphin

umberto Pelizzari Diver mask


Chiara Vigo: The Last Woman Who Makes Sea Silk

Chiara Vigo is a thread back into our human history in a couple of ways. She is the last person who knows how to harvest material from clams and spin it into precious and beautiful Byssus a silky fabric that glows in the sun and has been cherished since ancient Egypt.  She is also a last remnant of the Jewish Phoenician culture in Italy.

She dives to harvest, prepares the threads and weaves–all with a reverence for nature that is precious to us in the 21st Century…

Sea Silk 3

“You have to be respectful to the place you live in. You are just passing by, these places are here to stay. And the sea has its own soul and you have to ask for permission to get a piece of it,” she says.

Her chant, which mixes ancient Sardinian dialect and Hebrew, echoes off the rocks.

“I pray for what has been and what will be,” she says.

Here is a link to the full article at BBC online.. written by Max Paradiso with photos by Andrea Pasquali.

Here is the beginning of the article:

Sea Silk 2

Silk is usually made from the cocoons spun by silkworms – but there is another, much rarer, cloth known as sea silk or byssus, which comes from a clam. Chiara Vigo is thought to be the only person left who can harvest it, spin it and make it shine like gold.

Villagers stare as I knock on the door of Chiara Vigo’s studio, otherwise known as the Museum of Byssus, on the Sardinian island of Sant’Antioco. One sign on the door says: “Haste doesn’t live here.” Another adds: “In this room nothing is for sale.”

Vigo is sitting in a far corner of the room surrounded by yarns and canvasses, holding hands with a young woman whose eyes are full of tears. She caresses her and braids a bracelet while staring intensely at the girl.

Then she hums a song with her eyes closed and fixes the bracelet on the girl’s wrist. She reaches for the window and opens the shades to let the sunlight in and instantly the dark brown bracelet starts to gleam.

The girl is flabbergasted but this is no magic….

Sea Silk 1