PHILOSOPHICAL INTRODUCTION As long as there is breath M. Bovo Dr in philosophy, Padua, Italy. iaınetaı moi kgnoz y ısoz heoisin´ emmen’ vngr, ottiz enantioz toi ısdanei kaı plasion adu y ivneı saz upakouei kaı celaısaz ımeroen, ´ to m’ g y man kardıan en stghesin ´ eptoaisen, vz car ez s’ ıdv broxe’ vz me ivnai- s’ oud’ en et’ eıkei, all’ akan men ` clv ˜ssa ?eace lepton´ d’ au´tika ` xrv ˜i pur upadedromgken, oppatessi d’ oud’ en orgmm’, epirrom- beisi d’ akouai, ?ekade m’ ıdrvz yuxroz kakxeetai? ´ tromoz de´ paısan acrei, xlvrotera ´ de ` poıaz emmi, tehnakgn d’ olıcv pideugz iaınom’ em’ autai. alla pan tolmaton epeı ?kaı pengta´ Fragment 31. Sappho et Alcaeus. Fragmenta, Amsterdam 1971 (E.M. Voigt). These lines come to us from the remotest times of Mediterranean culture. A woman of culture, a poet, uses her voice to speak of discomfort in breathing caused by love. The difficulty, expressed here in an almost musical crescendo, is due, thank God, to the suffering caused by feelings, but the phenomenology is the same in every respiratory disturbance. Evidently the problem results from a total exchange between the "soma" (body) and the atmosphere, that is, the ether. The air, in making life possible, either permits or inhibits communication. Air, of the four elements of the physis, is the lightest, the least accessible to the senses, the opposite of the material, but it is the medium by which living beings share the world. Air coincides with what we call space and as such, is what separates us from objects and other people. It also indicates the quality of the environment and its ability to make us feel well. In our language we distinguish between "clean air" and "stale air" to mean, respectively, a situation of well-being or one of constriction. In the increasingly polluted and heavy atmosphere of the industrialised world, a stroll is seldom an experience of liberating lightness. We fill our lungs willingly only when we Eur Respir Mon, 2003, 25, d–f. Printed in UK - all rights reserved. Copyright ERS Journals Ltd 2003 European Respiratory Monograph ISSN 1025-448x. ISBN 1-904097-28-6. d
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