A summer homework list assigned by Cesare Catà of Don Bosco High School in Fermo, a small town on the Adriatic Sea in northeastern Italy, is currently going viral across that country. Instead of giving his students required reading assignments, Catà gave them a prescription for how to live an inspired life, telling them that in the next few months, they should take time to admire a sunrise, dream about the future and read, because reading is "the best form of rebellion you have."
The Huffington Post interviewed Catà, who said he models his teaching methods on Mr. Keating, Robin Williams' character in the 1989 film "Dead Poets Society." "Surely a pupil could consider literature, philosophy or grammar as instruments to become himself," Catà told HuffPost in an email. "I think that the radiance of summer, especially during adolescence, could have a special spiritual influence."
The summer assignment Catà gave his students.
Here is a translation of the 15 assignments, which Catà originally published on his Facebook page:
1. Sometimes, in the morning, go take a walk along the seashore completely alone: look at the way sunlight is reflected on the water and think about the things you love the most in your life; be happy.
2. Try to use some of the new words we learned together this year: the more things you manage to say, the more things you’ll manage to think; and the more things you think, the freer you’ll be.
3. Read as much as you possibly can. But not because you have to. Read because summers inspire adventures and dreams, and when you read you’ll feel like swallows in flight. Read because it’s the best form of rebellion you have (for advice on what to read, come see me).
4. Avoid things, situations and people who make you feel negative or empty: seek out stimulating situations and the companionship of friends who enrich you, who understand you and appreciate you for who you are.
5. If you feel sad or afraid, don’t worry: summer, like every marvelous thing in life, can throw the soul into confusion. Try keeping a diary as a way to talk about how you feel (in September, if you’d like, we’ll read it together).
6. Dance, shamelessly. On a dance floor near your house, or alone in your room. Summer is dance, and it’s foolish not to take part.
7. At least once, watch the sunrise. Stay silent and breathe. Close your eyes, be thankful.
8. Play a lot of sports.
9. If you meet someone you find enchanting, tell him or her as sincerely and gracefully as you can. It doesn’t matter if she or he doesn’t understand. If they don’t, she or he wasn’t meant to be; otherwise, summer 2015 will be a golden time together (if this doesn’t work out, go back to point number 8).
10. Review your notes from our class: Compare the things we read and learned to the things that happen to you.
11. Be as happy as sunlight, as untamable as the sea.
12. Don’t swear. Always be well-mannered and kind.
13. Watch films with heartbreaking dialogue (in English if you can), in order to improve your language skills and your ability to dream. Don’t let the movie end with the final credits: live it again while you’re living and experiencing your summer.
14. In sparkling sunlight or hot summer nights, dream about how your life could and should be. During the summer, always do everything you can to avoid giving up, and everything you can to pursue your dream.
15. Be good.
Cesare Catà on Porto san Giorgio Beach in Marche, Italy, earlier this month. Photo courtesy of Cesare Catà.
What inspired the list?
Catà, who is 33 years old and has been teaching for seven years, says the assignment came about because of the "magic" of summer. "I was inspired by the summer itself, as a special and magic moment, useful to understand more deeply how much what is studied and apprehended at school is intimately related to the most relevant aspects of our existence," he said.
How did Catà spend his summers?
"I perfectly remember my summers as a student, some years ago: full of sport, swimming, love affairs, dancing, romances, dreams," Catà told HuffPost. He also remembers that reading played a vital role. "The books I read in my past summers enlightened my coming days and gave me a new key to face problems, joys, the person I loved and the ones I hobnobbed with. In that period arose in me a vital interest in literature and art that never dwindled."
Catà in Campofilone, Italy, in June 2014.
In Catà's list, the teacher suggests that his students "try to use some of the new words we learned together." Those words include:
1. Philosophy (love of wisdom) 2. Agape (mystic love) 3. Unconscious 4. Nostalgia 5. Ontological 6. Nihilism 7. Solipsism 8. Hermeneutics 9. Humanities 10. Absurdism
Catà also urged students to watch movies with "heartbreaking dialogue." Here are some of his favorites: "Breakfast at Tiffany's," "The Prince of Tides," "The Notebook," "One Day," "The Bridges of Madison County" and "Shadowlands."
Catà has big plans of his own this summer. He's hoping to write his first novel, stage five Shakespeare plays for a festival he directs and complete a number of essays. But he also plans to leave some room for spontaneity.
"I think that summer exists as something unexpected and beautifully [beyond] our capability of planning," Catà wrote. "I like not to project all details and wait for what the golden horizon of summer will present me."
A version of this post originally appeared on HuffPost Italy. It has been adapted and expanded for an English-speaking audience.