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FRANCISCO J. VARELA The Central Figure in "MONTE GRANDE: what is life?"
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The main figure in the film is the Chilean Francisco Varela, who died in 2001 at the age of 54. He was a famous neurobiologist and leading figure in the field of cognitive science who became known for his work (together with H. Maturana) on autopoiesis, a definition of life based on autonomy.

A main focus for Varela' work was the idea of building a bridge between the discoveries of the mind in science and the discoveries of the mind through experience.

After a simple, wonderful childhood in the village of Monte Grande in the north of Chile, and a rapid and successful period of study at Harvard, Pinochet's putsch in 1973 made Francisco confront death for the first time in his life. His father-in-law and friends of his were murdered. Later in exile he was twice confronted with his own death. Once while waiting for a transplant, and again following unsuccessful cancer treatment.

Already as a boy and up until his death, Varela was continually asking himself the same question: How is it possible that our body and mind live as one entity?

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His strong humanistic commitment, his clear and realistic way of thinking, his warm-heartedness and the candour he brought to his relationships -- with his wife, children, friends, students and colleagues, made him an exceptional man and a great catalyser of ideas. He once said, 'Ideas fly through the air; one only needs to be open in order to catch, understand and develop them.'

Francisco Varela died in Paris on 28 May 2001, two weeks after an unexpectedly severe relapse following the end of his course of chemotherapy. In the last few months before Varela's death Franz Reichle had several intense conversations with him on themes central to the film, and was able to record these discussions onto video.

For detailed information on his publications see also:
http://www.enolagaia.com/Varela.html

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Last Updated September 4, 2008
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