Luqman's Day 4 - Never out of sight, will drive you out of your mind
I was thinking about random stuff today while on our daily adventures and I recognized several things. The first was that Rome is absolutely beautiful. Of course, this is no new revelation, but your inability to walk a block without being stopped in your tracks by a new artistic or architectural masterpiece constantly reminds you. This happened to us today as we were leaving our hotel and saw that a random door on a side street was open revealing a beautiful church and courtyard that we would have never seen. I have no idea what it was called, but it was breathtaking. Who knows how many more are hidden behind random doors. Next I recognized that the wonderful mood and welcoming feel of Rome is a result of its citizens' awareness and pride in their city and culture. Obviously, the aesthetically pleasing nature of the environment and people themselves can't hurt either, but it is easy to see that beauty is good for the soul. I also saw that Italians really do dress like they all work on the catwalk. We actually saw so many pea coat-scarf-three piece suit ensembles on guys and fur coats and knee high boot combos on women that we wondered what these folks wear to the gym. Folks even wore this in McDonalds, seriously. It was quite an experience. All this time, I thought I was just cheap and it turns out that in Italy, you can still have class at McDonalds. Turns out I wasn't wrong, but rather misplaced.
Anyway, the biggest epiphany I had was that there is enormous strength in images. This is very apparent in Rome. Statues, paintings, monuments and murals are endless. We saw it today from the Trinita del Monti or Spanish Steps, the Piazza di Spagna, and the breathtaking square at Piazza del Popolo. Each of these places impressed, but I started to recognize a pattern. Every church has images leaping off the walls and ceilings, all of them speaking to you. It is quite spell bounding. They also have several obelisks in front of their most important buildings and squares, which represent the power and regality of the church and local government. There are also mythical Roman gods and creatures like sphinxes adorning every corner. Even the cardinals, popes, and other figures have been immortalized in marble and in vivid frescoes, seemingly looking over generations to come and keeping their influence alive ad infinitum. It is no doubt that these reminders have helped Rome serve as the home base for the Catholic Church and stretch their influence around the globe. Surely, these images were dispersed to remind followers of both the faith they serve and the consequences for deterring from the path. However, I wonder if one eventually becomes desensitized to the power of these images after constant bombardment. Looking at some of these statues around town makes me think that kids grow up doing stomach crunches and dressing in fig leaves trying to emulate what is around them. But by the time you are older, do you even notice these images or still feel the power they once held? I feel like if I went to service in the Sistine Chapel every Sunday, I would not be as taken aback by the ceiling and walls as I was a couple of days ago. In fact, they may just be walls and a ceiling.
In America, violence and gore are now so commonplace, kids don't even have anything to be scared of anymore. I even think my mother is running out of viable threats for us (you may not know her, but trust me when I say that this is big). And it makes me wonder, has the religious and cultural imagery in Rome created a similar effect? You can tell that the Catholicism is more cultural here than spiritual, as has occurred in several places around the world. So in a sense religion loses its importance and relevance. I guess this is how people can justify some of the crazy stuff they do, and at home we don't even look up when we hear the news anchor mention that another school got shot up. I wonder how far this will go and what destiny it will create for us all.
It also makes me wonder about things we take for granted at home. Security and opportunity are probably the two biggest that come to mind. Americans are so programmed into materialism and gluttony, we forget about the important things in life. Many of us never miss a meal, and quite a few of us stumble upon some extra ones. More of us never miss sleep from worry of being attacked or persecuted for voicing our opinions. Even less of us had to quit elementary school to go contribute to the absolute survival of our families. I guess these things all came to mind as I was thrust into a situation that reminds me of how conveniently ignorant we are. Now, as I prepare to embark upon Africa (Egypt) and Asia (Thailand) in a couple of days, I know that I will find countless other reasons to be thankful for what I take for granted. I pray for the people who I will meet in the coming weeks whose situation doesn't allow the same peace of mind I have. And I can only hope that through my experiences, you are reminded to be thankful for your blessings as well.