Friday, September 15, 2006
What I've been thinking about most lately is the paradox of this city. Simply put, it is hell: the Metro is a crowded jam of human life without honor or dignity, where gypsy children wander up and down, looking at you pitifully in the hope of a few euros. On the streets, beggars and street vendors vie for your attention, while pickpockets hope to avoid it as they relieve you of your valuables. People push past you without seeing your, or glare at you balefully. A beggar with maimed feet sits propped against the Vatican wall with a picture of the Sacred Heart. Someone speculated that he may have been maimed by his parents in order to help their begging when he was a child. Such things are done here.
Rising up in the midst of the dust, the dirt, the cigarette butts, the urine, the advertising, the loose papers on the street no one reads, is a white stone church. It's barely visible among the buildings around it. But the pillars and statues show years, decades of careful construction. Inside, it's an explosion of colour: white, black, red, blue, gold. Everything is marble, or polished wood. Under the altar is a famous saint you've read about in storybooks, with a Latin inscription above. All is quiet; the holiness is in the air. It is heaven.
Rome is its own Divine Comedy, showing you the best and the worst man can achieve in one. You pass from the streets to the churches and back again. You pass a communist riot to reach St. John Lateran. You read the fascist graffiti all the way to St. Peter's Square. The Romans do the same, passing through the dirty city to whisper their Padre Nostro before the altar of their favorite saint. You wonder if it affects them as it does you. You wonder how they can live in such a contradictory vale of tears.
Probably the same as you have always lived in yours. Rome is just like the rest of the world, after all -- only more so.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
The SPQR manhole covers . . . I love 'em. It stands for Senatus Populusque Romanus, the old motto of the Roman empire. (The Roman Senate and People.)
A blurry St. Peter's, on the way back from our classroom.
Mama mia, I'd better go before this internet cafe charges me for another hour. I promise more pictures soon!