An eternal presence in the Eternal City

I am vacationing in the Eternal City of Rome, Italy. The Romans believed that Rome would always exist as the ruler of its empires so that is why it is called the Eternal City. Rome continues its eternal presence in the world, but its empire consists only of a frenzied concoction of busy streets, closely stacked buildings, and crumbling ruins. Within all of this confusion, though, is a populace of people who work hard, play hard, and take siestas.

I visited the Colosseum and its neighbors, Palatine Hill and The Forum. The Colosseum was not the most important part of Roman rule, but it gets the most press. It is a vast stadium (not much unlike the present day football stadiums) where gladiators (usually slaves and criminals) dealt death to each other and thousands of animals captured and imported from faraway lands. It was difficult to find quiet and silence among the hundreds of people visiting, but it was too easy to imagine that I still heard the cacophony of cheers and jeers that smothered the weeping and cries of the condemned. Looking down, I could see the walls and corridors where the animals were kept. They must have been consumed with confusion, fear, and rage. None of them would live to return to their homeland.

These games ended about 1500 years ago, but we still like to gather in stadiums and witness victory and defeat in the fields below. The difference is that most of our gladiators will live to fight another day and retire into old age.

Only a few of the homes and buildings of Palatine Hill and The Forum, where Roman law was enacted and high society lived, still exist. The foundations of long-deceased structures can still be seen in the ground as excavators sweep away years of sand and grass. My eyes consume the same scenes as ancient Romans: the Colosseum in the distance, the bricks of the house of Octavius Augustus Caeser, a stark and brilliant sun in a sky-blue heaven . . . it is the same, but it is different.

We are different, but we are the same as those Romans. We are still barbaric in the way we feast upon the misfortunes and deaths of others, yet we have built an infrastructure of sewers and cities that are marvels and miracles. The Romans built their plumbing from lead, however, and it is supposed that many of the elite suffered from lead poisoning. We, too, have poisoned ourselves and continue to do so in ways we have yet to discover.

My presence here feels like a weary breath. We are revisiting what we have already created once–a way of being that did not . . . could not . . . last. My question is: can we restructure what we have built or do we let it crumble into ruins to build upon it again?

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass

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8 Responses to “An eternal presence in the Eternal City”

  1. passionatepresence Says:

    I Loved Rome! Your post brought back fond memories with your wonderful descriptions. Thank you so much!

    I agree. We are still barbarians.

    Regarding your question… I am saying, it doesn’t matter. Life will answer it. Either way, I hope to play a positive role, but even that I can’t say for sure. I don’t have to fix life any more. Life is capable of handling itself, and I will play how it wants nor matter how apparently barbaric.

    Blow a Kiss to the city for me.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Ben — Rome was incredibly interesting and yes, I did blow a kiss for you before we left. We are now in Florence, which is a bit tamer. However, people still drive like maniacs. I could never drive here because I would never get anywhere. I am too used to driving nice! There are few accidents here because it seems like everyone has agreed they will all drive badly so everyone expects all the other drivers to do the unexpected, the wrong thing, to cut them off, to speed, etc. We walk everywhere and play dodge the car/scooter.

      You are right: life does not need fixing; as in Desiderata, everything is unfolding as it should. It will repeat itself as necessary. It will journey to new destinations the same.

  2. ButterfliesGalore-Kimberly Grady Says:

    Wonderful post…

    Yes it does seem like things come full circle and we are just as simple and barbarian like as we once were. Even in today’s world there are barbarians far worse than these in Rome….When will mankind seek a higher presence to realize they are divine and treat the world and others as such.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Kim – what is normal and seems divine now, may be seen as barbaric and evil in fifty years. The Romans honestly thought they were living as they should, as the gods required, as good citizens. It was the influence of Christianity that brought the gladiator games to an end. And Christianity brought its own barbaric rules and regulations.

  3. jeffstroud Says:

    Hmm? Your blog seems a bit dark? Have we learned anything from the past, yes and no. Because you are asking the question, we as conscious beings seek to restructure our lives and the way we live…

    I am glad that you have gotten a bit of a vacation !

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Jeff – yes, there is a darkness that overshadows Rome and its history. A dark lesson, for sure. Like England (at one point the sun never set on the British empire, meaning they held lands in all corners of the earth), the Romans had a vast and rich influence, but something happened. That something can happen to any nation (including the US) unless we pay close attention and work to remain conscious, develop our intuition and foresight, and realize that we have many of the same problems Rome did before its collapse: inflation, poverty, pollution . . .

      Regardless, I am so very much enjoying my vacation. The Italians have different attitudes that I find engaging and entertaining.

  4. holessence Says:

    Barbara – I can imagine hearing the anguished screams from the distant past haunting one’s visit to the Colosseum. I shudder just thinking about what took place there. Your words,

    “We, too, have poisoned ourselves and continue to do so in ways we have yet to discover”

    are all too telling. What will people 1500 years from now think about us as they come to look at our ruins?

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Laurie — I think there is a saying that those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it. When I find myself going down a path that feels familiar and has an unpleasant outcome, I have to remember to make myself do something — anything — different to change the outcome. I hope we leave a different legacy for others to excavate.

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