Easter Sunday, 04/12/2009, 12:30pm
So here I am, “in compagna” (in the country), sitting on an ancient patio as the smell of roasted lamb and potatoes comes wafting out of the kitchen. The sun is on my back, and the only sound I hear for miles is the click-click of Sim’s heels on the stone floor of the kitchen and the hushhhhhhhhhh of the the breeze as it pours gently down the hill. It is Easter Sunday in Italy, and to my right on the table stands the little basket of hard-boiled eggs that we took down to the church this morning to have “benedetti” (blessed) by the priest. Later on, each person will take an egg and smack it against that of their neighbor. Whoever is left with an unbroken shell in the end “wins”– but what they win, I don’t know. I have never eaten a blessed egg before.
Life, as always, is a constant learning process. In my life, that process is a bit exaggerated right now as I am presented with new sights and smells and words and faces and experiences. The phrase “small world” means nothing to me at the moment, as the farther my boundaries are stretched, the more I realize how much grander still are the boundaries of the world and how much I will never see and know. I am constantly curious, constantly in awe, and all the while sensitive to how much I am changing and how little, in the grand scheme of things, this world of ours has changed. I find so much significance in everything: in the sun, in this ancient house and all that it has seen, in the perfection of the foam on my coffee in the morning, in slight acts of kindness, in words…
Easter Sunday, 04/12/2009, 4:00pm
So today at lunch something interesting happened. We were eating Sim’s delicious “agnell0” (pron. an-yellow = lamb)– and by “we” I mean me, Sim, Nic, their daughter Jennifer, and Sim’s Italian cousin Roberto– and everyone was discussing (in Italian) the phrase “Intelligence always wins over the rules.” Perhaps it is lost a bit in translation, but basically Roberto wanted to know if we thought it was true that a person’s ingenuity could find a way around the laws or rules put into place by a government, society, boss, etc. I won’t preach to the choir here and say that the rules themselves are the product of the ingenuity of the rule-maker, who may or may not be responding to the “rules” put in place by another person’s ingenuity, because really, that is beside the point. At any rate, Roberto was convinced that the phrase was absolutely not true, and though I did not agree with him in the slightest, I held my tongue both because I did not want to overstep my boundaries as a guest, and because my Italian is not quite good enough yet to discuss deep philosophical implications. In the very least, it made me realize how opinionated he is, yet at the same time how ignorant and closed-minded. Several minutes later the conversation turned to me, why I was here in Italy learning Italian, and that I had studied Latin and Greek at school. Sim then explained what I studied in Germany last year, and before she could even finish Roberto interjected to let everyone at the table know how much he disapproved of people who study “useless” things (yes, he really said “useless”) like ancient languages, philosophy, and history. He said that he could not believe that someone would give me money to study Roman ruins when there are so many other important problems to be solved in the world. I was utterly shocked by his words and was praying that I was misunderstanding something, but then he addressed me directly and shouted, “Well what the hell are you going to do with your education??!” I looked at him, eyes wide, and shrugged. He acted like I had just proved his point and repeated again and again how useless it is to know Latin and Greek and how it was an utter waste of time for me- or anyone else- to study them. Of course Nic and Sim interjected and stood up for me, but I could tell that even they were thanking God that their children were indeed studying more “useful” things. It is just a horrible feeling being attacked- physically or intellectually- and not having the tools (in this case, the language skills) to defend yourself. I suppose I could have given him a piece of my mind in English, but he wouldn’t have understood and it would have seemed aggressive on my part. So there I sat, upset, stunned, confused, and completely panicking about “what the hell I am going to do with my life.” Of course I could not be happier with my chosen course of study, and in the long run I think I will be just fine in life. However, at this point, all certainty is coming to an end as I have no other “educational obligations,” so naturally I am a little scared, unsure, and insecure. In a single moment, all of those feelings had a face and a voice that was telling me that, in spite of all my intelligence, my goodwill, hard work, and accomplishments– in spite of all my potential, even– I have wasted not only my time, but the world’s time and shame on me! There are so many things running through my head and heart and there are so many things that I want to say right now, but I am lacking the words so I will just end here, with sincere apologies if this entry seems strange and scattered.