A Collision of Inspiration from the Telly

I have had this note in my iPhone since August 5th, and it is the right time to go on about it.

It was a Monday, and I had the afternoon off. I had finished class that morning, my workout in the afternoon, and I was correcting assignments before my next job while a television program called “Last of the Summer Wine” was softly playing in the background—wonderful show, by the way. And, yes, I feel like an old man admitting to my liking of this show, but I have a small inclination toward British comedies.

So, the quick joke between two characters began thus:

“Do you realize how long people are buried?”

With a witty rejoinder that followed:

“The same way as short people, I imagine.” [insert artificial laughter]

The question was initially promoted with a philosophical air, but fell short where it landed in the ears of the bourgeois—who usually have little to do with philosophy. Well, it brought me to a halt.

So much so that I turned off that glowing-radioactive-entertainment-box and stared off into the distance—which, if you have not done, you should on a regular basis. That question was a very profound moment that collided tremendously with a bit of self-reevaluation that has recently surfaced in my life. Namely that once I die, I am dead forever.

State FairNow, yes, I know, “put it on a friggin’ t-shirt and shut up”. But it isn’t about life. It isn’t about living in the moment and this Carpe Diem or YOLO stuff. It was immense. It was just so profoundly quiet and immense. Perhaps because it was the day before my birthday. Perhaps it was because an important person just stepped altogether out of my life. I just don’t know.

Things haven’t really changed. I haven’t jumped out of a plane, or driven my car really fast, but something has clicked. By now, you might have surmised that I am an atheist. Go ahead, I’ll give you some time to recollect all the subtle (and not so subtle) stereotypes you can muster. Okay. I’ll proceed. I would describe myself, since announcing and embracing the whole atheism thing many years ago, as a navel-gazing atheist. I’m not one to argue or fight or push my interpretations of life onto others. No. I will wholly share my opinion if asked, but if you find God in a phone booth, a flower petal, or the death and life of a loved one, that’s cool. Just don’t treat me like I have some incurable (or curable) deficiency or disease.Light

But here’s where things alter a bit. And it’s with that day: August 5th, and all the collisions that came with it. I don’t care anymore. And I don’t know what that precisely means yet. But it feels earthy. And it feels bigger than I can grasp. And that is profoundly frustrating.

This might sound like I’m asking for support or help through a difficult period of my life, but I’m not, and yet I am. I’ll briefly explain in metaphor, lest this late-night post get too blustery:

I want something different. I want something to start. I want a push, a pull, an overflowing, a deluge, an effrontery, a chain-reaction, and I want to be beautifully ready for it. I want to embrace it. I want to be pulled under. I want to fight hard because I must. I want to sing loud because I can. I want money: to play with, to give, to have, to love, to flourish, to work for me, to buy gifts for others, to put in a paper cup of a blind man, to fill my pant pockets, to fly to India for Holi. I want knowledge to knock me over with its weight. I want friends who call and demand attention. I want my burdens to feel like gifts.

And I can only do this with the knowledge that some day I will die. And when I get off this planet, it will still spin: people will still swear, eat, f*ck, burp, run, bite their fingernails, cough loudly during a film, wake up hungover, ignore those near them for a phone call, survive terrible diseases, orgasm alone, yell “surprise!” in unison, hug their children in public, and cry from laughter.

The cool part is that all this is happening right now…


Rome, A Character Study: The Lonely Nun

1 (esp. of a person’s tastes) including a wide variety of things; all-embracing. Universal.
2 (Catholic) of the Roman Catholic faith.
• of or including all Christians.
• of or relating to the historic doctrine and practice of the Western Church.

I took photos of two individuals while in Rome this past February, 2012. Instead of simply throwing my photos from my trip online without context, I decided to grab a handful of photos and examine them closely. I wanted to discuss these two individuals at length, and why I decided to take photos of them when I did. Here is the first part: my lonely nun.

I always like a good photo of a nun or two while in Rome, and the reason should be a bit obvious, but I found this lone nun a fascinating photo opportunity.

I was waiting in line to enter St. Peter’s Basilica and climb the duomo with my gf, when I spotted the lone nun above walking through the piazza. The thing is, she looks so alone amongst all those young Italians just hanging out, or the multitude of tourists snapping photos or waiting in line. But I needed to give that more thought.

The last time I was in Rome (2003-04) my friend hosted a guided tour of St. Peter’s, and from him I learned that the surrounding columns are shaped so as to mimic the metaphorical, all-embracing arms of the Catholic Church. Thinking upon this, I wanted to reconsider my first evaluation of this nun’s loneliness. She was alone, but it was a rough judgment to say lonely. How could a nun possibly feel lonely in Rome? Much less in the Piazza San Pietro. The reason I took these photos is because her singularity caught my eye, but was it not also because I thought there was some aesthetic dissonance in her walking alone? I recalled the first definition, listed above, of Catholic from my GRE vocabulary building exercises (I know, silly) and at first I thought her singularity amongst the many was some sort of soulful incongruity; as though it was not a personal assault on her as singular individual (everyone needs time alone), but a representation of what Catholic was supposed to be, e.g. all-encompassing. And I thought there was some dissonance with this image.

But I now think I am missing the point of all-encompassing. I am not a Catholic. I was raised Protestant, and I respect each individual and their religion. But I imagine that Catholicism, thought of as all-encompassing, is something that does not leave someone even if they are alone. That’s the point, right? God, Catholicism, Belief, these thoughts do not leave the faithful. In other words: that nun was not alone. Nor is she. I don’t believe I was in error in my first approach, nor for my initial reason for taking the photos, but I was ignorant of what this person may feel, think, and believe. I was ignorant that she was, at that very moment, in the arms of her God, and therefore, never alone.

What do you think? Have an opinion on this aesthetic dissonance or the representation?