Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Week Nine: We Are All the Same

Probably the coolest thing we did, though, was take a trip to Pompeii and   Mount Vesuvius. We took a bus almost all the way up the volcano, and hiked the rest of the way. We learned that there are thousands of people still living on this active volcano that is supposed to have a major eruption in the next few years. And we learned that it is a known fact that the evacuation procedures are not up to capacity aka not everyone will be able to get out once it inevitably erupts. And yet people still live there. We drove past people tending their gardens and playing with their children outside. At the top of the volcano we took a ton of pictures, of course, because how can you not document a time when you climbed an active volcano? Then we went on to Pompeii. It was an eerie, interesting, thought-provoking, and calming feeling walking along the streets of Pompeii. It was eerie to think that so many people were going about their daily business when all of a sudden their entire city was covered in ash and they were immortalized for eternity, in whatever position they last thought to put themselves in. It was interesting to learn the history of the city, and about the way of life at that time. Growing up with a history professor as a father and going on historically based vacations almost every summer, you learn to appreciate history in all its forms, especially when you can live it. And walking through Pompeii is as close as I’ve ever come to living history. It was thought-provoking because it made me wonder how these people would feel about us walking through their streets, treating their homes like a museum, analyzing everything and snapping pictures in every direction. It made me wonder if I would be happy with myself if I was preserved in this moment exactly, for all of eternity and tourists from all over the world to see. No, we cannot see the personalities or thoughts of the remains of the people we saw, but we did see them in their very last moment. What were they thinking about? Did they have any hope in those last minutes? And maybe most surprisingly, it was calming to walk the streets of Pompeii. I realized in Rome, more so than in any place I’ve been before, that people are all the same. Different times, different places, different upbringings may make us seem different on the outside, but there is something innately the same about all of us. When I was in Spain I saw a mother pushing her child on the swings. I know very little Spanish and was not even close enough to hear their conversation, but I imagine that it was similar to a conversation my mom may have had with me when I was small. The image of that mother and child could have been taken in any number of places around the world, the way the mom was protective of her daughter was a look I recognized instantly, the way the child looked up at her mother, as if begging for a few more minutes on the swings, was not foreign. Though I had this realization in Spain, it was driven home for me in Rome, and especially in Pompeii. Here were these people, who lived in a time and place so different from  my own, and yet so much was the same. There was baking bread found in one of the ovens. There were people found going about their daily business, ready to go shopping or clean their houses or feed their children. One of the bodies was of a young man, his hands covering his nose and mouth, giving him precious few more seconds of life. Another of the bodies that we saw was that of a pregnant woman, clutching her stomach in her last moments as if to protect her child, even if she could not protect herself. Walking through the streets of Pompeii, I felt so connected to those people, and to humanity. If we can recognize that we are no different from that mother, hoping to save her child, or that man, doing anything he can for one more breath, maybe things can start to change.

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