For the first time in two months yesterday I took a long walk in the historical center of Rome. I started from my place near Piazza Navona and continued on along the Tiber river to the Castel Sant’Angelo bridge and ended up in Vatican square.
Normally a very crowded area with throngs of tourists holding their distinguishing badge and following a flag-carrying guide, yesterday was witness to an eerie scenario: a mom with a baby carrier, a man on a bicycle further ahead, a delivery boy speeding through.
It felt unsettling, wrong somehow, and definitely not the Rome I have come to know in the past five years. Gone were the deafening car honks, inexistent the shouting of the ambulant sellers of cheap souvenirs, silent the gawking of the seagulls (really, they belong much closer to the sea!).
With all the shops, restaurants and bars still closed, what felt shocking were the buildings and the monuments, so alone and at last noticeable for their majesty and their beauty, witness to centuries of scarcity and abundance, upheavals and calm.
I scurried through just like everyone else, mask and gloves on, careful to respect the required distance (there were so few of us that we would have had to call each other to come in close contact!), darting furtive looks left and right, and then decided to take a break and sit on a step in the empty Vatican square.
We are supposed to re-open half of our businesses next Monday. “Yay,” one could say, but also, “Gosh, what has happened?”
Italian bureaucracy notwithstanding, Italy has suffered greatly in more ways than one. Thousands upon thousands of individuals suddenly without work, no financial help from the government (it was supposed to arrive by the end of March, then by the end of April, and now… who knows?). A whole country of people locked inside their homes for more than two months, no idea of what we were dealing with or how to heal, no clue as to when things could begin anew.
They say that this period taught us to embrace stillness and mindfulness. They say that thanks to it, Nature has regained its rightful place on Earth. They say that God has finally showed us His anger at our egotism and excesses. They say that the animals have finally lived free of human ignorance and cruelty for once in a lifetime.
I believe pretty much all of it.
Yes, there is the finding of the man-made virus for profit purposes, there is the idea that it was only in part created by man and in part by coming in close contact with wild animals, and other far-fetched suppositions.
But regardless of what they are, I do believe in the fact that this period has brought us in close contact to the two most elemental human emotions, Fear and Love.
Fear of survival and reprisal (from the virus), Love for those who are around and that could help us deal with our ordeal.
Fear that we would lose someone dear but gone unseen until now, Love for the little things that have shown up as if by miracle while trying to pass the hours in our silenced adobe.
Fear of not being able to lie our tired limbs on warm sand again, and Love for the memories of having done so up to recently.
The list is endless. What we lost and might have lost, what we’ve gained.
In this equation, perhaps the thing to ask ourselves is: Now that the virus “may” have tired of us humans and be gone, how will we face the future knowing first hand how fragile we are?
How will we be able to inhumanely slaughter our animals again for our bottomless consumption needs?
How will we give more weight to owning senseless objects when the hours spent in earning the money to buy them robs us of precious time to be with our dear ones?
The answer lies in a simple choice, a choice that the arrival of this virus has shown us: we can either choose Fear or we can choose Love. All the other emotions are corollary to these two.
Which one do you choose? Do you choose Love for yourself, others and all the species on Earth, or do you choose Fear?
I choose not to forget this time. I choose to remember the preciousness of seeing things for the first time because I had the time to do so, I choose to be kinder to myself, to include everyone in my life in spite of past quarrels, to donate what I can to worthy causes, to be mindful (yes, I said it, Mindful!) of every minute of the day that goes by and can’t be returned. I choose to pray for the departed and for the people in my life who have given me without asking.
I choose Love, and I hope you do too.
In the hope that you are safe and looking forward to an easier time. Please feel free to get in touch with me to help you overcome whichever challenge you may be facing today.
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