When the sun rises on Rome a new city is born. Rome leaves behind her nighttime alter ego and becomes a much different city in the daytime. The tourists come out during the day pointing their cameras at everything that resembles history and the locals try and sell them every trinket under the sun in order to make a euro. Rome welcomes everyone and knows that she will be standing long after both the tourists and even the locals are long gone. Rome is a survivor.
When you have been around as long as Rome there is nothing to prove. The Coliseum stands as a monument to an Empire that ruled the world, the Vatican hovers over the city as a reminder that God is always watching and the Galleria Borghese celebrates the Renaissance and reminds us that great art is always possible if we only follow our passion.
Joy and I awoke early for our last day in Europe. Seeing the sunrise for the last time on our European adventure was bitter sweet. We were coming to the end of the trip of a lifetime but we still had our last day of Rome in front of us. We made our way down to the concierge very early in the morning so that we could get the most of our final day. I knew the first place I wanted to go was the Coliseum so I confidently walked up to the concierge and without even attempting to speak Italian, I asked, in typical American parlance, "How do we get to the Coliseum?"
The gentleman behind the counter had such a look of confusion and consternation on his face that it was comical watching his reaction as he tried with all his might not to make me feel like one of the dumbest people walking the Earth.
"Go out the front door, take a right and walk until you get to the big dilapidated building," he said disguising his embarrassment for me.
Indeed, he was correct. The Coliseum stood not far from where Joy and I were staying and the parade of tourists walking towards this homage to an era long since passed was further indication we were headed in the right direction.
The Coliseum by all accounts is an impressive display of the abilities of humans to create and build. When taking in Coliseumthis edifice one can't help but marvel at the ingenuity of humans to build such a massive structure without the assistance of modern day machinery. It took one brave person to believe a structure like this could be built and then it took an entire battery of people to execute that vision oftentimes to their own peril.
I began thinking how amazing the human spirit is when we band together in a common goal. There seems to be little we cannot accomplish if only we choose to cooperate with and support one another to achieve that goal. The Coliseum is a testament to the human spirit, a spirit that stands long after the very people who had built it had passed on to the divine.
I couldn't help but think of all of their stories as they toiled to create this shrine to an empire that most likely didn't even know the names of those who built it. As Joy and I looked up at the massive structure we marveled with wonder as to how they could possibly have built something so immense, a towering structure in the sky that most likely claimed many casualties as it was being erected.
"How many people do you think died in the making of this?" Joy asked me as peddlers interrupted us selling everything from selfie sticks to buttons with the Pope's picture emblazoned upon them.
We both agreed that this structure claimed many lives both in the building of it and in the contests that took place among the gladiators that thrilled audiences with the duels that they fought between its walls. I considered that I too, would share their fate and ultimate Earthly demise one day.
As we stood taking in this marvel of human expression Joy came up with what I think was a brilliant idea; she said, "We only have one day here why don't we get on one of the double decker buses and tour the city? We can see everything that we want to do when we come back to Rome on our next trip." (Joy has a adorable quirk of planning the next adventure even as we are on our current adventure)
I thought this was a brilliant idea. It was kitschy, touristy and incredibly convenient so we plopped down 18 euros apiece and we hopped on the "green" bus for our trek around this most amazing of cities. As Joy and I sat on the top of the bus looking out on a perfect April day we talked about our amazing adventure. We drank in the Vatican and would slip off of the bus in pockets of the city to grab a snack and a glass of wine.
We are blessed, we said, there is no doubt. So blessed. A transformational shift had happened in my life more than 5 years ago when I finally came to realize that my place in this life is one of service to others. I came out of a fog that was mired in depression and discontent only to find a world that was filled with love and compassion awaited me, it was only my limited vision that didn't allow me to see it. Once I opened up my heart the Universe then responded in the only way She knows how: She brought me everything I had ever hoped to experience and Rome was the perfect illustration of this manifestation. The spirit of Rome was shining down on me with a guiding light that said, "you are on the right path now, Dear One. Go show the world that love kindness and compassion will always be the compass that will guide you out of despair." And guide me, they did.
For Joy, as she entered her 29th year, her journey to equanimity started a little more than a year ago. Her progress was so much more accelerated than mine but that matters not to me because I have come to learn that we will all arrive in time. There is nowhere else for us to go other than to the light of love. When we get there matters not, how we get there matters not and with whom we arrive matters not because eventually we will all reunite. We will all return and remember what has always been: love is all there is. It took most of my life but I had finally remembered and finally I had felt aligned with the greater purpose of this glorious Universe.
This is Rome. This is her heritage. Rome is, if you are open, the return to light. It is the return to peace and equanimity. Rome is a testament to what it is to be human. Yes, Rome said, we will build the Coliseum. Yes, it will stand long after we are gone, yes we will all meet here again one day and marvel at all we can do if we only believe there is a better world, a world filled with love and compassion. Yes, Rome boasts, we will build it and it will stay standing.
Rome waits for us to arrive. It matters not to her when, how or with whom. Rome waits for us to arrive in a way Venice does not for Rome awaits with hope where Venice seems burdened by her eventual fate. Venice is sinking whereas Rome is standing tall.
As Joy and I ended our final night in Europe we collapsed asleep only to awake the next morning with our intention to get back to work. The work I speak of is spreading hope to those that see none, the work is to illustrate compassion and love to those who may believe it no longer exists and the work is to shine the light a little brighter to illustrate to all there is a better way for us all to live and that life is one that is enshrouded in love. This work that I speak of is our common humanity. We all breathe the same air, drink the same water and share this sometimes scary journey with each other so why not just hold on to each other for this bumpy ride and support each other until we return to the place where we all shall reside? This is the work. This is the calling. This is Rome and when in Rome do as she does. Stand tall and with pride because we are the match and Rome is our candle and together we create light.
And thus, Joy and I return to our home where our lives await us.