6/09/2006

Where I have been...ruminations on the tower of Babel

I could start this by being all self-pitying and self-centered and say that my recent travels have been a metaphor for my life--lost and alone. But then someone would say "yea, whatever, she is in Tuscany. I do not feel bad for her."

Italian is a language many people say they want to learn but it seems that few follow up on this. I wonder why? It is a beautiful language made to express strong emotions. I think that there are important lessons to be learned from the Italian way of life. They are not one of the economic powerhouses of Europe and part of that is because they still cling to the way life has been for centuries. This is evident in the beauty and sofistication of the crumbling villas; the way the sun refects off the young buds that will become olives; the roosters crowing all day long; the dogs that run free; the the italians arguing politics over a shot of expresso. In some ways I truly appreciate the way life has been preserved here, the way the olive trees and grape vines are the backbone of life. I am even more appreciative of this after my trips to Florence and Siena where I see Americans being ugly, rufusing to attempt to learn even the simplest Italian phrases or refusing to accept cultural differences. It pains me to make my colleagues and co-workers talk in English; I can understand a lot of Italian if it is slow but my ability to talk is almost non-existent. I feel the pain of coming from a country so proud it trandscends arrogance to something above and beyond expression.

The kindness that has been shown to me is amazing. I wish that somehow Italians could export that mind-set and way of living life to American we would be better for it. I feel a bit like Scarlett O"hara, "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers." Or however that quote is supposed to go.

Ciao!

2 comments:

Rain said...

Actually, the quote is from "A Streetcar Named Desire," and it's something Blanche DuBois says to the man from the mental institution whose coming to take her away--a fact which she may or may not be cognizant of. Fascinating how the context changes the meaning, no?

James Naylor said...

Well, no. I was living in a very institutional setting, sleeping on an old hospital bed...actually my bedroom was set up a lot like a hospital room...and I did spend a lot of time reflecting on the idea of how mental institutions were once set in the country or in calming settings to ease the nerves...so perhaps it is even more fitting. And honestly I much prefered "A Streetcar Named Desire" to "Gone with the Wind" and not just because it was made during Brando's hot phase either.