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Rome, Italy

ital.jpgIn the early morning, on the beaches of Ladispoli, a line of men come together on the beach while it is still dark, with their fishing poles, rubber boots and buckets. Just as their fathers did and their fathers before them did and their fathers before them did. One morning, I discovered them there when I traded sleep for a run on the beach in the black volcanic sand. It was one of those moments where you step into a completely different life and feel suddenly like an alien setting foot on a foreign land. I ran for half a mile before finding it impossible to resist a swim. And there, unexpectedly on the beaches of the metropolitan area of Rome, I had one of the most magic ‘ocean moments’ in my life. The surf was so gentle, there were no waves. Only textures rippling themselves into existence on the surface of the water, which was the temperature of warm, heated pool water. The water was clear and shallow for meter upon meter and so salty that it held you up gently. It is the safest feeling ocean I’ve ever been in. The full harvest super moon was setting to the West causing striations in the entire horizon line of pastel pink under pastel blue, under cobalt blue. Over the period of a few minutes, as if the horizon bleded into the ocean, the entire surface of the ocean, as far as the eye could see, picked up the color and turned pastel pink, pearlescent and blue. Much like a gasoline stain on a puddle. I watched the last star disappear in the sky. And then, as if I were not already in enough awe, the sun began rising to the East. A brilliant ball of orange-gold light. For a moment, its light crept across the dark sand. But suddenly, the energy and the warm orange light from the sun met with the energy and the cold pastel light of the moon. Instead of either of them cancelling each other out, we found ourselves suspended there in-between these two celestial bodies. Caught in the center of day and night in what felt like a love affair that happens in secret, when most people are still asleep in their beds. As if making passionate love after centuries apart, when the light being cast off from one met with the other, the result was an explosion of two different qualities of light and two polar energies. It was like a scene from what religions promise is waiting in the afterlife. I could not think. I could not breathe under the weight of the surreal beauty. It is a moment I will carry with me for all my life.

shutterstock_2053074041.jpgMy guess is that the majority of people who have been to Rome would guess that the dominant negative vibration of Rome is rudeness as the people of Rome can be offensively impolite and ill-mannered and tend to have a brash mannerism. However, the dominant negative vibration of Rome is actually: Chaos. If there was a city that personified the opposite of stillness, it would be Rome. There is a throng and babel to it. Rome is completely and totally overstimulating. But don’t fool yourself, this vibration of chaos isn’t just about the insane traffic or the brash interactions between so many people. Those are just surface symptoms of a deeper kind of chaos. To generalize, the people of Rome have simply succumbed to the fact that their city will be messy. And their minds will be messy. And their plans will be messy. And their emotions will be messy. And their relationships will be messy. And their lives will be a messy display of disorder and confusion. They don’t seem particularly perturbed by the fact that they don’t have their lives together or under any semblance of control. Perhaps because no one else around them does either. I actually find it endearing. But this vibration of chaos leads to things like lack of reliability, soap opera level drama in interpersonal relationships, disastrous administration, a city that is overwhelmed with trash, extreme inefficiency, pedestrian experiences that make it feel as if you were caught in the running of the bulls, traffic insanity, catch 22s everywhere, the inability to get things done (even in a more than reasonable timeframe) and a completely hectic way of being. Because of this chaos, it is very hard to get clear or to ground yourself in Rome. It is also very hard to be centered within yourself, rather than to get lost 'out there' in the external happenings of the environment. Rome would be a very hard place to get your life under control.

shutterstock_2287233235.jpgThe dominant positive vibration of Rome is: Spectacle. Rome, personified, is a show off. Rome wants you to come to it. Rome wants to be seen. So many places in this world seek to maintain their magic by staying secret. And by not attracting the mob. With Rome, it is the exact opposite. Rome is a performer, and the world is its stage. Like all true performers, it only thrives when people look at it. It flaunts and boasts and trumpets. It feeds off the admiration. Anything less, would leave it feeling empty and depressed. This vibration is in the landscape itself, which loves and wants people there. This is probably why Rome is such a cradle of human civilization. And it is in the original intention with which the city was built. It was built to be a spectacle and it was meant to impress. And it is in the way the people of Rome love their city and want to show it off. Now what I am about to say will seem like a contradiction unless you consider that inherent contradictions are a common element of chaos. But Romans can have a brash and even rude mannerism and yet at the same time, open up their arms and say “yes” to you.      

I have never seen more tourists anywhere in my life than at the various attractions in Rome. But instead of feeling invaded, again and again, I observed the people of Rome dawn the attitude of “Yes… Come, come. Of course, you want to see this place! It’s amazing!” The people who call the city home want to be a part of what is happening, and everything that is happening, is happening in Rome. There is a sincere jolliness to the people that is beyond rare to find in areas of such peopled density. Even the chilly eminence of the Vatican gets swallowed up by this busy jolliness. A jolliness is accentuated by the “singy”, up and down notes of the language as it is spoken on the streets.

shutterstock_1407071195.jpgWhat was fascinating is that despite the absolute chaos of everything in Rome, including the traffic, people have an unspoken attunement to the chaotic surroundings. Unless you can sense this unspoken relationship that they are all having with each other, it makes no sense why everyone isn’t getting into an accident every day. They miss colliding with each other by centimeters. Unlike in other cities with horrendous traffic, where car horns are a literal symphony taking place twenty four hours a day, they dart and merge and weave around each other as if in a state of total acceptance of the fact that the consequence of being in such a happening place, is that people are going to get in their way. They do not know the meaning of stillness or personal space. Which might sound like hell to some people (in fact I observed more than a few total melt downs in people who came to Rome from other cultures because of this fact). But it is a fabulous antidote to boredom, to isolation and to ostracization.

IMG_0876.jpgAside from seeking out places away from tourists, so that I could get a good read on the people that call Rome home, I couldn’t resist seeing the Roman Coliseum… one of the seven wonders of the world. Aside from a few spots, there is very little energy left from the original days of the Gladiator. It has dissipated over years and mostly what can be felt today is the thought projections of millions upon millions of people regarding what it must have been like in its day and the things that must have happened there. You can imagine the roar of the audience as if they were sitting there all around you. You can imagine the terror of the people who knew they were going there to die. The agony of the brutality experienced by the animals and slaves. The inflated boost of glory that comes with victory. There is an upside and a downside to this dissipation of energy. The downside is that unlike the amphitheater in Trier Germany (another one of the largest cities that belonged to the Roman Empire) it’s hard to perceive the energetic imprints of the actual past that happened there, which is a deeply visceral experience that is intense. The upside is that it’s hard to perceive the energetic imprints of the actual past that happened there, which were horrors most modern people of today cannot comprehend.

shutterstock_618648266.jpgAnd I stood under the famous ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It was a bizarre experience. Over tourism implies that the actual experience of something is diminished by the amount of tourists that are there. Nowhere is this truer than it is at the Vatican in the Sistine Chapel. Because it is so famous all around the world, you feel like you are about to see something amazing in person that you have only heard tales about. But it was more crowded than Tiananmen Square in China. To even get through the door was a challenge. When we finally did, we had to hold onto each other so as to not be swept away from each other by the crowd. Gendarmerie (essentially the Vatican police) were barking aggressive orders to not stop on the sides of the room. They were herding people out of the room and forcing people who wanted to stop and look up into the very center of the room. Only everyone wanted to stop and look up. And so, I found myself in a mosh pit of people, all of whom were full of disappointment at the experience and all of whom were having an incredibly unpleasant time. It was so crowded and so aggressive and so chaotic that it was not possible to take in the experience at all. You could not really focus or feel any of the art around you or above you, beyond the maddening crowd. The body heat from so many people in such a small place was in and of itself threatening. I took a mental picture in my head before I was promptly spit out of the room. I wish I could have been there when it is possible to really soak it in. I found it sad really. And they definitely don’t show you this harsh reality about seeing the Sistine Chapel on any of the tourist sites. I was struck by the impression that Michelangelo’s paintings are not like paintings at all. They are like sculptures imprinted in 2-D on flat walls. Just the idea of taking on the commission of painting all that detail is overwhelming. It makes you understand why Michelangelo wanted nothing to do with the project when he was asked to take it on. And why he even wrote a poem about his misery whilst doing it.    

I adored the audience in Rome. From on stage, their enthusiasm felt like playing with a joyful tidal wave. It was just one of those moments of absolute chemistry when the people love you and you love them back. When you know that the longer story of your relationship with each other has just begun. This is how I feel about Rome. Like unexpectedly, some unforeseen fate has found me. I did not expect to fall in love with Rome. But one can never expect the unexpected.

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