The book that I am currently reading is Eat, Pray, Love. So far it is pretty good. The beginning was a little slow. I didn't particularly like the first few chapters where she laments continually about her divorce and her affair, but once I got passed that and into the traveling I have found it to be quite entertaining. Anyway, yesterday I read a part that was interesting, thought provoking and even profound.
In these few paragraphs she is talking about the Augusteum in Rome. I'll just quote her directly because my describing it really isn't as good as the words that she chose:
This big, round, ruined pile of brick started life as a glorious mausoleum, built by Octavian Augustus to house his remains and the remains of his family for all of eternity. It must have been impossible to the emperor to have imagined at the time that Rome would ever be anything but a mighty Augustus-worshiping empire. How could he possible have foreseen the collapse of the realm? or known that, with all the aqueducts destroyed by barbarians and with the great roads left in ruin, the city would empty of citizens, and it would take almost twenty centuries before Rome ever recovered the population she had boasted during her height of glory?
Augustus's mausoleum fell to ruins and thieved during the Dark Ages. Somebody stole the emperor's ashes- no telling who. By the twelfth century, though, the monument had been renovated into a fortress for the powerful Colonna family, to protect them from assaults by various warring princes. Then the Augusteum was transformed somehow into a vineyard, then a Renaissance garden, then a bullring (we're in the eighteenth century now), then a fireworks depository, then a concert hall. In the 1930s, Mussolini seized the property and restored it down to its classical foundations, so that it could someday be the final resting place for his remains. (Again, it must have been impossible back then to imagine that Rome could ever be anything but a Mussolini-worshiping empire.) Of course, Mussolini's fascist dream did not last, nor did he get the imperial burial he'd anticipated.
Todya the Augusteum is one of the quietest and loneliest places in Rome, buried deep in the ground. The city has grown up around it over the centuries. (One inch a year is the general rule of thumb for the accumulation of time's debris.) Traffic above the monument spins in a hectic circle, and nobody ever goes down their- from what i can tell- except to use the place as a public bathroom. But the building still exists, holding its Roman ground with dignity, waiting for its next incarnation.
I find the endurance of the Augusteum so reassuring, that this structure has had such an erratic career, yet always adjusted to the particular wildness of the times. To me, the Augusteum is like a person who's led a totally crazy life- who maybe started out as a housewife, then unexpectedly became a widow, then took up fan-dancing to make money, ended up somehow as the first female dentist in outer space, and then tried her hand at national politics- yet who has managed to hold an intact sense of herself throughout every upheaval.
I look at the Augusteum, and I think that perhaps my life has not actually been so chaotic, after all. It is merely this world that is chaotic, bringing changes to us all that nobody could have anticipated. The Augusteum warns me not to get attached to any obsolete ideas about who I am, what i represent, whom I belong to, or what function I may once have intended to serve. Yesterday I might have been a glorious monument to somebody, true enough- but tomorrow I could be a fireworks depository. Even in the Eternal City, says the silent Augusteum, one must always be prepared for riotous and endless waves of transformation.
Coincidentally, I read this exact part while Garret and I were sitting in his Dad's hospital room in the Bone Marrow Transplant unit keeping him and his mom company while nurses and CNA's came in and out checking his temperature, blood sugar levels, putting a pic-line in through his arm that will run all the way to his heart and trying to establish whether or not he has the influenza type A-1 or the other type (I want to think it's type B). While we watched all of the commotion, these few paragraphs shed some light on the hole situation for me. One minute the Nurses and CNA's came in with full on protective clothing because they though he had the flu then they came in without the protective clothing saying he didn't have the flu. An hour later they came back in with protective clothing because they redid his labs and now he has the flu again. We and Garret's dad could do nothing but just watch and accept it. Cancer, like many things in life, is one that simply happens to you and not because of you or by you. Sometimes you fight it, and other times you sit and wait it out, hoping that the you who comes out the other side is still recognizable.
Many people say that life is short. I think I might disagree with that and say that life is actually long, but it just goes by fast. I only say that because we go through, experience and accomplish too many things for it to really be short.