Tuesday, 19 November 2013

John Keats in Roma

After spending 10 days total in Rome, I had seen the majority of “what there was to see” within the city center. I wanted to see more and get pictures of monuments and ruins that most people don’t see when they do the tour guide version of Roma.

So naturally, I set out on an adventure. The previous day I had gotten lost on a metro train and ended up by the sea, I had originally thought that the Roma Metro system only had three routes. Surprise surprise, yet another reason you should always do some basic research on a city before you decide to fly across the world to explore it! There's that deep routed "point and go" attitude my father instilled in me as a young child.

Like the genius I am, I thought that the only two routes were A and B. A was the route we used to get to and from the Hostel as our stop was at Cornelia... I can still hear the sound of the announcing voice on the subway announcing each stop... and the accordion players with the little pick pockets. *nostalgia*

I wasn't really sure where I was going to go, just that I wanted to see the sea. So I took the A from Cornelia down to Termini and switched to the B towards Laurentina getting off at Piramide. It was a bit of a wait for the Lido train, which was actually like an above ground traincar as opposed to the metro subway based I'd been used to taking in Rome. I decided to go out for a walk and look around, snap some photos. I'm so grateful I did! My main issue with Roma was how much money it was to see everything, it felt like every unique building had a pricetag attached to it. I was travelling on a student/single mom budget so I didn't get to see a lot of things on my list. As I was walking I stumbled upon a beautiful Protestant Cemetery. When I say beautiful, I mean it. Flowers, trees and graves going back over a century. It was immaculate and so well cared for. I started wandering in and out of the aisles pausing at each stone to read the name on the head. 

As I rounded a turn in the path I stopped dead in my tracks as my eyes transfixed on a tombstone reading "here lies one whose name was writ in water". It took me less than 20 seconds to place those words... John Keats.

I was floored, I had no idea that my all time favourite poet was buried right here in Roma! I sat down beneath a tree facing his and Joseph Severn's graves across the path and started writing down quotes I had accumulated from him over time by memory. I always admired his honesty about love and loss, they struck home with me on so many occasions; often drifting into my head during times of loss and heartache.

“There is nothing stable in the world; uproar's your only music.” 
“The only means of strengthening one's intellect is to make up one's mindabout nothing -- to let the mind be a thoroughfare for all thoughts.”  
“The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were.”  
“I would sooner fail than not be among the greatest.” 
“Nothing ever becomes real till experienced – even a proverb is no proverb until your life has illustrated it”  

I could go on and on and on and on...

But the main quote, the ones that have always stayed steadfast within my mind... are these two:

“Don't be discouraged by a failure. It can be a positive experience. Failure is, in a sense, the highway to success, inasmuch as every discovery of what is false leads us to seek earnestly after what is true, and every fresh experience points out some form of error which we shall afterwards carefully avoid.” 

I read this somewhere in high school, I wish I could remember where. I might have googled a quote on failure for an essay or something along the lines of that. It always stuck with me, how true its meaning was. Life is all about experience; each and every day we learn something new. Whether it be from error or reward, each day is a learning experience and we take away something onto the next . It taught me to learn and grow from my negative experiences and not to sit down and feel sorry for myself.

“We read fine things but never feel them to the full until we have gone the same steps as the author.” 
I didn't read this quote by John until after I found his grave in the cemetery, and ever since I stumbled upon it I've kept it "in my pocket". I had hooked up to the hostel wi-fi and started googling him as I was eager to learn more about his short life.

More often than not I feel like I read something and it hits a chord deep within my heart and soul, but I can't help but wonder if it's meaning the same thing to me as it does the author. Why did they write that line or section? What were they going through at that point in their lives that made them think to write that. 

The same could be said when it comes to judging people, how can you grasp their choices or actions without first travelling down that exact same path? You can't. You can guess, assume... you can try, but you'll never fully understand. You can't fully comprehend someone's actions until you've experienced each event leading up to them. 

When I originally got to Europe I was there to attend an international leadership based conference through Rotary International for Rotaractors across the globe. It didn't turn out to be what I thought it was, so I went soul searching instead. 

I feel like a large part of my life is constant under scrutiny, that I am always being judged for my actions by those around me. As a single parent with two children from two different fathers, I'm slowly becoming used to it. 

I just wish that the vast majority of the world's population would read things like that and take it to heart as I do. I wish that they were blessed with a greater understanding of the world around them, and that no two people walk down the same path in life.  And that you can't fully understand one's decisions and choices unless you've experienced everything they have. 

I've always heard the term "don't judge a man until you've walked a mile in his shoes" thrown around in day to day conversation but it didn't strike as deep of a chord in me as that by John Keats. 

It gave me the motivation to study literature on a more serious basis, reading biographies on my favourite authors, even contacting some of them. Just to get a better understanding of what they mean and why they meant it. What life scenarios led them to write something so beautiful and moving. 
“The excellence of every Art is its intensity.”
With whatever you do, if you want to succeed and achieve the level of excellence that wells deep within your being.... put all you have into it. 

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