Friday, April 6, 2012

Rambling Mental Rome-ings for a Good Friday

Italians love their dogs as much or more as other Europeans, but Rome is a city of cats. This is just one of the many Egyptian influences one finds in Rome.

Not surprisingly, every street corner in Rome seems to have a church building on it. What is more interesting is that they are all fairly empty, shells of cathedral-size proportions. The Catholic Church has more money than it knows what to do with.

For nearly every church in Italy, there is an obelisk in the square out front—much as the Egyptians would place them in front of their temples. This is a good reminder that the religious side of Christianity is often just a thin veneer painted over pagan beliefs. If you dig deep enough you might discover that the Catholic Church is not the only branch of Christendom where this danger occurs.

Convincing the world that your broken-down rubble is a sight worth paying to see is a pretty good trick if you can pull it off. At least Greek ruins are marble and appear impressive. Roman ruins are largely brick and resemble some of the run-down buildings you see in dying, West Texas towns.

What does it say about the state of our culture that as more and more people are capable of travel, tourists are increasingly doing so out of a “herd” impulse and not true interest or desire to experience?

The new standard pose of the tourist is a permanent shuffle of feet while viewing the world through an electronic screen the size of an index card. They do not gaze and reflect, they record for later (possibly never occurring) perusal. One wonders what is gained that could not just as easily be done by exploring the millions of other such photos on the internet? The presumed answer is that in going one is “there,” but these tourists are not really there “in the Moment.”

The Renaissance was truly an amazing moment in cultural history. Everyone knows that in theory, but seeing some of the results in person still manages to induce gasps and appreciation. In some ways, despite all of our technology and ability, we are again in a cultural “Dark Age,” especially where the community of faith is concerned.

Maybe today we are again more like the Egyptians. Whereas they had a privileged few benefiting from the slave labor of millions to produce comforts and beauty on a grand scale, we have advanced in invention and technology reducing our size and costs but kept the slave labor to produce it.

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