Sunday, June 19, 2011

Recalibrating Myself

I am in Rome, my first real break - not counting the almost depressing and lonely Christmases I spent over last few years - since December 2005. I needed the time away, to think over what I am doing now and what I want to do, and wandering around on the streets of Rome is proving to be a good way to do this. Besides, it is helpful that I am not too rushed - I am not with a touring party or doing a hop-on hop-off city tour - but can take my time sitting in a Bistro or take an afternoon off at the hotel (which I did today, a break from the midday sun).

One thing I know about Rome is that I did not come prepared. If I contrast this visit to my visit to Paris, I knew what I wanted to see. I read Da Vinci Code just as I visited the city, and despite its flawed history and even geography, it told me the stories of the place and prepared my mind for it. I also knew what I missed: For years, I have been looking into books of Cartier Bresson but could not make it to the Museum. I didn't go to Versailles and also couldn't make it to Museum of Rodin, keeping it for another time. In Rome, however, it is far more overwhelming - not just that I simply don't know what I missed, every church around the street corner seemed to have a story inside (or buried under, as I discovered in San Clemente), I also didn't know what to see in Vatican Museum, within the endless arrays of Raphael and other artists and artifacts. At this time, I am bracing myself for a similar experience at Florence's Uffizi Gallery, as my knowledge of Renaissance art is all but minimal.

I love this wandering around, the exploration, knowing stories about dead people and their ideas, see these grand historical narratives played out, dead and gone. I see the Roman ruins as a message that every empire must wither, the Saint Peters Square as how religion sustains power, and Italy as a narrative where nationalism, religion and feudal power fused together to create a perfect recipe which will bring in Mussolini (and Berlusconi as his illustrated successor).

But such experience also tells me what I like and what I should be doing. I have lived an artificial life for far too long, pretending to be something else other than myself. Italy also magnifies my midlife crisis, that I have been chasing dreams mostly without preparation, and that most such efforts are meaningless. What I am doing now, despite the strength of the idea is perhaps unachievable, and this is because it is standing on a shaky foundation. One does not change the world by talking about it, and it is time I get the message.

When I return to England next week, therefore, I must work to recalibrate myself and do things which matter. My promise to myself is that I shall stop pretending altogether and do things which I really really want to do. I shall surely rejuvenate my online learning project, which I put in back-burner for a year now and come out of the self-imposed hibernation that I lived in for last one year. Indeed, I felt I was close to bring together the business school I dreamed about only last week: But, only days later, I may be as far as I ever was. This is indeed because I have only been working passively, advising others but not doing much myself actively, and it is always difficult to achieve a personal dream by being so dependent. I am almost at a moment when I must be honest with myself and do things what I want to do, rather than pretending to be happy and maintaining the status quo as I have been doing for a while.

It does not matter that this means upsetting my life all over again. If Rome gives me a lesson, it is that contentment is death. The decline starts with status quo, and I am not yet ready to give up and get old yet. So, indeed, I am looking for some interesting times ahead.

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How To Live

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."

- Theodore Roosevelt

Last Words

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

- T S Eliot

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