Barbara's Random Thoughts

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Assisi, 8 years ago

It's after 4pm, and I am now ready to give up on this day in which I have done very little. Tomorrow is another day. (And today is a 3-post day.)

Last night I was reading through my journals from Italy. It's strange to think how much I've forgotten. I laughed out loud at this memory:

Mel and I had to go to the bathroom so bad and we ran to find one close by...which we did, but it was a pay one, and the pay thing was jammed, so you couldn't even get in the door. Heather showed us (and a crowd of Australian tourists) how she and Gina had wiggled in through the revolving door exit. It was hilarious. These Australian tourists were climbing through, and there was one old woman whose husband was fully coaching her as to which way to go: "Now put your bum through, that's right...squiggle in there..." It was so crazy; I really wish I'd taken a picture.

And then I continued on to find something a bit more serious, a bit more thoughtful:

I talked to Melinda this evening about the Basilica and what a contrast it was to much of what we saw today. The ornate shrines in one of the churches this morning really got to me. That Madonna with the electric light halo--I really want to get these thoughts into a poem. Just communicate the question of why? What are the thoughts behind this? Is it a matter of complete reverence and exaltation of a person, is it looking at God as too holy to approach and the saint as an intermediary, or is it just a ritual? Kneel down, make the sign of the cross in front of this statue with the light-up, plug-in halo? It really reminded me of a line from a Gary Soto poem--the "glow-in-the-night Christ." How do I reconcile this religion with my relationship and my experience of God? All of this is just so foreign to me--the icons, the ritual, the shrines, and the saints.

But the Basilica today was another matter. Those frescoes were there for a purpose, and that was awesome to me. To see the way they portrayed the life of Christ, and the life of St. Francis, so simply, in order for the people to see and understand. Art which is not self-serving, not overstated, not there to call attention to itself, but art which points to something greater, beyond itself.

"As critics scorn the thoughts and works of mortal man
My eyes are drawn to you in awe once again" (Jars of Clay)

Months later, I did write the poem I began thinking about that day in Assisi. I wish I could unearth it now. Maybe when I have time to dig out my old laptop.
| posted by Barbara | 2:24 AM