Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The Road to Rome : The Joy of Nothingness

31st May 2011 | Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy

Waters of the fountain behind trickled slowly, from the sprout into the pool; as the sound of water on water provided the perfect background piece for the sunset-sky. A truly wondrous place, these plazas; with road-side artists peddling their wares and their works, alfresco cafes fringing the borders of the plazas, and an occasional horse-carriage going by - to give the plaza an icing-on-the-old-world-cake finish.

And yet, none of this mattered as much as the main ingredient: people - lots of people. While Europeans in general are probably quite fond of people-watching, Italians are noted to be at the top of the list, and judging from the number of people gathered around a 4pm weekday afternoon, I guess I had no choice but to agree.

Couples sharing intimate words staring deep into one another's eyes, as aged-pairs catch a breath and appreciate the years between them in the silent pants, as office-workers unwind over a cuppa at the bordering cafes after a days' worth of work, while wide-eyed tourists (like ourselves) try their best to fit in and pretend that we understood what the fuss was all about.

As I stared deep into space, my mind wandering, while the corner of my eye caught her in her bright yellow-dress wandering off towards the horse-carrige, I started to understand the lure of it all. More so than really watching people for comparison and inspiration, I think the whole thing fed a slightly more innate need for community, one that allows you to sit amongst the crowd, and yet not necessarily having to say a single word to anyone; an ironic sense of community-meeting-privacy - to just be amongst people for the very sake of it, and  yet keeping your own little private space in your own little world at wherever you chose to settle yourself into.

But more so than the sense of community, I was pleasantly surprised and probably enlightened on their perception of time. While sitting around watching people and watching the sunset on a normal weekday would probably be considered a waste of time in ever-so-efficient and fast-paced Singapore, where there is so much more to do,  places to go, and appointments to keep; where the days are packed with moving from activity to activity - I think we have probably lost sight of what it feels like to just sit and let time roll by, the feeling of owning time, rather than letting time own you - and perhaps, to enjoy the simpler things in life, the joy of nothingness and freedom, the little pockets of respite, the rest-stops along the day's journey.

I looked at my watch and signalled to her that we were moving on - to the Pantheon, to the Spanish Steps, to the Vatican, to the Coliseum, to the rest of Rome - and we were on a schedule. But I knew that as important as it was for us to make the time for these sights, it was equally important for a vacation to allow us to bake the time to savour the restful-perfection in between.