Weeks two and three in Italy: thoughts on my travels to Spoleto, Deruta, Perugia, Spello, Bevagna and Bari
06.09.2013 - 15.09.2013
Spirituality and Religion
Spirituality and Religion are two things that I’ve been in a constant battle with over the past few years. Born into a Brahmin family, I was raised with the Hindu faith. I blindly accepted my faith until junior year of high school. Since then, I’ve been quite skeptical; questioning the belief systems, the Gods and Goddesses, as well as the credibility of the religion in itself with professors, family members, and priests of temples and ashrams. It hasn't been just Hinduism that I’ve been questioning but other religions in comparison to it; primarily Christianity. After practicing Hinduism my whole life, I am in the process of receiving a Jesuit education at a Catholic Institution and currently spending my semester abroad in Italy; the world’s center of Catholicism. I’m having a lot of fun comparing it to Hinduism, while progressing to re-instill that full faith.
This past Wednesday, I attended my very first traditional Catholic Mass. It took place in hands down the most beautiful place of worship that I’ve ever step foot in. Although the Mass itself was completely different from the traditional pujas, kirtans, or shabads that I am used to, I enjoyed it very much. Now I may be contradicting my belief system as a whole, but while taking part in Catholic Mass, I found an inner peace with my Hindu faith—a connection with the Gods. To me, that is spirituality; essentially connecting with a higher being despite what denomination I was in. Hopefully being here in Italy can revive that sense of spirituality and bring me closer to my established faith.
As one of my high school teachers advised “Question. You should always question, but question to an extent. Once you find the answer, you have your faith. Endlessly questioning leaves you with nothing.”
Never in my years of schooling have I been so perplexed in a classroom-until this point. The truth of the matter is that I was expecting to breeze through my semester in Rome academically with a 4.0 –no questions asked. Yet, week three of taking an introductory level philosophy class is blowing my mind. In the midst of highly in-depth, dense discussions about the philosophical works of Socrates and Plato, I can literally feel my mind having an internal battle during class. (I understood Organic Chemistry better compared to this Philosophy course.) Alright, now I’m going to stop complaining and contradict myself by saying that I like it. I like this mental challenge that I’m getting, taking my brain to thought processes I’ve never been to before. On a polar opposite from the math and science that I’m used to; I can’t just read the Apology or Phaedo and understand it with one sitting. Rather, I’m finding myself stopping and applying critical thinking like never before.
How do we obtain our knowledge? Since everything we've learned in school is through a teacher/professor or books, do we not have our own concept of knowledge? Is admitting that we know nothing mean that we have knowledge? According to Socrates it is.
Well, my first exam is this Wednesday; wish me luck!
It’s the small places.
Over these past two weeks, I have traveled to smaller towns within Italy: Spoleto, Deruta, Perugia, Spello, Bevagna and Bari. When you hear “Italy,” places like Rome, Milan, Florence, Venice, Verona, or Naples instantaneously come to mind. While I am staying in Rome and have indubitably fallen in love with “The Eternal City,” these smaller towns are what I have enjoyed most. Aside from my touristy purchase of an Italia hat, I felt like I was blending in as an Italian. These small towns let you experience true Italian culture and lifestyle; cobblestones, narrow pathways, bars with screaming calcio (soccer) fanatics, motorcycles, and fundamentally happy people on every corner. The way of life is so stress-free and leisurely that it is blatantly evident that people enjoy every day and truly live it to the fullest.
Back in that Chicago lifestyle, everyone is so obsessed with time and strict scheduling. The stress of work is expected and from the start we, as students, have the bar of expectation set so high because of the driving force of competition. But here? In places like Bari or Peruggia, the concept of school and work seems to be taken so lightly. Placing an emphasis on family and social ties, a typical meal lasts two hours, the bus system has no set schedule to follow, and shops open midday. As cliché as it sounds, I would say that Italians have “a problem free-philosophy. Hakuna Matata.”