La Dolce Vita: a return to America

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Killian Beeler, Contributing Writer

The end of your Rome semester does not mean the end of its effects on the rest of your life. –Photo by Nathan Wilkes
The end of your Rome semester does not mean the end of its effects on the rest of your life.
–Photo by Nathan Wilkes

The greatest effect the Rome semester had on me was getting me out of the bubble. I don’t just mean the University of Dallas Bubble, but rather the bubble that surrounds one’s views of home, religion, art, politics, nation, the world, etc. Although an actual immersion program would have been an incredibly positive experience, UD’s program was a unique opportunity. I was lifted out of all the cultural battles, beliefs and customs of America and placed into a world in which I could embrace, reject or just reflect upon modern culture without being pulled into its own bubble. I felt as if I had ascended “UD’s divided line” (a la Plato) out of the realm of opinions I had held in Irving and into the knowledge of the good and the beautiful. All the while, I was getting to head into modern Italy for a plate of pasta, a walk through Trastevere, a cup of espresso, an afternoon at Lake Albano, a glass of wine, a night of conversation with a few young Italian adults or just a Lucky Strike cigarette. It was la dolce vita.

After returning to America, I realized that the biggest thing I had learned over the Rome semester was to let things go and let things be. It was the modern culture of Italy – its pace – that really taught me that. In Rome, if you are supposed to catch a bus into the city at 3:15 and it doesn’t come until 3:30, there’s no point in getting frustrated. I mean, heck, you are in Italy! You might as well have a smoke, enjoy a good conversation with a friend and just take in the whole experience. There is no point holding on to an Anglo-Saxon sense of time and order – it is clearly not going to happen. You are outside of that bubble.

The notion of letting things be really translated well to the rest of my life. I remembered the definition of truth commonly attributed to John Paul II – the mind conforming to reality. I realized that much of what I thought I was passionate about – what I was concerned about and what I would argue and hold to vehemently – was really just my mind’s attempt to conform reality to what I thought it should be. I learned that I didn’t need to “figure out” or have an opinion on every hot-button issue facing UD, America, the Church, or the world. Even if I do have an opinion, who am I to think it is needed or best presented to strangers behind the protection of black ink and grey paper? Instead, I concluded, my thoughts are better shared within the intimacy of friendship; they are needed publicly only when there is an absolute moral imperative to state and defend them.

Being in a different world enabled me to see how insignificant most of these cultural battles and intellectual ideals are to my salvation and that of the world. I no longer feel a need to define and individuate myself by the great thinkers I’ve read or by my political views. Instead, I wish to define myself by how I live. I look to Mother Mary, the greatest Christian, who instead of writing any great intellectual works merely said, “Let it be.” For as Orual says in “Till We Have Faces,” “Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they [the gods] hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?” I felt the Rome semester was like being in Psyche’s palace, in which I got a glimpse of the face of a god and saw how sweet this life is.

5 COMMENTS

  1. “an Anglo-Saxon sense of time and order… You are outside of that bubble,” implies that the University of Dallas is an institution populated by white people and that white people are consistently one way. I find that line to be racist and offensive. Glad to hear that you spend tens of thousands of dollars only to learn that punctuality and social issues don’t matter to you.

    • I used “an Anglo-Saxon sense of time and order,” because that was the terminology our chaplain in Rome used to describe what it was like to wait in line at St. Peter’s trying to get into a holy week papal mass. People tend to cut in line or pull other stunts and he told us “you just have to let go of your anglo-saxon sense of time and order.” This chaplain is Father Brown, a Jesuit priest with a graduate degree in Theology and a Ph.D. in Astro-Physics, who works for the Vatican studying astronomy. His only connection to UD is his work as a part-time chaplain for the Rome campus. His use of “anglo-saxon sense time and order” referred to American society in general which has traditional been and still is (although this is no doubt changing) dominated by whites of English and Germanic descent (or other whites who eventually a few generations after immigration adopted some of the tendencies of their English and Germanic neighbors).

    • Andrew, wow. Just wow. Sad to see that all you gained from your educational $$ is to deny la dolce vita and focus on exactly those petty, “whitened-sepulchre” things that Killian was talking about letting go. I do thank you for being a great example of what the sweet life is not.

    • Contrary to my name, I am primarily of Italian descent … believe me, I know not all “whites” act the same way. I was just referring to the overall understanding of time and order in America which has its roots in and is far more like that of the English and Germanic than the Italian.

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