Killian Beeler, Contributing Writer
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.