i flashed my international student ID, granting me free admission, and was about to enter the exhibit. predictably, it was teeming with artifacts—pottery, glass jewelry, marble statues, you name it.
and i braced myself, because although i was a couple months into studying abroad in Italy, i still hadn’t come to terms with the ancient world. the objects were so fragmented—sometimes literally—that creating a comprehensible narrative from them felt impossible.
they were just scraps left by people nothing like me who somehow survived without the Internet. i’m exaggerating, but still. they felt distant and foreign in every sense.
during this inner monologue, i told myself to focus and give the artifacts a chance this time. it was a little see what dusty pottery can do for you! sales pitch. because clearly these items mattered. why they mattered to me was what i needed to discover.
at first it was difficult. i forced myself to appreciate the exhibit, squinting down at perfume vials, combs, and rudimentary scissors. but this pep talk turned out to be transformative.
because it eventually became clear—they were just like us! doing the best they could, with what they had, where they were. attempting to carry wine from the kitchen to the dining area. or to not smell terrible so they could maybe have some friends.
they, too, had senses of humor, porn, and taxes.
they, too, dealt with incompetence in the workplace, bad grades, and romantic frustration.
they, too, were into appearances, loved their children, and used religion to reconcile with the incomprehensible.
of course the superficial aspects of our lives are different. contemporary jealousy might stem from a neighbor’s latest iPad rather than his impressive wheat harvest, but the emotion remains.
in fact, none of our emotions are new. fear, pride, ostentation. they’ve all been felt.
i was again comforted by this concept at the Rosicrurcian Egyptian Museum in San José last week. it’s an old-school affair with too much brown decor illuminated by dim fluorescents.
there's a cool tomb replica where you can channel your inner Lara Croft. but there are also wall maps with regions that light up when you push a red button, plus a frayed sign warning you to PLEASE ONLY PUSH ONE BUTTON AT A TIME. my description isn’t doing the place many favors but it’s a gem and you should visit if given the chance.
we’re minor and brief parts within a wider existence. so fleeting, so insignificant, such a blip on the screen. it’s all been done. it’s all related. what a relief.
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