Haunting the grounds of the non-Catholic Cemetery in Testaccio is one of my favourite pastimes. No, it isn’t a morbid preoccupation with death. Rather the grounds remind me more of a garden filled with statues than a place within which the dead find their rest.
There is a strange comfort there, a silence amidst the chaos and cacophony created by the permanent flow of traffic on Via Marmorata. Amongst the blooming flowers and ripened fruit, the lush grass and aged stones, the stalking black cats and the cawing of countless birds; one can find peace. One can find joy in being and not being.
A home to artists of all modalities and various nationalities, the Cemetery captures in death the beauty of what a life can be, or rather how in death a life can be celebrated and remembered.
You may wonder why I have chosen to write about this today. Perhaps it is because I hold this place dear and find it offers me solace during this winter that, in many ways, has been so very isolating. Perhaps it is because I wish that more people knew about the Cemetery and would visit it in order to experience its beauty. Truly, I have no definitive reason.
Today a conversation with a young friend on the subject of needing and seeking attention gave me pause for thought. It made me wonder why we sometimes desire so strongly to be acknowledged as separate from, unique, and at the same time yearn for admiration from others… so much so that we sometimes end up creating walls between ourselves and others in an effort to validate and justify our existence. At the end of it all, is it really so meaningful to perceive of differences between ourselves and others? To perceive of ourselves as better or worse than? To harbour desires for continuous acknowledgement?…
There is an art to nothingness, to letting go of self-definition, to letting go of existential crises, to opening oneself up to a connection with others that may mean a perceived loss of self, even if temporarily. It is the moment when our combined silence is more profound than the air that usually escapes our lips in order to give shape to words that ought to give meaning but rarely do. It is the moment when we find ourselves without need for labelling others, including ourselves, and see that the barriers we thought stood between us only existed within our minds.
The struggle to defend the “I” of who we are as individuals ends as we come to realize that we are all equally “You.” We are created alone and uncreated alone. What lies in the midst of this process need not be solitude bred from defense of self against others, bred from the desire to achieve somethingness. For what are we all to become in the end?
Until next time…
Photographs are by Croatian photographer, Dolores Juhas, whose work has been featured in such magazines as Italian Vogue. You can visit her website at http://www.dolores-juhas.tk or email her: firstname.lastname@example.org. She has her own blog at http://themax.bloger.hr