The International Writers Magazine: One day in Rome
Eric D. Lehman
our second day in Rome, my family and I shuffled eagerly in the
morning sun, waiting to see the fabled Sistine Chapel. I had examined
histories, guide books, and The Agony and the Ecstasy. I was ready
to see what the imagination of Michaelangelo had done for civilization:
put a real human face on an unknowable and distant god.
After waiting in the street only briefly, the tour guide rushed
us past long lines, up a huge flight of stairs, and into the fortress
of the Vatican. We slowed down a little, swallowing the appetizer
of a long sculpture gallery.
Q is god
Then, the tour
group hurried down stairs and around a corner. At the entrance, the
smiling guide told us to take our time in the Chapel itself. Im
not sure if our tour operators bribed the guards or if the hour we were
given was a common time limit. But most other tourists I observed hustled
through the barn-shaped temple fairly quickly. My family and the rest
of our group did not. We stared at Michaelangelos ceiling, walking
around in circles or sitting on the benches along the walls, heads craned
to the painted sky. I tried to absorb the subtleties that make this
one of the greatest artistic achievements of all time.
And then I saw him, mingling with the crowd. God. Or close enough. Standing
and looking up at the Renaissance masterpiece next to someone I presume
was his son, was the actor John DeLancie. The actor from Star Trek who
played "Q," the omnipotent god-figure from that fictional
universe. I rushed over to my mother and pointed him out. She also recognized
him and urged me to go up to him and say something. But I didnt
want to bother him; he was on vacation with his own family and surely
didnt want the accolades of some unknown critic.
So, after a few minutes, he passed through the gates and into the rest
of the Vatican. I continued wandering aimlessly about the Chapel, gazing
at the centerpiece, Michaelangelos version of the Almighty reaching
out to touch Adam. But now it was filled with new light and meaning.
I had seen the human face of God, albeit a mythical, postmodern version.
And with this blending of ancient and modern, of complex and pedestrian
art, of architecture and coincidence, I felt the strange magic that
has infused all religions since time began. I had what passes as a spiritual
experience for a cynical traveler in the twenty-first century. For me,
this seemingly adulterated episode was more than enough. I had found
all the proof I needed that god exists, if only in our imperfect and
© Eric Lehman
Eric is an English professor at the University of Bridgeport
and has traveled extensively throughout the world. He has been
previously published by various web journals, such as August Cutter,
Niederngasse, Simply Haiku, and of course Hackwriters.
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