It is Tuesday and we leave early tomorrow, so each thing we do is for the last time. There is something bittersweet about it and we are ready to come home.
We walk in a different direction this morning with no desire to come to anything of note, but that is not possible in Rome. We cross a bridge, new to us, and are at the Piazza de Popolo. There is a huge piazza and a demonstration is going on, though it isn’t even 9 in the morning. Students are standing around the obelisk in white medical coats. It seems this new conservative government wants to close two hospitals. Everyone we meet and talk to is appalled and opposed.
We visit a church, choose from one of many, then, sit, drinking cappuccino and watching the demonstration and the people flooding by. We seem to be in a ritzy area and two, new, freshly washed hydrogen powered BMW’s park next to us along with a new Mercedes. A guy rolls by on a Segway, holding about ten poles. Then, he goes the other way. The carabinieri are out in force. They have a small vehicle that works like an office. We feel like we are in a Fellini movie.
Our eyes shift in and out, and all around to capture and absorb the movement. It starts raining which spurs us to move on, so we travel vigorously through the streets, umbrellas raised, and eyes sweeping back and forth through all the sights. We pass fresh produce on the street and flowers. We’ve again found a new area of town, and yet, the area we actually cover is very small. Again, ahead of us are the Spanish Steps. Rome is circular and sometimes easy and sometimes challenging to get around.
Steve goes to a meeting and I take time to sit and reflect. There is a connection between the language of a country and the music the composers of that country create. Sound and rhythm are key to aligning body-mind. “In the beginning was the word.”
Oliver Sacks concludes his book, Musicophilia, like this:
“The perception of music and the emotions it can stir is not solely dependent on memory, and music does not have to be familiar to exert its emotional power. I have seen deeply demented patients weep or shiver as they listen to music they have never heard before, and I think they can experience the entire range of feelings the rest of us can, and that dementia, at least at these times, is no bar to emotional depth. Once one has seen such responses, one knows that there is still a self to be called upon, even if music, and only music, can do the calling.
There are undoubtedly particular areas of the cortex subserving musical intelligence and sensibility, and there can be forms of amusia with damage to these. But the emotional response to music, it would seem, is widespread and probably not only cortical but subcortical, so that even in a diffuse cortical disease like Alzheimer’s music can still be perceived, enjoyed, and responded to. One does not need to have any formal knowledge of music – nor, indeed, to be particularly “musical” – to enjoy music and to respond to it at the deepest levels. Music is part of being human, and there is no human culture in which it is not highly developed and esteemed. Its very ubiquity may cause it to be trivialized in daily life: we switch on a radio, switch it off, hum a tune, tap our feet, find the words of an old song going through our minds, and think nothing of it. But to those who are lost in dementia, the situation is different. Music is no luxury to them, but a necessity, and can have a power beyond anything else to restore them to themselves, and to others, at least for awhile.”
So, listen to some music and dance joyfully around, singing and praising all you are and can be, and if you know someone troubled, offer them the rhythm of music and clap together and weep and laugh, and now, I hear the rumble of thunder to augment the rain pouring down.