Beauty in the Exceedingly Finite

In Florence, The Art of Travel Spring 2018, 13. Free topic by Andrew Cohen1 Comment

There’s a certain beauty in the finite. To know that, no matter what we do, things will come to a close. Without getting to existential, this has been a guiding principle of mine throughout my entire experience abroad. Realizing that, though we are here to study in a classroom setting, we’re also here to study ourselves and what we expect from the rest of our lives. Too many people here in Florence seem to be using this time to live out all of their American fantasies (going to bars and getting into the “nicest” clubs) without taking time to reflect on the fact that they’re not in America. For many, they’re not in a culture that defined them, and therefore can completely branch out and find themselves, knowing whether or not they actually want all the things that New York and American culture at large tells them they should want.

When I first came to Florence, I had the mindset that I was going to hate it here, merely counting down the days until I returned back to America. Sure, I loved Italian culture and the idea of actually living in and seeing the country that I had so long been applying for the citizenship of was intriguing to me, but not the idea of leaving everything I had known about behind and living somewhere with completely different values and ideas of how life should be lived. It’s really hard to pop that kind of bubble, especially for someone with a pretty bad tendency for anxiety. I never expected to be sitting here on the top of a Piazzale, looking out over the city and just being content to exist. And maybe I have a glass of red wine, who can say. But more to the point is the fact that our environments shape us, more than we’re willing to let on a lot of times. When I see all the American students flocking to Uncle Jimmy’s and Lions Fountain, I don’t think it’s because they’re actively trying to avoid Florentine and Italian culture, but rather because it’s hard to actually break down that wall and admit that you’re afraid to be fully outside your comfort zone, that these bars serve as a way to stay connected to the idea of home that you’ve created inside your head. Though I definitely fall guilty to the trap of ending up at these places some weekends, the longer that I’m here the less and less I find myself liking them. The less I find myself enjoying the American culture of excess for the sake of excess. I find myself wanting to sitdown with my family over a 4 course, 2.5-hour meal. I want to have an aperitivo before I go out for my main meal, and I’m definitely not hungry enough for dinner by 5:30.

Sometimes it takes something as jarring as fully detaching from a culture to understand more of its flaws. It’s crazy how superficial America can be, and though Florence is resisting that, I can see that culture slowly but surely permeating the landscape, and it’s a bit lamentable. Part of me hopes to take these sentiments back to the US and implement these ideas into my life and the way that I live, but part of me also knows that after 3-4 months steeped back in NYC culture I’ll likely reembody those same morals again. I guess the point of this rambling is to say that everything is finite, our personalities, our cultural embodiment, everything that we do or say will at some point come to an end. So, for the time being, I intend to embrace the sponge that is personality and location, and try my hardest to bring all that I can back with me…wherever that may be.


(Image: An all-too-typical table at Uncle Jimmy's in Florence; Source: Trip Advisor)

Comments

  1. Hey Andrew, as you’ve commented on my post, change is the only real constant, and I do agree that there’s a beauty in that, even if the beauty can sometimes be more tragic than joyful. But I think something important to remember is that while things don’t last, the lessons and experiences do, (well as long as whoever that holds them are still alive). And I hope that you remember the importance of the morals you learnt in Florence and don’t regress to those perceived as undesirable ones of NYC (unless you make the conscious choice to do so) because in my opinion, one of the best ways to honor the finite is by keeping them alive in our own lives. Cheers!

Leave a Comment