In the gift shop of the Coloseo, we bought a children’s book called “Roman Myths”, which I started reading to my daughter on our way back to Milan. It is difficult to say how much of what we are reading sinks in for a five-years-old, but I am enjoying the stories and the references to the ancient Roman civilization that we still encounter in modern life.
The story starts with Janus, who transformed Chaos into order and created the world. I find it insightful that even at the time when these stories were created, people were greatly concerned with the past and the future (Janus had two faces – one looking forward, to the future, and one looking back, to the past), while not really dwelling the present. In the book, there is even a reference to Carmenta, a far-sighted goddess, who protected childbirth and had the power to look forward and backward in time. According to the myth, her special ability was writing, and it was her, who gave people the Latin alphabet. “Yes, this alphabet, the one I’m using, the one we use even now.”
It is curious and somewhat discouraging that we, humans, still largely fail to comfortably live in the present moment, even now, thousands of years after the myths of Janus and Carmenta were created. When our daughter became upset that her grandparents were leaving home after travelling with us for three weeks, we consoled her by recalling the nice moments that we had together with them and planning how we would get together again soon. For our daughter, as the world that she became used to over the fast three weeks started to crumble, the emerging chaos transformed back to order when she connected the past and the future.
Even at my age, the sadness of saying ‘goodbye’ to parents, even for a few months, is still very real. My remedy is this writing. It makes me think about the past and hope that someone, perhaps myself, would find it somehow insightful in the future. Quite fitting the context of Roman mythology.