November 1, 2019

Beauty seems to be in the eye of the social media beholder.


The last leg of our recent ‘European adventure’ was spent in bustling, exciting Rome.


Our accommodation was a short, very slow and crowded walk to the famous Trevi Fountain and one afternoon I decided to spend an hour or so sitting there ‘people-watching’.


I was overwhelmed with the volume of tourists, some in smaller groups, some in larger tour groups, who came to the fountain, glanced quickly at it and then manoeuvred themselves to take their photos in front of the cascading water.


I witnessed singles and couples using selfie sticks, or trying to extend their arms as far as they could or enlisting the help of strangers to take their photos for them. Many spent fewer than five minutes there before moving on to the next attraction on their list to see.


Some of the poses and expressions people adopted for these photos made me smile, sometimes even laugh. There were those who would inspect the end result and demand that another shot be attempted as they shook their hair into a better position or rearranged their clothes for their followers to see in filtered images on Instagram.


Here they were, standing before a thing of great beauty, but more worried about how they looked in their photos.


I wondered how many of the people thronging around this beautiful structure knew the legend of the fountain. Some appeared to know something about throwing coins in, but seemed unsure why. According to tradition, if you throw one coin into the fountain you will return to Rome, two means you will fall in love and three coins means you will marry. As a result of this popular pastime, close to €3,000 in coins are cleared out daily and donated to a food bank for the poor.


Sitting there quietly, I observed the artistic talent that had carved the multiple elements that made up the scenes on the fountain. I listened to the water flowing over the Italian stone. I smiled at the three different names carved into the marble, each Pontiff trying to outdo the previous one and claim the fountain as their monument. I applauded the accepted marriage proposal that unfolded before us. But I also felt sad about our society that seems to insist that unless we can produce a photograph that includes us in the foreground we can’t guarantee that people will believe we were there.


Well, there are no photos of me in front of the fountain, but I was there. You can choose to believe me or not, but I felt the beauty of the fountain spoke for itself and didn’t need me posing in front of it. It has been around for more than 300 years and will continue long after the social media posts from today have been forgotten.


Sitting there among the crowd reminded me to put my trust in things that will last. Jesus says, “Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away” (Matthew chapter 24, verse 35). Indeed, his words have endured far longer than the Trevi Fountain or any of the magnificent architecture we have seen on our travels.


Belinda Davis serves as a Salvation Army officer in regional Victoria. Her blog is at www.ablessedlife2017.wordpress.com

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Vol. 139, No. 14 // 11 April 2020

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