Thursday, March 08, 2012


"So how did you like Pompeii?" I asked this girl at my hostel in Naples. She was studying arts in Rome, so I assumed she had spent the whole day in Pompeii just admiring the ancient architecture amidst the ruins.

"Well, I'm not gonna lie to you. It was boring," she said. "I know it's kinda amazing that you can still see the remains of a city, like, this used to be a temple, this used to be a school, that used to be a court, and all that stuff. But at the end of the day, you're just walking around looking at rocks."

By that logic, we could look at the paintings at the Louvre and say, "Oh these are just paints mixed together to create the illusion of people." Obviously, I was quite taken aback by her comment, because I had a totally different opinion on Pompeii. You don't go to Pompeii expecting to see Starbucks and big yellow taxis and Chinese take-aways. You go there to see rocks.

"That is the whole point," I said. 'People don't go there to see a city. They go there to mentally put the pieces of rock together and use their imagination to rebuild the city. And it's not just rocks scattered around. You can see pillars with carvings, amphitheatres, houses, bathhouses, and even when it's just rocks, you can still see the solid foundations where the rocks used to be part of great buildings."

"Yeah, they used to be buildings. Now they are merely rocks, very old rocks nonetheless, but still rocks. We were there for 2 hours and after a while we got really bored."

I shrugged. Just because I liked it, doesn't mean everybody has to. It's just a matter of taste, I guess. Besides, it's not that I liked Pompeii. People don't like ruins, the way they don't like paintings. It's more of a fascination. I know I'm fascinated by something when my head is full of unanswered questions about it and when I feel like touching everything. In Pompeii, whenever I touched a wall or a cobblestone, subconsciously there was this voice saying, "You're touching something that is almost two millennia old."

So I could see why the girl was bored, because if you don't have this fascination, you would indeed only see rocks lying around.


Sir Pök Déng said...

Because men generate better imagination than women that's why.

Kahuna said...

Not a very appropriate comment given that today is the International Women's Day.