When spending time with people or in places far different from your “norm,” how do you react to the unfamiliar? This week’s video, from Rome, Italy will help you expand your experience and incorporate the new, while maintaining stability.
I’m in Rome, the Eternal City, on a year-end family trip. And as usual, I’m thinking of connecting you to this moment, bringing new insight and usefulness from an ancient place about a very old saying.
“When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” is often interpreted as a moral relativist sentiment…the original version of “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” implying that it’s ok to bend your morals as long as you’re just visiting. As you might predict, I have a different take.
This term was first printed in 1777, in Interesting Letters of Pope Clement XIV, and it was actually about… napping. The author wrote, “The siesta or afternoon’s nap of Italy, my most dear and reverent Father, would not have alarmed you so much, if you had recollected, that when were at Rome, we should do as the Romans do.” He wasn’t talking about untoward, scandalous behavior. Just saying, hey, maybe it’s ok to take an occasional nap.
I see this enduring idea as a call to openness and incorporation. Don’t be so quick to judge others or to shut out the unfamiliar. It takes a minute to understand context, culture, and the usefulness of something you haven’t been around. Then, instead of dismissing it entirely, consider, “Is there a way I can enfold this new idea into my understanding, practice, and principles.
Sometimes that answer is an easy yes. Expand your experience, at least temporarily. That is, after all, why we travel, learn, and explore! Other times, a yes would cause you to cave into your vices or betray a sacred vow. Here the contrast presents a clear opportunity to say “no thanks” to reinforce what you value.
My take is, when in Rome. Be in Rome! Enjoy it for what it is, which is extraordinary, rather than what you wish it to be. This week, when you’re with family and loved ones, put that same principle into action. Open yourself to the people and perspectives that may be a bit different, or a lot different. Incorporate what you can. Pass on what you choose. And consider, just maybe, taking a nap. Until next week, stay Off Balance On Purpose.