It is spring of 2001, also known as the year I lived in Europe. We are in Italy with our professor for what is essentially the world’s greatest field trip. One morning, in Rome, we wake up early to catch a bus to Vatican City. We line up outside the doors of the Vatican and await instructions from our professor. They are as follows: When the doors open, we pay our admission and make a mad dash, ignoring every sculpture or painting along the way, directly to the Sistine Chapel. If we get there fast enough, he promises, we will have a moment alone, in the chapel, all to ourselves.
Now, I don’t necessarily go in for all that religious mumbo jumbo, and I wasn’t desperate for an A on my Renaissance art essay, but I do love a healthy competition, so I take my professor’s advice to heart. Upon entrance to the museum, we race along the corridors, following signs to the Cappella Sistina. The running, mixed with the almost-intentionally confusing sign placement, blended with anticipation and a hint of absurdity, makes us laugh, somewhat ashamed of the pure joy in what we are doing. As we near the chapel entrance, I find that several of us are singing – Pink Floyd, for some reason. I don’t ask questions – it just feels right, in the same way that it feels right to stop when we enter the chapel.
Inside, we exchange our song for silence, our unity for solitude, and we wander the hushed room, our necks craned upward. Standing beneath the most perfect space between two objects, I see my entire existence in the nothingness between man’s outstretched hand and God’s… It is a memory that I can close my eyes today and see as vividly, and I am so grateful for my professor’s encouragement to go out and get ourselves that moment. In many ways, I see life as a series of such unique moments — I spend my life racing down corridors towards the next great thing, laughing and singing and struggling to catch my breath.