Yesterday afternoon was warm and sunny, so, walking home through the Forum, it was a wonderful opportunity to watch some archaeologists at work. With small trowels and soft brushes, some young women crouched uncomfortably, gradually unearthing stones and fragments of pottery from around the base of one of the temples, placing them, one by one, in small trays at their sides. Nearby two archaeologists twisted and turned a piece of Roman marble pavement, trying to fit it into the jigsaw of fractured segments that had already been put back together after hundreds of years underground. Elsewhere, another young woman stood over a bowl of muddy water, scrubbing earlier discoveries clean with a nailbrush.
Rome’s archaeologists have done a wonderful work of restoring the remains of the city’s past, but as was only too obvious yesterday, it is often in uncomfortable conditions and demanding a considerable expenditure of time and energy.
Last night’s television showed more archaeologists at work, this time on Salisbury Plain in England, where they were uncovering two Iron Age forts and a Roman villa. Within the single hour devoted to the programme, it all looked so simple, relatively clean and really quite straightforward. Yet there had to be the same meticulous attention to detail shown by their colleagues in the Forum yesterday.
Recreating the past is something that can bring great joy. It can also bring great pain. It’s all a question of what I want to remember and what I’d like to forget. A senior member of my own Congregation used to say that a bad memory is not one that can’t remember, but is, rather, one that can’t forget. It’s all too easy to think about past hurts, failures and misfortunes, but unless I deal with them appropriately, they will hang around and ultimately lead to bitterness and self-destruction. It’s all too easy to think of those who have hurt me and to devise ways in which I might give back the same degree of hurt in full measure….but who is really injured in the process? Only me as my mind twists and turns in nasty little pathways whilst my opponents might be completely oblivious of the pain they have given, absolutely ignorant of the wound that I carry festering inside me. Isn’t it much better to simply let go of the hurt, however difficult the process might be, and to start a new life, unfettered, free and counting my blessings?