Everyone writes and talks about the experience of losing one's way in Venice but today I was struck more forcefully by the experience of finding it.
In Venice, more than in any other place I've ever lived, I always feel like I'm missing out on something-- or on a lot of things--when an appointment forces me to take a familiar route from point A to point B. No sooner do I congratulate myself on resisting the allure of some flashing vista down one calle than a few steps further on another major threat to punctuality appears: a church I've never seen or never seen open before, a low sottoportego as curiously inviting as Alice's rabbit hole, a certain tint of plaster or pattern of brickwork or shape of doorframe glimpsed in the corner of a corte. In Venice there always seems to be another way to go, another path to take, of potentially remarkable splendor, or splendorously remarkable decay--even if it does turn out to be a dead end. To a person with hungry eyes, the city offers a feast of infinite courses; to give into just a few of them is to risk never getting to your intended destination. Of sacrificing any claim to social or civic responsiblity--leaving your friend or the officer at the Questura waiting forever--for the sake of following out just one more calle. Of ending up utterly exhausted and lost, led far astray by curiosity and desire.
And oddly enough, as I've just discovered, you need only try to describe your very literal experience of making your way through the city to suddenly find yourself completely lost in what appears to be some treatise on morality, psychology, or the unconscious. Like so many other writers over the last 1,000 years...
Maybe we Western descendents of Plato and the Judeo-Christian monotheistic tradition--distrustful of sheer multiform appearance, believers in some true path--can't help but get lost in the metaphorical implications of literal old Venice.
Though, alas, my point was not about getting lost. But having wandered far off enough already I should wait till the next post to try to re-find my intended path.