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  • Writer's pictureAbby Rosmarin


I once visited the Capuchin Catacombs in Palermo, Sicily. The Catacombs initially served as a burial site for monks who were famous for their virtues. Thereafter, it expanded to include benefactors and others of prominence. For me it is hallow and mystifying.

In one nook hang the bodies of a famous surgeon and his wife. His head is bowed to the floor and she is next to him with her head cranked towards him. Their clothing is still on their skeletons, which allows us to further imagine them as they lived.

Frozen in time but posed in eternal interaction.

What is happening between them? Is he listening intently and in deep contemplation of her kind and thoughtful words? Or does his downward gaze reflect that he being scolded and feeling such shame that he cannot look at her? Is her gaze at him to ensure she has captured his every word ?

There are, of course, as many possibilities as persons asked.

What we do know is that although they are static now, they had lived as husband and wife. We can assume that they had their special way to communicate which they each understood — ambiguous as it now appears to us.

Imagining these two lives of the past provide a Rorschach-like assessment of how each of us perceive the world. It highlights our varied assumptions and interpretations, none of which are absolute, but all of which are relevant. The trick is not to assume our way of thinking is the only one or attribute another’s as incorrect simply because it is not ours.

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