In July 2020, I had the pleasure of attending and participating in the National Humanities Center’s summer residency virtual program, “Passionate Teaching in the Research Environment: How to Create Meaningful Online Learning Experiences.” One of the projects included a write-up that walked readers through a memorable “humanities moment,” what the NHC describes as “accounts of how the humanities illuminate our lives.” This entry is what I submitted.
Like so many significant events throughout the history of the Western world, my humanities moment begins on the banks of the River Tiber in Rome. I had just crossed the Ponte Sisto bridge and was standing at the crosswalk to Piazza Trilussa in the Trastevere neighborhood. The sky was crystal clear and had the color of deep blue topaz, and the sun was bearing down in an unforgivable blaze. Only three minutes prior I had been hellbent on making it back to my AirBnB as quickly as possible; I desperately needed an hour or two of rest and relaxation in air conditioning.
But the Tiber pulled me back.