Psychology Travel: Antonella Della Fave Il Duomo Italy Japan Lake Como Milan people Positive Psychology Psychology Saint Ambrogio The Last Supper Travel tsunami
I’ve just arrived back from Milan, Italy with my Positive Psychology class. It was a week of being constantly on the go, running from one academic visit to another. But in between the lectures from Italian psychologists (one of which was the acclaimed positive psychologist, Antonella Della Fave), there were breathtaking and extraordinary moments that I don’t think I could capture with words.
At first, I was a little overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of Milan. It was different than what I imagined Italy to be like. I imagined the outdoor cafes in the sun, gelatos, more vibrant colors, and mopeds zooming in and out of the narrow alleys. But let’s remember that life is never quite like the movies, as much as we’d like it to be. And I think it’s also because I’ve been too spoiled by the seemingly perfect society of Denmark – the colorful buildings, the reserved yet friendly people, the cobblestones, and, of course, the hygge.
Although sunny and warm, Milan seems to be greyer; the buildings are less colorful, the people more aggressive, and the general environment more chaotic. Milan is – as some would probably call it – real. And maybe it’s been too long since I’ve experienced what is real outside the bubble of Copenhagen.
On one of our first days in Milan, I was absolutely blown away by Il Duomo. It took over 400 years to build, and it was just finished 100 years ago.
I had never been so awestruck in my life, as I walked toward the grandiose, white cathedral. Every detail of the reliefs and statues were so intricate and extraordinary. When I walked inside, chills ran all over my body. I am not a religious person, but I definitely know what it means to feel like you’re in the presence of God. We then climbed the stairs to the very top of Il Duomo. The view from the top was so breathtaking that I don’t think I could even put it into words. When I look back on the pictures I took, it doesn’t even do Milan’s Duomo the slightest justice.
I felt the same chills and amazement when we visited one of the oldest churches in Europe called St. Ambrogio (built around the 300s). It was hauntingly beautiful; although religion has been historically the cause of much bloodshed, it has also manifests the beauty of faith and hope.
As I sat there, looking up at the altar in wonder and amazement, one of the tour leaders quietly said, “It’s really amazing to sit in a place where, for over a thousand years, people have come to focus on something much greater than themselves.”
We later went to see The Last Supper by Da Vinci. Standing there in front of the mural was stunning. A year ago, I never would have thought I would be standing there in front of the Last Supper. We were only allowed to be in the room for 15 minutes, but I felt like I could sit there and look at it for hours.
Perhaps there is something greater than ourselves in the universe, but sometimes, I think we forget that we are capable of amazing things. It was truly inspiring to see what feats people can accomplish, just as it is heartbreaking to see how they can be broken by the world.
As we boarded the train to one of our academic visits, a haggard-looking man with a violin squeezed his way through the other passengers. He began playing as the train moved along the tracks. With his eyes closed, he let the bow fly back and forth on the strings, tapping his feet with the rhythm. His violin was out of tune, and people pretended he didn’t exist. But he kept playing, as if he was the most talented violinist in the world. As I watched him play, I couldn’t help but to wonder when he learned to play and how many years he had been playing. What could have possibly happened that now his only companion now is music? Where are his family? Friends? When he stopped playing, I clapped, which to my surprise, made everyone glare at me, as if I were the crazy one onboard. The train stopped, and he left. No one noticed, and the day continued as usual. It’s disconcerting how little people care about the poor and homeless. Why do we dismiss them so easily, and why do we forget that they are living, breathing human beings too? It honestly makes me wonder if that’s how little we care about each other as people.
Antonella Della Fave warned us during our academic visit that we should always be aware of the real life. Often times, she says, psychological research in the lab tends to move away from what happens in reality. Quantitative research seems to forget that, as humans, we need to express ourselves in ways that statistics cannot. When we watch the devastating news of the tsunami in Japan, what does it really mean to us that over 700 people are currently missing or dead?
Popular psychology overwhelms people with problems that need to constantly be fixed, while their strengths and talents lie dormant. It takes away from the individuality of what psychology once was. Positive psychology, on the other hand, focuses on optimal experiences and flow where your strengths and talents are cultivated.
The reason I became a psychology major was because I was fascinated with people. We are capable of amazing, sometimes unfathomable things. Sometimes for good, and sometimes (unfortunately) for bad. Positive Psychology also focuses on compassion, altruism, and empathy — qualities that seem to fade from our everyday lives. We shouldn’t wait for tragedy to trigger these qualities but keep them with us always.
Keep Japan in your thoughts and prayers.