Italy is Disgusting by Garrett Eakers

Italy, first and foremost, is a place of intense beauty.

The countryside, the ancient ruins, the better-preserved and painstakingly renewed ruins, the olive-tree lined fields of the Tuscan countryside outside of Rome, the touristy Catholic churches filled with opulent gold leaf, soaring vaulted ceilings, crying South American devotees on pilgrimages, unimpressed Italians, the masterpieces casually interspersed on the mosaicked walls of the Vatican; they all come together in an overwhelming sphere, an enveloping blanket of beauty.

It is the most disgusting place I’ve ever been to. Disgust, sans the revulsion that normally characterizes the reaction, captures the emotion and thoughts evoked by this place. The amalgam of sources of beauty is truly overwhelming, yes, but the richness of the place is what is so truly disgusting.

To understand this, take for example the gelato here. On our first day in Rome, my friend Avery and I visited a nearby gelato shop after exploring the blocks around our hotel. As everyone talks about gelato when talking about Italy (at least, all the people I know who traveled before us with OU President’s Leadership Class in Italy), we knew we had to get our hands on some. Being the rather unadventurous American eater that I am, a creature of habit, I ordered cioccolato.

“Prego?” she asked, knowingly.

I scanned the wide selection of flavors while feeling inept, rushed, and all too foreign. I replied, “Cioccolato?”

“Cioccolato,” was the reply I received.

Expecting something along the lines of chocolate frozen yogurt, I lapped at something that was far beyond what I imagined. The flavor, definitely chocolatey, was absolutely ‘deep’ tasting. It never occurred to me that depth could be tasted, but the richness of what I ate was undeniably deep. Unlike our ice cream, which seems so quintessentially American—sweet, foremost, rather unadventurous in flavor, smooth and creamy, yet almost superficial, even when coming from the nearby Braum’s cows of Tuttle, OK—the gelato of Italy is flavored with an intense richness.

The chocolate gelato is analogous to my experience with the visual richness of Italy. To my uninitiated eyes, used to seeing decades old buildings, the hundreds and sometimes thousands of years of history visible on the mere surfaces of the buildings and ruins here is incredible and literally awe inspiring. Sublime. The same applies for the works of art, the ancient olive trees, the vineyards that were probably initially planted last century. It all evokes a level of depth that my Oklahoman tastes are unaccustomed to. I can along think of my reaction when I first saw the ruins of a house from the turn of the century in a western Oklahoman field, and how its depth in history pales in comparison to that of the streets of Rome and Arezzo.

Sublime.

So, where does this feeling of disgust come to play? The country itself, at least what little slice of it I’ve seen, is nothing short of incredible, breathtaking, and very literally jaw-dropping and dumbfounding. Several times, I remarked that it should be illegal for a country, a single place, to be this beautiful. However, if one can segregate the idea of disgust from the revulsion that causes it, believing the former to be distinct from the latter, and instead being the state or reaction caused by revulsion, one can understand how I reacted to the culture shock of coming to this country.

Italy was too deep in its beauty, and too deep in its indulgent tastes for me at first. I was taken aback, shaken by something like the mixture of fear, awe, longing and inferiority that characterized the Romantics’ idea of the sublime; buildings aren’t supposed to be this beautiful, frozen dairy this overwhelmingly strong and rich, churches this magnificent, olive oil this intensely smooth and indescribably olivey. But it wasn’t the magnificence of the churches that did this to me, nor some fear of the incredibly grandiose frescoes and ceilings, nor a basal feeling of inferiority when walking the steps of the Coliseum. It wasn’t awe. It was the richness of the culture here. The country is characterized by a culture of depth. Deeply stimulating history, tastes, sights.

Garrett Eakers is a student who attends the University of Oklahoma. When he has the time to get away from studying, which is hardly ever, he really enjoys writing. His topics of interest include race, journaling, style/aesthetics, and travel.

Beginning The Aster Online

Trying to look back at the year is like trying to follow the landscape out of the window of a car; it just escapes from you. At the time of posting this, the academic calendar is wrapping up. First-year students are now jaded and cynical, ready for sophomore year, and likewise, we here at The Aster Review have done some growing of our own. Back in August, we had just completed our first volume. At that point, we had three editors, a little over a hundred dollars, and so few copies that we had to tell people that they couldn’t take an extra copy for their grandparents.

Now, we have recruited around fifteen editors, raised near four thousand dollars, printed two-hundred and fifty copies, and received nearly one-hundred and fifty submissions. We even managed to pay our artists this year, allowing us to support the people who believe in our mission the most. Less than a year later, we’re already far bigger than I expected we would be, and it’s truly an affirmation of our original belief that this campus craves more opportunities to get involved with the arts community. We’ve proved that people want to create, and that there is an audience waiting to devour their work.

All of this brings me to today. What next? We’ve been asking ourselves this throughout the entire process and coming up with moonshot projects that we think could serve the University of Oklahoma even more, if we ever got the chance to do them. This is one of those projects: The Aster Online. While we want the print review to remain the cornerstone of what we do, we recognize that there is art that cannot be presented in the print medium, and there are only so many pages that we have available to allocate.

The Aster Online is our attempt to enter the digital stage. We’ll be collecting material to publish online year-round in an attempt to showcase as much of the campus creativity as we can. It will be an exciting new enterprise and a whole new place for us to develop both student editors and artists. Helping this develop is going to be a gratifying experience and a welcome challenge, and I hope that you’re excited to join us in this journey.

 

Best,

Reid Bartholomew

Editor-in-Chief

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