A Moment to Reflect

25 August 2020

A Moment to Reflect -90

Reflections in the water, Venice

When it comes to light meeting water, I think my favourite place in the world must be Venice. It’s hard to take a badphotograph there. I have been there five times. Who knows if I’ll ever be able to visit it again? And who knows when it will finally sink into the lagoon?

I first discovered the fading splendour of Venice in 1974 when I was a student, “Inter-Railing” around Europe. 

In those days, Yugoslavia still existed as a single country ruled by a Communist regime led by President Tito. Yugoslavia was more open than most other Communist countries at the time and was relatively easy to enter. We decided to visit Llubjana (now the capital of Slovenia.)

The Lonely Planet Guide to the city gives it this glowing description:

“Slovenia’s capital and largest city is one of Europe’s greenest and most liveable capitals; it was the European Commission’s Green Capital of Europe in 2016. Car traffic is restricted in the centre, leaving the leafy banks of the emerald-green Ljubljanica River, which flows through the city’s heart, free for pedestrians and cyclists. In summer, cafes set up terrace seating along the river; it almost feels like a nightly street party.” —Lonely Planet

Not so in 1974! It was dusty, dour and drab—not green but grey. We did not feel welcomed. We looked around for a while but quickly decided to get the next train out, which was about 6 hours later.

That train travelled (slowly) overnight into Italy, and during the journey I finally succumbed to the ‘stomach bug’ which during the previous few days had already afflicted most of the others in the group. We arrived into the Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia about 9 am and exited the station to find ourselves immediately on the side of the Grand Canal which was buzzing with water taxis, vaporettos and gondolas.

Is there any other railway station in the world with a more spectacular location? I doubt it. [It’s also a very stylish building in its own right, a modernist classic designed in 1934 though not completed until 1952—so it was just over 20 years old when I was first there.]

I had breakfast, plain toast and tea without milk. Though I almost never drink tea, and only occasionally eat toast, on that one occasion it was like ‘ambrosia’—the ‘food of the gods.’ (I’m sure you can guess why.)

From that first glimpse of the city’s unique setting, Venice has been my special favourite. So far, I’ve never felt drawn to revisit Llubjana—though maybe one day, if we are able to travel again, I may—then again I probably won’t.

I mention these two cities because I suspect my long-standing view of them has been shaped entirely by those first impressions. It doesn’t seem to matter if those first impressions were inaccurate or exaggerated, or if things have changed since then: it’s hard to shift them.

Sadly, we often base our view on other people almost entirely on such first impressions and also find it harder to believe that people can actually change over time.

There’s an old African saying, which, although it has been a bit clumsily translated into English, makes the point “First impression must be accurate because getting into people’s minds and correcting erroneous viewpoint is impossible.” ― Vincent Okay Nwachukwu, Weighty ‘n’ Worthy African Proverbs – Volume 1

I’m just glad that God believes in giving people a second chance, and a chance to change—as Jesus so often demonstrated and taught.

Reflect on whether you’ve “written off” any person, place or situation on the basis of first or previous impressions. Are you willing to give others a second chance?