In Naples, we are "initiated" into a mystery: "this sense of life profoundly informed by awareness of death that values the smallest pleasure as god-given, fatalistically attributing misfortune to the gods' sterner associate, Il Destino."
No one writes better about traveling alone:
"Never to have made the lonely walk along the Seine or Lungarno, or passed those austere evenings on which all the world but oneself has destination and companion, is perhaps never to have felt the full presence of the unfamiliar. It is thus one achieves a slow, indelible intimacy with place, learning to match its moods with one's own. At such times it is as if a destination had awaited us with nearly human expectation and with an exquisite blend of receptivity and detachment."
"The moment comes: we intersect a history, a long existence, offering it our fresh discovery as regeneration."
Steegmuller writes about his being mugged and seriously injured in Naples. The Italian doctors are skillful, personal, warm. He misses them when he returns to New York, where, "If there was a question to be asked, one learned to have it ready and to speak quickly . . . . One doctor in particular was like an indifferent priest opening and closing the slide of his confessional on a busy Saturday night." The hospital attendants speak to him "across an artificial barrier of polysyllabic indirection." Steegmuller's experience is not unique. There are now specialists in "doctor-patient communication." One such specialist "urges doctors to build rapport with their patients by greeting them warmly by name, asking briefly about important events in their lives, maintaining eye contact, focusing on the patient without interruption, and displaying empathy through words and body language" (New York Times, June 9, 2009). Directions for programming robots to act human.
Must we leave America to find what Steegmuller calls "the immediacy of care and human fellowship," and Hazzard, "a slow, indelible intimacy with place"?