The Return of the Vestal Morons

Six years ago (can it really have been that long?), Remus and I spent three months living in Rome. Not just us, of course: we went with a couple dozen of our classmates participating in the Rome program run by our college.

Before we embarked on this adventure, he and I agreed to write a number of articles for our college newspaper, describing our experiences for those students back at the main campus in the United States. When we made this agreement with the editors, we little thought of the challenges inherent in keeping our obligation: that in the midst of full-time classes, innumerable tours, travelling, studying, and simply enjoying the experience of being in Rome, finding the time to pen even a bi-weekly column was nearly impossible.

Romulus (right) and Remus (left) in the Paris airport on our way to Rome.

Inevitably the writing was procrastinated until the last possible minute. If I remember correctly, Tuesday evenings were our deadline. Remus and I were roommates. And so, whenever the dreaded Tuesdays rolled around, we would shut ourselves up in our small room (it was a converted monastic cell) after dinner, usually with a bottle of cheap brandy, and once with a bottle of absolutely wretched absinthe (that’s a story in itself), and drink, and write.

Remus usually wrote lying on his bed, while I took the lone desk in the room. Always there was a volume of Chesterton sitting beside me, which I consulted whenever I lacked inspiration.

Though they lack most of the characteristics that make Europe, and Rome, in particular, memorable, these evenings locked up in our monastic cell far from the piazzas and churches of Rome are some of the fondest memories from those three months. In a way, of course, they were excruciating. They were long, wearying, and often depressing, since what came out on paper so rarely matched the germ of the idea in the brain: and when you are living in Rome, the germs of your ideas are magnificent, making the disparity all the more depressing.

And yet, these evenings were richly creative. For several hours every two weeks, Remus and I were forced to pause the task of living and experiencing, and instead to contemplate our lived experience, and to make something of it. In Remus’ case this usually took the form of relating hysterical anecdotes, of which, he being who he is, there were myriad (See “Mildew“): and in my case, in penning brooding and self-consciously “profound” columns – though occasionally we would switch roles (see Remus’ “The Floor” and my “The case of the cursed luggage.”).

As we wrote, we often shared passages and ideas with one another, and there was much hilarity as well as despair as the clock ticked towards our midnight deadline, and our columns looked less and less finished, and our brains became more and more addled by weariness and alcohol, until in a final paroxysm of anguish, we would say, “To hell with it!” and click the “send” button, and hope that our editors wouldn’t hate us too much for having burdened them with such rubbish.

I don’t know if anyone other than my then-girlfriend (now wife) ever read these columns. But the writing of them was a thing valuable in itself. And even the illusion of an audience was enough of a motivation to force us to set aside those few hours every two weeks, and to do the writing. In my case the experience later bore fruit when one of these columns (The Meaning of Mountains) won me a $2500 scholarship after I submitted it to the American Chesterton Society’s annual essay competition – and that, I suppose, alone would have made the effort worthwhile.

It is now six years later, and Vestal Morons, the absurdly named blog where we posted photos and these columns, in addition to their publication in the school newspaper, has lain dormant. Every couple weeks Blogger (where Vestal Morons used to be hosted) still sends me a traffic update, even though I have long since forgotten the password to access the blog. It seems that every so often some unwitting internet wayfarer still stumbles across Vestal Morons, and I can’t imagine what they might make of it.

Recently, however, I began once again to consider that last infirmity of great minds: to start a blog.

There are many reasons why people start up blogs, some of them good and some of them bad. In my case it is simply that I am finding myself too busy and too distracted to do the thinking and the writing that I would like to do. So, I began to ask how I might find the motivation to set aside those precious hours that I don’t seem to have, to think about things that matter, or, at the very least, to create something.

What a blog provides to the amateur scribbler is the illusion of an audience and, thus, some form of accountability. In the best of cases, a blog is simply a way of fooling the brain into thinking it has a deadline. And so I pondered starting a blog, even if the only person who might read it would be my wife.

But then all of a sudden it occurred to me that there was a better alternative: to resurrect Vestal Morons. This struck me as such a good idea that I immediately telephoned Remus, who confessed that he, too, had lately been considering starting a blog: and so compelling was the coincidence that we immediately set about resurrecting the defunct blog.

We can’t promise you anything at all. And we don’t even know, or particularly care, if there is a “you.” We simply want to write. And if this blog gives us the motivation to do so, then it has accomplished its goal.

I can’t even say for certain what sort of things we will write here. That will be guided by our interests and personalities, which mostly likely means that my posts will continue to be self-consciously profound reflections on things that I am poorly equipped to understand, and in Remus’ case, in extensive exegesises on the spiritual meanings of Hollywood classics like Star Wars, Terminator, and the Little Mermaid.

What is certain, is that Remus and I make a good team: for I have always derived an enormous amount of entertainment from Remus’ writing, and believe him to be a far better writer than myself, while Remus himself has said much the same about my writing (and seemed to believe it!). So even if we (and, of course, my wife) are the only ones who read this, we will, I think, be satisfied that it is a roaring success.

Old posts for nostalgia’s sake:

The Meaning of Mountains
The Floor
The Land of Milk and Honey (Part II)
The Land of Milk and Honey (Part I)
Swiss Cheese
The Re-Annexation of Innocence
The Secret Name of Rome…Maybe
The Journey Toward Elysium
The Case of the Cursed Luggage

About John Jalsevac

I am a PhD student in philosophy.
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