It was a breathtaking structure. And an awe-inspiring experience to explore the historical amphitheater in El Djem, Tunisia that once held 35,000 spectators. I remember sitting at the top of the steps overlooking what once stood as a fortress in history that is long-forgotten by today's world . . . but undeniable when standing in the middle of it in Africa.
Photojournalism often takes me to far away places and mainly to third-world countries. Oddly enough, I feel more comfortable walking the dirt paths of India than my own city streets at times. But this particular project took me to places I never new existed.
I prefer photographing people, hands down. But, one particular nonprofit also needed images of the country's landscape while I was in Tunisia. I was taken on an in-depth tour of a variety of landmarks and historical sites just like the one above. And it quickly became a joke between my guide and me that we were once again visiting dead rocks. But this one was different. You felt as if the stones were calling out to share century-old secrets held within those walls.
El Djem Amphitheater is the best preserved Roman stone ruins and oldest amphitheater in the world! I was honored to walk those dark tunnels and climb those stone steps that was a part of a history I never knew . . . and that Russell Crowe once traveled in his Roman garb. I bet you didn't expect to hear that one . . . nor did I until I starting researching this theater for the blog. I discovered part of Gladiator was filmed here as well as Monty Python's Life of Brian.
As one would suspect, portions of the thick stone walls have fallen or broken apart, but just as I strive to find the beauty in brokenness in people, here too it was easy to see the structure's unique qualities that even in it's "ruin condition" was still a beautiful picture of life.
After photographing as many nooks and crannies as I could, I climbed to the highest point (and over a railing . . . shhh!) as my guide nervously ensured I wouldn't become part of the history of the amphitheater (I'm a bit of a risk-taker when it comes to "getting the shot"). I took a moment to reflect and as I think back to that day, one has to think about the grave investment of time it took to build such a site.
I don't think the Romans cut corners. Their sweat could have filled those underground tunnels from the labor building the arches, walkways and steps. Imagine if they would have decided to stop halfway or only do part of it because they were tired? Or felt it looked adequate? The structure surely would not have lasted from around 238 AD until present day!!!
Benjamin Franklin once said, "If better is possible, than good is not enough." This motivates and pushes me to do better. To not settle for mediocre. It kicks our butt into gear to move toward progression.
Success and growth come with hard work. It doesn't happen overnight. Our "I-want-it-now" culture has a miscued perception of reality and our actions display a complacency that is inadequate for progression. A selfish mindset stunts growth. The Romans knew it many years ago that hard work pays off . . . sheesh, it was necessary to just keep themselves alive! Americans tend to complain if the ice machine breaks or they have to wait more than five minutes in line for their coffee.
When you feel like you've reach a point of contentment, don't settle. Find ways to make a bigger difference in this world. Love with your life. Be a world changer. It starts where you are today and can impact generations. Don't give up when you feel defeated. Don't just maintain. LIVE!!!!
Because good is NOT enough. Better IS possible.