In this cold northern hemisphere night, I am warmed by an image from a new archeological find in Italy of an unknown, 5,000-year-old couple locked in an embrace not far from the home of Romeo and Juliet. Our common humanity unites us across the millennia.
Supplied by the Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali (Italian Cultural Ministry), the picture depicts the Neolithic age skeletons of a couple found in Valdaro-S.Giorgio near Mantua, about 25 miles from Verona.
As a university student, I once delighted in learning that the oldest extant manuscript, written in Sanskrit, was a recipe for making beer. Our ancestors, I then felt, had their priorities straight.
Tonight, I am touched by an ancient unknown couple. Like them, the thought of an empty bed is unappealing. They and I aspire to the warmth of another person, someone of the opposite sex, someone cuddly, someone into whose eyes one might plunge.
We are so hauntingly similar in revelry and romance.
Elena Menotti, the chief archeologist at the site, told reporters it was "extraordinary." Such a find is rare, perhaps unique. They are really hugging and they died young, as their intact teeth show.
Perhaps they were the real Romeo and Juliet, star-crossed lovers from long, long ago. We think sometimes that we invented love to the tune of the Beatles. We didn't. Maybe they did.
Whatever the case, the secret of life seems encased in that embrace. The greatest human joy is drawn from the urge to merge, to spawn; we, their children, are alive thanks to such an entwining.
All of life, that all-too-brief moment in which we awaken to awareness, from infancy through childhood and adolescence, to upright adult maturity, seems directed toward that coupling with another, after which we slowly nod off through senescence back into the sheath of gray unknowing whence we came.
This Mantuan couple has preserved the core for the ages, a monument to being in the fullest, most human sense.