Tiber Island is an island located in the Tiber river that flows through the eternal city of Rome.
Legend has it that the island was created when angry Romans thew the body of the despised tyrant Tarquinius Superbus into the water where sediment from the river got caught and eventually formed the island we now call Tiber island.
For the longest time the island had a terrible reputation (“Only the worst criminals and the contagiously ill were condemned there.”)
But then a temple was built on the island in the honor of Aesculapius, the Greek god of medicine and healing. In 1584 a hospital was also built on the island, a hospital that is still (!) in operation more than 400 years later.
The island is now considered a place of healing.
I like this story because it shows that our image of a place can change from bad to good over time.
But the most inspiring story about the Tiber Island hospital is a story that combines the reputation of the island as a haunted place with it’s reputation as an inspirational place of healing:
“When the Nazis occupied Rome in 1943 and started rounding up the Jews, Dr. Borromeo, head of the hospital, invented a “deadly” and highly contagious illness he dubbed “Il Morbo di K” to keep the SS away and protect those Jews hiding inside the wards, just a stone’s throw from the Ghetto.” (According to Wikipedia)
As I stand on the banks of Tiber island and reflect on its millennia of history I realise that the reputation of the island could be seen as a symbol of humanity.
When we look back on human history we tend to see horror, problems and violence, but actually the story of human history is for the most part a story of amazing improvements:
– From starving to not (94% of the world population was living in absolute poverty 200 years ago, today it is less than 10%)
– From violence to less violence. (Killings as a percentage of all humanity has probably been declining over the years, even as weapons became more and more effective at killing)
– From struggling for survival to living healthier and longer. (Life expectancy in the world today is 71.5, 1950 world average was 48, Bronze age average was 26)
And yes, there are still uncountable problems for humanity to solve.
But from a branding perspective perhaps we should not look back at ourselves and see something to be ashamed of, but instead see a success story that should inspire us to continue to solve even more and bigger problems in the future.
After I visited Tiber island I went to the Leonardo da Vinci Museum not far from Tiber Island. Da Vinci, one of the greatest problem solvers and inventors of humanity. And yes, he did create a bunch of war machines, but he is remembered more for his positive inventions, his beautiful drawings and his general creativity.
When I stood in the “multi-mirror-cabinet” that Leonardo invented I reflected (literally) over how human creativity has helped propel mankind to something better.
Now it is time to take the next step and embrace a mindset of true human thinking where we develop solutions on a global scale for the benefit of the human species and of earth as a whole. Grand thoughts perhaps, but they feel appropriate standing on an island in the eternal city.
(Countries visited so far: Austria, Canada, China, Egypt, France , Hong Kong, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Mauritius, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, Thailand, Vietnam, United Kingdom, USA and Italy.)