Friday, May 9, 2008

Les Jours et Les Temps...C'est un Mystère

I've been sending out some emails to friends from Paris for the past week, but they have been the voice for both Jeannie and I, relating where we'd been, what we'd seen, etc.. As one of Jeannie's married friends who wanted to take an acting class said, "I want to do something for myself." That's why I started this blog, after all.


Part of this is spurred by reading entries from John P. McNamee's Diary of a City Priest, a book Jeannie found too depressing but one I find--like Goldilocks--"just right." I like the format being a series of temporally and spatially unrelated (ie, non-linear) short entries--i.e., a diary. So that's how I am going to write. Enjoy. Or not. I don't care much either way.

------------

"Face the tranquility, and all its charm, and all in blessed privacy."

Jeannie is out today and I am in. We agreed to have a day apart, mostly for my sake. My need for time alone is like gas to a car. This is my first time traveling with a girlfriend. It has its advantages and challenges. It does touch on my fears of being trapped in a situation where I don't have that privacy, though, the same feeling that comes while driving through the desert close to 'E' and nervously looking for signs to the next service station. She is very understanding, though, and knows me well enough to know that it is not as much selfishness as it is a legitimate need (though the potential for selfishness is always there). Trying to cut out solitude would be like trying to cut calories out of a diet, or hours out of a sleep cycle.

------------

I want a cigarette out on the balcony, overlooking la rue du Douai and the Hotel Touriste. But then I would just want another one, and then it would not stop. Then I would be just as unhappy as if I didn't have one at all.

-----------

Sleeping at night has been consistently difficult in our section of Montmartre. Clubs and bars attract a lot of people, but the biggest annoyance is the drones of scooters which shoot up and down the street all night. It is as if a landscaping crew is perpetually trimming hedges outside our building. Any romance I had of these two wheeled has evaporated; I now fantasize of blowing them up and replacing them with Harleys and freight trains.

-----------

As cute as our little kitchen is, the ungodly mystery smell which wafts into the room whenever the refrigerator doors are opened is enough to make me homesick. We have been as of yet unable to locate a source.

----------

Life is not as dramatic as we make it out to be; it does seem proportional to the amount of meaning we infuse it with. Existential and Absurdist thought is grounded in absolute freedom; that an individual has no meaning in life besides that which he creates for himself. He is then also charged with the full responsibility that comes with his choices. As Dostoevsky says, "man is tormented by no greater anxiety than to find someone quickly to whom he can hand over that gift of freedom with which the ill-fated creature is born. For the secret of man's being is not only to live but to have something to live for." Whether or not that thing is true is of less importance that the belief in its truthfulness. But I question the value of such meanings at all.

-----------

Traveling is higly overrated. Aside from speaking a different language, what is different about Parisian culture? Not much. Smaller cars, people working less, and more expensive everything. I have been highly suspicious of anything that smacks of "greener grass." Why must I see the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Louvre? Do these hold more worth than anything else? If I choose to lay on the couch all day, every day, and enjoyed it, would my vacation somehow be worth less? Some of my best memories are of sitting with my father on beds of pine needles on the side of the road, eating trail mix and pieces of chocolate, and drinking cold water from a nearby public library, and working in my garden.

-----------

I did not like Sacre Coeur. It felt like no more sacred a structure than any other, and to have learned it was built by an ultra-catholic faction of the church for political as much as spiritual reasons (following the Franco-Prussian war) made it that much less so. There were stations everywhere where one could deposit money to light a candle. People moved as if in a daze; I resented being herded like some kind of livestock. We did find a quiet area to sit down for a little while, but I was ready to leave, as this place held no appeal for me.

-----------

I confess to Jeannie this afternoon that I am having a hard time feeling excited about the places and sights Paris has to offer, not because of the city in particular, but because my inner disposition makes one things just as good as the next. I feel like one of those children who flabbergast their parents by forgoing an expensive Christmas gift in favor of the box it came in. But even the box holds no appeal for me, and I feel as empty as it's inside.

-----------

Gabriel Marcel, Albert Camus, Simone Weil...all radical French intellectuals whom I hold in high esteem. I have no respect for those who challenge convention for its own sake, and nothing but the highest regard for those who push the envelope of human knowledge for the sake of truth, even at the expense of their own social standing, personal suffering, and possible excommunication. Truth is often buried under stratifed layers of social convention. Christian Existentialism, despite its condemnation by the Church (or perhaps because of it), houses the archaelogists that seek to excavate it.

----------

I just learned the day today--it is Friday. It is a gift not to be in need of that particular knowledge, if only for a week.

No comments: