Standing in the Centre of the World

I never thought of Paris as being the centre of the world, but I have witnessed many references to that idea and heard people talk of Paris and Parisians as if – this is it! History and beauty fetichized ad nausea, there is an odd schizophrenic feeling in the air. With the revolution in the late 1700s, royalty and its abuses of power were thrown away in an abrupt and violent manner, but everywhere I see evidence of an enchantment with the era rejected. 

The leaves are almost all off the trees and I can now see Île Saint-Louis and the spires of Notre Dame from my window. In the very early morning, I hear the whine of an emergency vehicle pushing through the street below. All is still dark and almost empty yet, the sound persists, desperate to wake us to its urgency. In Paris, the show is live and the show is continuous.

I’ve heard it said in Newfoundland that if you don’t like the weather at the front door, go out the back. This, to me has several possible meanings: maybe it’s raining at the front door and sunny at the back, or maybe the rain will have stopped by the time you get ther, or also possibly, it’s pouring out both doors, so just put on your boots and get on with it! At home we watch the skies; in Paris, no one bothers with weather. This city is about a beautiful spectacle and if you’re not enjoying what is happening in front of you, turn around and catch what is going on behind. Paris is looking at being looked at. It is being in the know and showing it!

Only three weeks left and there is so much happening at once, I can barely finish a task. I have abandoned coffee and still, my insides tremble. Yesterday I managed to feel grounded for half a day; the rest got swept away in a swirl of something. I have so many threads attached to me and each runs in a different direction. Maybe this is just Paris: a city of spinning heads. Or maybe it is me, just wanting to stand still and I am not able to resist the momentum.

Anchored in my North American grid logic, I still get turned around very easily in Paris. Here, the road system rambles in footpath logic from one village centre to the next – a system that looks like stars with roads running out from one dot in the middle of a village star to the next.  Paris shines like the brightest and biggest; if you look at a road map of France,  it looks like a galaxy of interconnected stars.

Royal is feminine beauty. Of all the works presented at the Pomidou in the Jacques Villeglé’s retrospective, there are only two that figure women predominantly. Why are we not surprised that they chose the image of a fashionable French woman to advertise the exhibition?

What gives? It is very odd to me- a country that has given the world so many great women philosophers and thinkers is stuck with an idea of feminine beauty that enslaves women to a fashion of high heels and short tight skirts. Style is content!