Une Langue Bien Faite

A sample from the recent travelogue:

5 April, 2009, Paris, France

Sitting in Place de la Bastille contemplating a question — what is it that makes Paris, well, Paris? Perhaps this is an inherent bias, but the answer seems to boil down to vitality — life, in other words. Paris is life. And life is Paris.

I once described it as a living museum. But that is too static…Inert. Like a charged electric coil, there is energy, at times invisible, that emanates from the place. A certain immunity — insulation — is transmitted to long-time denizens. They become inured…Blasé. This is part sophistication, part survival mechanism. One would die if unable to shut off a little. The dynamism would become too much. The rejuvenating source of spirit in the city thus comes from visitors and outsiders — not yet inoculated, they positively radiate with the city’s occult energy.

In Paris, someone is always doing “something”. There is actually a fairly rigid form in the city — the way restaurants advertise their specials, the way one orders in a café, even the way people dress (stylish, but somewhat conformist — perhaps that’s the essence of style…). But this form is constantly being challenged and destabilized by the inherent eccentricity of the locale. Bourgeois mores try and contain the outbursts, yet this leads to mixed results.

While the French are inheritors of a deeply exacting and rational Cartesian soul, it seems Paris is the vital instinctual force defying this order. In the end, if one plans anything in this city, it’s best to be prepared to adapt…

It’s a question of melangé — deep tradition mixed with exoticism and the new. Conformity and radicalism perched on the same corner. Filth and depravity juxtaposed with incredible, transcendental beauty.

There is a force, an intent, perhaps even a teleology, in Paris. It is inevitable. Like some Heraclitan dialectic, it’s an incarnation of the ever-changing river one can never step into twice. For lack of a better metaphor, Paris is a language all its own.

Add to this the fact that finding free wireless is like accidentally tripping over the Holy Grail, and it is clear how elusive the place can be…

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4 Responses to “Une Langue Bien Faite”

  1. Shefaly Says:

    Bizarrely you could replace Paris with London and it will all hold good too. Of course it may annoy a lot of Parisians but I don’t think I care. :-)

  2. The Necromancer Says:

    Indeed. Perhaps it is true of all great cities of the world (there aren’t that many…). The dynamism and the wonder of visitors, the blasé necessity of the locals. But Paris is still different, I think.

  3. ricki Says:

    I’ve always liked Hemingway’s notion of a moveable feast.

  4. The Necromancer Says:

    Certainly apt. The city has been described in so many ways. I’m reading a history of the city that mentions how it went from being perceived as feminine to masculine in the mid-19th century. I think this trend has since been reversed. I suspect this is mostly due to a distinct lack in contemporary revolutionary fervor and the major increase in shopping as a substitute…

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