Paris Letters #4

Moloch from the film 1927 film Metropolis

It is no accident that propels people like us to Paris. Paris is simply an artificial stage, a revolving stage that permits the spectator to glimpse all phases of the conflict. Of itself Paris initiates no dramas. They are begun elsewhere. Paris is simply an obstetrical instrument that tears the living embryo from the womb and puts it in the incubator. -Henry Miller

My wife asked me: ‘Before you read me your Paris blog, tell me why you are writing it’. It’s a good question, and something that one should ask oneself about any kind of expression.

Well, firstly the same reason I write everything: a certain capricious playfulness. Secondly, to heal this fragmented soul. In reality, the two are one. Discovering playfulness is the process of healing and assembling of the disparate elements. This is a playful exploration of a theme, more like an improvisation, than anything else. I enjoy the places my thoughts take me, like a walk through the left bank of Paris, I always discover something new.

And at the same time those of us who live in Paris — and those of us who are human beings for that matter — are feeling like we have been shot through with holes. Paris provided a metaphor for the heart — it is actually shaped like the heart. And the heart of everybody — not just in Paris — is wounded. Who could deny it? It may be absurd to say, but Paris is the bleeding heart of everything.

I’ve tried to leave Paris several times — it’s tough to live in any big city, especially as a foreigner. There are times when I have cursed this place, where it seemed to me to be a thumbnail photo of hell. Taking the suburb train, though its vast arteries, is to see one of Dante’s infernos spread out before one. And yet, even though all big cities are like this, Paris seems to have celestial realms as well. There are places, like the rose gardens in Bagatelle for instance, when you feel that you feel that heavy imperial beauty. Beauty and ugliness live in close proximity, in every moment. There is beauty in the apparent ugliness of Paris and ugliness in it’s apparent beauty.

Being in a big city provides a couple of advantages. There is a certain proximity to suffering that makes one paradoxically more compassionate; there are also wild forms of human beauty that bloom in this stone garden. To live here is to be in proximity to all kinds of paradoxical worlds. Everybody complains, and says they wanted to leave and go to the ‘provinces’, but would they really be happier there? They dream of going ‘back to nature’. Ah, but isn’t our real nature really like Paris — the city shaped like a heart — full of dense darkness and light, horrors and beauties.

Sure, taking the dark medicine that is Paris will give you fantastic visions, but there is a cost. It might be your soul. Or your soul might be forged in its impossible depths and heights.

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