Archive for December 2008

Our amazing world! Of Art, Love and simple Joy!

December 25, 2008

The tips of my fingers have gone numb and I’m flexing my hand almost reflexively to keep them warm as the thick black leathers gloves I wear just aren’t enough to keep back the cold Canadian chill. My legs have that strange ‘tingling’ sensation and I can barely feel the tugging of my clothing as it’s blown wildly in the frozen winds. And my face has long ago seemingly frozen against the harsh climes, my cheeks feel stiff, my lips cracked and bleeding, and I’m forced to blink constantly from the dry cold wing. By all rights I should feel miserable and cold, I should curse this world I live it, where each step is a tiny adventure of ice and snow and the weather so miserable. But I don’t, I can’t explain it, I’m not sure if anyone can. But for some reason despite the weather, or perhaps even because of it, those cold numb lips are smiling and I feel alive.

It’s a mystery to me, these tiny moments of clarity and pure joy. Have you ever felt them, these fragments of clarity where you swear the world has revealed itself to you in all its glory and you continue onward amazed, or perhaps simply stand there, stunned, as you mind reels with the sheer magnificence of it all? Those fractions of a second where every tiny facet of the world around you stands still and clear and a single breath takes an eternity to breath. When the most tiny details or actions seem to suddenly occupy the whole of your thoughts and dreams; The simple shade of green on a leaf above your head, and the way the light shines down upon it and illuminates it with a rich glow. Or a stunning sunset, the sky turning a bright shade of pink that highlights the black streaks that run through it like ripples in the water. Maybe even an action, the feel of blood pumping through your legs spreading warmth against the cold and the bite of the cold against your cheek, the wisps of cloud that billow forth from your mouth with every breath and the way it drifts away in the winds. Snowflakes, each one unique, flying past in the legion, so much so that you can barely see but a few mere meters in front of you and the world itself seems to be frozen in a state where it’s simply you, you and the cold of winter! And it is glorious!

I have felt this. Many times. I hope you do too because for those few moments, that little slice of time, everything is perfect and beautiful and not the worries of daily life nor the sins of our past can deter that simple, childish joy that overcomes cynicism and melancholy. It’s a tiny little moment in the grand bustle of our lives, and yet those mere seconds that it lasts can mean everything, be everything.

It’s those little fragments of my life that make it so great. I’m not rich, I’m not particularly productive or smart. I own little worth mentioning and still have so very, very much of the world to see before I can even call myself truly experienced. And yet though I often feel I’ve done so very little to deserve it, I love my life. I love it for those moments of clarity and wonder, that sense of grand amazement over the smallest and most inconsequential of details. I stand in awe and when the feeling has passed I wonder ‘What have I done to deserve such a thing?’.

Some amazing people can draw these moments out, memorize them, and express them again as art! You hear them sometimes, the songs that often without words seem to draw upon some deep bit of our souls and twist them, drawing forth and manipulating our emotions in such a way we can’t fully explain. Or paintings that pull you in, demand your attention, and for a brief moment encompass all we know and once we’ve looked away, leave a deep impression upon our very selves. Words that stir you heart, speeches that change the very fiber of who we are, plays and movies that teach us about a bit of ourselves we didn’t even know we had.

This you have experienced, in one way or another. Everyone has. Some people try to define that feeling, to label it and use it as some sort of parameter towards the meaning of art. Others calculate it, examine it, try to determine the exact angles of the artwork that stir our souls, the subtle variations of the song which moves our heart. And others, like myself, simply enjoy the moment. Revel in the feeling, the sensation of perfection. It drives us onward in our lives, ever hoping for another one of these moments where time is frozen and everything, everything is right!

For this I live. I breath with the hope that each breath might draw closer another seconds moment of beauty. That every time I step forward is another step towards understanding.

Perhaps the message I’m trying to say is simply that; Life is beautiful, full of amazement and wonders the likes of which we cannot even understand. It may only be a figment of our minds, a peculiarity of the human brain, a wisp of a dream that survives into waking. But in the end does it matter, the whats and the whys? Sometimes, only sometimes, it’s best to not question but instead to simply enjoy the moment. Enjoy the moment and keep on living in the hopes that you might experience more!

A wanderers view on Paris and the image of France!

December 9, 2008

Of all the cities in the world, Paris, and France in general for that matter, seems to have a sort of global ‘image’ of what everyone thinks it’s like. A sort of French stereotype that extends right into the very fibers of France’s global popularity. For example, you mention Paris to someone who’s never been there, and you’re pretty likely to get a “Ah, the city of looove!” or a “Baguettes, wine and cigarettes!” story. It’s remarkable, I’d go so far as to say nowhere else in the world is there such a vivid idea of what a place is like created by and perpetuated by people who have never been there.

“Get to the point, how accurate are those then?” you demand, so I’ll quit buggering around. Paris, and much (But not all!) of France in general, is not a thing at all like those stereotypical snippets you see in the commercials or the travel brochures, or those cheesy little clips or the outrageous characters from children’s shows. Some bits are correct; yes, for mysterious reasons unknown to man, baguettes *are* ridiculously popular as a breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner there. And without any possible doubt, *yes*, the french are completely in love with cafe’s and many seem to spend seemingly their entire days sitting in those little plastic outdoor chairs sipping at a beer and smoking a cigarette, how they can ‘afford’ to do that all day is another mystery, but it is indeed a fairly true stereotype as far as these things go (Which is to say not very true at all, but still true enough to be funny in a “Hey look, he’s wearing a beret and eating a baguette” kinda way!).

But that image, that grand story of what Paris is supposed to be like, only actually pops up occasionally then is blown away like wisps of smoke. Just enough to snap a postcard perfect picture or have one of those “Holy shit, I can’t believe I’m in Paris right now!” moments before it’s quickly forgotten in favor of reality.

Keep in mind that all my travels through Paris as well as the rest of France were either by train or by foot, so unfortunately I missed many of the grand tourist traps or had to walk through the city proper before I could find the carefully set up locations I’m supposed to see, which needless to say sort of broke the illusion on more than one occasion.

Paris. Paris struck me as a massive, sprawling old beast. It’s old and lazy, grumpy beyond all reason, dirty and not a little smelly… and yet all that considered extremely fascinating none the less. The truth is that Paris is easily one of the most unexpectedly diverse cities I’ve encountered, but in a different way than most. Paris is a city where many, many cultures and ideologies, ways of life and beliefs all cram together and jostle each other rather uncomfortably and yet somehow seem to get along well enough they haven’t all killed each other yet. Where Canada likes to do the ‘live together in harmony’ thing, classical “Everyone’s separate cultures working together towards a common goal!” and the USA tends to be much more melting pot style assimilation thing, Paris embraces the “Go do your own thing over there!’ philosophy in many respects. Somehow it works too, and if anything is to be said about Paris it’s that there has got to be a shop or store for everything you can possibly conceive by the sheer volume of different people and ideas there are. Probably a factor in why Paris is so influential in the fashion and design sectors, since for inspiration just walk down a street long enough and you’re bound to encounter at least a couple different cultures and the like, one of which is bound to catch your eye eventually.

But six hundred and forty nine words in (654 now) I’ve yet to have really described Paris in any way, so I’ll quit with the pseudo-ideological musings and skip to the facts.

First off, arriving into Paris via train is a wreck. The train station is confusing as hell, and the information staff both overworked and seemingly understaffed for the massive amount of confused tourists like myself pouring in. Finding your way around the city can be a pain in the ass if you’re not familiar with the underground system, and that itself is yet another journey within a journey (Not completely unlike London in that respect!). The streets are, honestly, kinda dirty and there were more beggars than I’d care to count, especially outside the main train stations. The people are either rushed with their own business or assholes, and there’s an overall ‘grey’ feel to it all that’s hard to describe . It’s a rather grim and depressing first impression that frankly left me wanting to get back on board the train and take the next one to somewhere, almost anywhere, else.

But with immense fortitude and courage (And a lack of any other options with a dash of stubborn stupidity!) I persevered those first dark hours, and reluctantly, slowly, Paris began to open up to me. Tentative at first, bit by bit I began to find more and more ‘hey, that’s neat!’ moments, that slowly grew into a general feeling of fun and enjoyment. The streets never get any less messy, and frankly Paris has the overpowering stench of piss in many areas, people are still grumpy, and that ‘greyness’ never really goes away. But you start to see beyond that, beyond that into the nitty gritty little details that make Paris one of the grandest cities in the world.

You talk to a guy who recommends a little restaurant you’d never have taken notice of before, get there early enough to grab one of the tables at the small little dining area, and eat the best damn crêpe you will ever eat in your life served in this amazingly quaint small-restaurant Paris place that feels like it’s torn from the pages of a classical memoir . Or you’re walking along when you hear a the sound of music slowly coming closer and closer, and finally a trio of… wandering buskers?… comes into view, dancing slowly along the street as they play their instruments. And then there are the more grand and planned events, like walking under the Eiffel tower for the first time and suddenly being struck by just how big it is in reality. Far grander and majestic than anything you’d thought from television or books. A massive giant spire of metal reaching into the sky. Or as another example; visiting the Louvre, THE Louvre museum, and walking along it’s creaking wooden floors surrounded on all sides by near priceless antiquities and art. The sheer opulence and grandeur of it all! Never mind Napoleons tomb, which as I remarked to my friend, more resembles a giant religious temple than a tomb to such an extent that future generations, very very far future generations, would see it as some sort of primitive tribute to a God as they tries to decipher the mysteries of ancient humans.

Eventually the good just starts piling up, and next thing you know rather than hating Paris, you’ve rather discovered you like the place regardless of it’s many flaws. There are still the occasional wisps of ‘Oh wow, that is so french!’ but for the most part you’ve come to realize Paris is a unique city all its own that really seems to resent being stereotyped. For many who go there with a specific ‘It must be like this, and only this!’ mentality I can only assure Paris would be a complete disappointment, but for those willing to give it a short and get to know the real Paris as best they can, it’s a magnificent city that you’ll find yourself looking forward to visiting again sometime in the future.