Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris

I'd still like to go to one of the Gregorian masses at Notre Dame, but I wasn't there at the right times this past weekend. There's always something left unchecked on my list of "things to do in Paris" - on the other hand, that's not a bad thing. When Mom and John were here there were hundreds of people waiting to get into the cathedral, and so after listening to the glorious bells ring out we moved on. Last Friday morning there was no line at all, so I decided to go inside and take some pictures for them, and for myself as well. The last time I was inside, it was 1985, and a very hot August in Paris, or maybe it was July. I was traveling back to the United States taking the long way home through Europe from Japan, and spent a few days in Paris waiting for my cousin Michael before going to London and staying with him for a couple of weeks. And then I arrived back in the United States exhausted and with approximately 13 cents in my pocket, much to the dismay of the grandparents from whom I begged room and board and help getting back to Oregon. I really don't think I would have survived my twenties without my family occasionally rescuing me from my impetuous and spendthrift ways.

Or my thirties either, come to think of it.

"Or your forties and beyond, unless you get your retirement plans figured out," I can hear my mother and sister saying now. Retirement? Pshaw. I will just keep traveling until I can't move any more, and then I'll make cheese or teach English wherever I end up (which had probably better be someplace with a warm climate where I can forage for food if necessary while living in a tent ...) - or else I'll finally realize my semicoherent business plans and become a world-famous author. One or the other.

I remember being awed by Notre Dame in 1985, but then I was giddy with amazement that I was in Paris! so I was probably awed by pretty much everything. Not that I ever really got used to living in Tokyo and being amazed by the things I saw in Japan, but France was always a dream, and having it come true was incredible. And now, of course, I am living my dream, which is even better.

If proof is required to overcome doubts, then the lesson is to jump in headfirst, dive into the future, and just start doing what you've dreamed of doing, even if you're not sure that it will work out. Because even if things don't work out, in my experience, it often leads to situations and experiences that point out a new and even better direction to explore, one that you wouldn't have thought of otherwise. And the only way to start the marvelous interconnection between people that makes things so much easier is to get that first contact, that first name, that first opportunity. Relationships that spiderweb across the globe are the safety net that gives me the confidence to keep going in this adventure.

I read Pico Iyer's 2011 book "The Global Soul: Jet Lag, Shopping Malls, and the Search for Home" while I was in Paris. A lot of what he said resonated with me, as I feel oddly disconnected from the country where I was born (though still thinking that Portland's a pretty neat place to live) and at the moment have absolutely no desire to go back there, except to see family (unless I can convince them to come visit me, of course). I highly recommend the book, especially if you, like me, are always wondering what lies beyond the next horizon.

"A person like me can't really call himself an exile (who traditionally looked back to a home now lost), or an expatriate (who's generally posted abroad for a living); I'm not really a nomad (whose patterns are guided by the seasons and tradition); and I've never been subject to the refugee's violent disruptions: the Global Soul is best characterized by the fact of falling between all categories ... now, when I look around, there are more and more people in a similar state, the children of blurred boundaries and global mobility ... Displacement can encourage the wrong kinds of distance, and if the nationalism we see sparking up around the globe arises from too narrow and fixed a sense of loyalty, the internationalism that's coming to birth may reflect too roaming and undefined a sense of belonging."

"My friend had a map made up of clear divisions; mine was a shifting thing, in which everywhere could be home to some extent, and not home to some degree."

"[Japan] assigns me a role when I enter (a role that diminishes every foreigner with glamour, and marvels at his stammerings as at a talking dog), and asks me to go about my business, and let it go about its own." - and oh, that brings back memories, and a sense of startlement that things haven't changed in that respect in the past thirty years!

"It is therefore, a source of great virtue for the practiced mind to learn, bit by bit, first to change about in visible and transitory things, so that afterwards it may be able to leave them behind altogether. The person who finds his homeland sweet is a tender beginner; he to whom every soil is as his native one is already strong; but he is perfect to whom the entire world is as a foreign place."

- Hugh of Saint Victor (1096-1141)

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