France, in the context of the argument made above, seems to me like a sum of contradictory feelings I have each time I pronounce her name. I am lost here. Her history of struggle which led to the demise of monarchical tyranny and to the rejection of any constraint on the freedom of the French people makes me feel a bit comfortable and justified in my choice to live here. It testifies to what I used to believe and still do that the human creates her/ his own destiny.
We are not born heroes or cowards. It is rather the path we take and the commitments we make in this life which determine our destiny. Mine was linked for a specific period of time with this country which stirs in my inner self all my mental and psychological energy and gives it an outlet to be fulfilled and to come out in the open. I am gripped with a desire to melt in nature and I cannot dissociate my experiences from my genes because I am the sum total of influences inherited from the environment where I originally come from and the experiences which I went through later in life.
What I found most attractive about Paris is my infinite quest for freedom with its deeper meanings and not the act of clinging to superficial and preliminary results. Freedom is in the beginning a choice and then it becomes a commitment to what we choose regardless of the undesirable consequences that our choice may lead to. We desire freedom for its own sake and not for selfish small reasons. It is this type of freedom which leads us towards new concepts and to that human energy which is so important to life the way air is important to breathing.
I know that Paris will not give me what I am looking for because I believe that there is no city or country which has ever managed to overcome the small frame which confines humans in ethnic or national circles or think beyond all the other considerations and ideas which are relevant to the limited interests of its own people. But at least in Paris it is possible for the individual to carve, if she or he wishes, for herself a way among these limited beliefs. She/ he can have the right to stand for his/ her opinions and thoughts. (Here, I have in mind individual rights and the opening up of a free space for research and new creative insights).
Let us look at our existence in this life; we see clearly that our short journey is first of all concentrated on human pursuit to extend our awareness to all living creatures. Since millions of years ago, Humans managed to develop their sensory system to move gradually towards ideas outside themselves and the limits of their bodies or their own existence. The journey of humankind is one journey with one aim which is freedom. And freedom cannot be achieved without our emancipation from the selfish and self-centred desires which hamper our progress. When we can level up our sentiments to that higher aim, only then we can deal with new proposed ideas with more harmony and more involvement.
Freedom! I am looking for it in the four corners of the world, always looking for ideas and visions which have escaped from the confinements of belonging to a specific geographical location or limited identity and urges me to delve deeper into the essence of things, to spread in open horizons, overcome physical distance, gain awareness of all felt sentiments in all living creatures, feel one with them, get to the bottom of things. This knowledge of external things will lead me towards a better understanding of myself. My intellectual journey would be the sum total of the self imminent to all creatures and beings in all times and places.
Paris reflects our human nature with its ugliness and its beauty. It attracts all races, nationalities, religions and creeds and all kinds of psychological and sexual energies. She never rejects anybody but she exerts on everyone psychological pressures which make one resist her and run miles away from her. She is more like a pretty girl, so confident about herself, she convinced us about her pretty looks and she imposed that image of herself on us as an absolute concept even when we don’t believe in absolutes. She knew how to brainwash us and made us see her unconsciously and uncritically the way she wants to be seen. She stripped us of our right to disparage her attributes and when we do we are described as people ignorant about beauty, creativity and freedom.
This city tortures us with its sadistic whip to feel little pleasure and a great deal of pain. But I have never been inclined to masochism to accept this treatment and the concepts, foundations and language which Paris is imposing on us. I have learned how to deconstruct and destroy after I destroyed old chains and old traditions and built out of their rabble my own vocabulary, my own standards for art, enlightenment and creativity.
Does Paris have the right to usurp for herself the attribute of light forever and ever the way a king claims a throne for himself? My answer will be inspired by this term which is reminiscent of the epoch of the Enlightenment. What is the Enlightenment and what does it mean? According to Kant, the Enlightenment is the freedom of judgement and reason, it a clear vision of what we see, that is judgement exercised by the individual subject on all principles, concepts and traditions and the understanding of the ways which lead to the construction of obvious scientific premises. It is not enough to repeat what scientists or other founders of theories say to call ourselves enlightened subjects but we have to test everything with subjective criticism so that we can deduce afterwards judgements which are in turn always and forever liable to being refuted at one point or another.
It is on this basis that I believe that it might be unfair on other cities which had and still do have an equally valuable contribution to human progress and to humanity in terms of new ideas to deprive them of the nickname of “city of light” reserved, exclusively, for Paris. Paris has seized to present any significant contribution in that respect for such a long time, she became like an old lady who has surrendered to the knives of doctors performing successive aesthetic surgeries on her decaying body in a desperate hope that she might recover her long gone attractive glamour. Yes, today Paris seems to be incapable of putting to death her decaying inner self to be reborn from within with a new and more youthful self.
There are those among us who would find this verdict on the shining city rather harsh, would be angered by my disagreement with all those who have surrendered the keys of beauty to her, and this is not a problem because I subject things to my subjective judgement and I analyze words, expressions and principles in order to build on them new judgements inspired by my own experiences, readings and own personal standards which I measure against other standards and other experiences. I always try to make an abstraction of nostalgic sentiments derived from a bygone past. I feel it is my duty to help Paris to emancipate herself from nicknames which strip her of her free essence.
In the epoch of the enlightenment, some philosophers and novelists thought of Paris as a centre of inspiration, thought of France as a space of light because she had that enthusiasm and courage to crush tyranny. She was the muse of intellectuals and poets. But that does not prevent me from questioning her undisputed right to keep this title for herself forever. Didn’t her history teach us that the human being is better off challenging ideas and concepts, and that freedom is a long and difficult path which begins with thought as the measure of all things? Isn’t free Man the judge of all things and matters from the perspective of an objective analysis which begins with him and then stretches to the infinite?
Isn’t it unfair on Paris, this city that once fought in search for freedom, that we inadvertently deprive her from renewing her essence by shaking off all the limited and superficial attributes within which she is imprisoned? Perhaps then she can invent new concepts and ideas and free herself from illusory and marginalizing expressions. Beauty and creativity are in constant flux and the being imprisoned in superficial expressions, who depends on the others’ perception of him is certainly a miserable and decaying person.
Because I once loved Paris, I now want to set her free from all nicknames perhaps she can then delve deeper into herself and being to reinvent herself, invent new values. Perhaps then I can reunite with her again and swim in the horizons of her rebellion.
Too much has been said and written about Paris, but I found but little of all that. Perhaps because my eyes got accustomed to her architecture that they became more appreciative of any other city that is different from her, perhaps sight becomes after a certain time capable of detecting ugliness in beauty and find beauty in ugliness.
After all those years, I became like a fish accustomed to the clear waters of a decorated aquarium surrounded by roses. I started yearning for a swim in wide rivers and seas where I can be little concerned about their dirt. Yes, it feels like this city is surrounding me like a snake, strengthening its grip on my neck, stifling my breath, that is why I leave her every now and again for short lapses of time. I don’t want her to swallow me alive. I am constantly in a struggle with her aesthetic notions and her unlimited chauvinism. But perhaps I can also say that Paris as she is has helped me to turn around notions, I became an astute observant of accepted notions and critical of such ways of thinking. She also urged me to abstract all expressions and ideas to scattered letters, she inspired me with this need to delve deeper into the self to reach out for other selves. She was the one who led me to get in touch with my own lost feelings towards other living creatures, she taught me how to prevail over hatred and love all at the same time.
She also taught me how to transform a bad experience into a good lesson, she taught me… but then again I don’t know after all that what she really taught me… but I do know that I reconciled myself with her and with my own self.
I am overwhelmed with many contradictory thoughts very much in the image of this city who is reflected in the personality of each one of her dwellers, she is the fascinating beauty in the eyes of the naive ones and the ugly decadent in the eyes of those who are unable to know her better, and she is the cunning thieve of little virtue for others and I see her the way I see myself, she represents change, the very idea of change, she inhabits all beautiful expressions, ugliness, shallowness, depth, all at once, she is those sighs and shrieks of pain caused by her lovers and torturers, she is the ever changing and renewed lover always on the run from the chains of her prisoner.