I’m not going to apologize for crying over Paris.
And yes, I did hear of the attack on Beirut. When I read the story on the 12th, I remember thinking, “That’s an awfully high casualty figure for a country that’s not technically at war.’ And I wondered whether our refugee family was ok.
And yes, we mourn the loss of life in both places. But how can one truly grieve death in such numbers when comprehending the loss of a single human life is enough to tear one’s soul apart? How can a person do that and still get up in the morning, hug one’s children, open one’s heart to strangers, fight to spread light amidst the darkness?
So we do our best, but we grieve imperfectly.
But this is not that. This is the same gutshot feeling that swept over me as I read about the destruction of Palmyra.
Paris is our city.
I’m sure that 3 million still-feisty Frenchmen and women just bristled at that, but as I watch the Facebook profiles of my Canadian friends flicker into red, white, and blue, I know it is so.
As much as Mesopotamia or the Yellow River, Paris is a cradle of civilization.
Cradle of civilization — we bandy around the cliché so carelessly, but we forget that a cradle is a sacred space. A cradle is where we place what is most precious to us — a newly created life.
In cradles we shelter these beings that are entirely powerless. Under our care, they become autonomous and eventually outstrip us.
A cradle of civilization is a human location that has created an environment capable of nurturing a new spirit. At first, this idea is new and vulnerable, but it grows into a spirit that spreads across countries and civilizations, a spirit that survives long after the human bodies have perished.
At so many times in history, Paris has been a nursery for these spirits, spirits of beauty and creativity, but also spirits of freedom and democracy.
These spirits have become part of who we are, even those of us who have never opened a French book or travelled to France.
These spirits are present in the stories I tell and the language I use, but they also determine how I hear a piece of music, how I see colours, how I taste a cookie, how I perceive my body as I move through space.
Paris is part of who I am and Friday’s massacre was an attack on the essence of Paris itself.
A human force deliberately set out to erase these spirits, just as deliberately as it erased the human lives.
And this is why I am crying for Paris.
- thanks for the inspiration to T Dilworth
- After I published this post, this article popped up on my newsfeed. I love the way the organized presentation of data helps me understand a little but of what I’m feeling.