Paris, Tuesday May 8, 2013
It still feels surreal to be here. But that's OK. Who says life has to make sense or be logical?
I've still been thinking about attending that High Mass on Sunday at Notre Dame. Normally, I think it would have brought back vestigial memories of a time long past in my life — one I'd voluntarily walked away from (after I was forced to start moving in that direction). And yet, the different parts of that service illustrated to me the very different spiritual tradition to which I now bbelong, after interfaith seminary and continuing to study to prepare talks for Unity Center of peace. As the texts talked about Jesus, I was deeply aware that I was no longer boxed in within one limited perspective about this great teacher and prophet. I now was able to appreciate the words and deeds of Jesus as those of a great, universally accepted and honored spiritual leader, one of the most enlightened and enlightening teachers given to the world among a long line of such holy beings. I now saw Jesus as a beloved role model for spiritual practitioners worldwide, from all faiths. This viewpoint made me feel my oneness with all, not my separation from the rest. I had a beautiful experience meditating during the service from within that vastly enriched viewpoint, and enjoyed myself.
Today felt like getting over a hump of sorts. I don't know why. Getting going this morning had been really difficult. I still felt stiff and bruised from yesterday. We visited the Musee d'Orsay — great exhibit of Impressionisst and post-impressionist art. Inn one room was a row of studies of dancers by Degas followed by another wall filled with studies of dancers by a bunch of artists contemporary with Degas. Every one of the studies on this latter wall was amazingly different in what it conveyed about the dancer who modeled, and none was even a third as beautiful as Degas' obviously inimitable eye and hand. Nancy had insisted that we buy a 5 day museum pass. I had objected, on the basis that we probably wouldn't see museums every day (and we haven't). But the pass allows us to bypass the hours long waiting in line for tourists who hadn't purchased the pass. The value of being able to walk right in ahead of at least 500 people waiting in line (wound around and around the courtyard…) — THAT was priceless!! I appreciated extravagantly Nancy's good sense !
Later, I was sitting at a sidewalk cafe resting while Nancy had gone to run a different errand (bless her!). All these tourist buses went by, and people were looking at us out the window, probably thinking that those of us savoring a beverage outside the cafe, were the 'locals.' I smiled to myself, thinking how fragile and changeable are our perceptions in every situation.
When we came back to the hotel, we realized that the streets around it were all closed off, and there were police in spotless dress uniforms guarding barricades. On the steps of the Pantheon (a French national monument) were lined up members of the French National Guard, in plumed hats, red white and blue uniforms from the 1700s, and shiny dress swords. People were lining up along the curb as if for a parade, and we joined them. Up the street swept a convoy of large, luxurious cars, some with diplomatic plates and other displaying French flags on their fenders. The cars swept into the plaza in front of the pantheon, stopping in line to disgorge men in impeccably tailored suits and women in power clothes. All walked quickly into the monument, as the national guard presented their shiny swords. We asked what was going on, and apparently, it was a state visit by the president of Poland. I don't know what ceremony was planned for the Pantheon. Nor did I really know that Poland has a President, or who he is! When everyone had hastily gone inside, we went down the street to buy a couple of groceries. We were in the 'co-op bio' — the health food co-op — no more than 10 minutes, and when we came out, the convoy of fancy cars, police motorcycles, and blaring police cars with the snazzily uniformed gendarmes within, were sweeping down the street the had just come up so short a time before. All that pomp and circumstance for a 5 or 6 minute ceremony! “Why bother?' I wondered.