Words of air
Updated: Feb 23, 2021
November is in the air, in the cool mist on the skin, and in the faint sweetness of fallen leaves.
In the Palais Royal, there are now words written of air, carved out of the park chairs. The words are those of French and a few non-French poets (translated into French). You can sit down and read a few, then walk around the colonnades as you ponder them.
November is a time of stripping back to bare essentials. That is what the aspen, chestnut, and linden trees invite us to do in Paris. It was a good time to read the quote by Pier Paolo Pasolini:
"Superfluous goods make life superfluous."
Hard-core Americans think that French culture is mostly comprised of the superfluous, in comparison to theirs which is superbly functional.
Is it not superfluous to have poetry carved into metal park chairs?
Is it not superfluous to have hundreds of different cheeses, each characterized by the pasture from whence they came?
Is it not superfluous to distill ugni blanc grapes into an elixir called Cognac? Or to prepare an exquisite cuisine with very little in fact to eat?
These are all sources of joie de vivre, a celebration of the present moment.
Superfluous, yes, in the sense that they are not required to survive. Yet, they are much closer to the blissful marrow of life than consumer goods that we acquire because we actually think we need them (or others think we do). The majority of consumers really do believe that toothpaste is the most effective form of dental hygiene. And how many American households consider a TV to be superfluous?
After my own pause upon a verbally enchanted park chair and a stroll under the royal colonnades, I felt inspired to write my own Words of Air:
When the pages have been entirely filled
With soul-numbing prose,
And all servers saturated
With millions of trillions of pixels of the same,
When every remaining parcel of earth
Has been tract and toiled,
And every human at last employed,
Then we will draw our words in thin air,
Forming new letters from the void left
As we decongest to live with less.
Having consumed all that is without,
We return to the infinite space within.
Now enjoy these November scenes from Paris.