Become Circular and Leave Your Linear Self Behind
Today is the 11th day of the 11th month…and it’s Armistice Day celebrated in New Zealand, Belgium, Serbia and France. In the U.S. it’s Veterans Day, originally called Armistice Day until 1954, when it was rededicated to honor American military veterans. In numerology, New Age philosophers “believe that events linked to the time 11:11 appear more often than can be explained by chance or coincidence and is an example of synchronicity. Some authors claim that seeing 11:11 on a clock is an auspicious sign. Others claim that 11:11 signals a spirit presence.” (Source: Wikipedia.org) (See urigeller.com/are-your-eyes-attracted-to-11-11 if this interests you.) My daughter is an “11:11,” so I always think of today as a lucky day, even if all we do is make a special effort to speak to one another to acknowledge the date. Just having each other in our lives is lucky enough.
Armistice Day was the end of World War I, which took place on “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” (Paris time) 1918…101 years ago. (A lot of ones, right?) and on November 11, 2011 (11/11/11) an increase of the number of marriages took place around the world, including the U.S. and Asia, as well as an exorbitant number of babies born. Does make you wonder, doesn’t it?
Last you heard from me, I was headed back to Paris from having spent a week in Nice taping another House Hunters International episode. I now spend about 25 percent of my year in Nice, which is the perfect balance to a very intense life in Paris. I wish this on all my friends, to have both the dynamic energy and culture of the City of Light, yet be able to retreat to the more tranquil sunny surf and sea of the Riviera whenever you choose. It was a calculated maneuver on my part that worked out even better than expected.
Recently it’s come to my attention that some of you readers are speculating about whether I’ll make Nice a permanent residence, leaving Paris behind. To this I’d like to address a few of my own observations and comments, but first off, the answer is no. I have observed that culturally Americans tend to have a linear view of life…that one thing must be traded off for another, that one can’t have it all, balancing between them. There’s no reason to think I can’t have both cities for the rest of my life, or even add others to the mix.
Compare this idea to an American intersection, where you stop your car at a light or stop sign to let the perpendicular traffic cross, whereas in France, the intersections are roundabouts so that traffic flows in and out without stopping, regardless of how many roads flow in and out. In another example, consider how the French family is well-known to include a husband and wife with kids, but often a mistress and even children with the mistress! Remember former French president François Mitterrand and his mistress Anne Pingeot who attended his funeral? The French are a circular culture, whereas the U.S. is linear.
“US-Americans tend to be on the left side, that is, to prefer linear, direct, detached, intellectually engaged, and concrete styles of communication. In contrast, many African, Asian, and Pacific groups prefer more circular, indirect, attached, relationally engaged styles. Europeans can have a combination, for example, in Spain (and much of Latin America), people prefer a strong, relational engagement, and attached style of communication while also being direct, linear, and abstract in their approach. The French style is often abstract, intellectually engaged, and detached. Many permutations of these five styles are found worldwide.” (Source: pacific.edu/sis/culture/)
One reason I came back to Paris early last week was to attend the annual Paris Photo fair where the work of Steven Arnold, an artist with whom I was very close and whose work I have collected, was on full display in a solo exhibition at the Fahey/Klein Gallery booth. In addition, a documentary film about his life, “Heavenly Bodies” — in which I have a minuscule part — produced by Vishnu Dass, was shown twice during the fair. For 25 years, I was afraid his work would be lost, but now it has been more than found…so well recognized that one of his photos was a signature piece for the fair, used as a massive poster at the entry to the Grand Palais.
I saw the film twice while at the fair. The first time I cried throughout the entire film, recognizing so many of our mutual friends from Los Angeles who were interviewed about him, as I had been. Seeing him in video and hearing his voice again, as well as realizing the poignancy of his words, overwhelmed me with emotion. There were images of his two homes — the illusionary sets he created, first inside a barn-like building that had once been a pretzel factory and then later as he became sicker, in a bungalow in West Hollywood. In both we gathered regularly for his nightly “salons” where we would all have the pleasure of his presence and commune with the others. It was in his bungalow where he died of AIDS on August 6, 1994, just one month before we moved to France. For 24 hours, we the “disciples,” as we called ourselves, sat vigil with his body, finding it hard to let him go. His friends adorned him in flowers and jewelry, lit candles, said prayers. He was a vision of angels and a beautiful human being up to the very last moment and breath of his life. We all loved him like one might love and revere a kind of Christ.
This may sound awfully sappy to you about someone that was just flesh and bones, but he was the truest artist in every sense of that word and exuded a kind of love that I’ve never known come from anyone else. Watching the documentary, it was clear that everyone who knew him felt this same way. It would be impossible not to comprehend that, just from seeing the film as well his work of films, photos, drawings, paintings and sculptures.
Here in Paris, we have another mentor in our midst: Jim Haynes. Every Sunday evening, for the last 40+ years, Jim has hosted strangers in the living room of his atelier-style apartment, served up a very respectable meal, and provided the mingling platform for 50 to 70 people…Sunday after Sunday, year after year. He has hosted many thousands of people and created innumerable friendships.
In spite of battling various illnesses, Jim has kept up the status quo and is still hosting the dinners, even if hanging out in a wheelchair while his cronies take over the heavy lifting. His apartment in the 14th arrondissement fills to the brim with his guests while they balance their plates of food with drink and conversation. In the summer months, when the weather is agreeable, his guests can mingle in the courtyard, which has been accepted by his gracious neighbors and can allow him to double his turn-out.
Yesterday was his 86th birthday and we, the “disciples,” all wanted to celebrate his life and our good fortune to know him. The apartment last night was packed with 77 attendees who all wanted to give him a big kiss, wish him happy birthday and visit with friends. I planted a big red-lipstick kiss on his forehead and then five cakes, each with candles, were brought out for him to extinguish.
Jim, during his lifetime, not 25 years later as in the case of Steven Arnold, is the subject of a feature-length documentary: “Meeting Jim” — a journey back to his lifetime as “an extraordinary 83-year-old man who grabbed with heart and soul the spirit of the 60s and continued to carry it throughout his life. This journey becomes also a physical one when he takes a train from the city of Paris, where he lives, to London and Edinburgh, the cities where he left his unique mark. A journey that will not only bring out his past and memories, but also his carefully preserved collection of human interconnections.” (See the trailer of the documentary.)
Life in Paris. Life in Nice. Life with beautiful people. Life is rich when it is multi-faceted and when you let people and places flow in and out, rather than trying to trade one for another.
Become circular and leave your linear self behind.
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
(by Steven Arnold, 1991)
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