Leaving Likable London for a Passionate Paris
You may be wondering how the last day in London turned out, since the culmination was Monday night’s talk by Eckhart Tolle at the Royal Festival Hall. As lovers of Paris, it may also interest you to learn what were some of my overall impressions of London, as a livable city compared to Paris…since this is the number one question on all of us Expats’ minds: If we were to leave Paris, where would we want to live instead? London is clearly a logical alternative.
First of all, Tolle was Tolle. He was exactly what I expected since I’ve seen so many of his videos. The hall was virtually SRO — with almost 2,500 seats filled with those who worship him and those who had been dragged there (by those who worship him) to come to hear him utter whatever meaningful words would come out of his soft-spoken mouth. There was one lone chair on the stage with a table, a bouquet of flowers and a glass of water (which he never touched). Slowly he entered the stage, took his seat, then paused for a long time before uttering a word.
For the two hours he spoke, one could have heard a pin drop except for the occasional cough as the room was spellbound. He managed to take us from the most primary of concepts to some of his more complex, deeper insights — like going from “Living in the Present 101” to “Being Human and Being a Being 202” to “Mindlessness is More Than Mindfulness 303.”
My friend asked, when he said his goodbyes and the audience applauded him standing, “Well, did you have an epiphany?” She had been taking notes the whole time while I was ‘present’ and focused on listening rather than interpreting his words onto paper. “No. I had that epiphany long ago when I first read ‘The Power of Now.’ Seeing him live just makes it all the more real and tangent.”
Not everyone appreciates him or ‘gets him’ as he admitted. In 2003, Time Magazine reviewer Andrea Sachs wrote in her article, “Channeling Ram Dass,” “But the book, awash in spiritual mumbo jumbo (‘The good news is that you can free yourself from your mind’), will be unhelpful for those looking for practical advice.” Tolle joked about this quote and said he took retaliation by never buying a single issue of Time Magazine ever again!
Boy, was she ever wrong and guess she’s one of the few who didn’t ‘get it!’ “The Power of Now” and “A New Earth” sold an estimated three million and five million copies respectively in North America by 2009. In 2008, approximately 35 million people participated in a series of 10 live webinars with Tolle and television talk show host Oprah Winfrey.” (Wikipedia.org) Did he change my life. Emphatically, yes!
(Here are a few quotes you might enjoy: brainyquote.com/)
In our ‘present’ state in London, we also managed to visit the London Metropolitan Archives to see “Victorian London in photographs” (small, but fascinating exhibit), The Wallace Collection (one of the most mind-boggling exhibits of suits of armor, paintings and other works in the world) and The Sherlock Holmes Museum at the famous 221b Baker Street address.
This is where we had a good laugh. Lines form (sometimes with more than a two-hour wait) to pay £15 to visit three levels of this small house dedicated to the famous fictional detective. Nothing about it is real. It is situated on Baker Street, bearing the number 221B by permission of the City of Westminster, although it lies between numbers 237 and 241 (!) near the north end of Baker Street in central London close to Regent’s Park. It was once a boarding house converted to an apartment when ‘reportedly’ Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson resided there as tenants of Mrs Hudson. (These are all fictional characters, you know, created by author Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle.)
We just chuckled, after paying our money, visiting the few rooms filled with Victorian antiques, making a small purchase in the gift shop and remarked, “What a gold mine. The Wallace Collection should be so lucky!”
Leaving London as easily as entering it — from St. Pancras International, going through the turnstile with bar-coded tickets and customs that verify your passports going out of England and into France within steps of one another, I dropped my bag at home and headed to Parler Paris Après Midi where author David Downie was to speak about his latest book, “A Passion for Paris.”
On route, there were discoveries made while in London on which I could reflect and question. It’s an interesting and vibrant city that is handsome, but not beautiful (like Paris) with a more masculine energy and architectural style. The faces are smiling (unlike Parisians’ dowerness) and eclectic in ethnicity (it seems everyone has a foreign accent other than British) and dress (there are still men wearing bowler hats). The British are acutely more courteous and respectful of others (unlike Parisians who won’t step aside to let you pass) and the service in the restaurants and shops is friendly and helpful (you will not get scolded for touching their displays). Funnily, it was obvious that fewer women color their hair at an older age (there are few white-haired Parisiennes at any age!) — why they care less about looking young, I couldn’t tell you. There is an obvious energy about the city, and Londoners clearly seem content, but they are not electrically-charged like New Yorkers, nor passionate like Parisians.
And this was the bottom line. The reason we are drawn to Paris and the reason we stay in Paris is PASSION. Downie writes about it in great depth in his new book “A Passion for Paris: Romanticism and Romance in the City of Light.” (adrianleeds.com/books/aboutparisfrance) It was the topic of his talk at yesterday’s Parler Paris Après Midi where he commanded a filled-to-the-brim room of admirers. He spoke at length about the roots of romanticism and the paradoxical French “joie de tristesse” (the romance of unhappiness).
One cannot help but agree with him on his insights about the French with whom many of us have a love-hate relationship — wouldn’t we want them to be more like the Londoners who are generally a happier lot even though they get no more sun (vitamin D) and take far fewer anti-depressants than Parisians?
No! If it weren’t for the French and their passion for mental anguish, Paris wouldn’t be Paris.
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group
(at The Wallace Collection)
P.S. Be sure to visit Parler Paris Après Midi for more about yesterday’s event with David Downie and plan to come to those in the future!