What is Love for the French? Or for You?
Love is in the air…oh so it happens in one of those synchronistic fashions that never ceases to amaze me.
It started with “De l’Amour” (“On Love”), an exhibition that opened at the Palais de la Découverte in October (on through August 30th) that’s all about…you guessed it…” love.” The museum is one you might have missed as it is overwhelmed by its neighbor, Le Grand Palais from a tourist’s perspective. The museum which makes up 25,000 square meters within the west wing of the Grand Palais was originally the Palais d’Antin built for the Exposition Universelle (1900) by architect Albert-Félix-Théophile Thomas. It was converted in 1938 to display exhibits for mathematics, physics, astronomy, chemistry, geology, and biology features interactive experiments with commentaries by lecturers, including a Zeiss planetarium with a 15-meter dome. In early 2010, the Palais de la Découverte merged with the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie under one institution named “Universcience” with two locations, this being one of them, the other being La Cité des sciences et de l’industrie in the 19th arrondissement.
Of course, the French would make much ado about the subject of love! Sometimes I think they invented it, but we all know better than that. It’s just that they embrace it so wholeheartedly as to devote an exhibition to the subject in a way that only the French can do. They open the exhibition with the Greek definitions for love: 1) “eros,” desire, physical passion; 2) “storge,” love of family; 3) “agape,” disinterested love; and 4) “philia,” friendship, social bond. They make the point that while Greek sees love in many forms, our English has only two: “love” and “like.”
Personally, I disagree. What the Greek misses is that form of love that is so profound, you’re willing to give heart and soul to another person, or even to an art or science or career that goes above and beyond the physical passion, familial love, or social bonding. But, I’m no expert on love. No question there are many shades and we’ve all felt many of them at one time or another for someone or something, if not all of them.
The exhibition is what I’d term “so French,” because it went way over my own head. There is much to read (too much) and displays that just had me chuckling without understanding them. An instructor was giving a sex education course to a group of visitors accompanied by slides of the reproductive organs. One large room is devoted to “magnetism” from a scientific point of view, not a romantic one. There is a small room of mirrors that makes for an interesting self-reflection. Hanging from the ceiling are sausage-shaped balloons on which there are projections of some sort, each is different. Go figure? I didn’t get it, but they elicited a good laugh from both my friend and me.
This is the kind of exhibition one can be fully immersed or glide through as if on a magic carpet. We chose to skim it; take in what seemed of most interest and then head to the bookshop which held much more interest for us. But, don’t let me discourage you from discovering “De l’Amour.”
Amour number two that landed in my lap was a book about to be published this January 23rd, written by Stefania Rousselle, Amour: How the French Talk about Love. I thought it very fitting that the subject should come up again, especially from the same “so French” point of view. Rousselle is a French-American photo-journalist and videographer who sadly had a series of assignments that broke her heart. She is quoted in an article in The Guardian as having said, “I didn’t believe in love anymore.”
Her mother, an old friend and long-standing member of the American community in Paris described her experience: “After years of covering the horrors of the news, the Paris terrorist attacks, human trafficking and the rise of extremism, my daughter found herself overwhelmed and dejected with the horrors of the news. So, to renew her faith in humanity, she took off on a solo road trip across France, determined to see if love still exists. Traveling from village to village, farming towns to industrial cities, heart to heart, Stefania sought out ordinary women and men, all to ask them one question, What is love?”
Thesaurus.com lists 47 synonyms for the word “love” — not a mere four: affection, appreciation, devotion, emotion, fondness, friendship, infatuation, lust, passion, respect, taste, tenderness, yearning, adulation, allegiance, amity, amorousness, amour, ardor, attachment, case, cherishing, crush, delight, devotedness, enchantment, enjoyment, fervor, fidelity, flame, hankering, idolatry, inclination, involvement, like, partiality, piety, rapture, regard, relish, sentiment, weakness, worship, zeal, ardency, and others such as mad for or soft spot.
Stephania explores all of these with real live human stories. I’ve ordered the book and can’t wait to find out how love is described, not as the Greeks did, but in very different and varied terms.
What is love…for you?
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
(by Brenda Prowse, at De l’Amour Exhibit)
P.S. Be sure to read all about Tuesday’s Après Midi where Kim Bingham and Pierre Thunus spoke about getting a mortgage and securing the loan with life insurance. See photos and read the details on this session’s web page