Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Paris, Day 1.

Met up with Patrick at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower after some rather comical run around "where are you, can't find you" on the respective cell phones. Did some Paris walking to the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Pont Neuf (the guidebook--Let's Go, of course---says this is the most romantic one in Paris, but perhaps owing to the hundreds of tourists it was teeming with like ants or the bright and hot morning sunshine it just rather seemed like a pretty ordinary bridge to me....), and eventually down to the Sorbonne and the Latin Quarter, where we ended up at the Pantheon, which was hosting a modest exhibit on the life and work of Pierre Curie, who like his 2-time Nobel-prize winning wife and several other notables (Rousseau and Voltaire included) finds this building as his final resting place.

Right before the entrance to the crypt, at ground level, there was a statue, with an inscription that read, in true cradle of liberty French fashion:

"Vivre libre ou mourir!"

I disagree. And I know many people who would oppose me, but faithful to my true "latin" upbringing I'd 10,000 times rather be alive than dead. And as to what real "freedom" is, there's only 1 kind, and I've mentioned it before: the freedom to think critically, to invent, to consider, to learn, to postulate, to evaluate, to build, to discover, to imagine. And since only you hold the keys (only you can limit the distance to where your thoughts fly), that freedom cannot be taken away from you by anyone no matter what....unless you're dead, of course. In which case what good does it do to you then, not to be a slave?

The exhibit, by the way, was rather neat: I didn't know, for instance, that Pierre Curie together with his brother had discovered and get this (this is the important part!), provided an explanation for the piezoelectric effect at the ripe old age of...21 (his brother was 23 at the time)! Neat, huh?

It was curious, too, to see the two old intelectual arch-rivals Voltaire and Rousseau resting at opposite ends of the same room. As you know, quoth Voltaire on Rousseau's "Social Contract":

"I have received your new book against the human race, and thank you for it. Never was such a cleverness used in the design of making us all stupid. One longs, in reading your book, to walk on all fours. But as I have lost that habit for more than sixty years, I feel unhappily the impossibility of resuming it."

I, personally, think "Social Contract" is a terrific, fantastic, wonderful work of double-think genius! My greatest respects and admiration for someone for whom language is simply an efortlessly malleable tool to fit every possible configuration, need, opinion, and want. The "Social Contract": labyrinthine, poetic, and thoughtful at the same time, both in praise and condemmning of democracy, appropriated as theirs by several opposing factions and politics at once, supporter and forebearer (apocryphally or erroneously attributed it doesn't matter) of historically important and rather far-reaching declarations and documents, very greatly amusing, and I very heartily recommend a good reading of it.

Besides, I never liked Voltaire. ;P

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