i hate the feeling that some people will never see paris- it is truly unthinkable. paris is so indescribably beautiful; there are no sufficient words- not for the homeless man on the corner smiling as he plays “la vie en rose” on a cracked accordion. not for the harmonious way you are greeted as you enter even the most crowded boulangerie. not for the residual beatnik vibe and underground speakeasy-style cafes of montmarte. not for the contagious, jubilant celebration that is beaujolais day. not for the inside-out architecture of the centre pompidou, a museum that so boldly keeps all its treasure hidden discreetly inside of a surly exterior. not for the eiffel tower, that greets you so surprisingly every time you turn a corner, sturdy and vigilant over the winding streets. not for the way the light slowly and boldly illuminates the city as you look out from the top of the arc de triomf. there are simply no words that even begin to invoke the feeling that is to be in paris.
and so for this, as chaos and tragedy unfolded last friday night, there were no words. just the instinctive reaction of your hand grasping your chest as your heart shatters beneath it.
there is no way to know how we are supposed to think about senseless acts of violence. there is no way to make sense of terror. there is no way to tell our minds and our hearts to feel about paris, about beirut, about peshawar, about sandy hook, about aurora, about virginia tech, about 9/11. about columbine. there is only the knowledge that we must grieve and that we will be strong enough to move forward.
just as the lights illuminate the streets every evening, slowly, as if asking permission. so will our hope grow, hesitant at first, then steadfast and strong.
when your sanctuary is destroyed, you do not build a bigger wall. when your heart is broken, you cannot lock the door. when your sense of trust is taken from you, you must not vow to never give it again. the only hope we have is found in the purity of humankind- and the most beautiful way to experience that is to travel. let us not watch from afar, from the false security of our homes, let us not hear the news and wonder what it’s like as blue light reflects onto the blank stares of our faces. let us not close our doors and our minds and our hearts. let us not stay put, out of fear and racism and ignorance. let us show our support by continuing on. let us strengthen our fortress by crossing borders. let us renew our belief in the good of humanity by communicating beyond barriers with the languages of humility, of laughter, of a kind expression and human touch. let us be stronger than this because we are stronger. and so as we weep today and continue to grieve, let us realize how delicate this balance is and how limitless and powerful human connection can be.
let no one disrupt the beauty that is our home, our freedom to move, our ability to exist- to fight is to refuse to be stagnant out of fear.
so grieve. and cry. and heal, together.
in the absolutely poignant words of ms nikki giovanni-
we are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly. we are brave enough to bend to cry. and sad enough to know- we must laugh again.
let us not succumb to this. let us not be afraid. let us travel on, for paris. for the beauty that is to be discovered there, for the tragic disruption they have suffered, for the need for us all to show solidarite, pour Paris.
and that is why we travel.