A few years ago, I got a call from a good friend. She and a friend were planning the vacation of a lifetime in Paris – did I want to come? I jumped at the chance and we started planning. My friends both manage projects for a living and I’m no stranger to the occasional project plan for my learning projects, so you can imagine how carefully we laid out our Paris agenda. A year later I was sharing a small but very cute apartment with two friends. My Paris romance had begun.
I woke up early every morning just to watch the pink light of dawn scatter over the buildings and into the loft across the street that appeared to serve as office and home to the young woman living there. I looked down at the rent-a-scooters (my name for them, I’m sure there’s a more elegant French name somewhere) and wondered if that was how she got around. She seemed to be an artist, or maybe an architect or graphic designer. I noticed the tools of the artist’s trade on the sloping drafting table against one of the windows. Sometimes I watched the penthouse up above her and wondered about life in that rarified world. Did famous artists and writers come to visit? Would they notice if I slipped into one of the parties that seemed to go on every night? Or was all that festive activity just “dinner” for the penthouse set? I wonder where these people are now – are they OK? Have their lives been touched by the recent violence in the streets?
My mind keeps conjuring up the colorful scenes imprinted on my brain from those happier days. The street vendors we saw on the way to Roland Garros; the couple who helped us find our way because they needed to practice their English; the evening we dined at the top of the Eiffel Tower, watching the sun set over the city of lights; our last night, when we had the most amazing American-style hamburgers and watched as a crazy parade on roller skates, bicycles and scooters flex past us, caught up in the sheer joy of something; the last morning, when I rushed out to fling the key to my lock off a bridge so that its magic would bring me back.
I’ve been searching for an explanation of evil from neuroscience, but I don’t think I’ll find one. Evil is beyond our comprehension. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on Paris and her people, the rest of us can only look on in horror and sorrow. Somehow these attacks, which have become all too common in our world, are even more shocking because they happened in Paris. They were inflicted on a city and a people who belong to all of us. And all we can do is hold on to our memories and vow “never again.” Even if we know in our hearts that “never again” is a promise none of us can make with any certainty.
I’m remembering the best of Paris tonight. Here’s looking at you, kid.