Night was falling on Paris, and I climbed to the top of a high tower to try to hold the daylight up. I could not. The night was too heavy, too intent on shrouding the earth. I raised my arms like Moses to bless the day’s battle, but I had no Aaron, no Joshua to prop up my arms, and the night fell. Paris, ever resilient, lit her famed lights and settled in to endure the darkness again. I relinquished my struggle and watched helplessly as the day lost its grip on the city’s twenty arrondissements (districts).
I surveyed this city I’ve only just begun to know. To the east, in the 20th arrondissement, I saw the granite grey grave covered hill of Pere Lechaise, a cemetery which has been known to purchase the remains of the famously deceased in order to increase its tourism cache. To the north-east, perched even higher than the top of my tower, was the wedding cake-like cathedral of Sacre Coeur, a place built out of penitence for the blood shed during France’s mid-nineteenth century civil war. Far to the north, sits Paris’ business district, the skyscrapers of La Defense, built purposefully out of the way so as to not mar the appearance of downtown Paris. Then there’s the Eiffel Tower, built because, well, it’s beautiful and why not? And I was standing on top of Notre Dame de Paris, one of the most impressive Catholic cathedrals in the world.
Tourism, revolution, business, art, religion – Paris is all of these things, though the locals seem to begrudge their tourist destination status, they feel ashamed of the nature of their revolutions. they despise their need to make money, they maintain only a legacy as a center of artistic creation, and the church is dead. Like the gargoyles on either side of me, I sat amused and aghast but mostly transfixed at the complexity that spread endlessly all around me.
I sat quietly for a long time (though not as long as the gargoyles) wondering if the dead would ever rise, if there would be peace, if the hungry would be fed, if the world would be made beautiful, if Christ would return…
Then, in the distance, a light shone.
And the stars themselves seemed to descend upon the Eiffel Tower and twinkle their hope upon its millions of inhabitants.
And the gargoyles saw it all, just as I’m sure they do every night.
And so, they wait…
Gene Kelly Was Here
These blog posts were all written in the summer of 2011. They chronicle my time in Paris completing an internship as part of my studies at Fuller Seminary. I worked at an art gallery run by missionary-artists ministering to other Parisian artists and got to know the missionary-artists working there.
I am including them here for you to read because I think they work well together as a series. I wrote them as a kind of narrative collage about what it means to be a practicing artist whose first commitment is to Christ and who seeks to share the love of Christ with other artists.