Suddenly they were everywhere in their something borrowed, something blues and wedding dress whites walking down the sidewalks and peering in windows as if they belonged. They were all so new, and yet, so old, as if when they slipped their feet into their shiny shoes they stepped into a tradition and practice as deep as time and just as relentless. They became their fathers and their fathers’ fathers and their fathers’ fathers’ fathers as far back as history goes. They were warriors, bridegrooms to destruction, and this was their wedding day, or rather, their anniversary, their yearly ceremony at which they retook their vows to their bride, War.
Quietly, they walked the streets together, smiling as passers-by nodded their heads in deference and admiration for the ideals the boys stood for, namely, peace by way of focused violence, like health by way of quarantined infection. The boys held their heads high and kept their shoulders back, bearing proudly the dishonorable proclivities of their nation, lauded avatars of aggression.
They paraded down the Champ-Elysées to great fanfare and hurrah. Their president acknowledged them. Their families fretted them. Their enemies scorned them. The thousands of others cheered because “that’s what is done during such things” and because none of it was real.
Real was thousands upon thousands of flag-waving, liberating Allies. Real was the high steps of a grey and red clad occupying force. Real was the angry mobs of revolution. Real was Napoleon. Real was archers piercing out-of-date suits of armor. Real was Crusaders with God on their lips and Nation in their hearts. In the streets of Paris, Real was very Real.
Tredded tanks and flattened trucks bearing building bombarding guns rumbled down the streets after the parade on their way back to whatever battlement they called home. “People and cars better move. Here come the boys in green.”
Soldiers climbed the Metro steps with the rest of the crowds to return to their rooms and shed their finery and rejoin civilization.
The people ate lunch.
Later than evening, a million strong gathered at the foundation of the Eiffel Tower to be part of the crowd of a million strong gathered at the foundation of the Eiffel Tower for a “Concert for Equality” that only a few could see and hear. They burned in the sun and drank their wines and waited for night to fall.
Night fell, and they rose to see the sky ripped open with color and flame. Again, they cheered for the fakery of eruptions in the sky that would not, this year, drop devastatingly to the grey-blue roofs of the city around them.
From a high balcony some miles away two young ex-pats from allied nations watched the explosions and discussed the religiosity of their world – him pessimistic for the state of things but optimistic for change, and her optimistic about the state and pessimistic for change, both doubting the broader population’s sensibility to symbol and sacrament, faith and foundation.
Meanwhile miles away, a million strong oohed and aahed as one.
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.