Back in loca-motion.
It’s been months since I’ve blogged. I underwent an invasive operation in Kosovo, touched homebase briefly, and secured a journalism internship in Paris. I’m currently living a blue-collar lifestyle in one of the richest neighborhoods in Paris. I live in the maids quarters of a noble Countess that is so desperate for money that she makes store-brand hotdogs and frozen peas for her tenants.
I pedal a rental bike through the boulevards and wonder at the smoothness of the ride, the rules that drivers follow, the people who reach into their wallets on café terraces with blasé smiles on their faces. This is the first world. Secondly, most people don’t seem to notice all the individual stones that make up the legendary cobblestone streets of one of the most developed cities in the world. The third time’s a charm : she is mature, but she is not fully evolved.
The Parisian lifestyle sounds glamourous, but it is in fact far from it. I find beauty in little things, closing my eyes when I listen to music so as not to look at the crumbling ceiling in my little box of a room. For now, poordom is okay. Being viewed as a heroic American savior in Kosovo this past summer made me realise that I don’t need a lot of purchasing power to be happy. In fact, I was the unhappiest I had ever been in Pristina, regardless of the fact that some of the locals looked at me and smelled wealth and roads paved with gold in their own version of the American dream. Keeping busy to run from reality, staying on track to fill up time, keeping focussed to nail the deadline, isn’t that what we do in the Western world ? The Steely Dan song ‘Here in the Western World’ popped into my head constantly as I fantasised about handsome architecture, a functioning postal system, potable drinking water, and uranium-free air. I saw the slowness of southern Europe as a disability rather than a different choice. After all, it’s all about the choices we make, day in and day out. But the friendliness and the warmth of those people stayed with me, and now I understand the difference between the modern disconnect and the old-age adage that says “Treat your neighbor to biscuits made of gold, you never know when you’ll be cold”. Actually, I just thought that up.
But what’s up with this cliché H-word ? Why are people so obsessed with pursuing it ? I did an epistemological inquiry to figure it out for one of my high school English assignments and investigated the up-and-coming field of positive psychology. This branch of the humanities promotes a positive outlook and shows statistics of human development indices (HDI) in Scandinavian countries, which are the highest in the world due to their government model and other cultural factors that I don’t know (yet). It’s probably got something to do with the fact that they ride their bikes everywhere and eat delicious smoked salmon.
Happiness with a capital ‘H’ is just an ideal. A wise person once told me that contentment comes from the good moments that make up a week. Eating well, listening to good music, seeing art, having sex… each of these moments should be savored so that when looking back on them, you realise the fleeting impermanence of all emotions and situations, whether fortunate, unfortunate, or anywhere else on the gamut. I try to have as many of these good moments as possible, and I appreciate good luck when it comes my way. As for being happy ? That’s a butterfly that still hasn’t landed on my shoulder.
For now, I’d rather be poor in Paris.