Monday, February 26, 2007

Pomp and Circumstance

It all began several Sundays ago, while we were enjoying a quiet, sun-filled afternoon at home. Suddenly, a veritable avalanche of popping and booming sounds came pouring in the half-opened patio window. We poked our heads out to investigate. Student protest? Workers strike? We settled on building demolition, since a large cloud of dust appeared to be emanating from a nearby locale. But on Sunday? Then we heard drumming noises. This was simply too much for our curiosity; we scrambled for our shoes and headed down to check out the commotion. You never know what surprises Paris might hold for you.

As you might well know, the Chinese just finished celebrating the New Year. Joyeuse Fete! Living in the Asian quarter of Paris, this explosion of colours, dragons, dance, rhythm, and overall merriment hit a little closer to home than usual...right past our front door, in fact. Standing on the sidelines, I chatted with fellow residents about the event while Karl ran around with the camera and dodged exploding firecrackers. It is the Year of the Pig, and our landlady seemed greatly disappointed that they didn't march a bunch of porkers down our street. Apparently, last year's "Year of the Dog" festivities included a parade of Actual Dogs. Well, live dogs are undoubtedly more easy to come by in Paris than live pigs (judging from the amount of doggie poo one must sidestep on a daily basis), so it must have been a budget issue. Or, considering the traditional status of a pig on such occasions, perhaps too disturbing: "look honey, at the cute little piggies...that's what mummy's got at home in the oven." I guess last week's sortie of Charlotte's Web in French theaters was just a little too close for comfort.

About a week later, we found ourselves gawking at another sort of paegentry. This time, rows of mincing skeletons marched past enrobed in Paris' latest and greatest, as we attended our first défilé. Karl has made a lot of new friends in the music world, which is always connected with many other worlds. As it happens, a guitarist he knows works in the fashion industry, so we thought "why not", let's check out this most traditional of Parisian pastimes. Flashy, breathtaking, fast, and strange. The thing I find most amusing is that some of these shows are called "pret-a-porter", which literally means "ready-to-wear". Really. What percentage of the population do you think is really ready to wear the majority of what comes through that little door in back?

(Still, for those of you keeping track, I'm sorry to say it looks like BIG shoulder pads are coming on down the line again. Really, I'm truly sorry.)

Surprisingly, the show did not take place on a stark runway, but a stunningly beautiful Belle-epoque room with imaginative lighting and a fabulous string quintet playing James Bond-esque lines of music. Yes, a frivolous way to fritter away an afternoon - but if you like people-watching, it doesn't get much better than this. A writer could people an entire novel with half-an-hour of observations from the waiting line in the lobby alone. (Hmm. There's a thought.)

Though we weave and wander through a true Vanity Fair with all of its worldly pomp, circumstances of true beauty still glimmer from time to time. The ring of gold in the swine's snout is still a ring of gold. That is, we believe that the Lord God created this crazy world -with all of its rhythm, color, dragons, pigs, snaps, pops, and booms. With all of its strains of music, curves of beauty, lights, and girls who let a genuine smile slip out and shine from time to time. How is a christian to be "in this world and not of it?" Perhaps part of the picture is zooming in on these redeemable reflections of God's creation - in a world largely dominated by indiscretion. It takes a sharp eye, a tender heart, and wisdom - may He cultivate these in all of us.

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