I just awoke from one of those naps that you find it really difficult to pull yourself out of. Maybe you know the kind—the kind where you wake up briefly several times, just long enough to check your watch to see how long you’ve been asleep, to be surprised at how long you’ve been asleep, and then to fall inevitably back down the rabbit hole. During one of these particular trips to Wonderland, I was obsessed with Arby’s. I couldn’t tell you why; I don’t normally have an obsession for Arby’s. I’ve only been there a handful of times in my life and I haven’t seen one or thought about it since I’ve been in France. Yet there Arby’s was, infiltrating my afternoon nap.
It had already been an unexpectedly quirky afternoon, considering that I was actually reading Montaigne. At a certain point I had read four of his essays in a row because they were short and I am still behind schedule. I was going to call an end to this unseemly indulgence (not normally reading more than one or two Montaigne essays per week and then suddenly reading four seemed decadent), when I saw the title of the next one. I couldn’t pass it up. It was called, “Of the custom of wearing clothes.” And I thought, “Oh here it is; proof that Montaigne will write about anything!” Not only did he write about it, it was longer than the two previous essays put together—essays sporting titles like, “Of one defect of our government,” and, “That fortune is oftentimes observed to act by the rule of reason.” He also seems to have convinced himself that he has convinced us we don’t wear clothes to protect us against the elements—that anyone could pretty much accustom him- or herself to walking around in (most) any temperature completely naked.
Therefore it is that I believe, that as plants, trees, and animals, and all things that have life, are seen to be by nature sufficiently clothed and covered, to defend them from the injuries of weather, “and that for this reason nearly all things are clothed with skin, or hair, or shells, or bark, or some such thing,” so were we: but as those who by artificial light put out that of day, so we by borrowed forms and fashions have destroyed our own. And ‘tis plain enough to be seen, that ‘tis custom only which renders that impossible that otherwise is nothing so; for of those nations who have no manner of knowledge of clothing, some are situated under the same temperature that we are, and some in much colder climates.
So, there’s that. In other news, I’ve been continuing to sate myself on Parisian museums. I’ve been back to the Orsay even since going there with my family a month ago. I visited the Musée Carnavalet, the museum of French history as presented by historical paintings and portraits, and the Centre Pompidou, where can be found some excellent works from the early 20th century and some very bizarre works form our own time. The contemporary exhibit also had this though, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fn-MAuB2lBs, which is a sort of floating ring of tape unwound from the inside of an audio cassette, and the sheer coolness of which was enough to redeem the otherwise questionable and overly abstracted installations of useless furniture and curtains made from coin sleeves.
I also learned that the church I was pointing out to my family from high atop the various “attractions with a view” as Saint-Germain-des-Prés, is in fact not Saint-Germain-des-Prés, but Saint Sulpice. To be fair, they are practically right next to each other, just a block or two away. Apparently they have an organ concert at Saint Sulpice every Sunday morning after mass. I think I have an idea of something to do this weekend…