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  • Don Owens

Midnight in Paris

“He went to Paris – looking for answers to questions that bothered him so.” – Jimmy Buffett

I went to Paris to see my favorite storyteller perform and enjoy the life of the city with my wife and friends. It was a fun packed few days. Easy going friends are the best – the ones where anyone in the group can make a suggestion and everyone says, “OK.” Adventure is much easier to find with this approach to travel.

Each evening we strolled the streets till midnight, but unlike Woody Allen’s movie, “Midnight in Paris”, after I’d had some Bordeaux, no car picked me up and whisked me to the past...that happened Sunday morning.

Saturday night Mark, Erika and Danae endured my dream of seeing Jimmy Buffett perform in Paris. Mark said, “Thanks for introducing me to your cult.” For me, singing the old Buffett ballads with people from Europe and beyond was a trip.

Sunday morning I got up early and grabbed a cab to Notre Dame. Waiting for me there was a friend who has lived in Paris for over 30 years. He was going to take me and a few others on a short walk around the Left Bank. I realized the moment he started talking, the cab I was in had taken me into the past.

I was transported to the primitive days of Paris first, when Julius Caesar conquered the Gaul and would serve as governor. When I was in Rome and now Paris, I am always transported when thinking about walking in the same places as Caesar. It would not be long after Julius that someone much greater would step into the stage of history, Jesus of Nazareth. He too, would bring change to Paris via a woman named Genevieve and the wife of Clovis and thousands more. Clovis would be the first of the Merovingian Dynasty that would rule France for two centuries.

As we walked we leaped at time from century to century. From Notre Dame came the first hospital for poor people. Christianity drove society to care for the least of them for the first time.

Across the river we were amongst the universities; universities started by the efforts of Christians. Hay was brought across the river to provide bails for students to sit upon as professors stood on their boxes and lectured. No text books – students had to memorize their lessons.

From Paris came the birth of modern science as a Franciscan monk, Roger Bacon wanted the world to see the creativity and genius of God in science and he developed the scientific method. Just one block away at the home of the Dominican monks, Albertus Magnus with his deep understanding of Aristotle would pour into the life of Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas would give us the Summa Theologica.

Modern philosophy was born on these streets with Rene DesCartes. The Art of Thinking was given to us in modern fashion by Blasie Pascal, Antonie Arnold and the Port Royal Society. I stood at Pascal’s home where he saved his notes that were combined to give us the Pensees.

From these streets the thought and writings of Jacques Lefevre d’Etaples would give Luther the ideas that changed his direction. Lefevre laid the ideas of reformation but not separation. I would stand at the home John Calvin fled in the counter-reformation. Across the street was the place of study for Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order that would seek to eradicate the reformation movement.

The French and American Revolutions were born on the streets of Paris in the candlelight and libations of Le Procope, a gathering spot for Jefferson, Payne, and Franklin.

Faith was challenged on these streets by Voltaire. Yet later it would be a quiet Catholic priest that offered most of the foundation to the Declaration of Man, a document that would remove slavery from France long before Wilberforce or the Emancipation Proclamation.

So much history and influence on mankind came from these streets from the likes of: Julius Caesar, Clovis, Charles Martel, Charlemagne, Vikings, Philippe Auguste, Abelard and Heloise, Thomas Aquinas, Roger Bacon, Dante, Joan of Arc, Henry VI of England, Francis the First, Leonardo da Vinci, Erasmus, John Calvin, Ignatius Loyola, Catherine de Medici, Henry IV, Descartes, Pascal, Hobbes, Richelieu, Louis XIV, Voltaire, Rousseau, Marie Antoinette, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Robespierre, Napoleon, Victor Hugo, Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Pol Pot, Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, Hemingway, James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John-Paul Sartre, Camus, Charles De Gaulle, Jacques Derrida.

I was transported decades as I heard Jazz music while walking into the Latin Quarter. I stood outside the meeting place of Hemmingway, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Picasso and Gris. Now I was fully merged into the movie “Midnight in Paris”. And much like the movie, when I returned to my hotel room my wife said, “Take me to the Louis Vuitton store on Champs Elysees!”

“Qui regarde au fond de Paris a le vertige.”- Victor Hugo (“He who looks into the depths of Paris grows giddy.”)

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