Paris Adventure 3: Cultural Enlightenment

01/11/2012 15:11

Certain things are so natural to us that we even do not pay attention to them. However, if we finally realize their importance, our attitudes get changed considerably towards the life we always wanted to have, but couldn’t find the way. 


For me and my Slovak roommate, classmate and most probably becoming soul mate, Mondays and Fridays are our days off, spent out in the changeable autumn weather, devoted to the exploration of Parisian lanes. We are sitting in silence in little churches, looking around and seeing nothing, staring at paintings by unknown authors and spending hours and hours by trying to see a sense in the world’s most appreciated works. A pure cultural gluttony. These are the days when the only must is to take a coffee to a thermos flask and go out no matter where, just to breathe the smell of history and beauty of knowledge. Every time we chance on something utterly enviable, but last time, we somehow dropped an anchor in, at first sight, non-cultural atmosphere. Paris Aquarium. And still, culture caught up on us again. While looking for sharks and taking photos of Nemos, sea horses and various sea monsters, we found ourselves comfortably nestled in the seats of a children’s cinema.


At first, I regretted not having stared at Monet’s impressionist paintings with the blinking speckles of colours, I regretted not having speculated about the meaning of the splayed mouth of Rodin’s Tempest and the unnaturally bent naked female bodies, but as we sat down, took apples out of our bags and got trapped in the story running on the screen, I forgot the time passing and the cultural duty to be paid on Mondays and Fridays. 


After an hour of following Tintin’s tales, a children’s version of Little Prince followed. The crunch-crunch sound of the apples subsided as I had entirely been absorbed in the story of a book character of one of the authors I most admire. Just between the thought that Little Prince with no coat on does not look good at all and that Tintin should have existed in the world when I could allow myself to fall in love with fairy tale characters, I realized a fact that changed that day. It was just one of the thoughts that normally flow through my mind and straight away disappear, but this time, the fox on the scene remained for too long and I could not ignore him. He wanted to be tamed. He wanted to be thought about. He was talking about an act too often neglected. I didn’t want to be one of the adults who are indifferent to the importance of children’s imagination. And so I am here, writing about the primary role of the deuteragonist figures of children’s stories instead of reading Gingsberg’s “Supermarket in California” for my tomorrow American Literature class.


The fox made me think about the most cultural of the cultural topics even though, at that time, I was still not conscious of it yet. I was still living in the assumption that I was wasting my time on a children’s story.  I was thinking about how Shrek would look without Donkey. Shrek wouldn’t be Shrek without his big white teeth and the screeching voice of Eddie Murphy, would he? All the fun resides upon the shoulders of these “minor” characters. If you think of the Ice Age stories, don’t you see the sloth Sid at first? It is he who pushes the story further. When talking about the aquarium, there’s the Pacific regal blue tang Dory, accompanying Nemo during his adventure, who is the main source of expressing all the profound values behind the main plot. And what about the story in question, the story of Little Prince? It is the fox who teaches us the importance of establishing ties. He recalls the existence of roses in our life, he warns us of having no time for the things that matter and he clarifies the unimportance of words between true friends. It was the deuteragonist character that put me in my place. There was no time to rush. There was no time to worry. There was no time for regret. There was only time for realizing things, for experiencing the cultural gluttony in a way I have never experienced it before – sitting among children, laughing with the girl who did not care about the others sizing us up, watching the best children’s story I have ever encountered and realizing the things that the painting (which, I must finally admit it, I do not understand) will never allow me to realize.


 Eventually, we did something even more cultural than usual. It was the afternoon during which I felt as many opposing feelings on cultural matters as hardly ever before. Once again I understood thanks to words, which mostly lead to misunderstanding. Taught by the secondary character, I finally fully appreciated the power of additional elements, because they make not only the children’s stories but also our lives juicy and worthy. 

Zuzana Rajčáková



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