Returning from Scotland to France the other day, I flew over Paris and captured this view.
The first thing which catches your attention is probably the sunlit River Seine, around which the city has grown. It sparkles and shines and reminds me that Paris is known as the “city of light”.
But what comes to mind when people mention Paris now, in the light of 2015? At the start of 2015, we heard about the terrorist attacks on the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo, and on the Jewish supermarket. Then we saw the huge expression of solidarity spreading far beyond Paris into the rest of France and the rest of the world with thousands upon thousands of people coming out into the streets and declaring “Je suis Charlie”.
At the other end of 2015 came the massacres of mainly young people enjoying music, drink, food and each others company as the terrorists struck again in this same city. And, again, there was a reaction across the world, as people flew the tricolour, changed their profile pictures, sang La Marseillaise, and declared their solidarity with the people of Paris.
These attacks have been interpreted as an attack on what Paris “stands for” in the world, as an attack on “French values”……and so as an attack on both pleasure and delight in Life, and on “freedom, equality and brotherhood”.
Of course, these events are complex and can’t be reduced to such apparently simple interpretations.
How do we choose a life of joy instead of a life of fear? How do we say “yes” to the world, instead of “no”? I don’t think we know all the answers, but when seen from above, this sparkling city still seems to shine as some kind of beacon.
Paris is still a “city of light”.
Then I looked again at this photo, and I zoomed in so I could see the Eiffel Tower. The truth is it’s not to easy to see the Eiffel Tower in a clear blue sky any more. Most days it seems to be dulled or obscured by pollution in the atmosphere, so isn’t it interesting that the global climate change conference took place in Paris just before 2015 ended?
Wow! We have a lot of work to do, to make this world a better place for us all to live in together. A lot needs to change as we switch from consumption and waste to resilience and sustainability, as we choose to shift our attention from fear to love.
But let me return again to this image, because, instead of reducing it to its parts, I find it simply beautiful. Isn’t Paris also known as a place where artists gathered? Isn’t it one of the great symbolic cities of creativity and imagination?
Here’s my hope then for 2016. That we can each enrich our lives this year with love, imagination and the joy of living. That this can be a year when we nurture and sustain the beauty of the light in our world – that burdens are lightened, days are brightened and that we become more enlightened.