Friday, January 20, 2012

A visit to the Louvre

And, as I mentioned, if you wait a minute something will change.  Like Mark Twain said about the weather in San Francisco (or something like that).  Here's what's changed ... the name of the blog.  Now if that wasn't worth waiting for, I don't know what would be.

The Parisian skies are overcast today.  But the cold of the past few days has become more mild and this new mildness means that I sit in my small kitchen with the window open and the fresh air (and the air is truly fresh in Paris) can blow in.  In the distance rattles a jackhammer.  My neighborhood seems to have endless work ongoing with its attendant endless noise.  And all of a sudden silence, and then a church bell.

The other day I visited The Louvre.  It was a Wednesday, and the museum stays open late, until 8:30 pm at least.  There is of course much to say about The Louvre.  But this struck me -- the groups of Parisian students, perhaps university students but perhaps younger than that, sitting or standing in quiet circles, listening to professors and learning in one of the world's greatest classrooms.  The French version of education seems to involve one knowledgeable person lecturing without pause while the remainder scribble madly, do not speak and certainly ask no questions.  Knowledge comes from on high, and is received without disruption.  Would this produce well-informed but perhaps incurious students?  I don't know.   But what a special type of learning it must be to have the world's best museum as your own personal learning laboratory.  No amount of technology can make up for standing in front of Assyrian brickwork of the most magnificent detail from the time of Darius.  This could produce an arrogance at the same time insufferable and completely understandable if not justifiable.

A man walking across the courtyard at the Louvre


Separately, two girls were sitting with their mothers, drawing.  They were staring intently at a beautiful stone relief of ancient charioteers from what is today Iran.  All of a sudden, I felt the telescope of time.  These young women in 2012 sitting in a room built around 1650 looking at something created about 800 BC.  All of these time markers coming together in a room in a museum in Paris.




2 comments:

  1. One of the many things I find amazing about Paris is how close it came to getting flattened by the Germans when they pulled out towards the end of WWII. The German general who was supposed to bomb it into ruins managed to delay and deceive Hitler for long enough to avoid carrying out much of the bombing orders. Post-war, at some point, he became an honorary French citizen. Read "Is Paris Burning" while you're there, if you can find it. It'll add yet more context to your visit.

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    1. Craig, I was thinking about this tonight in fact, as I sat in La Madeleine listening to music. The shadow of the Second World War has receded further from this place, but certainly is not gone altogether.

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