Je me souviens
From where we sat I could see all of New York pointing upward, into ascension, into the future, to exultation, New York with its soft-oiled hinges, plastic brilliance, hard metal surfaces, glare and noise, New York gritty, sharp and windy, and the opposite of Paris in every possible way.
There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other. We always returned to it no matter who we were or how it was changed or with what difficulties, or ease, it could be reached. Paris was always worth it and you received return for whatever you brought to it. But this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy.
What is this?
An inquiry, an exploration, a thought experiment, an art project.
A synchronicity perhaps?
Jung says synchronicity is an “acausal parallelism.”
Synchronicity is two events that are parallel in time and space.
Because they are parallel they do not touch except through unseen energetic relationships.
How is writing about French bistros causally connected to living in New York City? What are the unseen energetic relationships?
Why are they felt now?
It is the Paris of my past and the New York of my present.
I look back to a different place and time from the present.
It is memory.
It is image and memory.
Roland Barthes on loss, memory, image and photography.
Je me souviens
I look back. I remember my early studies of French literature.
Balzac, Zola, Stendhal, Malraux, Camus, Sartre and Robbe-Grillet.
Anais Nin, Francois Sagan and Collette.
I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive. A year ago, six months ago, I thought that I was an artist. I no longer think about it, I am. I am the happiest man alive.
So says Henry Miller.
The human comedy of it all.
So says Balzac.
Soul darkness of the night.
The poets: Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Verlaine and Mallarme.
Re:turning to literature and the beginnings.
Consumed by art, poetry and philosophy.
Birth in New York, artistic awakening in Paris, now living in New York.
The axis of Paris and New York turns.
Je me souviens
There was a youth hostel on Rue Mabillon near Luxembourg Gardens.
Atget’s garden chairs grouped in threes and fours around the fountain an unseen human presence.
Street markets and jazz clubs in dark smokey caves.
The mystery of the nights and the streets and youthful freedom.
Book sellers on the banks of the Seine sell books from black metal cabinets
Reading and writing and eating in cheap Latin Quarter bistros.
Lost wandering in the night and gloomy sunrises.
Paris of the Night.
Black and white photos decayed, torn and lost.
I think of Brassai’s Paris.
A long time ago I would read in the small green space in front of Shakespeare & Company across from the brown gothic arches and gargoyles of Notre Dame.
Wings of desire and the sadness of the angels.
I would read Joyce.
Stately plumb Buck Mulligan.
Molly Bloom’s ecstatic Yes at the end.
Infinity is a circle without beginning or end
Ulysses begins and ends with an “S”
The Joycean Yes to life and love and to ordinary daily life.
Now living in New York City and reading, writing and eating in bistros.
Giambattista Vico cycles and circles.
The Yes of the turning of the day and the night of time.
Sunrise shadows of buildings across buildings great sheets of light sparkling on the waters of the Hudson
clouds dim the light
ferry boats churning white water curves on green brown water
clouds forming and dissolving behind the buildings
yellow cabs criss cross street grids
white stripes intersections
like a living Mondrian.
I see it all far below me.
The harder I grasp the quicker it vanishes.
Epistemology is an inquiry into knowledge.
How do we know that something is true or false?
What do we know and what do we not know?
What system can we use to determine if something is true or false?
Knowledge of the true Self is the basis of yoga.
We practice yoga to gain this knowledge.
Ignorance causes the false identity with the egoic self.
Ignorance causes suffering, karma and rebirth.
Knowledge is the end of ignorance
the end of suffering and liberation from karma.
In the Yoga Sutras written over 2000 years ago Sage Patanjali considered the question of knowledge.
If the goal of yoga is knowledge, then how do we know the true from the false?
Patanjali said there are four way to acquire knowledge:
we can directly perceive it
we can infer it
we can learn from an authoritative text or
we can learn from someone with knowledge.
After a lifetime of eating at bistros what do I know about bread, wine, cuisine, coffee, cheese and the bistro tradition?
This is the pathway to gain the knowledge that I need to write.
John Paul Sartre says:
What do we mean by saying that “existence precedes essence?” We mean that man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world – and defines himself afterwards. If man, as the existentialist sees him, is not definable, it is to begin with he is nothing. He will not be anything until later and then, he will be what he makes of himself.
I know nothing.
I begin with nothing.
I start from here.
To exist and to be.
To make something.
I search for knowledge by exploring New York and bistros.
Paris the unseen energetic synchronicity with Paris.
But these are proxies for knowledge.
It is knowledge that I seek to acquire in these explorations.
What makes this bread better than that bread, this entree better than that entree and this bistro better than that bistro?
Dr. James Cahill in writing on artistic quality said:
The direction of my argument: the object has to excite one’s (aesthetic) interest by somehow upsetting one’s expectations, having some formal interplay or tension between its parts, some dynamic (however quiet) elements in its artistic structure–something that indicated an artistic intelligence at work.
Can we apply the same standards to a bistro?
It is irrelevant if I “like” a bistro or a dish.
I will bore neither you nor I with that.
I will not write in those terms.
Of what value is my liking if it is not based on an objective standard?
An archetype is an original pattern, model or type from which copies are made.
Plato viewed the archetype as a pure form the fundamental characteristics of a thing.
Archetypes are memories and ideas shared by all of humanity.
Archetypes reside in our collective unconscious.
They emerge from our dreams as myths, books, films and paintings.
They reside in the collective unconscious.
So says Jung.
Bistros are grounded in tradition.
Bistros have common signs and a culture.
Bistros have an archetypal character.
Born of tradition, food, comfort and family.
Is there an artistic intelligence behind the bistro?
Is the experience static or dynamic?
Is there integrity?
Does the bistro reflects the archetype?
Questions for the reviews.
James Joyce said:
There is an atmosphere of spiritual effort here (in Paris). No other city is quite like it. It is a racecourse tension. I wake early, often at 5 o’clock, and start writing at once.
And Earnest Hemingway said:
Up in that room I decided that I would write one story about each thing that I knew about. I was trying to do this all the time I was writing, and it was good and severe discipline.
These quotes inspire me.
Writing is a discipline good and severe.
Wake early and work hard.
Write a story on something I know about.
I must “know” about a thing to write about a thing.
I acquire knowledge through experience, reflection, study and talking with experts.
After a lifetime of reading, what do I know of writing?
How shall I write?
What shall I write?
How do I write a review of a bistro?
What is the standard?
Where is the brilliance and the guides?
And can I find my own voice and not hide behind a false front?
Discipline is a commitment to write.
Through discipline I wrote and grow.
I commit to discipline.
I commit to knowledge.
I commit to finding my authentic voice.
Synchronicity, knowledge, archetype and aesthetics.
I deconstruct the bistro.
What signs do I see and what do they mean?
I see many signs in New York bistros.
They point to Babbitt, Coltrane and Soft Cell
Brassai and Klein
Baudrillard and wabi-sabi.
These writings are a proxy to explore New York.
I hope to see deeply.
I hope to make images of art, knowledge and memory.
Let it evolve as it will.
Quality and authenticity.
These are the goals.
My writings must be reflective, authentic and real.
This is a social media free zone.
No digital toxicity.
I hope you do not read it.
But if you do
Paris ville lumière.
Dr. James Cahill
John Paul Sartre
Nin, Anais, The Diary of Anais Nin, Volume Two, 1934-1939 (Swallow Press 1967).
Budgen, Frank, James Joyce and the Making of “Ulysses” and Other Writings (1972)
Hemingway, A Moveable Feast (Scribner: Reprint edition (July 20, 2010))