Monday, June 15, 2015

The Love Locks Of Paris

Love Stories

Et serait-ce un bonheur de respirer le jour
Si d'entre les mortels on bannissait l’amour?
Non, non tous les plaisirs se goûtent à le suivre,
Et vivre sans aimer n'est pas proprement vivre.
MolièreLa Princesse d’Elide, II, 1 (v. 363-366)

Love Locks of Paris; The Eiffel Tower is visible in the background through the opening
 of a collection of locks on the bridge, Pont des Arts. City workers removed the bridge panels
containing the “love locks” on June 1st. They weighed a collective 45 tons.
Photo Credit: : Remy de la Mauviniere; AP
Source: The Guardian
Stories tell us what’s important; in Paris, it’s love. 

The article, by Roslyn Sulcas, in The New York Times gives more details on what the city now plans to do now that it has decided to remove the “love locks” from the Pont des Arts. In “Paris and Lovers Look to Move On After Breakup With Bridge’s Locks” (June 11, 2015), Sulcas writes:
After Paris removed hundreds of thousands of locks affixed to the iron grillwork on the Pont des Arts last week, the romantics online were in mourning.
“This is so sad,” one wrote, amid the thousands of Twitter posts, Facebook messages and photographs across social media that have been posted in the past week lamenting the dismantling of the grillwork.
“That was on my bucket list,” another said.
Others, picking up on a phrase in a Newsweek article, pronounced, “Better to have loved and locked than to have never locked at all.” (Also, sardonically, “They’re worried the bridge will collapse from the weight of failed relationships,” Bette Midler wrote on Twitter.)
The outcry left Paris a bit befuddled, especially because the city had announced last year that the ritual had to end. The weight of the locks was a safety hazard and posed a threat to the integrity of the walkway, which dates to 1801 and was rebuilt in the early 1980s. City officials had been asking people for months to find other ways to express their love.
No matter; Paris will always be Paris. This story caught my attention, because it was not about war and violence, but about love and the simpler and symbolic declarations of it. Bridges in many cities around the world are not only engineered conduits of transportation, but since they are structures which overlook waterways they are also designated romantic spots, imbued with future possibilities of travel and movement, and also of past memory. Small wonder, then, that many films show bridges as such places, where love both begins and ends.

The placing and the city’s removal of these ”love locks” confirms to me that Paris remains the city for lovers; no matter what you think about the act, the gesture is one of love, which is the greatest and most powerful of human emotions. That we have come to expect a lot from love—romantic love—only proves that its absence makes the desire greater. There is a great absence, an absence not diminished by its continued discussion and analysis from a scientific and political view, which more often than not engenders fear and disappointment and its twin cousins, cynicism and rationalism. When the real thing cannot be found, imitations or substitutions will be obtained.

The politics of love has become tiresome, as has the scientific studies surrounding love in its parsing of human relationships. Both are well-meaning in some measure (no doubt containing more meaning to those conducting “the research”), but holding little importance in the lives of most people. Will such academic and scientific papers truly change the way humans desire to behave, will it alter their innermost being? Love makes people irrational, it has been said. (So does war, money and a host of ideas and objects.) So what? we say with a Gallic shrug. Do we actually expect and want people to behave like predictable and programmed machines? Too much rationality in the area of human relations can kill romance and human emotions of desire and creativity. 

The symbolism of the love locks is clear, and Paris reminds us of its importance. “Silly” declarations of enduring love. Oui, c’est vrai; Ceci est la réalité. “There is nothing real in the world but love,” the French writer Madame de Staël said in Delphine, a novel published in 1802.

For more, go to [NYT]

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