Paris Day 2
Mindfulness is important if you want to have a photogenic lifestyle because it means being present in the here and now. Once we eliminate our dependence on cognitive clichés, the world around us pulsates with vigor and energy.
Curiosity automatically leads to mindfulness.
Because of Bebina Bunny, I wanted to see what remains of Joseph Bonnier de la Mosson’s Cabinet of Curiosities. Once upon a time, aristocrats did not manifest their wealth by wearing a Rolex or by driving a Ferrari. Instead, they created Cabinets of Curiosities. Thus Joseph Bonnier de la Mosson used most of his incredible inheritance to create his own wunderkammer full of objects relating to natural history, anatomy, science, fine arts and souvenirs from his world travels. When Bonnier de la Mosson died in 1744, he was penniless so his widow had to sell pieces from the collection for her own survival. Luckily, some parts were saved and are now hidden away in the modern library of Jardin des Plantes’ Natural History Museum.
Adjacent to Jardin des Plantes’ main entrance is the Grand Mosque of Paris. The mosque was built in 1926 to honor the Muslim soldiers from the French colonies who’d lost their lives fighting for the French against the Germans in WWI. And during WWII, the mosque was used as a refuge for Jews to protect them from German persecution.
Today the mosque is well-known for its hamman, indoor garden and tearoom straight out of Casablanca. It would have been delightful to have had some tea and pastries but it was crowded and people were lined up waiting for a table.
Our touristic pilgrimage continued towards the Panthéon (from the Greek Πάνθεον meaning “every god”) which was originally built as a church dedicated to St. Genevieve (the patron saint of Paris). The Panthéon’s pediment shows Patria distributing crowns. She’s flanked by Liberty and History as well as by other figures, including Napoleon, who contributed to the development of the Nation.
Subsequently the Panthéon became a mausoleum for famous French citizens. Revolutionary leader Jean-Paul Marat, today best known for his presence in Jacques-Louis David’s painting, is buried here.
Because of a skin condition he’d developed while hiding in sewers, Marat was forced to bathe a lot. So he transformed his tub into a kind of desk where he’d soak for hours while writing down his political theories. One day while he was bathing, 24 year old Charlotte Corday sneaked into his bathroom and stabbed him to death.
Charlotte was just beginning to blossom as a woman when the French Revolution broke out. She saw nothing liberating about the aftermath of the Revolution and its atrocities. Believing Marat to be a blood thirsty monster who sent innocent people to their graves, she felt that by murdering him she could save 100,000s of lives.
A young German living in Paris, Adam Lux, was so impressed by the actions of Charlotte that he fell in love with her. He followed her trial and was present when she was beheaded. Adam saw Charlotte as a martyr and wrote a pamphlet in her defense which led to his arrest for treason. Tried, he was told he could save his life if he would retract what he’d written but he just smiled and thanked the judges because he was honored to be sacrificed on the same guillotine where Charlotte had met her death.
Charlotte was from Normandy and so were the cheeses we had in our fondue that evening at a little bistrot near Beaubourg– fondue Normandie made with Camembert and Pont-l’Évêque. Fondue is very photogenic as well as very easy to do. Since good health is also photogenic, it’s best to eat cheese with discretion. Fondue is basically just a kind of hot dip so why not try making it using cashews, potatoes or chickpeas instead of cheese?
Related: Al Stewart song for Charlotte on album on “Famous Last Words” + book Beware Madame la Guillotine by Sarah Towle + Mindfulness by Ellen J. Langer + Object Lesson / Transitional Object + Cashew Cheese Fondue