Thursday, May 6, 2010

A moment of perfect potential

I was talking to a friend a while ago and mentioned my theory of moments of perfect potential and how much I value them. He asked me to explain, which caused me to realize that not everyone thinks about these things (well, about most things) the way I do. So, I thought I'd illustrate this concept with one of my favorite examples.

Saturday night, nine o'clock or so. Paris. Stand about twenty yards in front of Notre Dame facing the Left Bank.

You can stay still and enjoy the amazing cathedral, the night air, the pedestrians, the relative calm in the center of the wonderful human swirl that is most of the city right then.

You can turn to your left and walk around the cathedral. The shadows show you things the daylight hides, and they evoke different feelings.

You can keep going left and walk into Isle San Luis, find a restaurant with laughter and lots of people, and you'll have a good meal in a place that will make you happy.

You can also walk straight ahead, dive into the mass of humanity congesting the Left Bank. Sure, a lot of the places are touristy, but it's the Left Bank, and if you open yourself to it you can almost drink in the history and the art that so many people have made there.

You can turn right instead, stop to gaze up at the Eiffel Tower in the distance and then proceed toward the Louvre and the Tuileries and on into the fashion district.

What you can't do is make a bad choice. Everywhere is wonder.

It's a moment of perfect potential.

Of course, such a realization invites more philosophical speculation: are all moments so perfect if we but open ourselves to them? Is that magic available everywhere, every moment? I don't think so, because too many places and too many moments present us with a choice among tough, unpleasant options, but I am sure that there are many, many more moments of perfect potential than we notice.

This one, though, this one is a sure thing.

Yes, I'm still yearning to go back to Paris.

8 comments:

J. Griffin Barber said...

Wonderfully, intelligently put, Mark.

I would desire more of these moments, but fear it might cheapen them.

I plan to go back to Europe for a month in 2012, for my fortieth birthday.

I must ride from Normandy to Geneva. I think a stop in Paris may be in order, and a moment on the Left Bank.

Mark said...

Thanks for the kind words, Griffin. That sounds like a dynamite plan.

Ticia said...

First, let me say I love this blog entry. The fact that I disagree about finding those moments everywhere has no bearing on my delight in it.

I was going to leave a long, impassioned philosophical debate, but what it boils down to is this:

If you can find moments of perfect potential in a Parisian's "every day", why does it seem so impossible to find them in your own?

Mark said...

I believe you're having an argument with yourself, not with what I wrote. I said I don't believe that magic is available at every moment, not that it is not available in every day. I find them frequently--but not every moment. Sometimes, some moments, all your choices are bad.

On the general point that there are many more such moments than we let ourselves notice, I agree with you, of course; note my third-to-last line.

Ticia said...

Ahhh. You are absolutely right.

I think my response was a knee-jerk reaction, not to your words, but to the notion that magic is to be found while on a fabulous trip.

I know so many people who seem to live their lives with the expectation that day-to-day life is to be trudged through and that all the special moments happen while you're on vacation.

Which is not what you were saying at all.

I'm so passionate about finding the magic whereever you can that I got on my soapbox and I didn't need to.

J. Griffin Barber said...

Some places do, by their very nature in our imagination, lend themselves more easily to the moments Mark speaks of, I think.

Mark said...

I believe that is definitely true, Griffin.

Ticia said...

I agree.

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