The change is palpable in the air. It overhangs like a dark cloud. You can hear it in peoples’ voices, telling one another “they will not shut us up, life must go on, freedom cannot be taken away.” The sound of defiance and that of fear, hand in hand. Change is everywhere.
It took me two full days to attempt to process anything that happened on the Friday night, meandering through the haze of shock. Every visit to any kind of media platform, be it official TV channels, radio programs, newspapers, or social media, left me reeling from the cacophony of voices. Before I managed to draw a deeper breath and to make sense of my feelings and thoughts, explanations and perspectives – some in a total opposition to each other – started to fly over my head. I almost wanted to scream at everyone to stop, quiet, reflect, listen, read. Stop coming in with ready opinions, confirming what you already believe or repeating what you read somewhere else. Take in what is happening right now, reflect. If France truly is at war now, I understand what “the haze of war” means. It is so difficult to make sense of ones’ feelings, and know how to deal with what happened, how to proceed. And I have no particular personal connection to Paris, other than my very deep love for it.
The city of light is one of my favorite destinations on this planet. Last time I visited, I stayed in 11th arrondissement and pretty much spent all of my time there, 11th, 10th and Le Marais. City of light – city of life, seductive and tempting. If I spoke French, Paris would be the city I would want to live in. In fact, I am learning French at the moment, and part of my motivation is the infectious vibrant energy of that place. To me Paris is an ever-changing creation. Very few places in this world feel like they could have an energy and existence of their own. One of them is Berlin, with its rebellious teenage-like nature. Another one is Paris, ever shifting, ever new and old in one, like a beautiful painting or a piece of music, alive.
I am not Parisian, neither am I French, but I am European. I grew up in the freedom of European Union, during my teenage years still a dream, attained when I was a young adult. Europe is my home and the peaceful co-existence of nations opened the door to my life as I know it and my love as I live it. I really love my home and feel European to my gut. I know that horrible things happen all the time, all over the world, and we have very raw and visible signs of that in Europe throughout this year. But no matter how sorry I feel for other corners of the world, and I do, I am shocked and deeply shaken by what happened in Paris. This is a hit at my home, my identity. Paris is a building block of the European soul, to me.
I do not empathize with the French today, because the pain is too near to call it “empathy”. I also do not feel their pain, because I did not lose a family or friend on Friday, and they did not shoot on the street I walk to do my daily shopping. In Polish we have a word “wspolczucie”. Co-feeling, you can translate it as such. Co-misery. I commiserate with Paris today. Their pain is truly very near to my skin.