Love, French Style

When I was thinking about what to write for my first post, I immediately thought about this article I read in The New York Times about the locks people place on the Pont de l’Archevêché in Paris. Apparently not only do Parisians (and French people in general) have an aversion to tourists weighing down their bridges with kitschy symbols of love but they also abhor the idea that a lock could represent love. Quoting a Parisian, the article notes:

“The fools! They haven’t understood a thing about love, have they?” was the conclusion recently of a 23-year-old waiter at Panis, a cafe on the Left Bank with a view over Notre-Dame. At the heart of love à la française lies the idea of freedom. To love truly is to want the other free, and this includes the freedom to walk away. Love is not about possession or property. Love is no prison where two people are each other’s slaves. Love is not a commodity, either. Love is not capitalist, it is revolutionary. If anything, true love shows you the way to selflessness….

In his recent book, “In Praise of Love,” the French philosopher Alain Badiou reminds us that love implies constant risk. There is no safe, everlasting love. The idea that you can lock two people’s love once and for all, and toss the key, is a puerile fantasy. For Mr. Badiou, love is inherently hazardous, always on the brink of failure and above all vulnerable. Embrace its fragility, wish your beloved to be free and you might just, only just, have a chance to retain his or her undying gratitude, and love. But don’t ever dream of locks and throwing keys overboard, especially not in Paris.

Pont de l'Archevêché

As beautiful as the idea is of love meaning you want your significant other to be free, I’m skeptical of believing that. Maybe it’s because for me love and security also go hand in hand, and security and the freedom to walk away clash. But theoretically, I do agree that love should be about open doors and the freedom to walk in and out. It’s human to want to hold onto and preserve something once you get it, but nothing lasts for ever, especially if you force it to last.

I’ve bought Badiou’s book on Kindle so I can’t wait to delve into what he says.


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