“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
That night, the first night of the year of 2014, on the spur of a moment, we took the metro to Montmartre to see a midnight Paris. We then discovered a sleeping tourist hill: tourist crowds and aggressive street vendors were nowhere to be seen and most cafes and restaurants were about to close, and there’s this quietude one rarely feels in Monmartre during the day and it filled my heart with a tingling sensation.
We sat in front of Basilica de Sacre Coeur for an hour, singing, dancing, and cracking silly jokes. We barely wanted to leave when it became unbearably cold and (it’d been warm for a couple of days ever since Christmas’ Eve so we didn’t expect it to be so cold that night). That night, I fell in love with Paris all over again (did I ever stop loving it?), not with a luxurious elegant Paris but with a charmingly youthful Paris.
That night, from far away, we were still able to see the light from the iconic Tour Eiffel. We had been there a few nights before, walking around the tower for hours until settling ourselves at a park nearby where we were again sitting for hours, continuing our never-ending conversation and people watching until we had to catch the last metro home. Like many nights and days I “lived” in Paris, that night always stays with me and it’d play vividly in front of my eyes every time I think about it.
This morning I got up only to read the shocking news about the city. Photos of Eiffel turning off its light are all over the place. I used to be obsessed not with the shining tower but rather with the darkness surrounding it. The dark was strangely calming and soothing and we only came to know about its existence thanks to the light we saw from afar. This tranquilizing darkness could be found everywhere in Paris. But these days a scary hopeless kind of darkness is more often to be seen. And I’ve felt a true sadness for the first time in months.
Travesties like this one strikes us at the most unexpected moments in the most cruel ways possible. While we are working toward a better world in which regardless of race, gender, and nationality, all human beings can live in peace and harmony, these attacks create distrust, fear, and doubt. People don’t deserve to live in fear. People don’t have to doubt each other. People aren’t supposed to protect themselves from each other. The world should be a place where people trust, hope, and believe.
Here we are, living in fear and distrust, dealing with deaths and losses, and crying in despair. But I believe, hope is still there when I see people trying to sending thousands millions of comforting messages to Paris, I hear people talking about the attack with anger, I feel people’s pain when they talk about it as if it’s happening to them, to their family and friends.
We shouldn’t be praying for Paris. We should instead take actions against the hatred, the irrational beliefs, the hateful ideologies, and the violence. We should send a message to the attackers, asking them why and how questions and listen to their answers with an open heart. I believe they’ve just been miseducated, misinformed, and maybe have been living in a fearful darkness for most of their life.
Spread out knowledge and love. Get rid of stereotypes and prejudice. Be open-minded. Be kind.
And, to all people in Syria, Baghdad, Lebanon, Japan, Turkey, and in every corner of the world,