When I started this blog to record what I am learning about France, it seemed like I had such a long time to read all the books on my list, to watch the DVD’s and to create a detailed itinerary of what I want to see. However, the urgency of busyness and my health problems caused a lot of my plans to be shelved. Presently, I feel like I am a student cramming for exams as I watch lectures on the Louvre, skim through guidebooks, read a few more memoirs of people living in France and watch just a few more French movies. However, I am becoming increasingly aware that my objective to be really knowledgeable and informed needs to become more realistic as I only have three weeks before departure.
My frustration that I didn’t absorb as much about France as I would have liked stems from my ignorance when Greg and I went on an European bus tour when we were in our twenties. It’s embarrassing to admit that I had no desire to go to the Louvre as I didn’t even understand its significance. At any rate, Greg and I chose to walk along the Seine River while friends of ours went to the Louvre. Ironically, we had a really relaxing time and they returned despondent since it was closed. It must have been a Tuesday!! Anyways, I thought I should be a little more culturally astute this time!
Van Pelt: Aren’t the clouds beautiful? They look like big balls of cotton. I could just lie here all day and watch them drift by. If you use your imagination, you can see lots of things in the cloud’s formations. What do you think you see, Linus?
Linus Van Pelt: Well, those clouds up there look to me look like the map of the British Honduras on the Caribbean. [points up] That cloud up there looks a little like the profile of Thomas Eakins, the famous painter and sculptor. And that group of clouds over there… [points] …gives me the impression of the Stoning of Stephen. I can see the Apostle Paul standing there to one side.
Lucy Van Pelt: Uh huh. That’s very good. What do you see in the clouds, Charlie Brown?
Charlie Brown: Well… I was going to say I saw a duckie and a horsie, but I changed my mind.
- In other words, my reflections as I travel are not always that serious or that personal or that revelatory. Does this mean that my holiday will not be as significant or as meaningful? Does it mean that because my knowledge of the history of France is very elementary and my knowledge of the French language is that of a preschooler my appreciation for France is lessened? Well, undoubtedly the answer is yes. However, as I read the dialogue from the Charlie Brown comic strip, Charlie Brown still saw something in the clouds, didn’t he? He may not have been able to see what the more intellectually informed could see, but had he not been intimidated by them, he could still have appreciated those clouds and the images that he saw in them. It’s like watching a basketball game. Greg understands all the complexities of the game and I only understand that the object is to get the ball in the basket. My enjoyment may be more “child-like” but it still exists.
Therefore, when I go into a famous building like the Louvre, I know that my appreciation for its many paintings will be limited since I don’t understand those fundamentals of art such as its composition, colour distribution or the author’s manipulation of pictorial space. And yet, like Charlie Brown, I can look at the image before me and still see something that may give me pleasure. And fortunately for me, I have guidebooks that may also point me toward a more intellectual response so that when I gaze at the “Fete Champetre,” I will see more than two well dressed men and two naked ladies sitting outside on the grass. As I have begun watching the lectures about the Louvre through Teaching Company, I need to embrace what Professor Richard Brettell says about our tour of the Louvre and for me my tour of all of France: “Relax, you can never know it all.”