Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Main Charm of Life in Europe: Comfort

The park below Fourviere Cathedral in Lyon
The Seine in Paris, when I was there last summer
      Here is a passage from one of my favorite pieces of travel writing, Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain. He describes the appeal of a European lifestyle, because it is so relaxed, and much less driven by money than in America. Most importantly, he explains it much more eloquently than I could possibly describe it to you:

      “We walked up and down on of the most popular streets for some time, enjoying other people’s comfort and wishing we could export some of it to our restless, driving, vitality-consuming marts at home. Just in this one matter lies the main charm of life in Europe—comfort. In America, we hurry—which is well; but when the day’s work is done, we go on thinking of losses and gains, we plan for the morrow, we even carry our business cares to bed with us, and toss and worry over them when we out to be restoring our racked bodies and brains with sleep. We burn up our energies with these excitements, and either die early or drop into a lean or mean old age at a time of life which they call a man’s prime in Europe… When a razor has seen long service and refuses to hold an edge, the barber lays it away for a few weeks, and the edge comes back of its own accord. We bestow thoughtful care upon inanimate objects, but none upon ourselves. What a robust people, what a nation of thinkers we might be, if we would only lay ourselves on the shelf occasionally, and renew our edges!”

La Jardin des Tuileries, last summer
La Jardin des Tuileries, last summer

1 comment:

  1. This Mark Twain comment is so true.
    I remember my time studying abroad and staying with my French family (in Lyon). So many times during our long meals at night, I would fret about how much homework I had to finish as our meals lasted sometimes two hours. Conversations at the French table were always intellectual, lively, and pleasurable. Looking back, my homework was so unimportant and could not compare to the French culture I experienced every evening during our meal.