Brancusi to Paris

It goes, I think, something like this.

I picture a girl, perhaps particularly glorious and aware every inch of the way. She is at full throttle, she does not like to pause. She chooses and leaps, with the acid certainty of the beautiful and young. For our purposes, because we are all of us many things at different times, we’ll overlook the terrible hours when she feels cruel and small and used; we’ll forget the coarse stones and rushes of weakness, the passing broken hearts, the callous way she sometimes brushes the gentle aside. These things happen, and the gentle are used to wounding.

If you look carefully, very carefully, perhaps you’ll see that her lovers are like shackles. In her early days they anchor her, root her, teach her the quiet skill of being beautiful among men whose use for beauty is shallow and thoughtless. Later they are men who are rakish and full of risk, the sharks, the possessors, men who rely on silence and quiet rage for their opinions. Men who don’t matter. Later still they are simply inadequate, a puzzle — how can this woman so glorious choose so badly?

Look closely and you may see that they all share one quality: they are irrelevant. They will never challenge her, they do not engage what is deepest about her. Her job, and she learned this young, is to simplify her inner life for them, and lead them in what she thinks is a sly quiet form of control. The “behind every man” kind of control. The “soft answer turneth away wrath” kind of chipper mediation.

It’s a truism that all slaves believe they are powerful. No wonder she is so lonely.

In the early 1900’s, Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi walked from Bucharest to Paris. His vision was sleek and far-reaching and modern, and it needed a cutting-edge garden, challenging water. In Paris he chose a city that supported Rodin, Matisse, Modigliani; a city that could make him grow, or allow him to grow into his natural gifts. He left his home and everything behind him, and walked into his future. Step by step he followed roads, the journey as much a part of the destination as the rough stones along the way. The walk may have taken him as long as two years. He was relentless, and would not compromise. He would not stop.

And I, who dreamed of stirring her depths, watering her dark flowers? I am pedestrian.

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