One of the more pleasant aspects of being a resident of Paris is the exposure to people whose lives and accomplishments seem to sit on an island, divorced and distanced from their egos.
By this I mean that I’ve encountered a number of Parisians who know exactly who they are and what they are. This identity is independent of their external circumstances. They may be incredibly successful or just barely making it financially. It matters not, in a certain sense. They’re emotionally and psychologically isolated and insulated. The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune are little more than raindrops to them. Their happiness is not contingent on exterior conditions.
Whether this attitude is the result of cultural influences, family tradition, or the hard-won reward of bruising experience, I can’t yet tell. But my observations of the phenomenon will continue.
This isn’t to say that these unapologetic Frenchies don’t want the very best results from their work. They do. In their nonchalant, ambling way they often reveal themselves to be quite committed to excellence in their chosen fields. However, in the land of Moliere, Montaigne, Madam Curie, and Monet, they’re just a little more hesitant about tooting their own horn.
The terms ‘genius’ and ‘greatness’ aren’t thrown around here casually. The list of past French geniuses and great artists, writers, and scientists is long and formidable, and has been assembled and agreed upon over an extended period of time by serious thinkers. Best to nod and shrug when accolades come your way, and remain modest.
The Parisians have simply adopted, as a matter of elegance, a way of wearing their good fortune or noble birth lightly. A big ego is not more attractive than a big gold wrist watch. Cliche is a French word, let’s remember, and nothing bores them more quickly than the obvious.
So let’s divorce our ego, if we were ever married to it, and redouble our quiet commitment to excellence.