As I was reading Proust, the part when he is on a train on his way to a thermal station where he discovers during a halt a beautiful young farm girl. Just the sight of this beautiful woman gave him back the taste of Beauty, some kind of meaning in his life, I was about to experience first hand that experience a few hours after having read his words.
I was taking a break from playing a video-game, smoking on my balcony and watching peoples passing by. I love watching people. It’s sound creepy, maybe it is, but after staying for years, more than a decade in fact, in a little village with almost nobody walking by, (or if you saw someone, you’ll definitely know that person), after that dryness human experience of seeing little to nobody new, living in a city full of people that you don’t know and don’t know you is an exhilarating experience. It’s almost like you’re living again, reborn, back in society.
So, there I was, smoking my cigarette, observing life and society going about their life when I spot a beautiful woman. Not the first one that I’ve spotted, high up in my balcony, but after reading Proust, that sight was powerful and full of meaning.
There I was, experiencing what a man who died one century ago wrote about.
This is the magic of literature. Well, one of the many perks of reading a book.
That lady was walking her littler black dog, making me think of a Bob Dylan song, «A Hard Rain A-Gonna Fall» when he sings: I met white men who walked a black dog.
No, the simple sight of an attractive woman leads me to music. Life is strange, but art found a way to make it magic. Does art have a defined function? I don’t know, and I wish not, because it would put art in a shackle. We, human, have to categorize everything, it’s in our nature, everything has to be in a box.
Art isn’t in a box, well, it is in every box and a box itself.
And art was what I was seeing. I was looking at Beauty.
And that thought came out of my brain: go, talk to this lady, tell her something!
Hell no! Hell no! The time have changed, and for good, I think. We are living in a time where yelling at a lady passing by is not ok.
What if I was in the lady’s situation and someone I don’t know yell for me to give him or her my phone number? I would keep my head down and go away. We never know with people nowadays.
I kept watching her, I wasn’t hiding myself, it was already weird enough for me to look at her, if she ever rises her head toward me, I didn’t wanted to scare her.
And then, I started imagining her life. She was probably in her early twenty’s, probably a student, walking her family dog, taking a walk in the sun. Did she have a boyfriend? A girlfriend? How happy was she in her life? What was the cross she had to carry?
And then, she left, took a nearby street, disappearing from my eyes.
I rediscovered Beauty, at least for a little while.
Thanks to Marcel Proust, whenever I see Beauty, I feel grateful and alive. I’ve found an answer to a question I wasn’t asking myself before reading him.
Extract (in French) from Proust book; A l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs :
«Était-ce parce que je ne l’avais qu’entr’apercue que je l’avais si belle ? Peut-être. D’abord, l’impossibilité de s’arrêter auprès d’une femme, le risque de ne pas la retrouver un autre jour lui donnent brusquement le même charme qu’à un pays la maladie ou la pauvreté qui nous empêchent de le visiter, ou qu’aux jours si ternes qui nous restaient à vivre, le combat où nous succomberons sans doute. De sorte que, s’il n’y avait pas l’habitude, la vie devrait paraître délicieuse à des êtres qui seraient à chaque heure menacés de mourir, – c’est-à-dire à tous les hommes. Puis, si l’imagination est entraînée par le désir de ce que nous pouvons posséder, son essor n’est pas limité par une réalité complètement perçue dans ces rencontres où les charmes de la passante sont en relation directe avec la rapidité du passage. Pour peu que la nuit tombe et que la voiture aille vite, à la campagne, dans une ville, il n’y a pas un torse féminin, mutilé comme un marbre antique par la vitesse qui nous entraîne et le crépuscule qui le noie, qui ne tire sur notre cœur, à chaque coin de route, du fond de chaque boutique, les flèches de la Beauté, de la Beauté dont on serait parfois tenté de se demander si elle est en ce monde autre chose que la partie de complément qu’ajoute à une passante fragmentaire et fugitive notre imagination surexcitée par le regret.»