It’s a warm autumn day of 1998. I’m walking along Rue Soufflot, in the 5th district of Paris. Hausman buildings on both sides, with cream facades and grey slate roofs. I turn and look at the Pantheon, its dome rising at the end of the street.
We’re reading L’Education Sentimentale in literature class. There’s a scene where the main character walks along that same street. I’ve been Parisian for a few months, and I’ve only realised that I’m now living in the world of fiction.
Ball sports, pageants, reality TV: rules are set. There’s a judging process, and a winner for us to worship. But we can’t rely on those winners to challenge the system. Because their entire status depends on it.
‘The pressure to be rated means I am tempted to be falsely polite and not authentic,’ writes Rachel Botsman in Who can you trust. A certain Protestant theology may derive salvation from authenticity. I would rather cultivate virtue, learn from tradition, and try to be polite.
World peace depends on diplomacy, which is intelligent ritual. It’s Princess Grace, seducing De Gaulle in defence of Monaco, with elegant frivolity.
Blockchain is designed for mistrust. The system enables exchange without a need to trust participants. And we celebrate! What world are we creating? Would you not rather nurture trustworthy people than trade stocks?
I’m as addicted as any gay man to RuPaul’s Drag Race. Every season reminds me that we’re all born naked. The rest is effort. There is no such thing as natural grace. It’s all cultivated illusion. And it’s, oh yes, so much worth it!
Some like to rank things. ‘C’est mieux’, they say, comparing cities, wine, or restaurants, ‘it’s better’. My tastes are more fickle, and more personal. I try to guide my decisions not on the basis of ‘c’est mieux’, but ‘this would make me joyful today’.
Painkillers only treat symptoms, that’s correct. But then, inflammation feeds on itself. Vain pursuits can distract us from worthy goals. So can pain.