A little over a year ago, I did a series on historical BFFs (best friends forever!). One pair that I wrote about were Paul Cezanne (painter) and Emile Zola (writer). I had no reason to think I'd ever mention them again...this is a blog about asexuality, after all. But I recently went to an Impressionist painting exhibit where I saw this quote on the wall, and just knew I had to blog about it (Thanks to my mom for risking a stern talking-to in order to take a picture of it for me):
In 1869...Manet invited me to join him every evening in a cafe [Cafe Guerbois] in the Batignolles quarter, where he and his friends would gather and talk after leaving their ateliers. There I met Fantin-Latour, Cezanne, and Degas...the art critic Duranty, Emile Zola, who was then embarking on his literary career, as well as some others. I myself brought along Sisley, Bazille, and Renoir. Nothing was more interesting than our discussions, with their perpetual clash of opinions. They sharpened one's wits, encouraged frank and impartial inquiry, and provided enthusiasm that kept us going for weeks and weeks until our ideas took final shape. One always came away feeling more involved, more determined, and thinking more clearly and distinctly. (Claude Monet)
It sort of reminded me of this, the "Epicurean" living arrangement. But even more so, it reminded me of this-- my own dream of a personal "utopia" involving a community of creative types. Oddly enough, what impressed me even more than the assembled names was the fact that they all met daily in the same cafe. It sounds like a simple thing, maybe, but it seems so elusive to our 2010 world. Even if you exchanged "Batignolles quarter" with "Duluth" and the famous artists for amateurs, something about their meetings and the way they felt about them would have still touched me.
Their gatherings met many of my "pillars of community": A shared purpose, individual fulfillment (at least in Monet's view), commitment, a meeting place and exceedingly regular contact. And from the quote, it all seemed enjoyable. That exhilaration described by Monet is something that I've come to associate with community. I think a lot of people have gotten the idea that you can only feel that kind of excitement through romantic love, but I find that to be an overly narrow view, and an undersell of community.
We all know that attraction tends to happen spontaneously, whichever sorts of attraction you experience. But if you wanted to, say, get married, you'd have some idea of a strategy for that-- dating online or in meatspace, getting friends to set you up with their friends, going to places where your preferred gender congregates. But if you want community, there's not a lot of common wisdom on how to go about that. There are no rules. I don't think I'm capable of writing them, and I'm not even sure there should be any. But in this series that I'm sneaking on you folks, this nuts and bolts discussion of community, I want to at least talk strategy.
And because pop culture only gets you so far, here's my favorite painting from the exhibit:
"The Bridge at Maincy" by Cezanne. I wish I could walk into that painting and stand on the bridge for awhile. I feel similarly about this one, "Snow at Louveciennes" by Sisley:
I love those random little alleyways that you can find in some places. Sadly there aren't a lot of them in the suburbs.