Obvious State

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Sweetness and Light

The essence of Matthew Arnold's 1867 essay Culture and Anarchy, as he wrote in the preface, is "to recommend culture as the great help out of our present difficulties." I struggled to remember Arnold's theory of sweetness (appreciation of beauty) and light (pursuit of knowledge) as I walked around Notre Dame this morning. All roads lead to Notre Dame lately, and every time we go out, that's where we end up. It's no surprise since it's always been my favorite place in Paris. Yet lately I've experienced physical reactions with increasing weight each time I step inside. This morning, I attmepted to put the reaction into words, and uttered something along the lines of "simply being inside, I breathe in passion, dedication and beauty, and exhale indifference, practicality and cynicism." In other words, I go in sour and dark, and emerge sweeter and lighter. Sweeter because I'm awed and inspired by not just the vast amount of architectural beauty, but the juxtaposition of the weight of the stone and the weightlessness of the space it defines. And lighter because I'm impressed by the amount of knowledge and intellect it must have taken to build a structure that after 900 years, still causes everyone who enters it to look up and gasp. Either that, or they've got some incredibly potent incense going on in there.


Jul 19, 2014 • Posted by leah

beautiful and lovely.

Jul 19, 2014 • Posted by paperhill

wow, your pictures are amazing and your writing put me right there. i hope to get there one day.

Jul 19, 2014 • Posted by Bridget Eubank


Jul 19, 2014 • Posted by Bridget Eubank

Great advice!

Jul 19, 2014 • Posted by nichole

Hi Amy,

My husband bought me a Nikon D40 last fall, and I love it! A few of my friends have the same camera and feel similarly.

I never, ever, ever use the flash, and I sometimes lose a shot because of it, but flash ruins photos in my opinion, unless you know how to adjust it properly. I attribute better indoor photos to no flash.

Jul 19, 2014 • Posted by Amy

Stunning! I’m sure you’ve been asked this a million times but what type of camera do you use?? It takes wonderful pics indoors and out.

Jul 19, 2014 • Posted by Cheryl

Wow Nichole, you did a great job with these beautiful photos as I know it’s pretty dark in there. Notre Dame is one of my favorite places in the world. I have a beautiful memory on my honeymoon in December 2000 of attending Mass there on Christmas day. xx

Jul 19, 2014 • Posted by the b-line

Notre Dame is a beautiful and inspiring place, indeed, and your photos capture it well (particularly love your little man looking up in the one). We were in awe when we visited it last year.

Jul 19, 2014 • Posted by Jen

This is one of my favorite places in Paris. Wait. Who am I kidding? It’s one of my favorite places period.

Jul 19, 2014 • Posted by Pittsy

Stunning images, again! I love this post. Thank your for taking me there. Sigh.

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