I wrote this in my diary on January 16, 2003 while I was studying for my final exams in France. For the first time in my academic career I’d become completely obsessed with my studies, partly because my entire grade was based on a single, final exam. But there was something else going on in my mind too. Unbeknownst to me, I was on the verge of suffering my first, serious mental breakdown, but it didn’t feel like a breakdown. It felt great! And, once more, I was enjoying the learning process and the new experiences. I loved going to the library and cracking open the giant book of French history, cross-referencing the advents of new ideas with the social-political climates of each era. Then I would listen to the music of different time-periods and contemplate how the people back then might have experienced it. Now it’s all coming back to me, the passion for history (hopefully) without the mental fragility and I realize it’s been 12 years and I’m supposed to grow out of this. At times I feared I had grown out of it. But not today. Today I’m holding on to passion even though I’m still uncertain as to where it will lead me. Here’s what I wrote a little more than a month before my 23rd birthday in 2003:
I had been studying diligently for my history course and figured it was time for a day off. So I chose Sunday. My original intention had been to go to the reformed church, but that just wasn’t possible because I had made a mistake on where the church met and was running late.
So I walked around a bit. The sun shone brightly yet the winter chill still nipped. However my new-found love for history caused me to walk around more attentively. Suddenly, before my eyes, the past began to open up before me! The names of the streets – Comte, Gambetta, Zola – were crying out from across time as if to say don’t forget me! The monuments saying in memory of the great battle. What great battle? Why was it important? What do the figures stand for? I start to feel their grip on me slip away as the scattered puzzle pieces become overwhelming and none of the edges seem to fit.
Solemnly, respectful of the ancient ones, I enter the cathedral. I shiver from the cold realizing that radiators are a luxury of modern times. I look up at the stained glass rose window, but my thoughts are interrupted as the boys choir sings.
The melody resembles a Gregorian chant, not a lot of arpeggios, no real chord structure – in fact, not much structure at all. It’s sung without emotion, without words that tell of a personal God, but instead, the actions of a distant God, only accessible through their religious leaders.